Mike Sando's MVP Watch
"I totally disagree," wrote a colleague who shall remain nameless.
SportsNation: NFL MVP
Peyton Manning has moved to No. 1 on Mike Sando's MVP watch list. Does he get your vote? Submit your rankings!
The Denver Broncos' 36-year-old quarterback posted another statistical gem Sunday with 305 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions during a 34-14 victory over New Orleans. He leads the NFL in Total QBR (82.5) and NFL passer rating (109.0).
Manning thus became the second player in NFL history to reach 300 yards passing and three touchdowns in four consecutive games during one season. Steve Young did it five consecutive games during the 1998 season. That info comes from Elias Sports Bureau.
Terrell Davis won MVP honors for his 2,008-yard season back in 1998, a reminder that a few strong weeks in a row does not secure the hardware automatically. But with Manning and the current Broncos facing the NFL easiest schedule from this point forward, we have a midseason favorite, at least.
Manning has been dangerous on downfield throws. Receiver Demaryius Thomas deserves mention here for averaging 17.4 yards per reception with 311 yards after the catch (fourth-most in the NFL). Manning is completing 51.9 percent of attempts on passes traveling longer than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. That ranks third in the NFL and far outpaces the 27.6 rate he posted in 2010, Manning's most recent season before this one.
Week 8 vs. NO
Rodgers moves up one spot from last week after throwing a couple of TD passes during an underwhelming victory over Jacksonville. Rodgers leads the NFL in scoring passes with 21. He has 11 TDs without a pick during Green Bay's current three-game winning streak. Rodgers now gets a home game against an Arizona defense that gave up 18 completions in 19 attempts (plus three TDs) on Monday night.
Week 8 vs. JAC
3. TOM BRADYQuarterback | New England Patriots ... Next Game: 11/11 vs. BUF ... Last Poll: 6
The 98.4 QBR score Brady posted against St. Louis tied for his highest in a game over the past five seasons, which is as far back as the QBR game charting goes. His previous highs during that span were 98.4 against Jacksonville (2009), 97.6 against Buffalo (2010), 96.5 against Buffalo (2012) and 95.4 against Detroit (2010). Brady now has six TD passes without a pick since his comparatively rough game at Seattle.
Week 8 at STL
4. MATT RYANQuarterback | Atlanta Falcons ... Next Game: 11/4 vs. DAL ... Last Poll: 5
A frighteningly efficient performance on the road against Philadelphia has Ryan trending upward at midseason. As Elias Sports Bureau noted, the victory made Ryan the third NFC quarterback to reach 50 victories as a starter before suffering 20 defeats. Roger Staubach and Danny White did it with the Dallas Cowboys. Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger have done it for AFC teams. Ryan has a 50-19 mark as a starter.
Week 8 at PHI
5. ELI MANNINGQuarterback | New York Giants ... Next Game: 11/4 vs. PIT ... Last Poll: 2
Another week, another narrow victory over a division opponent. Manning seemed pretty average during the Giants' victory over Dallas. It was his first game of the season without a TD pass and his second in a row with more INTs than TDs. A lesser QB might drop a few more spots under such circumstances, but we know better than to overreact. Let's see how Manning fares against Pittsburgh.
Week 8 at DAL
6. J.J. WATTDefensive End | Houston Texans ... Next Game: 11/4 vs. BUF ... Last Poll: 4
Watt slips a little from last week mostly because the Texans were idle. Turns out a bye week is the only way to stop him this season. Watt leads the NFL in sacks with 9.5, despite the down week. Green Bay's Clay Matthews and Arizona's Daryl Washington are the only other players with more than 7.5 sacks this season. Watt is the only front-seven player among the 36 credited with at least seven passes defensed this season. He has 10. Only five players have more (Tim Jennings, Keenan Lewis, Tramon Williams, Patrick Robinson and Richard Sherman).
Week 7 vs. BAL
7. TIM JENNINGSCornerback | Chicago Bears ... Next Game: 11/4 at TEN ... Last Poll: NR
Charles Tillman was the Chicago Bears defensive back listed in this spot a week ago. Jennings holds the spot this week after picking off two passes against Carolina. He now has six INTs, one of them returned for a touchdown. The Panthers threw at Tillman only three times. They targeted Jennings 17 times. Jennings appeared to make the most of his opportunities. The Bears have been so good on defense this season. They aren't likely to produce an MVP, but I've set aside a spot on the list to recognize their efforts.
Week 8 vs. CAR
Peterson leads the NFL in rushing yards (775) and yards after contact (404). The latter figure leads the NFL by 101 yards (Marshawn Lynch is second). Peterson also leads the NFL with eight carries of at least 20 yards, a significant achievement coming off ACL surgery. He did lose a fumble during an ugly home defeat to Tampa Bay in Week 8. He faces a difficult matchup on the road against Seattle's defense in Week 9. Minnesota does face the second-toughest schedule from this point forward. Will Peterson's first MVP Watch appearance of the season be his last?
Week 8 vs. TB
Roethlisberger trails only Peyton Manning, Brady and Ryan in Total QBR for the season. His 75.6 score stands just ahead of Eli Manning's 74.3, Rodgers' 72.3 and Andrew Luck's 72.2. Luck has come close to appearing on the list a couple of times this season. He's playing better than some of his traditional stats have indicated, particularly if we consider the level of difficulty for the types of passes he makes. Roethlisberger, meanwhile, isn't getting much help from a ground game that averages 3.7 yards per attempt, tied for third-worst in the NFL if we round to the tenth. His 14-3 ratio of TDs to INTs is solid.
Week 8 vs. WAS
10. ALEX SMITHQuarterback | San Francisco 49ers ... Next Game: 11/11 vs. STL ... Last Poll: NR
Completing 18 of 19 passes with three TDs and no picks has to count for something. Smith bounced back from a couple of less impressive performances. He is one of nine qualifying quarterbacks with a QBR score of 70 or higher. "Pro Bowl-level performance for a season usually means a QBR of at least 65 or 70," ESPN's Dean Oliver wrote back in 2011. Smith is playing to that level for a team with a 6-2 record. He'd be even better if he would convert sacks into incomplete passes more regularly.
Week 8 at ARI