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Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Dan Graziano's MVP Watch

By Dan Graziano

Kaepernick-Wilson
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (No. 2 on the MVP Watch this week) and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (No. 3) will square off Sunday night in Seattle.
MVPs come from winning teams, from playoff teams at the very least, if not the absolute top teams in the league. So as the MVP Watch unveils its first top 10 since the 2013 season actually began, you won't find anyone on a team that lost its Week 1 game*. That's right. The Watch says no to Aaron Rodgers. He may have as good or a better chance in the end to win the award as anyone on this list, but not if his team doesn't win any games. Same with Matt Ryan. Tough loss, Matty Ice, to a tough team in a tough place. But MVPs win those games, is all the Watch is sayin'.

Unless you're in the AFC North right now, you can't be winless and occupy a playoff spot. Last week's Watch was about forecasting players' odds to win this award, with nothing to go on but past years' performances. This week, the Watch has something on which to base the list. Everybody has played. Going forward, this will be based on 2013 performance as it pertains to the candidates' chances. It may not feel sane to you, but this is the way it's going to be.

So without further ado, the 10 best currently undefeated* candidates for the 2013 NFL MVP award.

1
Peyton Manning
QB
Denver Broncos
NEXT: 9/15 at NYG
LAST POLL: 1
CMP: 27
ATT: 42
PCT: 64.3
YDS: 462
TD: 7
INT: 0
ANALYSIS

When you're boosting the page views on Joe Kapp's Wikipedia page, you've had a big night. (And seriously, the Watch awards bonus points to Manning for knowing who Kapp was and where he went to college. Love the respect for history.) Manning is set up for this award, with those receivers and that tight end to throw to. He could hold this spot all year, long as he beats his kid brother this weekend.

2
Colin Kaepernick
QB
San Francisco 49ers
NEXT: 9/15 at SEA
LAST POLL: NR
CMP: 27
ATT: 39
PCT: 69.2
YDS: 412
TD: 3
INT: 0
ANALYSIS

More than 400 passing yards? Check. Three touchdown passes? Yup. Pointed shot at Clay Matthews in the postgame news conference? Oh yeah you betcha. Biceps-kissing Kap is the QB on the best team in the league right now, and he is a bad man.

3
Russell Wilson
QB
Seattle Seahawks
NEXT: 9/15 vs. SF
LAST POLL: NR
CMP: 25
ATT: 33
PCT: 75.8
YDS: 320
TD: 1
INT: 0
ANALYSIS

Big MVP Watch showdown coming Sunday as Kap faces off against DangeRuss. If Russ can win it, then maybe he's the QB on the best team in the league right now, right? If you don't think this guy ranks with the rest of the fun young quarterbacks in the league right now, well then all you have to do is ... Watch.

4
Tom Brady
QB
New England Patriots
NEXT: 9/12 vs. NYJ
LAST POLL: 4
CMP: 29
ATT: 52
PCT: 55.8
YDS: 288
TD: 2
INT: 1
ANALYSIS

Brady watched Manning's game and said, "Sure, anybody can do it with Welker. Try doing it throwing to Julian Edelman. And Kenbrell Thompkins. At least I can dump it off to Shane Vereen. Wait. What do you mean Vereen's hurt?" If the Patriots win their division, it'll be an MVP-worthy triumph for Tom and his misfit toys.

5
Drew Brees
QB
New Orleans Saints
NEXT: 9/15 at TB
LAST POLL: 7
CMP: 26
ATT: 35
PCT: 74.3
YDS: 357
TD: 2
INT: 1
ANALYSIS

The Watch isn't buying the whole thing about Sean Payton's return rejuvenating Brees. He basically has the same game every week. Guy threw for 5,177 yards and 43 touchdowns last year and had to go through 75 frantic texts from Payton when he got back to his locker after every game. We should all be so de-juvenated.

6
LeSean McCoy
RB
Philadelphia Eagles
NEXT: 9/15 vs. SD
LAST POLL: NR
ATT: 31
YDS: 184
AVG: 5.9
LNG: 34
TD: 1
ANALYSIS

Chip Kelly rolls into Philadelphia in January and says, "This is the offense I want to run. We have 85-man rosters, right?" No, Chip, only 53. "All right, 53, so, say, 25, 26 on offense. How many of them are any good?" Well, Chip, pretty much six. And five of them are offensive linemen. "Wow. That's not many. Who's the other one?" LeSean McCoy. "OK. I can work with that."

7
Andrew Luck
QB
Indianapolis Colts
NEXT: 9/15 vs. MIA
LAST POLL: NR
CMP: 18
ATT: 23
PCT: 78.3
YDS: 178
TD: 2
INT: 0
ANALYSIS

He had 14 more rushing yards in Week 1 than Robert Griffin III had. Take that, Whole Know-it-all World. Luck is an embryonic bronze bust in a scraggly beard. Some day, some of these guys are going to brag about having been ahead of him on a list like this.

8
A.J. Green*
WR
Cincinnati Bengals
NEXT: 9/16 vs. PIT
LAST POLL: NR
REC: 9
TGTS: 13
YDS: 162
AVG: 18.0
LNG: 45
TD: 2
ANALYSIS

Do you realize that Green and Andy Dalton only know the Bengals as a playoff team? Seriously, while the casual football fan still hears Bengals and thinks they've never been good without Boomer Esiason, the only two Bengals teams on which Green and Dalton have played have gone to the playoffs. If they were arrogant head coaches, they'd call that "culture change." But Green can't hear you. He's busy catching everything, everywhere, all the time. *He's the exception to our rule because 0-1 in the AFC North is still a playoff spot.

9
Reggie Bush
RB
Detroit Lions
NEXT: 9/15 at ARI
LAST POLL: NR
ATT: 21
YDS: 90
AVG: 4.3
LNG: 12
TD: 0
ANALYSIS

If Matthew Stafford throws another 700-plus passes this year but they're all to the running backs, will his arm even hurt at the end of the season? If Bush stays healthy, he's going to force teams to commit a safety to stopping the run (or the short pass) and reduce the coverage on Calvin Johnson. Bush is the missing puzzle piece that has been driving the Lions crazy for two years because they knew it was around here somewhere.

10
Tony Romo
QB
Dallas Cowboys
NEXT: 9/15 at KC
LAST POLL: 10
CMP: 36
ATT: 49
PCT: 73.5
YDS: 263
TD: 2
INT: 1
ANALYSIS

Yeah, the Watch is going to keep the Watch's shocking, highly controversial MVP pick on this list as long as the Watch can, and Romo did beat the Giants on Sunday. You can assume he'll eventually throw downfield. But against the Giants, the smart play is to pick 'em apart over the middle. And remember, Tony helps make the game plan now! Valuable!!!