Note: I wrote briefly about the NFL MVP race on Tuesday, but wanted to go more in-depth on the battle between the two likely front-runners, Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson.
I would love to see Peyton Manning earn his record fifth MVP award this season.
I will in no way be disappointed if he doesn’t.
First, what I think:
If the Denver Broncos avoid an upset in the final two weeks, they finish at 13-3. Do the Broncos achieve that mark without Manning? No. Are they significantly worse? Maybe, but maybe not. The Broncos finished 8-8 a season ago with exciting, yet incredibly uneven play from the quarterback position. The defense was good last year, and would likely be good this year as well. Barring a glut of turnovers from the offense, the Broncos would likely finish in that “not good, but not terrible” zone, somewhere between 6-10 and 9-7 without Manning. So even with the best case scenario (9-7), that still an additional 4 wins Manning provides.
So as this is a discussion of “value,” the question is whether any of the other top candidates have as much of or more of an impact? All of it is a what-if guessing game. The New England Patriots are still probably a .500 team or better without Tom Brady and the Minnesota Vikings would still be opening holes for a different running back, but probably not getting the great open field work Adrian Peterson offers. What can be stated with confidence is that the majority of an average 2011 Broncos team was given to Manning and is now among the NFL elite. That’s pretty darn valuable.
What Manning thinks (or will say publicly):
It’s not about MVPs, it’s about Super Bowls.
Why we should listen to Peyton:
If Peterson rushes for 190 yards, and 4 touchdowns to help the Vikings beat the Houston Texans this weekend, I’ll be thrilled. It would put the Broncos a game away from potentially inheriting home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
If Peterson’s quest for the MVP in some way helps the Broncos in reaching a Super Bowl then I’m all for it. If Denver manages to win the Super Bowl this year, the lasting narrative for the 2012 season will be how Peyton Manning came back after multiple neck surgeries and guided a new team to a World Championship.
Who wins the MVP is a footnote compared to that.