Andrew Luck, Drew Brees, Marshawn Lynch Gaining Ground on Peyton Manning in MVP Power Rankings

Andrew LuckThe MVP race still runs through Denver, and Sunday’s eye-popping effort from Peyton Manning only added to his already dominant lead.

Through five weeks, Manning is the far-and-away favorite for the award, but that doesn’t mean he’ll win the award comes season’s end. Everyone hits a rough patch at some point in the season and, while Peyton’s might be less noticeable than others, he won’t be able to keep up this torrid pace all season — then again, I’ve been wrong before.

Tom Brady‘s putrid performance in a soaked Cincinnati knocked him out of contention, for the time being at least, while Andrew Luck‘s dominance over the Seattle secondary has him rocketing up the charts. There are at least a few new faces this week and plenty of movement outside the top three, so take a peek at the top-10 MVP candidates through Week 5.

1. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos (Last Week: –)

Stats: 75.8% completion percentage, 1,884 yards, 21 total touchdowns (20 passing, one rushing) and one interception

Even if the Broncos lost on Sunday, Manning would still have a firm grasp on the top spot. He’s still completing an incomprehensible 76 percent of his passes and he’s thrown 20 touchdowns through five games, which is an NFL record. He’s well on his way to breaking Tom Brady‘s single-season record of 50 touchdown passes, and he’s now thrown just one interception on the year. The type of season he’s having is unprecedented, but, considering his arsenal of weapons, it’s no wonder he’s having serious success. The Broncos have a tough test in Indy next weekend, but, barring a letdown against his former team, Peyton and the Broncos should head into the BYE week at a perfect 8-0.

2. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (Last Week: –)

Stats: 69.7% completion percentage, 1,722 yards, 13 total touchdowns (12 passing, one rushing) and four interceptions

Brees has put up bigger numbers in other seasons, but this year seems different in New Orleans. The offense is running at an incredible rate of efficiency, and he’s played a major role in the complete 180-degree turnaround from last year’s 7-9 disappointment. At this point, second place is probably more like fifth in comparison to Manning, but one bad week from the Broncos could make all the difference in the world. If Brees keeps operating at this blistering clip, the Saints could be staring down the NFC’s No. 1 seed come January and he might be looking at his first MVP.

3. Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints (Last Week: –)

Stats: 37 catches, 593 yards and six touchdowns

Yes, this is still ridiculously high for a tight end, but he’s more than earned the lofty respect. Graham is arguably the best receiver in football right now, and he’s putting up video game numbers on a weekly basis. He is well on his way to breaking Rob Gronkowski‘s single-season receiving record for a tight end (1,327 set in 2011) and might even become the first tight end in history to lead the NFL in receiving yards. Those numbers along with the Saints’ 5-0 record seem to indicate he’s well worthy of consideration, even this high on the list.

4. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts (Last Week: Unranked)

Stats: 62.2% completion percentage, 1,144 yards, nine total touchdowns (seven passing, two rushing) and two interceptions

How I managed to leave him off this list entirely last week is inexplicable — hey, we all make mistakes. The Colts are one of the top-five teams in football right now, and Luck is the general leading the charge. He isn’t as accurate as Manning, Brees or even Aaron Rodgers for that matter, but he has the Colts’ offense running as smooth and efficient as any attack not based in Denver. At 4-1 on the season, the Colts are eyeing their first AFC North crown since 2010 and could even be in line for a first-round bye.

5. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (Last Week: 4)

Stats: 92 carries, 397 rushing yards; 28 catches, 250 receiving yards and five total touchdowns (three rushing, two receiving)

The defense is what gets all the attention in Kansas City, and rightfully so, but Charles has been the one pacing the Chiefs’ underrated offense. He’s fifth in the NFL in rushing yards and second among running backs in total touchdowns — only Adrian Peterson (six) has more. He’s a dangerous runner and has developed into one of the best receiving backs in football. He’s a big reason for the Chiefs’ 5-0 start and will be key to whatever success they manage the rest of the way.

6. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks (Last Week: Unranked)

Stats: 96 carries, 410 yards; nine catches, 96 yards and three four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving)

The Seahawks couldn’t continue their undefeated streak in Indy on Sunday, but Lynch did his part to give them a chance. The NFL’s third-leading rusher posted his first 100-yard game of the season, although he’s been with two yards of the mark in two other games this season. Lynch has been carrying the offensive load for Seattle this year, while Russell Wilson works out some kinks in the passing game. He’ll continue to be a workhorse for them and should play a big role in helping the Hawks lock up the NFC West.

7. Alterraun Verner, CB, Tennessee Titans (Last Week: 6)

Stats: 15 tackles, four interceptions, eight passes breakups, two fumble recoveries and one touchdown return (62 yards)

It’s rare for a defensive back to break the MVP rankings, but Verner has been so good this season that he deserves the publicity. The Titans’ No. 1 cornerback didn’t add to his league-leading interception total (four) this week, but he did continue his streak of shutting down top receivers. This week’s victim was Chiefs’ No. 1 option Dwayne Bowe. Verner broke up three passes in the game, adding to his NFL-leading tally of 11 and giving him four games with multiple PBs on the season. The Titans are 3-2 on the year and Verner has them not just among the top-10 pass defenses in the league but also staring down playoff contention.

 8. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys (Last Week: –)

Stats: 71.8% completion percentage, 1,523 yards, 13 touchdowns and two interceptions

The interception is all anyone is focusing on, but let’s not forget that Romo also threw for 506 yards and five touchdowns against the NFL’s best team on Sunday. The pick was just the second one he’s thrown all season, tying him with Michael Vick, Terrelle Pryor and Luck for second fewest among regular starting quarterbacks. The Cowboys are just 2-3 on the season, making it difficult to justify an MVP campaign for him but those three losses have come against teams with a combined 12-3 record, so let’s cut him a little slack.

9. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings (Last Week: 10)

Stats: 92 carries, 421 yards (4.6), 5 TDs (1st), 3 20+ runs, 88+ yards in all four games (2 100-yds)

Even in an off week, Peterson still reigns supreme among the NFL’s elite. The Vikings are just 1-3 on the season, but he’s been even better this season than he was in his near record-setting 2012. The averages might not look like he’s running at the same clip, but Peterson actually has more yards (421) and a better yards-per-carry average (4.6 ypc) through four games this season than he did at this point last year — 79 carries for 332 yards and a 4.2 ypc. He’s also almost scored half as many touchdowns in 2013 (six total) as he did in 2012 (13). The result might not be a playoff return for the Vikes or another 2,000 yards for AP, but he’s at the very least putting himself back in the MVP conversation.

10. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (Last Week: Unranked)

Stats: 98 carries, 514 yards; 13 catches, 186 yards and three total touchdowns (all rushing)

McCoy didn’t have quite the banner week some were expecting against a Giants defense that ranks 27th against the run. The NFL rushing leader managed just 46 yards on the ground, along with a touchdown, but he was able to contribute in the passing game, catching six passes for 46 yards to help propel the Eagles to their second win on the season. At 2-3, Philly isn’t exactly the cream of the NFL crop this season, but McCoy has been as dominant as any player around the league and without him they’d likely still be winless.

Added: Andrew Luck, QB, Colts; Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seahawks; LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles

Dropped out: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots (Last Week: No. 5); Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers (Last Week: 7); Julio Jones, WR, Falcons (Last Week: No. 9)

Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here.

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