Saints QB Drew Brees has been a mainstay on the Meter in recent seasons, but his team’s 0-4 start threatened to make the Saints irrelevant and keep Brees out of the MVP conversation this year.
He and the Saints are on the rise, though.
New Orleans is back at .500 (5-5) after winning five of its past six games, and Brees has been the determined voice of calm when everyone around the team seemed to be panicking. He is No. 8 on the Meter this week — sandwiched between Adrian Peterson and Robert Griffin III — with the Saints back on the fringe of the playoff picture.
No quarterback has thrown more touchdown passes than Brees (28), and he has a chance to make a statement, as well as a jump on the Meter, with a strong outing against the 49ers’ stingy defense in Week 12.
(Last week’s ranking in parentheses)
1. Broncos QB Peyton Manning (No. 2) — Out with Matt Ryan, who held down the top spot on the Meter for the past nine weeks, and in with Manning. His streak of games with a passer rating of 100 or better ended at six Sunday, but Manning still had a three-TD game (the norm for him this season) and the Broncos completed the season sweep of the Chargers. After winning five straight, Denver is in control of the AFC West and Manning is the frontrunner for MVP.
2. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 3) — Green Bay was trailing the Lions by six in the final minutes in Detroit Sunday, but Rodgers completed two passes to Jermichael Finley to move into scoring position before connecting with Randall Cobb for a 22-yard TD to give the Packers a lead with 1:55 remaining. It proved the eventual game winner in a 24-20 win. After a shaky start, Rodgers has the Packers back on top in the NFC North and is the league’s highest-rated passer (107.3) through 10 games.
3. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 5) — Brady has played turnover-free football during New England’s four-game winning streak. He has thrown 11 TDs and no interceptions since his two-pick game in the team’s loss at Seattle, but he may have to go the rest of the regular season without TE Rob Gronkowski, who he connected with for two TDs in the Pats’ win over the Colts on Sunday before Gronkowski broke a bone in his forearm on an extra-point attempt.
4. Falcons QB Matt Ryan (No. 1) — Not all of the career-high five interceptions Ryan threw on Sunday were his fault, but that was Ryan's second game with three or more interceptions this season. He has to cut down on mistakes to keep pace with the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, who each seem to be getting better as the season goes on while Ryan is going the other way.
5. Texans DE J.J. Watt (No. 4) — There were not many good defensive plays to choose from for the Texans, who allowed the offensively challenged Jaguars — led by backup QB Chad Henne for three-plus quarters — to rack up 37 points and 458 net yards Sunday. Watt accounted for a few of the rare defensive bright spots with a sack, two tackles for loss and his first pass defensed since Week Seven.
6. Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman (No. 6) — Freeman through three quarters Sunday vs. the Panthers: 96 yards passing, one TD, two interceptions. Freeman in the fourth quarter/overtime: 152 yards, two TDs and no picks. The Bucs’ signalcaller turned it on late as Tampa Bay forged its comeback from an 11-point deficit to win their fourth straight and stun Carolina.
7. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (No. 9) — The Bears will get their first up-close look at the post-knee surgery Peterson in Week 12, and they probably will not like what they see. He's averaging more than 100 yards rushing in his eight career games against Chicago and has rushed for 12 TDs in those eight games.
8. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 10) — The Saints pulled Brees from the game with four minutes left in their rout of the Raiders Sunday. He did plenty of damage to Oakland’s befuddled secondary before his friend and backup Chase Daniel stepped in for garbage time, though, completing 20-of-27 passes including three for TDs.
9. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (Cusp) — RG3 gobbled up some roasted Eagle as a Thanksgiving hors d’oeurvre. He’s fifth in the league in passer rating after throwing four TD passes and leading the Redskins in rushing (12-84) in their 31-6 mashing of Philadelphia.
10. Broncos LB Von Miller (Cusp) — He was a king for a day as the 49ers’ Aldon Smith passed Miller for the lead in sacks Monday after Miller passed J.J. Watt for the lead on Sunday. Watt would still be our top choice for Defensive Player of the Year, but Miller is closing the gap and has the ability to make things very interesting down the stretch. He has seven sacks (nine total tackles for loss) in the past three games and Watt has two (five TFLs).
On the cusp (in alphabetical order): Texans RB Arian Foster, Bengals WR A.J. Green, Colts QB Andrew Luck, Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, Bears WR Brandon Marshall, Bucs RB Doug Martin, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, Texans QB Matt Schaub, 49ers OLB Aldon Smith, Bears CB Charles Tillman, Colts WR Reggie Wayne.