And if recent history holds, Manning will emerge as a five-time MVP when the Associated Press reveals the winner one day before the Super Bowl. The four previous season leaders in Total QBR became MVPs, including Manning twice.
Ballots are due Thursday. I am not among the voters.
Manning stands as a clear MVP choice, in my view, based on how his play has affected the Broncos' chances for winning.
Quarterbacks are more important to game outcomes than players at other positions. Passing trumps running in the NFL. What stands as a horrible game for a QB -- say, 110 yards on 20 attempts -- would qualify as a top-flight effort for a runner.
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Minnesota's Adrian Peterson would get my vote as the top offensive player or as the most impressive player after topping 2,000 yards rushing for a playoff team. No player in the NFL was more compelling to watch this season, at least from this angle.
But there is a reason QBs keep winning the award. They're more valuable.
Playing the NFL's fourth-easiest schedule certainly helped Manning this season. That might have come into play if the Broncos struggled to pull out victories this season. Instead, they won each of their final 11 games by at least seven points. They earned a first-round playoff bye, meaning they've already gotten as far in the playoffs as the 8-8 Broncos advanced last season.
Quarterback | Denver Broncos ... Next Game: TBD ... Last Poll: 1
Manning finished his first season in Denver with the second-highest single-season QBR score (84.1) in the five-year history of the metric. Aaron Rodgers was at 86.2 for the 2011 season. Manning now owns three of the five best seasons on record, even though he did not play in 2011. Denver made a five-game improvement in the standings, winning each of its final 11 games by at least seven points apiece. The Broncos' scoring improved from 309 to 481 points.
Quarterback | New England Patriots ... Next Game: TBD ... Last Poll: 3
Brady finished second to Manning in QBR this season at 77.1, his best single-season score since missing 2008 with a knee injury. He threw 20 touchdown passes without an interception when opponents rushed him with five or more defenders. The Patriots led the NFL in points per game (34.8), point margin per game (plus-14.1), red zone efficiency (70 percent), third-down conversion rate (48.7) and interception rate (1.4). Brady made it all possible.
Running Back | Minnesota Vikings ... Next Game: 1/5 at GB... Last Poll: 5
Peterson is the fifth player in NFL history to reach 2,000 yards rushing and qualify for the postseason. Jamal Lewis (2003), Barry Sanders (1997) and Eric Dickerson (1984) were one-and-done for the playoffs. Terrell Davis (1998) advanced to the Super Bowl and won it with Denver. Peterson had 409 yards rushing against first-round opponent Green Bay this season. He would need 249 in the wild-card round to break Dickerson's record for rushing yards in a playoff game. Peterson finished the 2012 season with 1,019 yards after contact. No one else had more than 683 (Doug Martin).
Quarterback | Green Bay Packers ... Next Game: 1/5 vs. MIN ... Last Poll: 4
Rodgers finished second to Drew Brees in touchdown passes this season with 39. He threw only eight interceptions, 11 fewer than Brees. His touchdown-to-interception ratio was 4.88, highest in the NFL among qualifying quarterbacks (Brady was second at 4.25). Rodgers finished fifth in QBR (72.5) despite taking 51 sacks. None of the four players ranked ahead of Rodgers in QBR had more than 28 sacks.
Quarterback | Atlanta Falcons ... Next Game: TBD ... Last Poll: 2
Ryan finished the regular season with one of his worst performances, posting a 34.1 QBR score that ranked 24th in the league for Week 17. He averaged 5.4 yards per pass attempt in that game, down from 7.9 through the first 16 weeks. Ryan still finished the season fourth in QBR (74.5) for a team that went 13-3 and secured the NFC's top seed. He had some MVP-caliber performances throughout the season. Enjoying postseason success for the first time in his career would enhance Ryan's credentials more than anything else.
Quarterback | Seattle Seahawks ... Next Game: 1/6 at WAS ... Last Poll: 7
Wilson leads the NFL in QBR since Week 10 (84.1) and ranks second to Manning since Week 5 (81.7). He tied Manning's rookie record for touchdown passes with 26 even though Seattle kept its offense under wraps for the first few weeks of the season. His plus-16 margin of touchdowns to interceptions was the best by a rookie in NFL history. Wilson posted an 8-0 starting record at home. He also leads the NFL in QBR on the road since Week 8 and it's not close (92.7 for Wilson, 88.7 for Ryan and 84.7 for Manning). He has 10 total touchdowns and just one turnover on the road over that span. Wilson has five touchdown passes and no picks in his last three road games.
Defensive End | Houston Texans ... Next Game: 1/5 vs. CIN ... Last Poll: 6
Watt batted or tipped 16 passes, best in the NFL by 10 (Connor Barwin had six). He finished with 36.5 disrupted drop backs (20.5 sacks plus 16 batted/tipped passes plus zero interceptions). Seattle's Richard Sherman was a distant second with 23.0. Watt now faces Cincinnati for the second postseason in a row. He had a pick-six against Andy Dalton in the playoffs last season. Dalton has had 32 passes batted over the past two regular seasons, third most in the NFL behind Mark Sanchez (35) and Josh Freeman (35). Perhaps Watt can use that to his advantage in the playoffs this year, as well.
Quarterback | Washington Redskins ... Next Game: 1/6 vs. SEA ... Last Poll: 9
Griffin's plus-15 margin of touchdowns to interceptions was second best in NFL history for a rookie. Wilson (plus-16) and Dan Marino (plus-14) were the only other rookies at plus-10 or better. Griffin's 815 yards rushing were the fifth most by a quarterback since the 1970 merger. He and Randall Cunningham (1990) are the only players in league history with at least 3,000 yards passing and 800 yards rushing in the same season. Griffin has been most effective using play-action tactics. He averages 11.7 yards per pass attempt with an 86.8 QBR score on these throws, up from 5.6 and 58.4, respectively, without play-action.
Quarterback | Indianapolis Colts ... Next Game: 1/6 at BAL ... Last Poll: NR
Luck led the NFL with seven game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, tied for the most by any player since the 1970 merger. Peyton Manning (2009, 1999), Jake Delhomme (2003), Jake Plummer (1998), Don Majkowski (1989) and Brian Sipe (1979) also had seven in one season. Luck had zero turnovers over the final three games of the season. His completion rate has lagged. His passing stats aren't close to what quarterbacks need to win MVP awards. Luck still ranked 11th in QBR this season (65.0). He was the No. 1 reason the Colts went from 2-14 last season to 11-5 this season. Only four players attempted more passes this season.
Linebacker | Denver Broncos ... Next Game: TBD ... Last Poll: 8
Miller finished the season with 18.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss and one interception. He and Watt were the only players in the league with more than eight sacks and nine tackles for loss. Miller's sack total set the Broncos' franchise record for one season. He is the fourth player in the sack era (since 1982) with 30 or more sacks in his first two seasons.