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MVP Meter: Mannings, Rodgers in thick of the race

Pro Football Weekly
Key matchup: Bucs pass rush vs. Broncos pass protection

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Key matchup: Bucs pass rush vs. Broncos pass protection

It should come as a surprise to no one that it seems a few former MVP winners are not going to make Matt Ryan’s bid for his first MVP award an easy one.

Ryan is atop the Meter for the fifth straight week, but his lead —which was growing wider a couple weeks ago — has narrowed a bit. The Falcons keep winning. They are the league’s only undefeated team and Ryan has led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter in three straight weeks, but it’s in part because of the miscues Ryan has made earlier in those games that the Falcons keep finding themselves in situations where they need a late rally to win.

While Ryan had his worst game of the season in Week Six — he threw three picks vs. the Raiders — Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning made big leaps on the Meter this week coming off their performances in wins over the Texans and Chargers, respectively. While Rodgers and Peyton Manning made the biggest climbs on the Meter, Eli Manning, second on the Meter, led the Giants to an impressive road win at San Francisco and J.J. Watt, No. 3 on the Meter, was one of the few Texans players to show up vs. the Packers Sunday night.

The top of the race is tightening as we approach midseason, and it’s clear that Ryan is going to have to get back to playing like he was early in the season if he’s going to continue to hold down the top spot.

(Last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Falcons QB Matt Ryan (No. 1) — The bye week might come at a good time for Ryan, who has been picked off at least once in each of the past four games after throwing 272 consecutive passes without an interception. Despite the recent sloppiness, Ryan is still fourth in the league in completion percentage (67.8), fourth in yards (1,756), second in touchdown passes (14) and fifth in passer rating (98.8).

2. Giants QB Eli Manning (No. 3) — With a strong performances from RB Ahmad Bradshaw and the Giants’ defense, all Manning had to do was avoid making crushing mistakes vs. the 49ers, and he did. It was not his greatest performance by any means, but he threw a TD pass and did not turn the ball over to help put the Giants alone in first place in the NFC East at 4-2.

3. Texans DE J.J. Watt (No. 2) — Houston’s first loss results in a slight dip for Watt on the Meter. He racked up another two sacks vs. the Packers on Sunday night (he leads the league with 9½ sacks) — the only two sacks of the night for the Texans — and made four of the team’s five tackles for loss, but it wasn’t enough to keep Aaron Rodgers from torching Houston’s defense in a 42-24 Green Bay win at Reliant stadium.

4. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 8) — Rodgers willed the Packers back to the .500 mark vs. the previously undefeated Texans after last week’s loss to the Colts. He is the league’s highest rated passer (105.4) and leader in TD passes (16) after throwing a career-high six TDs passes Sunday.

5. Broncos QB Peyton Manning (No. 9) — I suppose it’s fitting Manning tied Dan Marino for the most game-winning drives in the fourth quarter/overtime (47) with one of the most stunning comebacks we may ever see. After the Broncos went into halftime trailing 24-0, Manning completed 13-of-14 second half passes for three TDs and no interceptions in Denver’s 35-24 win.

6. Ravens QB Joe Flacco (No. 6) — The Cowboys had the ball twice as long as the Ravens (40:03 to 19:57) Sunday, but Flacco was efficient (17-26-234-1-0) and Baltimore held on to win a nail-biter, 31-29.

7. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 4) — The Patriots were up 13 points midway through the fourth quarter Sunday at Seattle, but Brady’s two second-half interceptions were costly as the Seahawks rallied for a 24-23 upset. Brady had a chance to lead New England back with about a minute left in the game, but he threw two incompletions and was sacked to set up a 4th-and-17 that the Pats came up two yards short of converting.

8. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (Cusp) — The Redskins have a chance to move into first place in the NFC East with a win over the Giants Sunday because of their rookie QB. RG3 is third in the league in passer rating (100.5), second in rushing TDs (six) and his interception vs. Minnesota was only his second of the season.

9. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (No. 5) — Roethlisberger is the only representative from a team below .500 among the Meter’s top 10 after Pittsburgh fell to 2-3 at Tennessee. He’s the league’s fourth-highest rated passer and has an impressive TD-INT ratio of 10-2, but if Pittsburgh does not start winning more consistently, he will have a hard time finding a home on the Meter.

10. Texans RB Arian Foster (No. 7) — Few running lanes opened up for Foster vs. the Packers — he rushed for a season-low 29 yards on 17 carries — but he did rush for a couple scores, giving him a league-high seven rushing TDs.

On the cusp (in alphabetical order): Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles, Giants WR Victor Cruz, Bengals WR A.J. Green, Vikings WR Percy Harvin, Bears CB Tim Jennings, Lions WR Calvin Johnson, Broncos LB Von Miller, Ravens RB Ray Rice, 49ers QB Alex Smith, Colts WR Reggie Wayne.

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