The Minnesota Vikings running back is doing all he can to make us question everything we thought we know about modern medicine, as he continues to chase down Dickerson’s single-season rushing record, just a year removed from major knee surgery.
Even if Peterson can’t catch Dickerson, his performance over the last two months has him square in the middle of the NFL MVP discussion.
Then again, Peterson’s run toward the MVP got a little more difficult Monday night thanks to a certain New England quarterback.
See below to find out where he ranks in this week’s NFL MVP power rankings.
1. Tom Brady — New England Patriots quarterback
We’ve been saying for a couple of weeks that the MVP race would likely come down to what Tom Brady was able to do in a pair of primetime games in back-to-back weeks against the Texans and 49ers, respectively. He made a pretty resounding MVP statement in the first of those two games Monday. The two-time MVP carved up the supposedly staunch Houston Texans defense. Brady came out like a house of fire, throwing three touchdowns in the first half and quickly turning a marquee Monday night matchup into a bona fide laugher. Brady notched his 18th career four-touchdown game, sending a message to the rest of the league that December is still the Patriots’ time of the season. For that, the New England quarterback is now in position to win the NFL MVP. Of course, given the way last season ended, Brady and the Pats have their eyes on a bigger piece of hardware — one that is won in February, not December.
Week 14 performance: 21/35, 296 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT (Win)
Season: 104.2 passer rating, 64.4 completion percentage, 29 TD, 4 INT
Last week’s ranking: 2
2. Adrian Peterson — Minnesota Vikings running back
The Minnesota Vikings are still in contention, kind of, and it’s pretty much all because of how damn good Adrian Peterson has been this season. He was a monster again Sunday, tearing up the Bears for 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter to give the Vikings an early lead. He was at more than 100 yards by halftime, and the Vikings were able to hold on. It’s even more impressive when you look at what quarterback Christian Ponder is doing, or in this case, isn’t doing. He was just “blah” again Sunday, completing 11 of 17 passes for just 91 yards and an interception thrown in there for good measure. Peterson might be the most dominant player on either side of the ball right now. He’s racked up 1,101 yards in his last seven games (157.3 yards per game), and he’s got Eric Dickerson’s all-time rushing record in his sights. At this rate, he’ll chase the Hall of Famer down, and that might be enough to give him the MVP trophy.
Week 14 performance: 31 carries, 154 yards, 2 TD (Win)
Season: 265 carries, 1,600 yards, 6.0 yards per carry, 10 TD
Last week’s ranking: 4
3. Peyton Manning — Denver Broncos quarterback
The Denver Broncos have now won eight games in a row, taking advantage of the woeful AFC West. Manning looked poised for a huge night after a quick start against the Raiders on Thursday night, but Oakland ended up giving Denver some problems, and even though the Broncos won by 13, it was closer than the score indicates. Regardless, this is a week to step back and look at the overall body of work for Manning, who has now hit the 30-touchdown mark and will probably surpass 4,000 yards next week. The schedule thing, as we touched on last week, is what it is at this point. Interestingly, though, the Denver losses this season haven’t really been Manning’s fault. In three losses this season, Manning has completed 61 percent of his passes for 908 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. All three of those picks came in the first half against Atlanta, a game that Manning and the Broncos almost came back to win. What do all of those mean? Admittedly, not a whole bunch. But it was a relatively uneventful week for Manning, so we gotta find something to talk about.
Week 14 performance: 26/36, 310 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Season: 104.0 rating, 72.2 completion percentage, 30 TD, 10 INT
Last week’s ranking: 1
4. Aaron Rodgers — Green Bay Packers quarterback
Aaron Rodgers’ stat line Sunday night was pretty unspectacular. That’s partially because the Packers rarely had the ball in their hands against the Lions, especially in the first half. The Lions held the ball for about 22 minutes in the first half, and they won the time of possession battle by almost an entire quarter. Yet, Rodgers and the Pack found a way to win. Rodgers limited the mistakes — although he did lose a fumble on a bone-jarring sack — and put Green Bay in a position to win. The running game came alive in the second half, which also included a 27-yard touchdown run from Rodgers, who continues to show he’s one of the most versatile quarterbacks in the league. For this season at least, Rodgers will be compared to his 2011 season, which was out of this world. Because of that — as well as the continued dominance of Adrian Peterson — Rodgers is all but out of this race right now.
Week 14 performance: 14/24, 173 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 27-yard TD run (Win)
Season: 103.7 rating, 66.9 completion percentage, 29 TD, 8 INT
Last week’s ranking: 3
5. J.J. Watt — Houston Texans defensive end
The Houston Texans were awful Monday night, turning in an another embarrassing primetime showing. Houston was dreadful in every aspect of the game, but its defense really disappointed, getting shredded by Brady. But it’s tough to blame J.J. Watt for that. The dynamic pass rusher wasn’t his normal monster self, but Brady certainly knows who he is now. Watt was in the backfield on multiple occasions, and while he didn’t register a sack or a pass defended, he did get to Brady a few times. He also forced a fumble, so there’s that, too. Watt’s ranking in the five spot is admittedly meaningless at this point, as right now it’s the top four and then everyone else. If the 49ers can slow Brady on Sunday night — a big if at this point — expect another pass rusher (see below) to be in this spot next week.
Week 14 performance: Four tackles, one forced fumble
Season: 64 tackles, 16.5 sacks, 15 passes defended
Last week’s ranking: 5
Most valuable notes: Because quarterbacks are celebrated so heavily in the NFL, it’s unlikely that Aldon Smith won’t be in this MVP discussion, but he should be. The 49ers linebackers is one of the best pass rushers in the league, adding two sacks against the Dolphins to give him 20 on the year (he’s got 12 in his last five games), and Michael Strahan‘s single-season record may be in jeopardy. … If you were even suggesting that Andrew Luck get MVP consideration this season, you’re doing it wrong. While he got another win Sunday — against the lowly Titans — it was another rookie-like performance with two picks and a completion percentage under 50 percent for the No. 1 pick.