Every MVP needs a good supporting cast, from the teammates alongside him to coaches in the meeting room to fans supporting him in the stands. Peyton Manning is a great player, but he never would have collected four MVP trophies without Reggie Wayne making plays down the field, Tom Moore instructing him from the sidelines and the Colts faithful rallying him on.
I am not comparing myself to Manning by any stretch of the imagination, but I too need support. Each week I'll be keeping track of all the NFL's top players, and writing the MVP Meter for PFW on Tuesday.
I'm asking for your help in this endeavor.
Each week, I'll be checking Twitter for suggestions on who the MVP of the league should be. So write to my account or the PFW handle with your thoughts on the 2011 MVP race. Post something that catches my eye, and you may even see your Tweet in the next MVP column.
Here's the preseason meter as we project who will be deemed most valuable at season's end:
1. Patriots QB Tom Brady — Fantasy owners loved the 36 touchdowns Brady threw last season. Bill Belichick loved the mere four interceptions Brady threw last season. To win back-to-back MVP awards, however, the most important number for Brady and the Patriots to duplicate may be the number of victories (14) the Patriots had last season.
2. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers — Nine players have won both a PFW MVP award and the Super Bowl MVP — Rodgers has a chance to become No. 10. With a fantastic season for the Pack — which seems highly likely given the amount of talent surrounding him — Rodgers could join a list that includes names such as Brady, Manning and Montana.
3. Eagles QB Michael Vick — It's crazy how quickly things change. Last season, Vick was the surprise MVP candidate, coming off the bench in Week One before taking the league by storm. Now he has a target on his back as the most important player on the Dream Team in Philly. With his skill-set, the pressure shouldn't affect Vick at all.
4. Chargers QB Philip Rivers — Rivers has the arm, the supporting cast, the high profile and the media hype to capture the MVP award. He'll have no chance to even come close to winning, though, if the Chargers miss the playoffs yet again.
5. Saints QB Drew Brees — No player took greater advantage of the lockout than Brees, who organized several workouts with his Saints teammates throughout the spring and summer. We'll see if the extra work helps the QB cut down on the career-high 22 interceptions he threw last season.
6. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger — The question a year ago was how would Big Ben overcome missing four games due to a suspension. Now, it's about overcoming a Super Bowl hangover. It's been a rarity lately to see a player lose the big game and bounce back with an outstanding season, though Roethlisberger has the will and supporting cast to defy the trend.
7. Ravens RB Ray Rice — Offensive players tend to win MVPs and quarterbacks tend to be the most important offensive players. Not so with the Ravens. If Baltimore is going to have the big year it expects, it's going to need Rice to become one of the league's premier all-around running backs.
8. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson — Expectations are fairly low for the Vikings, and Peterson may be the first player on this list to drop out of consideration just because his team is poor. It would be foolish to discount the league's premier running back, though. Consider that he could be extra motivated being in a contract year. If Minnesota does surprise and win more than a few games, Peterson will vault up the list.
9. Texans WR Andre Johnson — Like Ray Rice, Johnson is the rare non-quarterback functioning as the key cog on a team's offense. While RB Arian Foster and QB Matt Schaub also play huge roles in the Texans' attack, it is the fast and physical wideout who makes everything go. However, no wideout has been named MVP by PFW since Jerry Rice in 1987.
10. Jets CB Darrelle Revis — Other defenders may produce gaudier statistics or make more highlight plays, but nobody on that side of the ball is more important (or talented) than Revis. The Jets corner must be accounted for on every play, and is one of the few defenders who has a shot at being considered the most valuable player in the league.
Five on the cusp (in alphabetical order) — Texans RB Arian Foster, Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman, Lions WR Calvin Johnson, Falcons QB Matt Ryan, Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware.
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