MVP Meter: What to do about Eli Manning?

Dan Parr

The Giants have won four games in a row and are the clear favorites to win a division with three mediocre teams behind them in the standings.
At the same time, Eli Manning’s stat line (two TDs, three interceptions) has not looked much like that of an MVP candidate over the past three games — all Giants wins.

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While the team keeps on winning, QB Eli Manning has not played great football of late, which leads us to our current quandary: Should Manning stay put or fall back on the MVP Meter?

Manning’s statistics, for the most part, pale in comparison to the other top MVP candidates who play quarterback, but he has delivered in the clutch and the NFC East-leading Giants are not at all panicked about his recent play. He has led three fourth-quarter comebacks/game-winning drives this season, including each of the past two games.

[Related: Is Eli's big brother a legitimate MVP candidate?]

That is as many as Matt Ryan has led, and more than Aaron Rodgers (one), Peyton Manning (two), Tom Brady (two), Ben Roethlisberger (two), Robert Griffin III (one) and Josh Freeman (zero) — the other QBs in our top 10 this week — have orchestrated this season.

It’s our opinion that evaluations of MVP candidates ought to be comprehensive — wins, stats and performances in key moments of games should all to be taken into account.

For now, Eli Manning stays put. We’re not going to punish an MVP candidate with a demotion for finding ways to win games on an off day, but the arrow is pointing down for him.

(Last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Falcons QB Matt Ryan (No. 1) — Peyton Manning (109.0) and Aaron Rodgers (107.9) both have a higher passer rating than Ryan (103.0), but as long as Ryan keeps playing well and the 7-0 Falcons keep on winning with a potent Ryan-led offense, we’re inclined to keep him atop the Meter.

[NFL Power Rankings: Are defending Super Bowl champs in top 5?]

2. Giants QB Eli Manning (No. 2) — Consider this a warning for Eli Manning. He’s earned his way to the No. 2 slot largely with late-game heroics. They have been impressive, but a compelling case for certain quarterbacks — including his big brother — to leapfrog him on the Meter continues to be built.

3. Texans DE J.J. Watt (No. 3) — Watt and the Texans were on bye in Week 8, but he still leads the league in sacks (9½). He’s going to have to get back to dominating against the Bills in Week Nine to hold off the surging collection of quarterbacks that are nipping at his heels on the Meter.

4. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 4) — Rodgers and Peyton Manning are on a tear right now. While they are not officially moving up on this week’s Meter, there is no doubt the gap between where they stand and the top spot on the Meter is razor thin. Green Bay has won four of its five games since the officiating debacle in Seattle and Rodgers has a TD-INT ratio of 18-2 over that span, including 11-0 in his last three games.

5. Broncos QB Peyton Manning (No. 5) — Yes, he did line up against a historically bad defense Sunday night, but Manning came out of Denver’s throttling of the Saints as the league’s highest-rated passer (109.0). In the five games since his three-interception outing (quarter, really) vs. the Falcons, Manning has thrown for more than 300 yards every game and has a TD-INT ratio of 14-1.

6. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 6) — Brady heads into the Patriots’ bye week with a full head of steam after scorching the Rams for four TDs in New England’s dismantling of the Rams in London.

7. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (No. 8) — Coming off his best game in about a month (he threw three TDs and no interceptions in Pittsburgh’s win over the Redskins), Roethlisberger gets a chance to strut his stuff against another MVP candidate (Eli Manning) in Week 9 after outshining Robert Griffin III.

[More: Falcons' Roddy White says 'We're just regular-season warriors' right now]

8. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (No. 7) — RG3 did not turn the ball over vs. the Steelers in Week 8 — he has only five turnovers all season — and he threw a TD pass, but the Redskins’ passing game never established a rhythm in Washington’s loss. He wasn’t helped much by his receivers, who struggled with drops, and he was held in check when he looked to run, carrying the ball six times for only eight yards.

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9. Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman (not ranked) — Aside from Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers, no quarterback has been better over the past three weeks than Freeman. He’s thrown nine TDs and only one interception since Tampa Bay’s Week 5e bye, and the Bucs have a decent shot of winning for the third time in four weeks when they visit the Raiders on Sunday.

10. Texans RB Arian Foster (No. 10) — Coming off a bye, Foster should be well rested for his Week Nine date with the Bills’ 32nd-ranked run defense, which has allowed a league-worst 1,238 yards rushing and 13 rushing TDs.

On the cusp (in alphabetical order): Giants WR Victor Cruz, Ravens QB Joe Flacco, Bengals WR A.J. Green, Vikings WR Percy Harvin, Bears CB Tim Jennings, Broncos LB Von Miller, Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul, 49ers QB Alex Smith, Bears CB Charles Tillman, Colts WR Reggie Wayne.

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