MVP Meter: Here come the Texans

Posted Sept. 21, 2010 @ 2:09 p.m.
Posted By Eli Kaberon

With the long hours and high amounts of pressure, every NFL coaching job is stressful. But I've got to think that right about now, Rick Dennison is sleeping every night with a smile the size of Texas on his face.

Who is Rick Dennison? He's the offensive coordinator for the Houston Texans, the unit that's currently leading the NFL in total yards, rushing yards, first downs and points. When he wants to move the ball, Dennison has the league's top rusher, No. four receiver and No. five passer at his disposal. And over the next two weeks, his team faces the struggling defenses of the Cowboys and Raiders.

Three of his players make their debut on the MVP Meter this week, along with a pair of other new faces. In our projection of who will take home the award at season's end, big statistics are important. So too is being on a winning team. The 10 players on this week's list play for teams that have combined to lose only three games through the Week Two.

(Number in parentheses is last week's ranking)

1. Colts QB Peyton Manning (No. 1) — Don't doubt Peyton under the bright lights. Since NBC began airing Sunday Night Football in 2006, Manning and the Colts have appeared in 14 of their primetime regular-season games. Indy's record in those contests is 11-3, with one of those defeats taking place in Week 17 of 2007, when the Colts rested their starters after the first drive of the game. He bested brother Eli with a flawless, three TD performance in Week Two.

2. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 2) — One minute and 14 seconds on the clock, two timeouts, ball at their own 30, needing just a field goal to win; did anybody out there not think Brees was going to win the game for the Saints? Going 4-for-6 on the drive for 56 yards, the QB put PK Garrett Hartley in position to drill the game-winner and the Saints to escape from Candlestick with a hard-earned victory.

3. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 4) — Rodgers spread the wealth in Week Two, connecting with eight different targets in a blowout win vs. the Bills. TE Jermichael Finley is quickly becoming his favorite option, however. He averaged more than 25 yards on his four catches. A big Week Three battle vs. the rival Bears could launch Rodgers' MVP campaign into high gear.

4. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 3) — If the Meter was based solely off of a player's performance to date, Brady wouldn't be this high up. He had a poor second half vs. the Jets, forcing throws to covered receivers and failing to come through with the game on the line. But the Meter is based on where players are at the end of the year, and history indicates the Pats' QB will have huge numbers for a playoff team.

5. Bears QB Jay Cutler (NR) — Week Two showed us why the Bears went through all the trouble in the '09 offseason to acquire the franchise quarterback. Playing behind an offensive line that allowed him to get knocked around early on, Cutler ran for his life and survived vs. the Cowboys, completing 72 percent of his passes with three TD throws. He also didn't throw any picks, which is noteworthy for a player who threw 20 interceptions on the road last year.

6. Texans WR Andre Johnson (NR) — Was that Johnson or Dwight Howard leaping for the game-tying touchdown with 2:03 left in the fourth quarter of the Texans' eventual OT win? Johnson, who is 6-3, elevated like the Orlando Magic big man, using his vertical skills to reach over Redskins FS Reed Doughty to haul in the 34-yard pass. Johnson hurt his ankle in the game, but isn't expected to miss time.  

7. Titans RB Chris Johnson (No. 5) — The league's best running back had a game to forget in Week Two, rushing for only 34 yards in a frustrating loss to the Steelers. Johnson should bounce back nicely though, as the Titans head to the Big Apple to face a Giants squad that allowed the Colts to rush for 160 yards on Sunday.

8. Texans QB Matt Schaub (NR) — To put Schaub's 497 passing yards vs. the Redskins in some perspective, that total is more than 23 teams have thrown for in two games. The biggest knock against his MVP candidacy may be that two of his teammates are also making major pushes for the award.

9. Packers OLB Clay Matthews (NR) — Our first defensive player to make the Meter, Matthews has registered three sacks in each of the Packers' first two games, rushing from multiple different spots on the field to attack the opposing QB. Facing the banged-up O-lines of the Bears and Lions the next two weeks means that Matthews could be in double-digits by the end of Week Four.

10. Texans RB Arian Foster (NR) — Took a small dip last week after an outstanding Week One, but is still leading the league in rushing by a comfortable margin. Foster's also contributing in the Texans' passing game, making him an even more valuable player and a true every-down running back.

Five on the cusp (in alphabetical order): Steelers OLB James Harrison, Redskins QB Donovan McNabb, Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall, Chargers QB Phillip Rivers, Eagles QB Michael Vick.