Can a player be more valuable to his team than RB Chris Johnson has been to the Tennessee Titans? Difficult as it may be to believe in Nashville, the answer is yes, even if Johnson finishes the season as the sixth man in history to rush for 2,000 yards.
Can a player be more valuable to his team than QB Aaron Rodgers has been to the Packers? Difficult as it may be to believe in the Land of the Cheeseheads, the answer is yes, even if Rodgers leads the Pack to a playoff shootout vs. the Vikings.
Speaking of the Vikings, can a player be more valuable to his team than QB Brett Favre has been to Minnesota? Difficult as it may be to believe in the Twin Cities, the answer is yes, even if Favre does not duplicate his late-season swoon of a year ago and rights himself and his team.
Can a player be more valuable to his team than QB Drew Brees has been to the Saints? Perhaps not to a city, because in New Orleans the success of the Saints is about more than winning games, it's about winning back faith in a place devastated by Hurricane Katrina. But when it comes down to value to his team, the answer is yes, someone can.
If so, who would that be? Would it be Philip Rivers, who has led the San Diego Chargers to 10 consecutive victories after starting off 2-3 and looking like there was no way they were going to catch the then-undefeated Broncos in the AFC West?
Despite all Rivers has done, and it has been considerable on a team that has profited mightily despite having a running game that ranks among the worst in the league, the answer is no it would not because there is one player more valuable than Rivers and everyone else laboring in the NFL today: Peyton Manning.
Manning's Colts not only were the league's last unbeaten team — and held a 15-10 lead in Week 16 before Manning was pulled for most of the second half of Indy's 29-15 loss to the Jets — but he had thrown for 300.9 yards per game on a team that had the worst running game in football. There were no surprises when Manning came to town. If the Colts were to win, it was because he was going to throw, and still no one could stop him.
He directed the Colts to a record 23 regular-season wins in a row, has seven fourth-quarter comeback wins this season and posted nine 300-yard games in '09. Yet numbers alone are not what separates Manning from the rest. What separates him is that Manning is the first QB in two generations to call his own plays, adding greatly to his level of responsibility.
Although Manning gets suggestions and some direction from offensive coordinator Tom Moore, the fate of the Colts' offense is not simply in his hands but also in his head. He decides where the ball goes and how it will get there, making him a throwback to one of his forefathers in a Colts uniform, the great Johnny Unitas. The difference is when Unitas was calling plays, he wasn't doing it against defenses substituting players and changing coverages on every snap.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan put it best when he said of Manning, "He's still the same guy that destroys everybody. He's phenomenal. I respect him more than any player in the NFL. He may go down as the best of all time."
That may be debatable. What is not is who the MVP in the NFL is. There's Peyton Manning and then everyone else.
Ron Borges is a columnist for the Boston Herald.
Week 17 MVP Meter
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