Dan Graziano's MVP Watch

December, 11, 2013
12/11/13
11:01
AM ET

With apologies to Felix Bernard:

Peyton cruised ... in cold weather.
Drew beat Cam ... altogether.
And how 'bout LeSean?
You blink and he's gone.
It's an MVP Watch Wonderland.

Tom lost Gronk, who's the muscle.
San Fran got back at Russell.
The snow in his grill
Obscured Calvin's skill
It's an MVP Watch Wonderland.

As for defense, here are two linebackers
For whom big-time plays are quite routine.
Karlos scores a touchdown every week now,
And Vontaze is a tackling machine.

Jamaal sure drove the Chiefs' bus
Past the Redskins' fresh circus.
Sunday's bonanzas
Inspired these stanzas
It's an MVP Watch Wonderland.

1
Peyton Manning
QB
Denver Broncos
NEXT: 12/12 vs. SD
LAST POLL: 1
CMP: 366
ATT: 539
PCT: 67.9
YDS: 4,522
TD: 45
INT: 9
ANALYSIS

When a race is over with a month left in the season, the tendency is to force a fresh narrative that creates the appearance of drama where none exists. This is not a sports-specific phenomenon. There was a time in the fall of 2012 when we were expected to believe Mitt Romney was closing the gap in the Presidential race. Turns out, he wasn't. Likewise, it turns out that believing Manning can't win in cold weather is like believing Godzilla can't lay waste to a city just because it's cloudy. And saying Russell Wilson should be MVP is like saying "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" should have won the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture. There's nothing wrong with "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." It deserves all kinds of praise and adulation, and to be watched whenever possible. But it is not "Gone with the Wind." Wilson's 2013 performance may well be "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." But Manning's is "Gone with the Wind."

2
Drew Brees
QB
New Orleans Saints
NEXT: 12/15 at STL
LAST POLL: 3
CMP: 353
ATT: 519
PCT: 68.0
YDS: 4,107
TD: 33
INT: 8
ANALYSIS

Eight straight seasons with more than 4,000 passing yards? Fifth guy to crack 50,000 for his career? All great, but if he really wanted to be most valuable, Brees would find a way to get the Saints' next two games changed from road games to home games. Because when they're at home, they're unbeatable. Six days after getting laid out in Seattle, Brees and the Saints waxed the Panthers in New Orleans to take back sole possession of the division lead. After the game, Brees and Cam Newton shook hands and Newton said, "See you in two weeks." And Brees said, "Oh yeah? You guys coming back?" And Newton said, "No, you guys are coming to our place." And Brees' smile went away.

3
LeSean McCoy
RB
Philadelphia Eagles
NEXT: 12/15 at MIN
LAST POLL: 7
ATT: 261
YDS: 1,305
AVG: 5.0
LNG: 57
TD: 7
ANALYSIS

Most of you know that Calvin Johnson's nickname is the name of a transformer. McCoy's should be, too, because at halftime Sunday he turned into a snowmobile. Nick Foles' remarkable performance since taking over as the Eagles' quarterback is getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so. But McCoy's status as Most Valuable Eagle should never again be in question after he single-handedly took Sunday's game from the Lions' hands with a second-half rushing performance for the ages. He did everything but pick up a big pile of snow and shove it down the back of Ndamukong Suh's jersey on his way to the end zone. And Foles finally threw an interception, which proves that he's a human being and not a robot that Phil Knight had created in a lab in Eugene and sent Chip Kelly as a going-away present.

4
Russell Wilson
QB
Seattle Seahawks
NEXT: 12/15 at NYG
LAST POLL: 2
CMP: 213
ATT: 330
PCT: 64.5
YDS: 2,871
TD: 23
INT: 7
ANALYSIS

Wilson and the Seahawks are headed to northern New Jersey this weekend, ostensibly to play the Giants. But come on. The Seahawks could tie Wilson's right arm behind his back and still beat the Giants like cake batter. Their more significant challenge will be narrowing down their preferred list of places to get dinner when they're back in the area six weeks later to play in the Super Bowl. There's like a 34 percent chance Eli Manning walks into the locker room Sunday and finds Wilson sitting in his locker stall, just sizing it up for the first weekend in February.

