Without him, the Packers might be 3-4 or 2-5 instead of 7-0. But would they be as bad as the 0-7 Indianapolis Colts have been without Peyton Manning? Would they be getting blown out 62-7 the way Indy got blown out at New Orleans?
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If the MVP award honors true value, then, surely Manning must factor into the discussion somewhere, no? I opened up the question Wednesday and promised to publish the most compelling responses here.
"Honestly, yeah, his absence from the Colts has done more harm to them than any other player has helped their own team," Steve Ebner wrote.
That opinion was in the clear minority.
"Ridiculous counter-factual," Karl McDonald wrote. "Is Dan Marino the MVP because of how bad the Dolphins are doing without him?"
"It's the Most Valuable PLAYER award," John M. Nicoletta wrote. "Peyton hasn't PLAYED. Thus, he's ineligible. No doubt his absence is significant, but if that were the criteria, Steve Hutchinson would have been named Seahawks MVP for the past six seasons!"
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"If Peyton Manning merits MVP consideration, then I nominate Mike Singletary for Coach of the Year for not being in San Francisco," Jason Nawahine added. "Manning under center wasn't going to stop Drew Brees and the Saints from putting up a fifty-burger on that defense."
"If Aaron Rodgers finishes the season with numbers anything close to what he’s on pace for, if the Packers roll to the top seed in the NFC, how could anyone in good conscience cast a vote for Manning over Rodgers?" he asked.
I get it and agree. There could be no justification for voting Manning over Rodgers. But I could see listing Manning, say, third on a ballot as a testament to his value.
The Patriots went 10-5 with Matt Cassel starting in 2008. The Packers nearly won at New England in Week 15 last season with Matt Flynn tossing three touchdown passes in his only start of the season. Manning's absence from the Colts' lineup has turned a perennial playoff team into a laughingstock. That might make him more valuable than any player in the league, whether or not he deserves consideration for the MVP award itself.
Quarterback | Green Bay Packers ... Next Game: 11/6 at SD ... Last Poll: 1
One of the stat breakdowns I receive from ESPN each week breaks down how quarterbacks fare based on how far their passes travel past the line of scrimmage. Some players produce better results throwing short, others fare better on deep balls, and so on. Rodgers has a 10 to 2 ratio of TDs to INTs on short passes, a 4 to 0 ratio on intermediate passes and a 6 to 1 ratio on deeper passes. Any questions?
Quarterback | New England Patriots ... Next Game: 10/30 at PIT ... Last Poll: 2
Unlike Rodgers, Brady has been relatively unproductive on passes traveling at least 21 yards past the line of scrimmage. He has completed 8 of 25 such throws (13-of-21 for Rodgers) with one TD and one INT. His Total QBR (85.7) on these throws ranks only 22nd. His NFL passer rating on these throws (72.1) ranks only 18th. But with Wes Welker catching everything underneath -- no drops this season after finishing 2010 with 11 -- Brady is doing just fine overall.
Quarterback | New Orleans Saints ... Next Game: 10/30 at STL ... Last Poll: 7
Brees finished the Saints' 62-7 dismantling of the Colts with more TD passes (five) than incomplete passes (four). I recall Kurt Warner doing the same against Green Bay in a playoff game a few years back. Brees was facing the junior varsity by comparison, but he cannot control the schedule. Facing the 0-6 Rams this week gives him another opportunity to pad his MVP resume. The Rams rank last against the run and have lost all of their top cornerbacks to injury.
Running Back | San Francisco 49ers ... Next Game: 10/30 vs. CLE ... Last Poll: 3
The bye week should have given Gore a chance to fully recover from the ankle injury that bothered him earlier in the season. Gore ran exceptionally well and showed good breakaway speed in rushing for 141 yards against Detroit before the bye, so he was probably near 100 percent even then. Gore faces a Browns defense that ranks fourth in total yards allowed, but 19th in rushing yards allowed and ninth in rushing yards allowed per play.
Running Back | Chicago Bears ... Next Game: 11/7 at PHI ... Last Poll: 9
The Packers and Lions have commanded most of the attention in the NFC North this season. Forte has been on a tear over his last four games, averaging at least 5.1 yards per carry in every one of them. Forte is averaging 138 yards and 22 carries per game over that stretch. He ranks third in rushing yards behind Adrian Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew. The Bears have pulled within one game of Detroit for second in the division standings.
Running Back | Buffalo Bills ... Next Game: 10/30 vs. WAS ... Last Poll: 8
Jackson, like Gore, remains on the list this week despite not playing in Week 7. He has four 100-yard rushing games this season, six total rushing TDs and an 11.6-yard average on his 24 receptions. Jackson faces two teams with so-so run defenses (Washington, the New York Jets) before facing a Dallas unit that ranks first in rushing yards allowed and fourth in yards allowed per carry.
Wide Receiver | Detroit Lions ... Next Game: 10/30 at DEN ... Last Poll: 4
The Lions' back-to-back defeats have knocked down Johnson a few notches in the MVP Watch, but he continues to put up stats to keep himself in contention. Johnson is riding a streak of three consecutive 100-yard receiving games. He has averaged 112.4 yards over his last five games. Johnson's 10 receiving TDs put him on pace for 23 this season. His 16.6-yard average per reception would approach the career high of 17.1 he set back in 2008.
Quarterback | Pittsburgh Steelers ... Next Game: 10/30 vs. NE ... Last Poll: NR
Roethlisberger tore apart the Cardinals' defense with 361 yards and three TDs, including a 95-yarder to Mike Wallace to set a franchise record for longest reception. He steps up in class and into the MVP spotlight when the Steelers face Brady's Patriots in one of the marquee games for Week 8. Roethlisberger has nine TD passes with only one INT and six sacks over the Steelers' last three games. He had three TDs, five INTs and 14 sacks in the previous four games. The upcoming schedule -- New England and Baltimore at home, followed by a trip to Cincinnati -- provide a stiff test.
Running Back | Houston Texans ... Next Game: 10/30 vs. JAC ... Last Poll: NR
Pure rushing totals aren't enough for Foster to factor in the MVP discussion, even though he has 115- and 155-yard games over the past month. Foster caught my attention with a pair of 100-yard receiving games. He had five catches for 116 yards against Oakland in Week 5, then five receptions for 119 yards and a TD in the Texans' 41-7 victory at Tennessee in Week 7. It's just tough to know whether Foster and the Texans can sustain anything this season.
Running Back | Minnesota Vikings ... Next Game: 10/30 at CAR ... Last Poll: NR
Every other player on the MVP Watch list plays for a team ranking no worse than 12th in ESPN's latest NFL Power Rankings. Peterson's Vikings rank 28th, so there's very little chance Peterson will factor into the discussion seriously. He does lead the NFL in rushing with 712 yards, an impressive feat for a player from a losing team. Teammate Jared Allen also drew consideration here with 11.5 sacks in seven games, but dedicating 20 percent of the MVP Watch list to the 1-6 Vikings would have been a stretch.