Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Mike Sando's MVP Watch
By Mike Sando
Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, left, and Seattle's Marshawn Lynch are the first two running backs to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark this season.
Running backs Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch have become regulars on the MVP Watch list not only for the yards they gain, but also for how they gain them.
Ranking 1-2 in rushing yardage sets them apart. The fact that they also lead the NFL in yards after contact is telling, too.
SportsNation: NFL MVP
Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning have been making moves in the MVP race, but who gets your vote? Submit your rankings!
Two weeks ago, Peterson gained 111 of his 182 yards against Seattle after defenders made contact. More recently, Lynch gained 52 of his 124 yards after the New York Jets made contact with him. And by making contact, we're not talking about brushing up against one another. Defenders have to affect runners for the yardage to count.
"Contact for our purposes must slow the ball carrier down, or it must be a play in which the defender had a legitimate chance at tackling the ball carrier but is unable to due to a juke move or stiff arm," ESPN's game-tracking guide reads.
Peterson averages 2.8 yards per rush after contact, easily the most in the NFL among players with at least 100 rushes through Week 10. Lynch is at 1.9, same as Frank Gore and just ahead of Steven Jackson (1.8).
Side note: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees came close to appearing on the list this week. He has the numbers and could be a week away if the Saints can get to .500 or better for the season.
Quarterback | Denver Broncos ... Next Game: 11/18 vs. SD ... Last Poll: 1
Receiver Demaryius Thomas and defensive end Von Miller deserve mention as auxiliary MVP candidates from the Broncos. Thomas and Manning appear to be gaining momentum. Thomas has eight receptions of at least 30 yards over the Broncos' past five games. That is up from two such receptions over the team's first four games. Denver has now won its last four, scoring at least 30 points in each of them. That is the team's longest streak of 30-plus scoring games since the 2002 and 2003 seasons. Manning's next touchdown pass will break a tie with Dan Marino for second in NFL history. Each has 420 at present. Manning continues to lead the NFL in Total QBR this season. His 84.8 score out of 100 would be the second-highest for a full season since 2008.
Quarterback | Green Bay Packers ... Next Game: 11/18 at DET ... Last Poll: 2
Rodgers remains in the second spot following the Packers' bye week. Like Manning, his team has won its last four games. Rodgers has 15 touchdowns with one interception during the winning streak. He was completing only 52.3 percent of his passes with no touchdowns through three games on throws delivered between the yard-line numbers. He has 11 touchdowns and a 62.5 percent completion rate on those throws since then. Rodgers is clearly gaining momentum, even though his completion percentage dipped below 50 during the team's most recent game, against Arizona. Rodgers did throw four scoring passes in that game against the Cardinals.
Quarterback | New England Patriots ... Next Game: 11/18 vs. IND ... Last Poll: 3
Brady trails only Manning in Total QBR (80.1). He has 10 touchdowns without an interception when opponents rush five or more defenders. That gives him the highest differential in the NFL against added pressure. That is one angle to watch when the Patriots face Indianapolis in Week 11. The Colts have sent five or more pass-rushers 41.6 percent of the time. Only the Houston Texans (44.6 percent) and Miami Dolphins (42.3) have pressured more frequently this season. Brady is one of seven players with at least 18 touchdown passes this season. The others have 6.4 interceptions on average. Brady has three.
Running Back | Minnesota Vikings ... Next Game: 11/25 at CHI ... Last Poll: 8
Peterson leads the NFL in rushing by 123 yards. He leads the league in yards after contact with 544, most by 133 yards. His 13 rushes of at least 20 yards are six more than any other player (LeSean McCoy and C.J. Spiller have seven apiece). He needs six more to tie the career high he set in 2008. Peterson has 171, 182, 123 and 153 yards over his past four games (629 total). Only 13 other players in the NFL have more than 629 yards all season. Peterson's 5.8-yard average would be a career high and significantly better than his 4.9-yard career average. Peterson has dramatically cut down on fumbles, too. He has four over the past three seasons after suffering 19 over the previous three. Peterson is also on pace for 46 receptions, which would be a career high.
