NFC West: John Harris
The two exceptions -- Kansas City and Seattle -- have outperformed expectations without producing clear candidates. They'll have to settle for leading their divisions.
Rank 'Em: NFL MVP Candidates
How do you size up the NFL MVP race? Rank who you think should be leading the pack after Week 7.
The Seahawks love what they're getting from receiver Mike Williams, who has 21 receptions over the past two games, both victories. But he's a better candidate for comeback player than MVP at this point. Seattle's defense has generally played well. Earl Thomas ranks among the league leaders in interceptions with four, putting him on pace to challenge the franchise single-season record held by Kenny Easley and John Harris, but Thomas is a better candidate for defensive rookie of the year.
We're now deep enough into the season to start excluding outstanding individuals from lagging teams. Philip Rivers dropped off the list this week, to cite one example.
And now, on to the list ...
Manning will have a harder time without Dallas Clark and even Austin Collie is hurting, but no other quarterback has proved as resourceful as the Colts' four-time MVP. It's an upset if Manning suddenly falls off even though any other quarterback probably would. Manning leads the league in passer rating. He has four fewer INTs than any QB with as many TD passes.
Week 6 at WAS
2. TOM BRADYQuarterback | New England Patriots ... Next Game: 10/31 vs. MIN ... Last Week: 2
Brady has thrown for at least 248 yards in all but two games. He has 11 TDs and five games without an INT. The Patriots' offense is evolving. Brady has more INTs (two) than TDs (one) in two games since the team traded Randy Moss to Minnesota. Brady had nine TD passes in four games with Moss. He has two in two games without him. But the Patriots have kept winning and Brady's credentials make him an obvious choice in the MVP race.
Week 7 at SD
The Jets are 5-1 and Tomlinson stands out as such an important part of what the team has going offensively. He has a 5.3-yard average without breaking a run longer than 31 yards. That suggests Tomlinson has been consistently productive. He also has five TDs, putting him on pace for 13 this season. Nine running backs are averaging more yards per game and Tomlinson will have to pick up the yardage pace to remain in the discussion. He is getting more carries as the season progresses.
Week 6 at DEN
Johnson has four 100-yard games and a league-leading seven rushing TDs for a division-leading team with a 5-2 record. I thought K.C. Joyner's Insider piece made some interesting points about Johnson possibly hunting for the big play at the expense of greater consistency. Johnson faces the San Diego Chargers in Week 8. He had 21 carries for 142 yards and a TD against them late last season.
Week 7 vs. PHI
5. RODDY WHITEWide Receiver | Atlanta Falcons ... Next Game: 11/7 vs. TB ... Last Week: NR
White has 54 receptions without dropping a pass, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Every other receiver with 35 or more receptions has dropped at least one pass. White's production suggests quarterback Matt Ryan also must be doing something right, and both players could appear on this list if the trend continues. White's 11-catch, 201-yard receiving performance against Cincinnati made him the league leader in receiving yards this season.
Week 7 vs. CIN
6. ARIAN FOSTERRunning Back | Houston Texans ... Next Game: 11/1 at IND ... Last Week: 6
My impression early in the season held that Matt Schaub or Andre Johnson would likely surpass Foster as MVP candidates if the Texans enjoyed a successful season. That still might happen. For now, however, Foster remains the clear choice. He ranks fourth in rushing yards despite a bye week. He ranks second in rushing TDs. He averages more YPC than any of the 12 leading rushers in the NFL through seven weeks.
Week 6 vs. KC
The quarterback formerly known as "Big Ben" is putting up big stats since returning to the team. Roethlisberger has attempted only 54 passes, a reminder that his MVP candidacy remains in its infancy. There's no arguing with the results so far, however. Roethlisberger leads the NFL in passer rating. His TD-to-INT ratio probably isn't sustainable. The Steelers have to like what they've seen from Roethlisberger thus far, however.
Week 7 at MIA
8. DREW BREESQuarterback | New Orleans Saints ... Next Game: 10/31 vs. PIT ... Last Week: 4
The Saints' road to defending their Super Bowl title only gets steeper with the Steelers visiting the Superdome in Week 8. Brees' four-pick game against the Browns nearly knocked him from this list, particularly with the Saints struggling recently. Brees still ranks tied for the NFL lead in TD passes and third in passing yards.
Week 7 vs. CLE
9. HAKEEM NICKSWide Receiver | New York Giants ... Next Game: 11/7 at SEA ... Last Week: NR
The Giants have multiple candidates. Ahmad Bradshaw? No doubt about it. He leads the NFL in rushing and ranks fourth in rushing yards per game. Eli Manning? He's tied for the league lead in TD passes. Osi Umenyiora? Eight sacks and seven forced fumbles speak loudly. Nicks prevails this week. He ranks tied for the league lead in TD receptions and tied for second in receptions covering at least 20 yards. He's also ascending. Nicks has topped 100 yards receiving three times in his past four games after a modest start to the season.
Week 7 at DAL
10. JOE FLACCOQuarterback | Baltimore Ravens ... Next Game: 11/7 vs. MIA ... Last Week: NR
Nineteen qualifying QBs have higher ratings than Flacco, but five TD passes without an INT over the past two games helped him enter the conversation. The Ravens are 5-2 with victories over the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers. Let's see whether Flacco can build upon the past couple games.
Week 7 vs. BUF
San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Philip Rivers, Hakeem Nicks, Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger, LaDainian Tomlinson, Kenny Easley, Chris Johnson, Roddy White, Peyton Manning, Arian Foster, Mike Williams, Drew Brees, Jamaal Charles, Earl Thomas, 2010 MVP Watch, John Harris