We’re 16 weeks into the NFL season, and the race for MVP has come down to Denver quarterback Peyton Manning and Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson. With all due respect to Peterson, who is having an incredible season, this award deserves to go to Manning.
First, forget that he’s coming back from four neck surgeries because that is irrelevant. Peterson is also coming back from a major injury, so the comeback factor is a wash anyway. Manning doesn’t need lowered expectations and a feel good story to be deserving of this award. Even if you don’t take into account his year away from the field and his change of scenery, his performance was clearly becoming of an MVP.
The stats speak for themselves. With one game left to play, he has 4,355 passing yards – good enough for 6th in the NFL. Manning has displayed great strength and accuracy with his arm this season, as he currently ranks 4th in yards per attempt and 3rd in completion percentage. He has the third most touchdown passes in the NFL with 34, while throwing just 11 interceptions and fumbling just twice. Manning is one of just five quarterbacks in the league with a rating over 100. No other quarterback in the league is consistently at the top of every major statistical category, and few have had the consistency in production from week to week that Manning has had all season.
Beyond stats, it’s pertinent to mention that Manning’s team is better than Peterson’s team. In fact, Manning’s team is arguably the best in the NFL, as they are currently riding a 10-game winning streak and appear poised to claim a 13-3 regular season record. Manning has been the best player and the biggest difference maker on his team, and while it may seem too simplistic to give the MVP to the best player on the best team or the quarterback of the best team, it’s like that because usually that player is the most valuable player. What Peterson has done this year has been impressive, but it’s a passing league, and a great passer like Manning can’t be undervalued and can’t be replaced.
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Perhaps the one thing that separates Manning from Peterson more than anything is the way that he makes the players around him better. When Peterson runs he’s able to hide the deficiencies of the players around him, not make them better; Manning is able to uplift the performance of his teammates, which is a big part of what makes him so valuable. Before the season, few considered Demaryius Thomas an elite wide receiver, but Manning has helped make him one. Before the season, few thought highly of Eric Decker, but Manning has turned him into a receiver with 78 receptions, 11 touchdowns, and nearly 1,000 receiving yards. Before the season, Brandon Stokley was done playing football, but thanks to Manning he is back in the league and is still playing at a high level. Manning throwing the football to those players has made them all better, which speaks to how valuable Manning has been for the Broncos this season.
Finally, Manning should be the MVP this year because he is the most complete player. He outplays people by being able to throw the ball where only his receivers can catch it. He outsmarts people by being able to audible into a play he knows will work time after time. He outlasts people by being able to run a hurry-up offense that tires out defenses but not him. Simply put, Manning has outmatched just about everybody he’s come across this year. He’s the reason why the Broncos have won 10 games in a row. He’s the biggest reason why they’ll enter the playoffs as heavy favorites. He’s the NFL’s most valuable player for 2012.