5
Cam Newton
QB
Carolina Panthers
NEXT: 12/15 vs. NYJ
LAST POLL: 4
CMP: 248
ATT: 400
PCT: 62.0
YDS: 2,776
TD: 20
INT: 11
ANALYSIS

This is a link to a story about Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy explaining to reporters that he is "The Kraken" and his alma mater is "Hogwarts," which is what he told a national TV audience Sunday during the taped self-introductions NBC uses at the beginnings of its game broadcasts. It has nothing to do with Newton other than the fact that Hardy plays on Newton's team. It's just really bizarre and funny, and since Sunday night's game went pretty much exactly the way everyone thought it would go for Newton and the Panthers, there's not much to say in a Newton blurb this week. He's still great. The Panthers are still great. You can be great and still have trouble surviving a weekend in New Orleans.

6
Tom Brady
QB
New England Patriots
NEXT: 12/15 at MIA
LAST POLL: 6
CMP: 318
ATT: 523
PCT: 60.8
YDS: 3,685
TD: 21
INT: 9
ANALYSIS

Picturing a room with only one dim lamp lit. Brady, leaning forward on the edge of a sofa, staring straight ahead as a solitary tear rolls down his face and splashes onto Rob Gronkowski's MRI results on the coffee table in front of him. Softly, in the background, the song that's playing is "How Do I Live?" by LeAnn Rimes. It's corny, but Tom doesn't care. The pain is too much, the sense of loss too crushing. "How do I breathe without you, if you ever go?" Brady mouths along to the words. "How do I ever, ever survi-i-i-i-ve?" On the corner of the table, the phone is buzzing with "u doing ok?" texts from Julian Edelman, but Brady can't. It's just too soon.

7
Calvin Johnson
WR
Detroit Lions
NEXT: 12/16 vs. BAL
LAST POLL: 5
REC: 75
TGTS: 137
YDS: 1,348
AVG: 18.0
LNG: 87
TD: 12
ANALYSIS

Did you know that Johnson is no longer the league leader in receiving yards? Cleveland's Josh Gordon has passed him with a historic run here these past few weeks, and since Gordon missed the first two games of the year due to a suspension, he's well ahead of Johnson (127.3 to 112.3) in receiving yards per game. The Watch does not know whether Johnson is aware of these facts yet. But if he finds out before Monday, it's probably bad news for the Baltimore Ravens, against whom Megatron is likely to deploy his entire army of angry and loyal Decepticons in an effort to set things right on "Monday Night Football." Also, it's extremely unlikely to snow inside Ford Field on Monday, which should help as well.

8
Jamaal Charles
RB
Kansas City Chiefs
NEXT: 12/15 at OAK
LAST POLL: NR
ATT: 238
YDS: 1,162
AVG: 4.9
LNG: 46
TD: 10
ANALYSIS

He is the third-leading rusher in the league, behind only McCoy and Adrian Peterson. But Charles also leads the Chiefs in receptions, is third on the team in receiving yards and second in receiving touchdowns. Only the Saints' Jimmy Graham has scored more total touchdowns this year than Charles' 13. To the extent that there is such a thing as the Chiefs' offense, Charles is it. But the best thing that's happened to him all year is that, last week, Andy Reid finally stopped calling him "LeSean" by accident. Big, big moment for both of them.

9
Vontaze Burfict
LB
Cincinnati Bengals
NEXT: 12/15 at PIT
LAST POLL: 10
TACK: 94
AST: 45
SACK: 1
FF: 1
FR: 2
PD: 8
ANALYSIS

Remember when this guy went undrafted in 2012? Hotshot talent who a lot of people liked when he was in college, but the tape didn't match the hype and neither did the combine workout, so teams stayed away. The Bengals, who never met a bargain they didn't like, are happy they took the shot. The league leader in tackles, Burfict had only eight Sunday, but he did knock down two Andrew Luck passes in the Bengals' victory over the Colts. Remember when Luck was on this list? Remember the week he was No. 2? Oh yeah, we've had some good times. Kind of sad that the end is so close.

10
Karlos Dansby
LB
Arizona Cardinals
NEXT: 12/15 at TEN
LAST POLL: NR
TACK: 100
AST: 5
SACK: 6
FF: 1
FR: 1
PD: 16
ANALYSIS

The Watch has been thinking about a Cardinal for some time now, as Arizona has emerged as a hot second-half team. Thought about Dansby two weeks ago, when he ran back an interception for a touchdown against the Colts. Thought about Dansby again this week, when he ran back an interception for a touchdown against the Rams. Dude fills every box on the stat sheet. He has 105 total tackles, 16 passes defensed, six sacks, three interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and those two touchdowns. He must be unbeatable at Yahtzee.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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