Save for a phenomenal season last year by Adrian Peterson, Peyton Manning would be looking at back to back MVP titles after coming over potential career ending surgery. Having lost his starting role with the Colts he reignited his career spectacularly in Denver, taking the Broncos to the postseason before that crushing loss against the eventual champion Ravens. This season he has carried on where he left off – despite a less than stellar performance last weekend against the woeful Jaguars. His stats so far this year make for pretty impressive reading – through 6 games he already has 2179 yards passing with 22TDs and just 2 picks, averaging a massive 363.2 yards per game. Keep this up (or even close to this) and he is nailed on to scoop the MVP he narrowly missed out on last year.
So, more interestingly, let’s take a look at some of the candidates for the runners up spot. If Peyton were not playing or gets injured, who is next in line?! In no particular order, candidates to consider are:-
Drew Brees (QB, New Orleans Saints): Back in harness with Sean Payton, Brees has led the Saints to a 5-1 record, the only blemish being the last second defeat to Tom Brady’s Patriots last week. Helped by an improved defense and a near telepathic relationship with TE Jimmy Graham (more to follow on him) the Saints look primed to return to the post season at canter in the otherwise disappointing NFC South. Through week 6 Brees has 1958 yards passing at an average of 326.3 ypg, with 14TDs and 5 picks. In another year, without Peyton, this would be even more impressive.
Jimmy Graham (TE, New Orleans Saints): Prior to a ‘catchless’ game in New England, Graham’s stats were fantastic – 37 receptions for 593 yards and 6 TDS is a great effort for a wide receiver, yet alone a tight end. The shutdown against the Patriots dents his claims – but if he can bounce back from this disappointment then Brees will keep giving him the ball and adding to those stats.
Philip Rivers (QB, San Diego Chargers): Rivers is playing sensationally well. In his 8th year as a starter he looks comfortable under centre, happy to audible and dictate the play whilst posting stellar numbers and developing understanding with Eddie Royal, Antonio Gates and rookie Keenan Allen in particular. Through week 6 he has passed for 1847 yards at an average of 307.8 YPG and matched Brees with 14 TDs and just 5 picks. Were it not for the form of the Broncos and the Chiefs, the Chargers would be a decent bet to make the postseason – Rivers will need to maintain his current form to give them a chance of putting a run together and picking up a Wildcard.
Tom Brady (QB, New England Patriots): On the face of it, Brady’s numbers do not stack up this season against the form of Manning (Peyton!), Brees and Rivers. With just 1480 yards, 8 TDS and 4 picks this has been a statistically poor year for the signal caller. But with the Patriots at 5-1 despite a crippling run of injuries/absences to wide receivers, Brady deserves a mention for his ability to win games that other teams would lose. The fact that he has been able to lead the Patriots to 5 wins (with help from a tough defence) speaks volumes of his prowess as a QB in this league.
DeSean Jackson (WR, Philadelphia Eagles): Another to have flourished in the wide open Eagles offence, Jackson has exploded this year – racking up 34 catches for 589 yards and 5 TDs so far. His relationship with Nick Foles is now key as to whether or not he can maintain this form, but Eagles fans can be encouraged by his form in 2013.
LeSean McCoy (RB, Philadelphia Eagles): McCoy has flourished in Chip Kelly’s high tempo offence – though week 6 he has 630 yards at 5.1 per attempt and 105 YPG, which is more than even AP has managed so far this year. Whether or not he can maintain this is another thing entirely, but at the current rate he could be on for a fantastic season in terms of numbers.
Tony Romo (QB, Dallas Cowboys): Romo is the marmite of quarterbacks – loved or hated, very few have no opinion on the Cowboys main man. This year Romo’s stats speak for themselves (1693 yards, 14TDs, 3 picks and a rating of 108.6) and yet he has still faced criticism from fans, and even his coach, following his late pick in the clash with Manning’s Broncos. Critics conveniently forget that had it not been for Romo’s 500+ passing yards and 5 TDs the Cowboys would have been dead and buried. If he can produce other performances anywhere near that then the Cowboy should advance into the postseason, earning Romo his place on this list of contenders.
Denver receivers! Tough to pick just one from the bunch – Wes Welker has 8 TDs on 37 catches, Demaryius Thomas 37 catches for 528 yards, Eric Decker 34 for 477 yards and TE Julius Thomas 7 TDS and 31 catches. All further proof of Peyton’s position at the top of the tree.
Terrell Suggs (LB,Baltimore Ravens): Suggs has been superb through the first few weeks of the season with 46 tackles (25 solo) and 7 sacks aiding the Ravens defence through their transition to life without Ray Lewis and Ed Reed.
Kiko Alonso (LB, Buffalo Bills): A revelation in his rookie year, Alonso has already accounted for a league leading 66 tackles, 4 picks and a fumble recovery. Not a bad way to start your career – and a massive front runner in the rookie of the year category – as UK Charger mentions on his post ‘Well worth the draft’.
Am sure there are others out there that people may put forward and strong cases out there too – feel free to add your thoughts! As always players form will ebb and flow – some of these will fall away and others come on strong – but at this stage these are my front runners.
If I had to narrow it down to a final 1,2,3 then at this stage I would have to go for:-
Peyton Manning Drew Brees Philip Rivers
Time will tell – expect an update in a few weeks!!