Mike Sando's MVP Watch
The 2011 draft is doing its part to change the trend. That draft has produced the top three sack leaders in the NFL through Week 11.
J.J. Watt, who has been on our MVP Watch list nine times in 12 weeks, trails only Aldon Smith and Von Miller among NFL sack leaders to this point in the season. Denver made Miller the second overall choice in 2011. San Francisco made Smith the seventh pick. Houston took Watt 11th.
That is a great pass-rushing draft.
Smith has a league-leading 15 sacks after setting a "Monday Night Football" record with 5.5 against Chicago. Miller ranks second with 13 sacks after collecting three for Denver against San Diego.
I've added Smith and Miller to the MVP Watch list heading into Week 12. They have combined with Watt for 39.5 sacks this season. It's still unlikely any of them will taken down the top quarterbacks in the MVP race, but they are doing their best on the field.
Another week, another victory for Manning and the Broncos. The team has won five in a row and still has two games remaining against Kansas City, including one in Week 12. Manning posted an oddly low (for him) Total QBR score of 31.7 against San Diego last week. I wasn't sure why when looking at the numbers. He completed 9 of 13 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown on third down. He appeared efficient on first down as well. But his second-down numbers were strikingly bad: 6-of-13 passing for 50 yards with no touchdowns, three sacks and a 3.1 QBR score (down from in the 90s on second down over the previous two weeks). We call that an aberration. Manning had lit up the Chargers on second down earlier this season, completing 10 of 13 passes for 144 yards and two scores.
Week 11 vs. SD
Rodgers has 20 touchdown passes with three interceptions since Week 5. He leads the NFL in touchdown-to-interception differential during that span (Drew Brees is second with an 18-4 differential). Rodgers' 24 touchdown passes since Week 4 also lead the league. With the New York Giants next on Green Bay's schedule, ESPN Stats & Information provided this note from the team's Week 13 meeting last season: Rodgers went 21-of-25 with 264 yards and three touchdowns on throws outside the painted numbers. The numbers dropped to 11-of-23 passing with 114 yards and no scores on those throws when the teams met in the playoffs.
Week 11 at DET
3. TOM BRADYQuarterback | New England Patriots ... Next Game: 11/22 at NYJ ... Last Poll: 3
Brady has 11 touchdowns with no interceptions during the Patriots' ongoing four-game winning streak. He has overtaken Manning as the Total QBR leader for the season. Brady has 21 touchdowns with only three interceptions all season. Arizona and Seattle were the best defensive teams Brady has faced. He had three touchdowns and three interceptions against those teams, going 0-2. The Cardinals and Seahawks have allowed 19 touchdowns with 20 picks to everyone else. Brady has 18 touchdowns and no picks against Tennessee, Baltimore, Buffalo (twice), Denver, the New York Jets, St. Louis and Indianapolis. Those seven teams have allowed 92 touchdowns with 60 interceptions to opponents other than New England.
Week 11 vs. IND
Peterson continues to lead the NFL in rushing with 1,128 yards following the Vikings' bye week. He has 544 yards after contact, easily most in the NFL. There are only 22 players with more than 544 yards before and after contact. ESPN Stats & Information instructs its game charters to define contact this way: "Contact will be different than just touching the ball carrier. 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."
Week 10 vs. DET
Lynch still ranks second in rushing yards following the Seahawks' bye week. He now faces a Miami Dolphins defense that has ceded 132.2 yards rushing per game and 4.7 per carry over its past five games. That is up from 61.4 yards per game and 2.7 per carry over the first five games. Doug Martin recently passed Lynch for second in yards after contact. Miami has given up 366 yards after contact, the eighth-fewest in the NFL.
Week 10 vs. NYJ
6. J.J. WATTDefensive End | Houston Texans ... Next Game: 11/22 at DET ... Last Poll: 6
Watt ranks third among NFL players in sacks with 11.5. He has 11 passes defensed, one off the NFL lead, and the most for a defensive lineman. Brian Robison is the only other player in the NFL with at least six passes defensed and more than three sacks. Watt dropped slightly on the list only because the Texans gave up 37 points while barely holding off Jacksonville in Week 11.
Week 11 vs. JAC
7. DREW BREESQuarterback | New Orleans Saints ... Next Game: 11/25 vs. SF ... Last Poll: NR
Brees makes his third MVP Watch appearance of the season and his first since Sept. 12, when he was sixth. Brees has been producing all along, but the Saints' record wasn't good enough to generate much MVP discussion. New Orleans is back to .500 and can take a giant step forward with a victory against San Francisco in Week 12. The Saints then play road games against the Atlanta Falcons and New York Giants. We'll know by then where the Saints stand. That will tell us where Brees stands in the MVP conversation.
Week 11 vs. OAK
8. ALDON SMITHLinebacker | San Francisco 49ers ... Next Game: 11/25 at NOR ... Last Poll: NR
The Bears had no answer for the player San Francisco drafted seventh overall in 2011. Smith has benefited greatly from playing off teammate Justin Smith, often combining with Smith on pass-rush twists. Aldon Smith put his bull-rush to use against the Bears. That was one key to his 5.5-sack performance. Sacks sometimes come in bunches, but this was ridiculous. The highlight for Smith, I thought, was when he tossed Bears tackle Gabe Carimi over backward on his way to quarterback Jason Campbell. The safety Smith collected capped off a night to remember.
Week 11 vs. CHI
9. VON MILLERLinebacker | Denver Broncos ... Next Game: 11/25 at KC ... Last Poll: NR
A three-sack performance against San Diego gives Miller 24.5 sacks through 25 career games. Only Derrick Thomas had more to that point in a career since the NFL began tracking sacks officially in 1982. Miller ranks second to the 49ers' Smith in sacks with 13 this season. He also has 13 tackles for loss, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Week 11 vs. SD
10. MATT SCHAUBQuarterback | Houston Texans ... Next Game: 11/22 at DET ... Last Poll: NR
Schaub is back on the MVP Watch list for the first time since peaking at No. 5 on Oct. 2. His 527-yard, five-touchdown game against Jacksonville came one week after Schaub passed for 95 yards with two picks while grinding out a bad-weather victory at Chicago. He has 10 touchdown passes during a four-game streak of victories against Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago and Jacksonville. The Texans have played four of their past five games at home. They play their next three on the road, capped by a Monday night date with New England on Dec. 10.
Week 11 vs. JAC