Peyton Manning might be the first name everyone says when discussing the favorite for the 2010 NFL MVP, but Philip Rivers certainly could be a close second.
The Chargers' quarterback is in the midst of an all-time great season. He already has 2,944 passing yards through nine games, putting him on track to throw for 5,234 yards and break Dan Marino's single-season record. He has a 19-8 touchdown-interception ratio. He has posted a sparkling 102.9 passer rating and 8.9-yard average. He has five 300-yard games and seven multi-score outings. The accomplishments go on and on, but the numbers don't come close to telling the full story.
What makes Rivers' giant first half all the more impressive is that he has done it while playing mostly with a cast of backups at receiver. With Vincent Jackson holding out and Malcom Floyd, Legedu Naanee and Buster Davis all missing time because of injuries, Rivers has had to throw to the likes of 31-year-old Patrick Crayton and undrafted rookies like Seyi Ajirotutu and Richard Goodman in recent weeks. Yet all he has done is produce at a breakneck pace.
The way we hear it, it has been Rivers' leadership ability and positive attitude above all else that has allowed the Chargers to stay afloat in the AFC West and battle back into contention after their 2-5 start. Instead of being frustrated with the poor play around him and his lack of weapons, the 28-year-old signalcaller made the best of a tough situation by developing trust in his new teammates and guiding them along when they're in need of help.
"I've been with some guys that wouldn't be handling this situation the way he's handled it," said head coach Norv Turner, whose work with Rivers has had a lot to do with him becoming one of the league's premier passers. "There's some guys that play that position that would have a tough time when they're down to their seventh or eighth receiver. They're throwing to guys that they haven't had many reps with, and all he does is make it work."
Since San Diego's final record isn't likely to be among the league's best, Rivers' incredible play probably won't be enough to earn him an MVP. But without him, the Bolts wouldn't even be close to having a chance to come from behind and capture the AFC West.