Mike Sando's MVP Watch

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
12:00
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Alex SmithBenny Sieu/US PresswireThe 49ers' Alex Smith showed again in Week 1 that he can do more than just manage a game.
The NFL has become a game of frequent substitutions.

Some of them don't make much sense on the surface.

For example, the San Francisco 49ers removed from the field Patrick Willis, arguably the NFL's best linebacker, for roughly one-third of the defensive snaps against Green Bay in Week 1. That will not be the norm for the 49ers, but it made sense for one game.

The MVP Watch list is making a few short-term substitutions this week. The list, always part snapshot and projection, leans toward the snapshot side at this early point in the season.

Arian Foster, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford, Eli Manning and Michael Vick are getting the week off. We'll see most of them again this season. Matt Ryan, Robert Griffin III, Tony Romo, Joe Flacco and Alex Smith could not be denied.

Drew Brees earned the benefit of the doubt following a rough opener. That is one reason the current list favors quarterbacks to an unusual extent. Here is another: Buffalo's C.J. Spiller was the only running back or receiver to exceed 135 yards in an opener. His team lost big.

Non-quarterbacks have a tough time measuring up even when they dominate.

Peyton Manning won MVP honors for the 2009 season even though Chris Johnson topped 2,000 yards rushing. Speaking of Manning, he's moving up the list and should only improve as he shakes off the rust and gets more familiar with his new teammates. How will his aging bones fare when the weather turns? Manning plays his only dome game of the season in Week 2, when the Broncos visit Atlanta.

Editor's note: ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this post.

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