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Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Mike Sando's MVP Watch

By Mike Sando

Peyton Manning's 11-week run atop the MVP Watch list wasn't going to end after the Denver Broncos quarterback closed the season with 304 yards and three touchdowns during a 38-3 victory.

Manning completed 79.3 percent of his passes while finishing with his highest single-game Total QBR score (98.7) in the five-year history of the quarterbacking metric.

And if recent history holds, Manning will emerge as a five-time MVP when the Associated Press reveals the winner one day before the Super Bowl. The four previous season leaders in Total QBR became MVPs, including Manning twice.

Ballots are due Thursday. I am not among the voters.

Manning stands as a clear MVP choice, in my view, based on how his play has affected the Broncos' chances for winning.

Quarterbacks are more important to game outcomes than players at other positions. Passing trumps running in the NFL. What stands as a horrible game for a QB -- say, 110 yards on 20 attempts -- would qualify as a top-flight effort for a runner.

Minnesota's Adrian Peterson would get my vote as the top offensive player or as the most impressive player after topping 2,000 yards rushing for a playoff team. No player in the NFL was more compelling to watch this season, at least from this angle.

But there is a reason QBs keep winning the award. They're more valuable.

Playing the NFL's fourth-easiest schedule certainly helped Manning this season. That might have come into play if the Broncos struggled to pull out victories this season. Instead, they won each of their final 11 games by at least seven points. They earned a first-round playoff bye, meaning they've already gotten as far in the playoffs as the 8-8 Broncos advanced last season.