Quarterback | Atlanta Falcons ... Next Game: 11/18 vs. ARI ... Last Poll: 4
Ryan set a career high with 411 yards passing during the Falcons' defeat at New Orleans in Week 10. He became the first player in team history to finish a game with 400-plus yards and at least three scoring passes. This week, Ryan faces an Arizona defense that has allowed three touchdown passes in each of its past two games. The Cardinals previously had held opponents below three scoring passes for 17 consecutive games. With a victory, Ryan will improve his regular-season home record to 31-4. He already has the highest home winning percentage for any starting quarterback in the Super Bowl era (minimum 20 starts).
Defensive End | Houston Texans ... Next Game: 11/18 vs. JAC ... Last Poll: 6
Watt and the Texans have not allowed more than 13 points in a game since Week 6. They have held six of nine opponents to 14 or fewer points. Watt has a league-high 10.5 sacks and the most passes defensed (10) among defensive linemen. Sacks aren't the only measure of his game, obviously, but he'll likely need a high total to command significant votes in MVP balloting. Watt has at least a half-sack in seven of nine games. However, he has zero sacks in two of the Texans' last three. Watt is the only defensive player on the list this week. Chicago's Charles Tillman, who appeared last week, did nothing wrong. Perhaps we'll see him back on the list soon.
Running Back | Seattle Seahawks ... Next Game: 11/25 at MIA ... Last Poll: 9
Lynch has 1,005 yards in 10 games, joining Peterson as the only players with at least 1,000 yards rushing to this point in the season. Lynch is averaging a career-high 4.7 yards per carry thanks in part to a career-long 77-yard scoring run against Detroit. Lynch now has 2,209 yards in his last 25 games with Seattle. He's riding a streak of four consecutive 100-yard games and has scored a touchdown in the Seahawks' last three. His production has remained consistent across venues and game situations, such as whether Seattle is winning or losing. He averages 5.0 yards per carry on first down.
Quarterback | Indianapolis Colts ... Next Game: 11/18 at NE ... Last Poll: 5
Luck has the worst raw passing stats of any quarterback on the MVP Watch list. Fellow rookies Robert Griffin III (93.9) and Russell Wilson (90.5) have higher NFL passer ratings than the middling 79.1 that Luck has posted. Carson Palmer (86.8), Kevin Kolb (86.1) and Christian Ponder (85.2) would outrank Luck using that standard. Why include Luck? He has just about single-handedly transformed the Colts from 2-14 to 6-3. He is carrying the Colts' offense, as reflected by number of pass attempts (362, fifth most in the NFL and far more than the 262 for Griffin or the 253 for Wilson). He has five rushing touchdowns. His passes are traveling 10.3 yards past the line of scrimmage on average, by far the longest distance in the NFL among regular QBs. He trails only Manning, Brady and Ryan in Total QBR, outranking even Rodgers (73.1). More than just about any player, Luck warrants a closer look beyond the traditional stats.
Quarterback | Tampa Bay Bucs ... Next Game: 11/18 at CAR ... Last Poll: 10
Freeman makes his second appearance all-time (and in a row) on the MVP Watch list after completing 70 percent of his passes with a 10.5-yard average per attempt during the Buccaneers' third consecutive victory. Tampa Bay has scored at least 28 points in each of its last five games. Freeman has 13 touchdowns with one interception over that stretch. The Bucs have won four of those five games following a shaky start. Free-agent addition Vincent Jackson is giving Freeman a viable downfield option. Freeman leads the NFL with 19 completions on throws traveling more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. Jackson has a league-high 10 receptions on such throws. Freeman and the Buccaneers visit the Panthers next. Carolina has lost four in a row at home.
Running Back | Houston Texans ... Next Game: 11/18 vs. JAC ... Last Poll: NR
Foster opened the season at No. 4 on the MVP Watch list before losing ground to teammates. He reappeared at No. 6 on Oct. 9 and hasn't been listed since -- until now. Foster ground out 102 yards on 29 rushes during miserable weather conditions as the Texans defeated the Bears 13-6 at Soldier Field. Foster is averaging only 3.9 yards per rushing attempt this season, a career low by a half-yard. His 11-game streak with at least one rushing touchdown ranks second only to LaDainian Tomlinson's 18-game streak over the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Foster has five 100-yard games this season and one more with 98 yards. Foster has a league-high 40 carries and 13 first downs when running against loaded boxes (defined as when opponents have more defenders in the box than the offense has available to block them).