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MVP Meter: Manning, Brady head for showdown

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Recent posts by Eli Kaberon

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Posted Oct. 26, 2010 @ 6:19 p.m. ET
By Eli Kaberon

It's election season across the country, as candidates stump for votes by making speeches, kissing babies and slinging mud at their opponents before citizens fill out ballots on Nov. 2.

In the NFL, the postseason awards polls don't open for a couple of months, but two candidates already appear to be headed for a showdown in the MVP race. Their "debate" takes place on Nov. 21 in Foxborough, Mass., when the Colts will visit the Patriots, and each side has plenty of valid points to make.

Patriots QB Tom Brady has thrown for 11 TDs and only four interceptions on the season, despite losing his top receiver to a midseason trade. He's the challenger in the race, having helped guide his team to the league's best record through seven weeks while making a pair of rookie tight ends into dangerous downfield targets.

The other candidate, Peyton Manning, is on a record-setting pace once again. The two-time incumbent MVP has 13 touchdowns on the year compared to only two picks and has the league's best QB Rating. He too is down a top receiver and will once again lean on an unheralded bunch of receivers and running backs as his team aims for a ninth-consecutive double-digit win regular season.

So who will emerge as the people's choice for MVP at the end of the campaign? Through Week Seven, here's how we see it breaking down.

(Last week's ranking in parentheses)

1. Colts QB Peyton Manning (No. 1) — The first day of November isn't usually the time for must-win games, but the Colts really need to beat the Texans on Monday night. Indy has already lost to Houston once this year and still has two games against the first-place Titans ahead on the schedule. The smart money is on Peyton: He's 10-3 all-time on "Monday Night Football" and averages 271 yards per game in those primetime performances. 

2. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 2) — It wasn't the best afternoon for Brady in San Diego, throwing for just 159 yards and one TD, but it was enough to give New England a road victory. The one score was noteworthy, as Brady tied the late George Blanda for 18th on the all-time list with 236 career TD passes. 

3. Titans RB Chris Johnson (No. 5) — Clearly the star of Tennessee's latest win was WR Kenny Britt, who had 225 receiving yards and three touchdown receptions. But Britt was open so frequently because the Eagles' defense was stacking the box to slow down Johnson. As long as the Titans keep winning with their run-first approach and Johnson stays near the top of the league rushing rankings, CJ2K will be near the top of the Meter.

4. Jets RB LaDainian Tomlinson (No. 4) — There's no way to know for sure, but my guess is that there was a smile on Tomlinson's face for most of the day Sunday during the Jets' bye week. First the team who released him last summer, the Chargers, lost another heartbreaker to drop to 2-5 on the season. Then in the evening, his opponent in Week Eight, the Packers, allowed 196 rushing yards, setting up what could be a huge afternoon next week for L.T.

5. Giants QB Eli Manning (No. 8) — Manning had a hit-and-miss game on Monday night, throwing interceptions on the Giants' first two drives and then throwing a third late in the game, which allowed the Cowboys to come close to a comeback. He also threw four TD passes, led the Giants back from a 20-7 deficit and has New York on top in the NFC East. Critics will point to his 11 picks on the year, but seven of those were on deflected passes that hit his receivers in the hands.

6. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 3) — For only the second time in his career, Brees threw four interceptions in a game during Week Seven, leading to the Saints' third loss of the year, which matches their loss total from 2009. To avoid a fourth defeat, Brees will have to take better care of the football against a Steelers' squad that's tied for second in turnover differential. Brees is 0-3 all-time against Pittsburgh.

7. Steelers S Troy Polamalu (No. 7) — If you live in Pittsburgh, expect to see a bunch of kids showing up at your door on Sunday evening with long, curly hair and No. 43 Steelers' jerseys. Polamalu's popularity is at an all-time high thanks to his great play and the constant airing of his shampoo commercial, and his presence on the field is a scary sight to opposing offenses.

8. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (No. 6) — Strange as it may sound, Brett Favre's injury may be just what Peterson needs to jump-start his MVP campaign. First in the league in rushing yards per game at 114, the Vikings' star could see even more carries if the team moves towards a run-first attack without their veteran signal-caller. Peterson has rushed for 130 or more yards three times already this season.

9. Texans WR Andre Johnson (No. 9) — When the Texans and Colts played in Week One, Houston RB Arian Foster shredded up the Indy defense for 231 yards rushing and three TDs in a 34-24 Texans win. The Colts are unlikely to allow that to happen again, so watch for Johnson to get some opportunities down the field, especially against a banged-up secondary on their third-string strong safety.

10. Falcons WR Roddy White (NR) — He may not be more valuable to Atlanta's success than QB Matt Ryan or RB Michael Turner, but production-wise, there's no doubt who has been the best offensive player on the Falcons in 2010. White turned in his best performance of the year in Week Seven, hauling in 11 catches for 201 yards and a pair of TDs.

Five on the cusp (in alphabetical order) — Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Ravens QB Joe Flacco, Texans RB Arian Foster, Redskins SS LaRon Landry, Packers LB Clay Matthews.

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