Peyton Manning actually looked relatively human this week. Well, the massive forehead and unusual Manning faces he tends to make still gave off their typical alien vibe, but he actually played like a human for once this season.
In the Broncos’ 35-19 win over the Jaguars on Sunday, Manning threw for fewer than 300 yards and had a quarterback rating under 100 for the firs time this season. He even threw his second interception of the season and turned the ball over three times on the day — very un-Peyton Manning esque.
Even with the “human” performance, Manning is still the clubhouse leader for this season’s MVP award. He leads all quarterbacks in almost every offensive category, his team is 6-0 and he’s still on pace to break just about every quarterback record in NFL history — apologies to Drew Brees and Tom Brady.
All that being said, Manning’s “slip up” — if you can even call it that — against the Jags may have opened the door back up ever so slightly for some challengers to stake their claim for the award. So let’s take a peek on through and see who might be capable of overtaking Manning’s top spot if he continues looking human.
1. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos (Last Week: –)
Stats: 74.2% completion percentage, 2,179 yards, 23 total touchdowns (22 passing, one rushing) and two interceptions
For all the reasons listed above, Manning is still the easy favorite for the award. He narrowly missed out on his fifth MVP last season — if not for that darned Adrian Peterson and his record book pursuits. He will cool off at some point, even if only for a few weeks, and we may have seen the start of that against Jacksonville on Sunday. Even so, this is Manning’s race to lose and he doesn’t look ready to drop the ball just yet.
2. Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (Last Week: 5)
Stats: 114 carries, 475 rushing yards; 33 catches, 300 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns (five rushing, two receiving)
Through six weeks, Charles trails five running backs for the NFL’s rushing title — though three of them by 12 yards or less. Yet, he’s been arguably the most productive of them all. Charles ranks second to LeSean McCoy in yards from scrimmage with 775, but he also is tied for the most total touchdowns among running backs this season with seven. Charles is second among backs in receptions with 33, trailing only Danny Woodhead, and has more touches (147) than any other back in football. All that plus a 6-0 record for the Chiefs just screams MVP worthy.
3. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints (Last Week: 2)
Stats: 66.2% completion percentage, 1,958 yards, 15 total touchdowns (14 passing, one rushing) and five interceptions
Brees was on the losing end of a heartbreaker in New England on Sunday, which is part of the reason for his slip out of second — the other being Charles’ continued dominance. Brees had his worst performance in 21 regular-season games on Sunday, completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes (47.2) for the first time since the season opener in 2012. He still tossed a pair of touchdowns in the effort, but even those weren’t enough to put the Saints over the top. He’s still having one of the best seasons of his career and should rebound nicely off the bye week. Expect him to be hanging around and awaiting a Manning “slip up” through to the end.
4. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks (Last Week: 6)
Stats: 117 carries, 487 yards; 13 catches, 174 yards and six touchdowns (five rushing, one receiving)
Lynch hasn’t put up numbers quite on par with LeSean McCoy, but he’s done just fine for himself and continues to carry the load for the Seattle offense. Lynch, who is more of a traditional power back, showed off his versatile side on Sunday setting a new career high with 78 yards receiving against the Titans. His five rushing touchdowns also have him tied for second in the NFL behind only Denver’s Knowshon Moreno (seven). The more the Seahawks win, the more praise Lynch will get on this list, especially if he continues to put up 150 total yards and multiple touchdowns — as he did against the Titans — each week.
5. Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints (Last Week: 3)
Stats: 37 catches, 593 yards and six touchdowns
He went catchless in New England and yet he still leads the NFL in receiving yards. The Patriots seemed to offer a blueprint for covering Graham, something teams have struggled doing for years but even more so this season. The big tight end won’t let opposing defenses vice him out of production, though. He’s a hard worker and will find a way to exploit whatever weaknesses exists in a defense. Even with the goose egg, Graham is still the best receiving option in football right now and will get back on track after the bye.
6. Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys (Last Week: 8)
Stats: 70.2% completion percentage, 1,693 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions
Sunday was easily Romo’s worst game of the season, but even that was better than what most quarterbacks have endured this season. Romo threw an interception for the second straight week on Sunday, giving him three on the season. He’s still completing better than 70 percent of his passes, though, and he continues to give the Cowboys a good chance to win each week. His numbers are up there with the best in the NFL, but he’ll need to secure a few more wins to climb any higher in the MVP race.
7. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts (Last Week: 4)
Stats: 61.8% completion percentage, 1,346 yards, nine total touchdowns (seven passing, two rushing) and three interceptions
A rough performance on Monday night didn’t help Luck’s case as one of the league’s top players. Luck never quite overcame the complexities of the Chargers’ defense in what became just the Colts’ second loss of the season. A rash of drops from his receivers didn’t help his cause at all, but Luck still made a few poor decisions, including a late-game interception, that cost the Colts any hopes of a win. He’s still the primary reason behind the Colts’ hot start, but he’ll need to be more consistent in order to rise into Manning territory.
8. Alterraun Verner, CB, Tennessee Titans (Last Week: 7)
Stats: 22 tackles, four interceptions, 13 passes breakups, two fumble recoveries and one touchdown return
The Titans dropped back down to earth on Sunday, dropping their second straight game and falling back to .500 (3-3) on the season. Verner and the defense continued to prove their value, though. The Titans held the Seahawks to just 20 points and Verner batted away a couple of Russell Wilson passes to add to his NFL-high 13 pass breakups on the season. Six games into the season, Verner is not only a viable Defensive Player of the Year candidate, he’s also making a strong case for MVP consideration.
9. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots (Last Week: Unranked)
Stats: 56.9% completion percentage, 1,480 yards, eight touchdowns (all passing) and four interceptions
Brady’s stats aren’t exactly tantalizing, especially when considering the seasons that led to his two MVP trophies, but what he’s done this season can’t be strictly quantified in numbers. Working with an entirely new receiving corps, Brady continues to make the most of his opportunities and find ways to win without almost any of his former mates. Sunday’s comeback win was classic Brady and earned him a place back among the NFL’s best.
10. LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles (Last Week: –)
Stats: 123 carries, 630 yards; 15 catches, 241 yards and three total touchdowns (all rushing)
McCoy isn’t exactly on a budding Super Bowl contender, but he is the NFL’s leader in all-purpose yards and that alone should earn him a spot on this list. McCoy showed on Sunday the he doesn’t need Michael Vick to have success either, busting out for his third 100-yard rushing game of the season and managing 171 total yards in the win. At 3-3 and in one of the worst divisions in football, the Eagles do have a chance to make the playoffs, which should only help his cause.
Just Missed Out: Frank Gore, RB, 49ers; Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers; Jay Cutler, QB, Bears; Justin Houston, LB, Chiefs; Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings
Newly Added: Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Dropped out: Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings (Last Week: No. 9)