CINCINNATI -- It's Wednesday, and that means ESPN.com's Dan Graziano has his released his weekly NFL MVP Watch. And guess what? For the first time in several weeks, a member of the Cincinnati Bengals ended up on it.
No, that person is not A.J. Green. It's not BenJarvus Green-Ellis. No member of the Bengals' offense ended up in Graziano's top 10. Instead, and perhaps rightfully so, one of Cincinnati's defenders was considered on the list.
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals' undrafted second-year player, has slipped in after a head-turning campaign that currently has him leading the league in tackles. Burfict's 131 stops rank just ahead of Kiko Alonso's 125 and Paul Posluszny's 113.
On Graziano's list, Burfict ranks 10th out of 10.
Don't be perturbed by that relatively low ranking, though, Bengals fans. Burfict's the only defensive player Graziano is considering. The watch list is headed by Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. Seattle's Russell Wilson, New Orleans' Drew Brees and Carolina's Cam Newton round out the top 4. Detroit's Calvin Johnson was the first non-quarterback on the list, coming in at No. 5.
Here's the blurb on Burfict:
10. Vontaze Burfict, Bengals LB. Extensive research by the tireless MVP Watch staff has confirmed that no player named Vontaze has ever won an MVP award in any of the four major American pro sports leagues. So history is not on his side. But if history were on his side, and if it were carrying a football, Burfict likely would tackle it. He’s leading the league in tackles and came up with 13 of them on a bad ankle Sunday in a big victory in San Diego. The Bengals’ defense has weathered the loss of superstar lineman Geno Atkins better than anyone could have expected, and Burfict is a big part of the reason why.
So what do you think? Does Burfict belong on this watch list? Has he made enough of a case for inclusion on it?
My take is yes and yes. He deserves to be in this discussion just like he deserves to be in the Defensive Player of the Year and Pro Bowl selection conversations. After all, he is on a winning team and has been a big reason for its success. Is No. 10 too low? No, especially when you consider the fact that either Manning or Wilson probably will end up winning the MVP trophy.
Here's what Burfict said earlier this week about handling the sudden attention that has been coming his way as a result of his play:
"I don't care. I'm just playing football. At first no one knew who I was and now my name is blowing up. I'm just trying to play football and play for Sundays."
Well, if you keep playing this way, Vontaze, even more people will know your name.