Mike Sando's MVP Watch
It seems excessive to have three New England Patriots on the MVP Watch.
Could be that dreaded East Coast bias, except the MVP Watch guy (yours truly) is a West Coast lifer and the NFC West delegate to the ESPN blog network.
Tom Brady certainly belongs on the list. The case for Brady's top receiver, Wes Welker, is an easy one to make. What's one more Patriot?
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One, he's been phenomenally productive. Gronkowski has scored nine of his 14 touchdowns this season over the Patriots' past five games. New England is 4-1 during that stretch and 9-3 overall.
Two, some of the other viable candidates aren't so viable at this point in the season. Matt Forte's injury likely removes him from the discussion. Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions have cooled considerably over the past month.
Still, even AFC East blogger James Walker thought three Pats were too many.
"They're not undefeated," Walker said. "Gronkowski and Welker are both stellar, but between the two, I would choose Welker by definition of 'most valuable.' The Patriots would do fine on offense with Aaron Hernandez starting at tight end."
Walker wasn't quite finished.
"Maybe Tim Tebow should be considered at No. 10 for what he's doing in Denver," he added.
Rodgers' ability to strike with accuracy downfield separates him from most other quarterbacks. On throws traveling more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage, he has completed 25 of 39 passes (64.1 percent) for 1,024 yards with nine TDs, one INT and a 136.5 NFL passer rating, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He's averaging 26.3 yards per attempt on these throws. No other QB averages better than 20.4.
Week 13 at NYG
2. DREW BREESQuarterback | New Orleans Saints ... Next Game: 12/11 at TEN ... Last Poll: 2
Brees is averaging 335.9 yards passing per game. He's on pace for 5,375 yards over the course of a 16-game season. In goal-to-go situations, Brees has a league-high 15 TD passes with no interceptions. This is what we call target practice. Brees and six other quarterbacks with at least 25 attempts in goal-to-go situations have combined for 71 TDs without a pick.
Week 13 vs. DET
3. TOM BRADYQuarterback | New England Patriots ... Next Game: 12/11 at WAS ... Last Poll: 3
The Patriots have dropped only eight passes this season, fewest in the league. The other 31 teams have an average of 17.7 drops. Brady's accuracy surely plays a role, but it's tough explaining how Wes Welker could go from 11 drops last season, most in the league, to none through 12 games this season. Brady's production has him in the MVP conversation either way. In the Patriots' last four games, he has 10 TDs without an interception.
Week 13 vs. IND
There's a huge drop from the top three candidates to this next tier. Roethlisberger does not have the raw numbers to compete with Rodgers, Brees or Brady. His Steelers have won seven of their past eight games, however. In that eight-game run, Roethlisberger has 16 TDs with five INTs. He owns victories over New England and Cincinnati (twice) during that stretch.
Week 13 vs. CIN
5. ARIAN FOSTERRunning Back | Houston Texans ... Next Game: 12/11 at CIN ... Last Poll: 6
Foster is one of the last big names standing in Houston, where injuries have claimed Matt Schaub, Matt Leinart, Mario Williams and, intermittently, Andre Johnson. Foster is nearing 1,000 yards rushing and has already surpassed 500 yards receiving. He has 10 total TDs and has fumbled in only one of 12 games this season. Games against Carolina and Indianapolis later in the season should put Foster in position to produce.
Week 13 vs. ATL
6. WES WELKERReceiver | New England Patriots ... Next Game: 12/11 at WAS ... Last Poll: 8
Welker has 93 receptions, 18 more than any other player in the league. He has 1,253 receiving yards, 161 more than any other player. His 104.4-yard average per game far outpaces the averages for other receivers (Kenny Britt, on injured reserve with Tennessee, ranks second at 96.3). Welker has 19 receptions for 225 yards and two TDs in his past two games.
Week 13 vs. IND
7. ELI MANNINGQuarterback | New York Giants ... Next Game: 12/11 at DAL ... Last Poll: 9
The Giants have lost four in a row. Last week, I said Manning was likely close to disappearing from the MVP Watch if his team kept losing. That was before Manning turned in a mostly brilliant performance during a 38-35 defeat to the previously 11-0 Packers. Turnovers were a problem for Manning, including when Clay Matthews returned a second-quarter pick for a TD. Manning finished with 347 yards and three TDs. He made perfect throws in the clutch and the Giants nearly upset the Packers.
Week 13 vs. GB
Defensive players rarely contend seriously in MVP voting, but Suggs is enjoying a sensational season for one of the NFL's best defenses. He has 10 sacks, 17 quarterback hits, three forced fumbles, 15 tackles for loss and two interceptions. He ranks second to DeMarcus Ware in sack yardage despite having five fewer sacks.
Week 13 at CLE
9. TONY ROMOQuarterback | Dallas Cowboys ... Next Game: 12/11 vs. NYG ... Last Poll: 4
Perhaps the Cowboys should put Romo in charge of their timeouts. Losing in overtime to the Cardinals did more to hurt coach Jason Garrett's stock, but Romo still fell five places on the list. He trails only Rodgers, Brees and Brady in ESPN's season-long Total QBR standings. Romo needs better postseason credentials to fit with those players in the bigger picture.
Week 13 at ARI
10. ROB GRONKOWSKITight End | New England Patriots ... Next Game: 12/11 at WAS ... Last Poll: NR
Three Patriots on the MVP Watch list? Isn't there some sort of limit? Perhaps there should be. But with RB Matt Forte suffering an injury that figures to sideline him, and with QB Joe Flacco also falling from the fringes of the conversation, I couldn't find a player obviously more worthy than Gronkowski. Yes, it's fair to say the team would be fine with Aaron Hernandez carrying a larger role. It's just hard to ignore nine total TDs in the past five games for a team that has won four straight.
Week 13 vs. IND