Last week, reader Tom from Tucson wrote in, asking about a certain player's omission from the MVP Meter.
"I'm a little baffled by your exclusion of Philip Rivers from your list," Tom wrote. "He is currently on pace to throw for unprecedented (2,649 yards through eight games, highest of all time) yardage, all while playing with a depleted receiving corps, and banged-up lead back. He certainly needs to be mentioned/considered, at a minimum....and I'm not even a Chargers fan."
Well, Tom, you are correct. Rivers had been excluded because of his team's poor record, but after reviewing his stats (and San Diego's back-to-back wins), it is clear he deserves a spot on the Meter.
His numbers — 2,944 yards passing, 65.3 completion percentage, 19 TDs — are all among the league leaders, and this is without the services of his top rusher and receiver from 2009. It helps to have TE Antonio Gates, but even he has missed time with toe and ankle injuries. Many expect the Chargers to put together a second-half run and contend for the AFC West title. If that happens, Rivers likely won't be left off the list again this year.
(Last week's ranking in parentheses)
1. Colts QB Peyton Manning (No. 1) — Manning threw 52 times and was picked off twice in the Week Nine loss to the Eagles, which was the second time he's had more than 50 attempts in a game this season after throwing 57 times in Week One. The Colts' running game needs to improve to take some of the burden off Manning and a decimated group of receivers.
2. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 3) — Statistics against the Panthers may not be the best indicator of a player's value, but Brees and the Saints' offense seem to be shifting into high gear after a 408-yard output in a 34-3 win over Carolina. The attack should only improve after the Week 10 bye, when RBs Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush could return from injury and give Brees even more weapons to find in the open field.
3. Titans RB Chris Johnson (No. 4) — How will Randy Moss impact the Titans' offense? I think it will help Johnson, as fewer defenders will be able to solely focus on stopping the run with a legit deep threat lined up outside. It's not like Johnson needs much help anyways, as he is second in the league with eight rushing touchdowns.
4. Giants QB Eli Manning (No. 5) — Manning had his best game of the season in Week Nine, throwing for 290 yards, three TDs and no picks in a 41-7 road win. Granted, it was against the Seahawks, but those are impressive numbers nonetheless. That marks three consecutive games with a QB rating of 100 or better, and with the lowly Cowboys headed to the Meadowlands this week, expect that streak to increase to four.
5. Chargers QB Philip Rivers (NR) — With undrafted rookie Seyi Ajirotutu as his top target, Rivers completed 17-of-23 passes for 295 yards and four touchdowns in the Chargers' Week Nine win over Houston. The schedule sets up well for a second-half push, as four of the team's next five games are at home. WR Vincent Jackson (suspension/contract dispute) is eligible to return in Week 12 and Gates (injury) is expected to be back in the lineup following the bye week.
6. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 2) — New England fans hope that the embarrassing loss to the Browns in Week Nine got the bad play out of Brady's system. In the next four weeks, the Patriots play AFC rivals Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and the Jets, all sandwiched around a Thanksgiving date with the Lions. The Patriots will make or break their season over the next month.
7. Raiders RB Darren McFadden (No. 7) — In the Raiders' biggest game in about eight years, McFadden gained 89 yards on the ground and 25 through the air, helping Oakland defeat Kansas City and move within a half-game first place in the AFC West. The third-year pro is now only three yards from setting a career-high in receiving yards after passing his previous career high for rushing yards in Week Seven.
8. Packers LB Clay Matthews (No. 10) — The favorite for defensive player of the year was all over the field on Sunday night vs. the Cowboys, recording a sack, stuffing a 3rd-and-1 with a huge hit in the backfield and intercepting a pass before returning it 62 yards for a touchdown. Matthews' hamstring injury doesn't seem to be bothering him anymore, which is bad news for offenses that can't seem to stop him even when he's not 100 percent.
9. Jets RB LaDainian Tomlinson (No. 6) — After a horrendous performance coming off a bye in Week Eight, the Jets' offense improved a bit as a whole vs. the Lions in Week Nine. L.T. had a lot to do with that, rushing for 55 yards and adding 47 yards receiving. His value seems to be going down a bit, though, as the emergence of other offensive weapons (mainly Shonn Greene and Santonio Holmes) has the Jets spreading the ball around more.
10. Falcons WR Roddy White (No.8) — White injured his knee in the first quarter of Atlanta's Week Nine game but he's expected to play on Thursday vs. the Ravens. Even though the injury sidelined him for part of the game, White ranks among league leaders in receptions and yards, which is an impressive accomplishment while playing for the run-first Falcons.
Five on the cusp (in alphabetical order) — Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Ravens QB Joe Flacco, Steelers S Troy Polamalu, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, Eagles QB Michael Vick.