COMMENTARY | Peyton Manning is the Denver Broncos' most valuable player (MVP) without question. Manning's first year as Denver's quarterback has been successful beyond most fans' expectations. The Broncos are 8-3 after beating the Chiefs 17-6 in Arrowhead Stadium in Week 11. They've won six straight games and lead the AFC West by four games with four games left to play in the regular season. Now a new question is fueling debate in Denver sports bars and sports-radio stations:
Is Peyton Manning the NFL MVP?
Maybe, but he won't win the award unless Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons stumble in the last five games of the regular season.
Don't get me wrong, Manning is having a phenomenal season in Denver, especially when you consider that he didn't play a down last season while recovering from neck surgery, and this is his first year with the Broncos offense, coaches, and players.
Manning's 106.2 passer rating through the first 10 games is second in the league behind Aaron Rodgers, his completion percentage is second among starting quarterbacks behind Alex Smith, and his 28 touchdown passes ranks tied for third with Tom Brady, behind Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Except for Smith, not a bad group of future Hall-of-Famers to be hanging around.
But the Broncos are not the best team in the NFL, and they may not be the best team in their own conference. Both Houston and Atlanta are 10-1 and having monster seasons. While Houston continues to build on its regular season and playoff success in 2011, the Falcons are having a Cinderella season after making the 2011 playoffs as a 10-6 wild card and losing badly in the first round to the Giants 24-2.
Matt Ryan is a big reason why the Falcons may be the best team in the NFL. His statistics don't quite match up with Manning, but they are close enough to give him the edge when you consider team success. Ryan is in the top 10 in quarterback rating (eighth), completion percentage (third), passing yards (fourth), touchdowns (sixth), and interceptions (fifth).
And that's why if the voting was held today, Matt Ryan would win the 2012 NFL MVP award.
Still not convinced?
The Broncos faltered in big games early in the season against marquee opponents - the Falcons, Texans, and Patriots, losing all three games. Against the Falcons in Week 2, Manning threw three interceptions in the first quarter and the Falcons built a 20 point lead they never relinquished, winning 27-21. In Week 3, Denver could not stop Houston's offense, which ran up 436 yards, and the Texans won 31-26. Manning had a good day against Houston, throwing for 330 yards and two touchdowns, but Matt Schaub overshadowed him with four touchdown passes, including two touchdown passes over 50 yards.
Manning's showdown against Tom Brady in Week 5 was another Broncos' loss despite a good night by the Denver quarterback. Manning threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns, but the Denver defense could not contain New England's normally passive running attack, and the Patriots ran for 251 yards in a 31-21 victory.
Manning, Rodgers, Brees, and Brady still have decent chances to win the award if Ryan and the Falcons falter even a little. Atlanta has beaten only one top team - Denver. Tampa Bay is the only other team Atlanta defeated that has a winning record (6-5). The MVP race may change in the coming weeks as Atlanta plays New Orleans in Week 13 (the Week 10 Saints game in New Orleans is the Falcons' only loss) and the Giants in Week 15.
Other outside candidates include:
- · Adrian Peterson (Vikings), the league's leading ball carrier with 1,128 yards;
- · Arian Foster (Texans) with 1,064 rushing yards; and
- · J.J. Watt (Texans) who has 14.5 sacks and 13 passes defended as a DE.
The award is Ryan's to lose. Bill Parcells' famous quote, "You are what your record says you are," is the best way to describe how the 2012 NFL MVP award will probably be determined. Right now the Falcons and the Texans are the best teams in the league. Arian Foster and J.J. Watt will split the Texans' MVP voting, and Matt Ryan is clearly the Falcons' best player.
Congratulations Mr. MVP.
Todd Erickson is a sports and technology writer based in Denver, Colorado. He has written for sports and fantasy sports magazines and websites, and is a regularly published journalist on nationally recognized IT websites.