Week One is in the books, and there are surprises everywhere. The Seahawks dominated San Francisco in a statement game in the NFC West. RB Arian Foster and the Texans sent a message to the Colts. And the entire world learned, courtesy of Lions WR Calvin Johnson, that there is a process to making a catch in the endzone.
The surprises didn't impact the MVP Meter. We're looking long-term, ranking the players we think will be at the top of the league in January. That means nine of the 10 players in the preseason list appear once again, and the new addition isn't Foster, the league's leading rusher. We're not saying he can't win the award, but he'll need more than one monster game to prove it.
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(Number in parentheses is last week's ranking)
1. Colts QB Peyton Manning (No. 1) — Indianapolis will host the Manning Family Reunion this weekend; hope somebody brings some ice. Peyton's arm may be sore after throwing a career-high 57 passes in a loss to the Texans. Four hundred and thirty-three passing yards and three TDs do nothing to hurt his candidacy.
2. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 2) — The testament of a great player is when observers don't even notice the greatness anymore — it's just taken for granted. Brees is entering that realm. He completed 75 percent of his 36 passes and didn't throw an interception in the Saints' win, and nobody blinks an eye.
3. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 4) — Survived a car crash, became the highest-paid player in the NFL and threw for 258 yards and three TDs in an opening-day romp; not a bad week for Brady. With games against AFC East rivals the next three weeks, he can really make his mark as a top contender for this award.
4. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 3) — Not the best opening day for Rodgers, who threw a pair of interceptions that almost cost his team the win. The Pack prevailed, though, and Rodgers should be able to turn it around quickly. With starting RB Ryan Grant out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury, it will be the Mr. Rodgers Show in Green Bay.
5. Titans RB Chris Johnson (No. 9) — His 142 rushing yards vs. the Raiders marked the 12th straight game, going back to last season, that Johnson has eclipsed the century mark in yards on the ground. With two more in a row, he will tie Barry Sanders' record for the most consecutive weeks rushing for 100 yards or more. It will be tough, as the Titans face the rugged run defenses of the Steelers and Giants the next two Sundays.
6. Cowboys QB Tony Romo (No. 5) — There were several people, specifically offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and ORT Alex Barron, to blame for Dallas' Week One loss. Romo does not make the list. Throwing for 282 yards, a TD and no interceptions, Romo nearly was the Dallas hero after scrambling, stepping up in the pocket and firing a pass to WR Roy Williams in the corner of the endzone for the game-winning score with no time left. Barron was called for holding on the play, however, ending the game and putting the 'Boys at 0-1.
7. Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall (NR) — With Santonio Holmes in New York and Ben Roethlisberger on the sideline serving a suspension, the pressure is on Mendenhall to carry the Steelers' offense, at least through the first four games. He responded vs. the Falcons, rushing for 120 yards and the game-winning 50-yard dash in OT. Expect more of that as long as Dennis Dixon is under center.
8. Ravens RB Ray Rice (No. 8) — The numbers (21 rushes for 43 yards, two catches for 19 yards) weren't spectacular against the physical Jets defense, but Rice is a workhorse whose stats will improve as the season moves along. He could face a challenge as the most valuable member of his own team's offense though, as WR Anquan Boldin proved in Week One that he was very comfortable in his new surroundings.
9. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (No. 6) — In a riled-up Superdome against the defending champs, Peterson ran well, gaining 87 yards on 19 carries and most importantly, no fumbles. He was ignored late in the game, however, catching one pass for a loss of three yards with no rushing attempts in the fourth quarter of the Vikings' five-point loss.
10. Chargers QB Philip Rivers (No. 7) — There was a lot to like in Rivers' 298 passing yards and two TD passes, especially without his starting left tackle and No. 1 wide receiver, both of whom are holding out. There was a lot to not like from Rivers, too, like failing to convert at the end of the game with 1st-and-goal from the Chiefs' 4-yard line in the eventual loss.
Five on the Cusp (In alphabetical order) — Cowboys WR Miles Austin, Vikings QB Brett Favre, Texans RB Arian Foster, Ravens LB Ray Lewis, Giants QB Eli Manning.