It took 15 weeks, but the top two candidates for MVP have separated themselves from the pack.
Tom Brady of the Patriots and the Eagles' Michael Vick both play quarterback, but their styles and backgrounds are different. Brady is a right-handed pocket passer and Vick is a lefty scrambler. Brady has won three Super Bowls, while Vick has never played in one and served 20 months in a federal penitentiary. Brady started the season facing questions about the changes to the offense. Vick started the season as a backup.
Last Sunday, both quarterbacks showed that, despite their differences, they each can come through with the game on the line. Brady threw the game-winning touchdown with 7:14 remaining to lead New England past the Packers, helping the Patriots improve to 12-2 on the year. Vick led an incredible rally, rushing and throwing for three total touchdowns in about a six-minute span that helped the Eagles tie the Giants in a game Philly wound up winning on a game-ending punt return by DeSean Jackson.
The two quarterbacks don't play the same way, but they are in prime position on this week's Meter after leading their teams to big wins in Week 15.
(Last week's ranking in parentheses)
1. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 1) — The Patriots face the Bills this week, a team that has struggled this year when it comes to forcing turnovers. That's good news for Brady, as he needs to avoid an interception in his next 17 pass attempts to set the NFL's all-time record for consecutive throws without a pick. He's currently at 292 passes, which set a record for a single season, but still trails Bernie Kosar, who had 308 from 1990-91, for the all-time mark.
2. Eagles QB Michael Vick (No. 3) — Vick was kept in check by the Giants' defense for about 3½ quarters last Sunday, but over the game's final nine minutes, nobody could touch No. 7. Using both his legs and arm, the QB helped the Eagles come back from a 31-10 deficit, pulling off what some are referring to as the Miracle at the New Meadowlands.
3. Falcons QB Matt Ryan (No. 4) — His numbers at home are quite impressive, but Ryan has been doing well away from the Georgia Dome as well. The Falcons just completed a stretch of three consecutive road wins, capped by a victory in Seattle last Sunday. In the win vs. the Seahawks, Ryan threw for three touchdowns.
4. Chargers QB Philip Rivers (No. 6) — Rivers has posted amazing numbers this year, but just imagine how much better they would be if WR Vincent Jackson had been on the roster all year long. In Week 15 vs. the 49ers, the pair hooked up on five connections for 112 yards and three TDs, keeping the Chargers in the AFC West title hunt.
5. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 2) — Without much production from the running game, the Saints relied almost entirely on Brees in Week 15, and facing a tough Ravens defense, that was too much for the QB to overcome. Despite throwing for 267 yards and three TDs, New Orleans fell to Baltimore, 30-24. The loss may be costly for the Saints, as it hurt their chances of winning the NFC South. They will likely have to leave the comforts of the Superdome in the playoffs if they want to repeat as Super Bowl champs.
6. Colts QB Peyton Manning (NR) — Back on the Meter after a couple of weeks away, Manning has the Colts in prime position to win the AFC South yet again. Needing a win vs. the Jaguars last week, he threw two touchdowns and watched the Colts running game eclipse 150 yards on the ground for only the third time this season, helping Indy improve to 8-6.
7. Chiefs QB Matt Cassel (No. 10) — What a difference one week (and a quarterback) makes. A week after Kansas City generated five first downs and no points vs. the Chargers behind backup QB Brodie Croyle, Cassel returned to help lead the team to a win over their the Rams. Helped by the league's best running game, the QB managed the game well and kept the Chiefs in the driver's seat for an AFC West title and their first playoff appearance since 2006.
8. Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew (No. 5) — A well-known fantasy football player (who has himself on his own team), Jones-Drew could not have been pleased with his Week 15 performance, especially since it occurred during the fantasy playoffs. If his team is still alive this week, Jones-Drew should be in good shape, however, as he faces the Redskins, who have allowed 100 or more rushing yards seven straight weeks.
9. Falcons RB Michael Turner (No. 9) — Turner's streak of consecutive games with a rushing TD was snapped at four, as he was held out of the endzone vs. the Seahawks. The running back looks to get back on track facing the Saints in Week 16. He had 114 yards rushing and a touchdown last time the two teams met up.
10. Steelers SS Troy Polamalu (No. 8) — A sore Achilles kept Polamalu out of Pittsburgh's Week 15 loss to the Jets, but he's targeting a return vs. the Panthers on Thursday night. It may be tough for him to hold onto his spot on the Meter if he doesn't play, though his work up to this point still will merit serious consideration.
Five on the cusp (Listed in alphabetical order) — Ravens QB Joe Flacco, Eagles WR-PR DeSean Jackson, Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall, Bears DE Julius Peppers, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.