Mike Sando's MVP Watch
The Denver Broncos quarterback had posted a 14-1 ratio of touchdowns to INTs over his previous five games. His odds for winning a fifth MVP award now appear considerably shorter.
Manning, in leading the Broncos to their third consecutive victory, became the first player all season to toss more than one INT and still emerge from a game with an NFL passer rating north of 105.
This is his fourth consecutive week atop the MVP Watch list.
We're 10 weeks into this and have listed 32 players at various points. Tom Brady is the only player to appear on the list every week. Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan have made it nine times. Eli Manning (eight), Peyton Manning (eight) and J.J. Watt (seven) are the only other players to appear more than five times.
Forty percent of the list turned over from last week.
Eli Manning, Tim Jennings, Ben Roethlisberger and Alex Smith get the week off. Andrew Luck and Josh Freeman make their first appearances. Charles Tillman and Marshawn Lynch are back after one-week absences.
The top four spots remain unchanged.
Manning has five three-TD games in a row. That's five in nine games with Denver. John Elway had three-plus TDs in 33 out of 234 games with the Broncos, or 14 percent. The league has changed. Still, that makes 69 in 216 career games for Manning, or 32 percent. There are more to come, as our weekly Manning schedule update suggests. Denver's remaining opponents have a 23-42 record this season, equating to a league-low .345 strength of schedule.
Week 9 at CIN
Rodgers' league-high 70 TD passes since the 2011 opener are more than Eli Manning (41) and Michael Vick (28) combined. Drew Brees ranks second (68) and could pass Rodgers during the Packers' bye. Rodgers is on pace for no rushing TDs, which would be a first since he became a full-time starter. But his red zone production is better than ever. Rodgers is completing a career-high 67.4 percent of his red zone passes with 16 TDs and no INTs. His red zone QBR score is 95.8, another career high.
Week 9 vs. ARI
3. TOM BRADYQuarterback | New England Patriots ... Next Game: 11/11 vs. BUF ... Last Poll: 3
Giving Brady a bye week to prepare for the Buffalo Bills seems unfair. He's 19-2 against them as a starter. That is the second-highest winning percentage for a quarterback against any opponent since the 1970 merger (minimum 15 starts against a team). Ben Roethlisberger is first with a 14-1 record against the Cleveland Browns.
Week 8 at STL
4. MATT RYANQuarterback | Atlanta Falcons ... Next Game: 11/11 at NO ... Last Poll: 4
Ryan has improved his play late in halves this season, completing 30 of 38 passes (78.9 percent) for 346 yards and three TDs in the final two minutes. His completion percentage in those situations leads the NFL and marks a big improvement from his 49.8 percent career average before this season. Ryan has completed just 16 of 38 such passes (42.1 percent) with no TDs and two picks against Week 10 opponent New Orleans. The Saints are allowing 55 percent completions with one TD, five sacks and a 48.6 Total QBR in those situations this season.
Week 9 vs. DAL
5. ANDREW LUCKQuarterback | Indianapolis Colts ... Next Game: 11/8 at JAC ... Last Poll: NR
Luck makes his MVP Watch debut after setting an NFL single-game rookie record with 433 passing yards during a memorable home victory over the Miami Dolphins. ESPN's metrics have been telling us for weeks that Luck was outplaying Robert Griffin III in spite of what traditional stats said. For example, Luck's passes are traveling 10.2 yards past the line of scrimmage on average, the highest figure in the NFL. He has completed 16 of 43 passes on throws traveling more than 20 yards downfield. The level of difficulty is tougher for Luck than it is for many other quarterbacks, in other words.
Week 9 vs. MIA
6. J.J. WATTDefensive End | Houston Texans ... Next Game: 11/11 at CHI ... Last Poll: 6
Watt's 10.5 sacks make him the third player in Houston Texans history to reach double figures in that category for a single season. Mario Williams and Connor Barwin were the others. According to the Texans, Watt is the 11th player since 1982 to compile 10-plus sacks and 10-plus passes defensed in the same season. That is particularly impressive given that Houston still has half its season to play. The Texans visit Chicago in Week 10. The Bears have allowed 28 sacks, third-most in the NFL behind Arizona (41) and Green Bay (29).
Week 9 vs. BUF
Tillman reclaims our standing spot for a Chicago Bears defender, displacing teammate Tim Jennings. Tillman was eighth on the list two weeks ago. The Bears lead the NFL in takeaways with 28 after Tillman forced four fumbles during a 51-20 victory over the Tennessee Titans. Tillman now has seven forced fumbles this season and 34 for his career, two behind all-time leader Brian Dawkins. Dawkins played in 224 regular-season games. Tillman has played in 138. He had four forced fumbles in each of the previous four seasons.
Week 9 at TEN
The Vikings are slipping, and that could knock Peterson from realistic contention as the season progresses. Peterson keeps producing despite weak production from the quarterback position in Minnesota. His 182-yard game at Seattle marked his third in a row with at least 120 yards rushing and one TD. Peterson's 106.3-yard average per game is his highest since averaging 110 during the 2008 season. He averaged four additional carries per game back then. It's inconceivable to think Peterson could be better than ever following ACL surgery, but his 5.7-yard average is indeed a career high.
Week 9 at SEA
Lynch leads the NFL with five 100-yard rushing games this season. He now faces a New York Jets defense that has allowed 485 yards rushing after contact, the second-highest figure in the NFL. Lynch has 359 yards after contact this season, the second-highest figure in the NFL behind Peterson's amazing 515. The Jets have also allowed nine rushing TDs, tied for fourth in the league. Lynch is on pace for a career-high 1,566 yards. Shaun Alexander and Chris Warren are the only players to reach 1,500 yards in a season while playing for the Seahawks.
Week 9 vs. MIN
10. JOSH FREEMANQuarterback | Tampa Bay Buccaneers ... Next Game: 11/11 vs. SD ... Last Poll: NR
Freeman makes his MVP Watch debut at the expense of a couple of other players deserving mention. Ben Roethlisberger ranked ninth last week and continues to dominate on third downs. Alex Smith was 10th a week ago, but his San Francisco 49ers did not play. Drew Brees appears increasingly worthy of consideration after New Orleans claimed its third victory in four games. Freeman recently joined Brad Johnson (2003) and Doug Williams (1979) as the only Tampa Bay quarterbacks with a TD pass in the team's first eight games. Freeman had 16 TDs with 22 INTs last season. He has 16 TDs with five INTs through eight games this season.
Week 9 at OAK
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