Every week, the MVP Meter reflects our predictions of who will win the league's top individual honor at the end of the season. It's not scientific by any means, but there are several factors taken into consideration when choosing who to put on the list.
For example, offensive players have advantages over defenders, because in the entire 52-year history of the Associated Press MVP Award, only three non-offensive players have won (Giants LB Lawrence Taylor in 1986, Redskins PK Mark Moseley in '82 and Vikings DT Alan Page in '71). Players on winning teams are more likely to be recognized than stars on last-place finishers. And more so than anything else, quarterbacks win any tiebreaker over a player with comparable statistics from another position. Quarterbacks have been named MVP, or co-MVP, in 35 of the 52 years that the award has existed.
Quarterbacks dominate this week's MVP Meter, holding down the top six spots on the list. These are not the six best players in the NFL overall or even the six best performers of 2010. But they are the six most valuable players on teams with winning records, which based on past results, is the best indicator when predicting who will win the honor.
(Last week's ranking in parentheses)
1. Colts QB Peyton Manning (No. 1) — Sign of an intelligent quarterback: On Sunday, Manning threw a nine-yard touchdown to WR Blair White in the corner of the endzone. White was playing in his first-ever NFL game, having been elevated from the team's practice squad on Sept. 25. The scoring route, a slant-and-go, wasn't even in the playbook according to the players. Yet Manning immediately adjusted to a new player and play, hitting White perfectly in stride to extend the Indy lead in the eventual win.
2. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 2) — Despite 385 passing yards and a 78.9 completion percentage from Brees, the Saints lost to the Falcons in overtime in Week Three. He may be down now, but games against Panthers, Cardinals, Buccaneers and Browns over the next month should cheer him up.
3. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 4) — New England found its running game in Week Three, gaining 200 yards on the ground vs. the Bills. All that was made possible by Brady, who stretched the field in the first half, throwing three TDs and only six incompletions on the day.
4. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 3) — It was a Monday night party for Rodgers, but unfortunately all his rowdy friends were being whistled for holding the entire game. His 316 passing yards and pair of touchdowns (one passing, one rushing) will keep him from falling too far.
5. Eagles QB Michael Vick (NR) — The optimistic person will look at Vick's 6-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio and 57 rushing yards per game average as a sign that No. 7 is back as an elite QB. The pessimistic person will point out that most of these stats came vs. the Lions and Jaguars. Guess the Meter sees the glass as half-full.
6. Bears QB Jay Cutler (No. 5) — Cutler was bailed out on more than one occasion in Week Three, as penalties that negated two interceptions saved the Bears' signalcaller from another primetime embarrassment. He does seem to be getting more comfortable in coordinator Mike Matz's offense, as he completed passes to six different receivers, five of whom had gains of 12 or more yards on at least one catch.
7. Titans RB Chris Johnson (No. 7) — After a disappointing Week Two showing vs. the Steelers, Johnson got healthy in Week Three, rushing for 125 yards and two scores. Let's see if this leads him to rip off another 12-game stretch where he rushes for 100 or more yards each week.
8. Texans WR Andre Johnson (No. 6) — Playing on a banged-up ankle, Johnson was held to four catches and 64 yards in the Texans' Week Three loss. He could have a hard time keeping his place on the Meter. Johnson is going to be double-teamed every game he plays and teams will dare QB Matt Schaub to find other options, so he'll need to have more monster games to stay put.
9. Steelers OLB James Harrison (NR) — With apologies to his teammate Troy Polamalu and Clay Matthews of the Packers, Harrison has been the league's most valuable defender in 2010. The 2008 Defensive Player of the Year has recorded 23 tackles and three sacks, causing havoc each time he's on the field. He's also forced a pair of fumbles and recovered another.
10. Texans RB Arian Foster (No. 10) — Leading the league in rushing is impressive, but a stat that really jumps out is that on 24 of Foster's 69 carries this season (34.8 percent), he's rushed for a first down. That's a higher percentage than the next 21 players behind him in yards rushing. By consistently moving the chains, Foster is allowing the Texans' offense to control the game.
Five on the cusp (in alphabetical order) — Ravens WR Anquan Boldin, Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles, Packers OLB Clay Matthews, Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall, Falcons RB Michael Turner.