Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Mike Sando's MVP Watch
By Mike Sando
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has averaged 164.1 yards per game over his past eight games.
Adrian Peterson is making our weekly MVP discussion more compelling all the time.
The Minnesota Vikings' ligament-defying running back has rushed for 212, 210, 182, 171, 154, 153, 123, 108 and 102 yards in games this season. His total for those nine games would rank 11th among single-season totals over the past five years. His 1,812-yard total through 14 games this season already ranks 19th in NFL history.
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NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert is well aware of the monster season Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson is having in 2012. Blog
If Chris Johnson wasn't worthy of a single vote just three seasons ago, what's changed to make Peterson a bigger contender this year, Paul Kuharsky writes. Blog
Peterson, who suffered torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee last Christmas Eve, would top my list for most impressive player in the NFL this season. He would get my vote for comeback player of the year.
Yet, if the Vikings could trade Peterson for a top quarterback, they would be getting superior value in return. That is a primary reason quarterbacks continue to fill the top three spots in MVP Watch this week.
Does Tony Romo get your NFL MVP vote for leading the Cowboys back into playoff contention? Submit your rankings!
"If Johnson wasn’t worthy of a single vote just three seasons ago, what’s changed to make Peterson a bigger contender this year?" Kuharsky asks. "And considering the season J.J. Watt is having, if the Texans' defensive lineman can’t win it, I’m left wondering if, when and how a defender will ever win it again."
The more we learn about how games are won and lost in the NFL, the more we realize quarterback play is the key. As great as Peterson has been, the Vikings have generally won and lost based on how quarterback Christian Ponder has played.
Perhaps the "V" in MVP is carrying too much weight. Are we really talking about pure value, or should MVP honors simply go to the player posting the best season?
Quarterback | Denver Broncos ... Next Game: 12/23 vs. CLE ... Last Poll: 1
The Broncos face the NFL's easiest schedule over the final two games, at least by opponents' won-lost records. Yet, while Manning has gone 5-0 against the Cleveland Browns, he has only two touchdown passes with six interceptions in those games. His minus-4 differential against Cleveland is his worst against any NFL opponent. The Browns rank 13th in Total QBR allowed (52.5, below the 54.9 league average). Manning has a 16-2 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions at home, however, and the Browns could not stop Washington rookie Kirk Cousins from completing 70.3 percent of his passes with a 76.3 QBR score and 104.4 passer rating.
Quarterback | New England Patriots ... Next Game: 12/23 at JAC ... Last Poll: 2
The Patriots face the NFL's second-easiest remaining schedule. A blowout defeat against the San Francisco 49ers would have knocked him down the MVP Watch list. The way Brady led the Patriots back from a 31-3 deficit into a 31-31 tie demonstrated his value, however. He's having a great season and is certainly among the most valuable players. On the downside, Brady has gone 0-3 against the three toughest pass defenses he has faced (Arizona, Seattle, San Francisco). He has four touchdown passes with five picks against those teams.
Quarterback | Green Bay Packers ... Next Game: 12/23 vs. TEN ... Last Poll: 3
Rodgers has taken a league-high 45 sacks this season. He is one of only four players to take more than 35 through Week 15. That makes Rodgers' excellent 71.9 QBR score all the more amazing. QBR downgrades quarterbacks for the sacks they take. Rodgers ranks fifth in QBR despite having taken at least 20 more sacks than any of the four players ranked ahead of him. That speaks to the sheer effectiveness of Rodgers when the defense fails to bring him down.
Running Back | Minnesota Vikings ... Next Game: 12/23 at HOU... Last Poll: 4
Peterson must average 147 yards per game over his final two games to break Eric Dickerson's single-season NFL record for rushing yards (2,105, set in 1984). He has averaged 164.1 yards per game over his past eight games. Peterson needs 188 yards to join Dickerson, Jamal Lewis, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Chris Johnson and O.J. Simpson as the only players to rush for 2,000 yards in a season. Simpson did it in 1973, when the season lasted 14 games. Peterson has reached 150 yards in three consecutive games, the first time an NFL player has done that since 2004 (Shaun Alexander).
Defensive End | Houston Texans ... Next Game: 12/23 vs. MIN ... Last Poll: 6
The Texans' incomparable defensive lineman finished a Week 15 victory over Indianapolis with 10 tackles, including six behind the line of scrimmage. He now has 34.5 disrupted pass drop backs, defined as sacks (19.5) plus batted passes (15) plus passes defensed plus interceptions. The San Francisco 49ers' Aldon Smith ranks a distant second with 20.5 disruptions. Check out Paul Kuharsky's recent column for a fuller appreciation of the havoc Watt is unleashing.
Quarterback | Atlanta Falcons ... Next Game: 12/22 at DET ... Last Poll: 9
Hanging around the MVP conversation will not be enough to satisfy Ryan this season. He needs postseason success to take the next step in his career. The Falcons cannot take that next step until the regular season ends, of course. In the meantime, their 34-0 victory over the New York Giants will have to suffice. Ryan tossed three scoring passes while thoroughly outplaying Eli Manning. Ryan averaged 9.6 yards per pass attempt while posting a 96.2 QBR score and 142.6 NFL passer rating. He's completing a career-high 42.5 percent of passes thrown more than 20 yards past the line of scrimmage.
Running Back | Seattle Seahawks ... Next Game: 12/23 vs. SF ... Last Poll: 5
Lynch trails only Peterson in rushing yards this season. He has 21 carries for 241 yards over his past two games. The four other backs with at least 200 yards over that span have needed between 42 and 55 carries to get their yardage. That includes Peterson (55-366), Knowshon Moreno (54-237), Alfred Morris (50-216) and Arian Foster (42-211). Lynch has eight games with at least 100 yards this season. He has four additional games with at least 85 yards. He also ranks tied for fourth in rushing touchdowns with 10.
Linebacker | Denver Broncos ... Next Game: 12/23 vs. CLE ... Last Poll: 8
Aldon Smith was a strong consideration in this spot as well. He has 19.5 sacks and got pressure on Brady early in the game Sunday night, one key to San Francisco's ability to build a lead. Miller got the call because he has a similar number of sacks (16) while ranking tied for fourth in tackles for loss with 14 (Smith has two). Miller has six forced fumbles, as many as Watt (three) and Smith (three) combined. Miller also has an interception return for a touchdown. As Pro Football Focus notes, "Miller has 82 overall pressures on the year, which is more than any other linebacker. That's also more than what any other linebacker had last year."
Quarterback | Seattle Seahawks ... Next Game: 12/23 vs. SF ... Last Poll: NR
A strong performance in victory against the 49ers might be enough for Wilson to overtake Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III as the perceived leading candidate for offensive rookie of the year. Wilson was the only one of the three to appear in MVP Watch this week for three primary reasons. One, Luck has slipped a bit lately and is coming off a loss. Two, an injury forced Griffin to watch from the sideline while Kirk Cousins led Washington to victory in Week 15. Griffin's injury status is affecting his candidacy. Three, Wilson has been sensational. He leads the NFL in Total QBR (85.1) and ranks second to Rodgers in passer rating (106.7) over the past 10 weeks.
Quarterback | Dallas Cowboys ... Next Game: 12/23 vs. NO ... Last Poll: NR
Romo is back on the MVP Watch list for the second time this season and the first time since he opened the regular season with 307 yards and three touchdown passes during a 24-17 victory over the New York Giants. Romo has six touchdowns with one pick during the Cowboys' three-game winning streak. He has 12 touchdowns with three interceptions while posting a 5-1 record over his past six starts. The Cowboys somewhat improbably have a chance to win the NFC East.