About the Author
Recent posts by Eli Kaberon
Joseph Addai, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Chris Ivory, John Kuhn and Laurence Maroney.
The names above are not exactly a who's who of NFL running backs. Yet in Week Four, these were the five leading running backs for the top five players on the MVP Meter, and none of them rushed for more than 76 yards. Quarterbacks are going at it on their own now, without much running assistance required.
In our rankings of who will be crowned the Most Valuable Player, these quarterbacks seem to have elevated themselves above the rest because they are carrying so much of the load for their teams. Defenses know they're going to throw and are still struggling to stop them.
(Last week's ranking in parentheses)
1. Colts QB Peyton Manning (No. 1) — His team's defense can't stop anybody, and they've lost both AFC South games they've played. You'd be hard pressed to blame Manning though, as he ranks first in the league in QB rating, second in passing yards and has thrown 11 TDs to only one INT (a deflected pass off the hands of TE Brody Eldridge).
2. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 3) — Career win No. 100 was a sweet one for Brady, as he was able to watch his defense and special teams lead the Patriots to a big road victory on Monday night. Heading into his bye week, he's completed 69.7 percent of his passes (third in the league) for the team leading the league in points per game.
3. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 2) — Team struggles, not a dip in individual performance, are the reason for Brees' drop on the Meter. All four games the Saints have played this year have been sluggish affairs, with the offense yet to find the groove they had in 2009 on their way to a championship. Injuries to RBs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush don't help, but the Meter expects more than 19.8 points a game out of the New Orleans offense.
4. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 4) — A pair of second-half interceptions almost cost Rodgers and the Pack in Week Four vs. Detroit. Like the three QBs in front of him, Rodgers is seemingly doing it all for Green Bay, as a lack of a running game has him throwing the ball more than head coach Mike McCarthy would prefer.
5. Broncos QB Kyle Orton (NR) — Doubt many people had a better Sunday than Orton, who threw for 341 yards and a pair of TDs in the Broncos' road win vs. the Titans, then watched the man who replaced him in Chicago, Jay Cutler, get sacked nine times in the first half vs. the Giants. Orton is leading the NFL in passing yards (1,419) and has thrown for 300 or more yards in three consecutive games for the first time in his career.
6. Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall (NR) — Even with the change from Charlie Batch to Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback for the Steelers, Mendenhall's role in the offense is unlikely to be altered. The bruising runner scored Pittsburgh's two TDs in their Week Four loss, and is going to continue to pound the rock after Roethlisberger returns. He is one of only three backs averaging more than 100 yards a game on the ground.
7. Texans RB Arian Foster (No. 10) — After missing a team meeting and being late for another, Foster was held out of the first quarter of Houston's Week Four game vs. the Raiders. The rest didn't hurt his final numbers, as he still was able to post 16-131-1 in the final 45 minutes of play. He also broke off his longest run of the year, a 74-yard scamper down the sideline at the start of the second half to give the Texans a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
8. Jets QB Mark Sanchez (NR) — After his mediocre preseason and poor performance in Week One (10-of-21 for 74 yards), Sanchez seemed like a long shot to make it on the Meter. But after putting up three consecutive stellar games — all against division foes — he is suddenly a serious contender for the award. Having a great run game and strong defense makes his job easier, but it's hard to discredit 61 percent completions, eight TDs and no picks in the last three games from the young quarterback.
9. Steelers OLB James Harrison (No. 9) — Pittsburgh came out on the losing end of a hard-hitting Week Four affair with the Ravens, highlighted by crushing blows all over the field. Several of these were put on by Harrison, who seems to impact games even when he doesn't record a sack. He did force a fumble vs. Baltimore.
10. Ravens WR Anquan Boldin (NR) — Many wondered in the offseason why Boldin would want to leave the pass-happy comforts of Arizona and head to the Ravens, a team known as much for offensive incompetence as dominant defense in the last decade. But through four weeks, the All-Pro receiver has shown he fits in perfectly, as his tough style meshes well with the rest of his teammates. Boldin is amongst the league leaders in catches, yards and touchdowns, helping QB Joe Flacco become more of a downfield threat.
Five on the cusp (in alphabetical order): Bears QB Jay Cutler, Titans RB Chris Johnson, Packers LB Clay Matthews, Chargers QB Philip Rivers, Eagles QB Michael Vick.