For weeks, the prevailing wisdom in my mailbag, on my Facebook page and in tweets aimed my way was that if Peyton Manning could win with the weapons he’s used during an injury-plagued season, he’s be a shoo-in for his fifth MVP and his third in a row.
He may still get there, but heading into Week 11 games with his team at 6-3, he’s certainly facing stiff competition and has work to do to get there.
In the Colts’ last two games -- a loss at Philadelphia and a win over Cincinnati -- Manning posted passer ratings of 67.0 and 69.8.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time he was under 70 in back-to-back regular-season games was November 2007 and the time before that was November 1998, his rookie season.
Remarkably, as he threw no touchdowns and no interceptions against the Bengals, many of league's other quarterbacks posted phenomenal numbers.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the average passer rating for the week’s games was 96.3, the highest in league history in a week with at least five games.
Another MVP isn’t Manning’s primary concern, of course. Another Super Bowl is. If he plays the way he needs to for the Colts to win the AFC South and head into the playoffs, he’ll certainly be a top contender.
But I believe as of now, three others can also be in the running right up until the day ballots are due.
Michael Vick will max out at 13 games. Will that be enough? If he puts up a few more electric performances, I believe those, and not the missed games, will resonate more with voters.
Philip Rivers is 56 yards from 3,000 already. His pace is awfully impressive and, like Manning, he’s dealt with some major losses to injuries (and also the Vincent Jackson contract squabble). If the Chargers, now 4-5, rally all the way back from their 2-5 start to make the playoffs, he’ll get solid consideration.
Tom Brady hasn’t matched Manning’s yardage, but he is right there with him in touchdowns, interceptions and completion percentage. I think many will see Sunday’s fantastic game against the Steelers as a signature win. His head-to-head battle with Manning Sunday will go a long way for many in deciding between the two.
It’s too early to say, of course. But those who had things clinched up for Manning a couple of weeks ago were being premature.