Tom Brady's Sunday afternoon was unlike most Sundays in December for the quarterback. Rather than calling signals and absorbing hits from 265-pound linebackers, Brady might have been lounging on the couch.
In doing so, he also took some major strides forward in the race for NFL MVP.
The competition at the quarterback position didn't do so hot on Sunday. Take a look:
Philip Rivers in home loss to Raiders: 23-for-39, 280 yards, TD, INT
Peyton Manning in home loss to Cowboys: 36-for-48, 365 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INTs
More damning for Rivers' case was that he and the Chargers essentially needed to win every game left on their schedule in order for the quarterback to gain serious consideration for MVP. A loss at home to Oakland will certainly quiet the Rivers campaign for the time being, and he'll have to be absolutely otherworldly in his last four games to get back into the race.
Manning, meanwhile, is always a contender for the award, yet his recent interception outburst (11 in his last three games) has the entire country wondering what in the world is going on. He looked more like Brett Favre than himself on Sunday, forcing passes to receivers that weren't open, and Dallas made him pay. Though Manning was probably the biggest reason the Colts were even in the game, he was also the reason they lost. Granted, the guy throws the ball 50 times every week, so it's not out of the question for him to throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns a few times in the final games.
Yet Manning, who currently ranks 19th in passer rating behind the likes of Jon Kitna and Kyle Orton, took a major step backward in the MVP race with the four-interception showing Sunday at home.
Still, with four weeks to play, Brady still has plenty of work to do to boost his chances. As it stands now, though, he looks to be the slight favorite over Rivers, Manning, Michael Vick, Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers.
Brady leads Vick by one-tenth of a point for the best passer rating in the league, he's just two touchdown passes behind the league lead, despite not playing his Week 13 game yet, and he's thrown just four interceptions. The fact that he's doing it without Randy Moss and with two rookie tight ends and a 5-foot-7 running back popping out of the backfield makes that even more impressive.
The race isn't strictly for quarterbacks, though. Maurice Jones-Drew has rushed for 100 yards or better in his last five games, four of which were wins. With the Colts floundering, Jones-Drew could carry the Jags into the playoffs, winning a lot of votes along the way. If Roddy White has a few big games over the next four weeks, both he and Matt Ryan will build their cases.
Still, with Brady watching from home on Sunday, no other MVP contenders made a statement.
While Brady might have moved ahead on Sunday, he really has a chance to stake his claim on Monday night, with the Jets in town in front of a national audience. That, however, won't be easy. He completed just 55 percent of his passes against the Jets in Week 2, throwing a pair of touchdowns and a pair of picks in a 28-14 loss in New Jersey. Monday night will be a bit different though, as Moss was targeted 10 times for just two completions in the first matchup. What Brady can do with the reinvented Patriots offense this time around could be Brady's statement game in the MVP race.
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