What is it that defines an NFL MVP? Is it the player that puts up the biggest statistics? Is it the most underrated, underappreciated player in the league? Is it simply the best overall player on the best overall team? I think the term “Most Valuable Player” is not fully understood by those who have the privilege of voting for such a player.
Last year, for example, Aaron Rodgers was a very deserving Most Valuable Player. He put up insane statistics, a season for the ages that will go down in Green Bay Packers and NFL history as one of the best. But what happened to Rodgers in the playoffs last year? His team went 15-1 and endured the rigors of the NFL’s regular season with barely a blemish, only to be bounced right away in the playoffs by the New York Giants on their home field.
If not Rodgers, who could have been last year’s MVP? You could make a great argument for Tom Brady, who led the Patriots to the Super Bowl and yet another AFC title. How about Matthew Stafford, who brought the Lions to the playoffs and threw the ball around last season like there was no defense in sight?
Perhaps Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who set the NFL record for passing yards in a season should have been the MVP. We haven’t even gotten into the discussion for defensive players as an overall MVP, but that’s another story for another day.
If you’re looking for my answer, I would say that absolutely without a doubt that Peyton Manning was the MVP of the 2011-2012 season. That’s right, a player who didn’t even step on the field for his team last year should have been the MVP. Why? Take a look at the difference in the Colts from 2010-11 to 2011-12. They went from a Super Bowl contending team to being nobodies, a team that could barely put up points and they wound up with the number one overall pick and Andrew Luck. Of course, the MVP award is given to someone who actually has to get on the field to earn it, but I think you could have made a very compelling argument for Peyton Manning last season.
Maybe even the guy he replaced in Denver, Tim Tebow, who took Denver to the playoffs after they started the season 1-4 with absolutely no hope whatsoever.
That being said, I think we need to sort out this year’s MVP race. Here are my current power rankings (top five) for the recognition of NFL MVP so far this young season.
1. Best Player on Best Team: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
Ryan fits the criteria of the best player on the best team. He is putting up great numbers this season, and is the leader of the only undefeated team in the NFL right now. If you look at this award as sort of a default, give it to the best player on the best team, then Ryan is your guy.
2. Most Impactful Acquisition: Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
This is a no-brainer. Manning has thrown for over 300 yards in five straight games, and has thrown just one interception since an early-season Monday night matchup against the aforementioned Falcons. The Broncos were about to go 2-4 before Manning led a stellar comeback against the San Diego Chargers, and he just picked apart the Saints in a 34-14 win. He’s back.
Honorable mention: Andrew Luck, QB, Colts
Pretty ironic that Luck’s team has the same record as Manning’s. He’s led some impressive late-game comebacks this season.
3. Most undervalued, under-appreciated player: Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Harvin is starting to get some recognition, which is well-deserved, and the Vikings are 5-3 at this point. They are not 5-3 without Percy Harvin (or Adrian Peterson, for that matter). Harvin can do it all, and he HAS done it all for the Vikes this year.
4. You Can’t Stop Me: Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
Foster is one of the most dominant backs in the game, and while he doesn’t have a high yard per carry average, He has 10 total touchdowns in the team’s first seven games. This is an impressive dude who is one of the best and most dominant overall players in the game.
5/6. See You in January: Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots; Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
These guys are putting up great numbers, and their teams are in first place. Can you ever count them out of anything? Sure, their supporting casts are great, but there’s no denying these guys are two of the best in the NFL.