The Falcons lost for the first time this season in Week 10, but the game did not do much damage to Falcons QB Matt Ryan’s MVP credentials much, as we see it. He threw for a career high 411 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, and had a passer rating of better than 100.
As it has been for some time, the competition for the league’s highest individual honor is still very close. There is little space between the No. 1 player on the Meter (Ryan) and second-ranked Peyton Manning.
Ryan has led the Falcons to an 8-1 record — two games better than the Broncos’ 6-3 mark — and Atlanta beat Denver back in Week Two.
Manning has been extraordinary over the past six games, producing a passer rating of 103 or better in each outing. Yet, the head-to-head statistical comparison between Manning and Ryan reveals a fairly even battle.
Ryan has completed 240-of-351 passes. Manning is 230-of-330. Manning has a 1.3 percentage point lead in completion percentage over Ryan (69.7 to 68.4). Ryan averages 7.3 more passing yards per game than Manning (307.9 to 300.6). Manning has thrown one more TD pass (21 to 20) and one fewer interception (six to seven) than Ryan.
Manning’s league-best passer rating (108.0) is 5.4 points higher than Ryan’s (102.6).
The bottom line is we may be headed for a photo finish to this race if the top contenders keep pace.
(Last week’s ranking in parentheses)
1. Falcons QB Matt Ryan (No. 1) — Ryan made some throws he no doubt would like to have back in Atlanta’s loss at New Orleans, but he had almost no help from the running game and was without WR Julio Jones for a significant chunk of the game. The Falcons’ defense didn’t play well. Yet, the Falcons still had a chance to win and Ryan gave them that opportunity.
2. Broncos QB Peyton Manning (No. 4) — He failed to throw three TD passes on Sunday — the first time that has happened since Sept. 23 — and fumbled the ball away for only the second time this season, but Manning did more than enough to lead the Broncos to a comfortable win at Carolina.
3. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 3) — Rodgers has thrown 15 TD passes and only one interception during Green Bay’s four-game winning streak. He did that without Greg Jennings and Rodgers had another of his top targets, Jordy Nelson, for only 13 snaps in the past two games.
4. Texans DE J.J. Watt (No. 2) — Watt is still the leader for the Defensive Player of the Award in our view. He is going to need to get back to producing in order to keep his spot among the top MVP candidates, though. One sack in three games is not exactly going to be enough. Bears ORT Gabe Carimi has struggled this season, but he actually did a good job vs. Watt, who failed to record at least a half sack for only the second time this season in Week 10.
5. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 6) — Brady has still turned the ball over only three times all season after throwing a couple TD passes in New England’s latest victory, which was its fifth in six tries. The Bills gave the Pats a scare Sunday, but Brady and the offense did enough to bail out a defense that allowed 31 points, 481 yards and 35 first downs.
6. Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman (No. 8) — The Bucs only had the ball for 23:19 vs. the Chargers on Sunday — a big part of the reason Freeman had a season-low 20 passing attempts. With help from scores by the Bucs’ defense and special teams, the Bucs knocked off the Chargers, and Freeman made the most of his opportunities. He had a season-high 137.5 passer rating (his fifth straight game with a passer rating of 104.0 or better).
7. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (No. 5) — With his status for Week 11 and beyond unclear, the arrow is pointing down for Roethlisberger’s MVP chances. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that Roethlisberger — one of six quarterbacks with a passer rating of 100 or better — suffered a right shoulder sprain Monday night vs. the Chiefs and is questionable for Sunday's game against the Ravens.
8. Texans RB Arian Foster (vs. No. 9) — Foster accounted for the only TD of the night and ran 29 times for a hard-fought 102 yards in Houston’s rain-soaked 13-6 win over the Bears at Soldier Field. He still leads the league in rushing TDs with 10 and no one else has more than seven.
9. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (Cusp) — He has a 123-yard advantage in the battle for the league’s rushing title and he has achieved it in 195 carries (5.8 yards per carry). That is fewer attempts than Arian Foster (221) and Marshawn Lynch (212) have this season. Peterson has taken the heat off QB Christian Ponder and is keeping the Vikings’ playoff hopes alive.
10. Saints QB Drew Brees (Cusp) — The league leader in passing yards (2,847) has had more help from his running game in recent weeks, but the Saints are still ranked 28th in rushing offense. Brees is the biggest reason the Saints are on the verge of getting back to .500 after a 0-4 start.
On the cusp (in alphabetical order): Bengals WR A.J. Green, Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, Bears CB Tim Jennings, Colts QB Andrew Luck, Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, Bears WR Brandon Marshall, Bucs RB Doug Martin, Broncos LB Von Miller, Bears CB Charles Tillman, Colts WR Reggie Wayne.