The NFL is a pass-first league, and it's noted on the MVP Meter this week. Each of the top five spots this week are taken by players who either throw or catch passes, and all five are producing at a record-breaking pace through the early part of the season.
However, the final five spots on the Meter shows the value of a great running back.
For the first time this season, four backs are on the list, and all four are valuable to their teams in multiple ways. From lining up split out wide to catching passes out of the backfield to blocking for teammates, each player has talents that stretch far beyond just taking handoffs. Bills head coach Chan Gailey, who has MVP candidate Fred Jackson on his roster, knows the value of having a multi-talented player.
"We are trying to let (Jackson) run the ball and then there were a bunch of passes that we had where he could get the ball as well," Gailey said following Buffalo's Week Five win. "We were fortunate to be able to have those different ways where he could get the ball."
Though teams are passing more than ever, players like Jackson show the value of having a top player at running back.
(Last week's ranking in parentheses)
1. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 1) — Talk about a player on a roll. Since missing the Packers' Week 15 game last season due to a concussion, Rodgers has played in 11 games, including the playoffs. He's thrown for 3,448 yards, 28 touchdowns and only five interceptions over that span. Most impressively, his team has won all 11 games.
2. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 2) — Despite throwing his first career interception in the red zone at home, Brady was able to exact some revenge against the Jets in Week Five. In his first game against Gang Green since it bounced New England from the playoffs in January, Brady threw for 321 yards and a TD in a nine-point Patriots win.
3. Lions WR Calvin Johnson (No. 3) — The Bears were the first team to hold Johnson to just one touchdown in a game this season, but he still caught five passes for a season-high 130 yards and scored on a 73-yard touchdown in the Lions' big Monday night victory.
4. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 4) — Unbelievable stat, courtesy of the New Orleans Times-Picayune: In Week Five vs. the Panthers, Brees completed 11-of-12 passes for 126 yards on third downs. Each of the completions proved to be important, as the QB had to rally the Saints late to knock off the Panthers.
5. Lions QB Matthew Stafford (No. 5) — It is often said that players break out in their third season, and that is proving to be true with Stafford. With two more touchdown passes in Week Five, the Lions quarterback now has 13 on the year, which ties his career high. In 2009, it took him 10 games to reach that total; he's equaled it in just five this season.
6. Ravens RB Ray Rice (No. 6) — Unlike the other backs on this list, Rice hasn't been a dominant rusher this season, running for more than 100 yards only once so far. He is, however, the most valuable offensive weapon on the first-place Ravens, especially given QB Joe Flacco's recent struggles.
7. Bills RB Fred Jackson (No. 9) — Jackson and the Bills are more than just a couple of surprise stories — they are each legit contenders. In Week Five vs. the Eagles, the back had 196 yards from scrimmage and scored a touchdown, helping the team improve to 4-1 and move Jackson up the Meter.
8. Raiders RB Darren McFadden (No. 7) — It has been back-to-back rough weeks for McFadden, as defenses have focused on stopping the Raiders' running game, limiting his opportunities to break a big play. However, he is still leading the league in rushing yards (519) and made some big plays in Oakland's emotional Week Five win, including three important runs on a drive that began late in the third quarter and ended early in the fourth with Oakland scoring a TD and gaining a 22-17 lead in its 25-20 win.
9. Patriots WR Wes Welker (No. 10) — Even great corners like the Jets' Darrelle Revis are being torched by Welker. In Week Five, Revis took one wrong step, allowing the Pats' slot man to run right by him. Tom Brady found Welker going straight down the seam and hit him in stride, resulting in a 73-yard gain.
10. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (NR) — Considered the toughest runner to bring down in the open field, Peterson proved that to be true Sunday. He ran for three touchdowns in the first quarter, stiff-arming several Cardinals on his trips to the endzone. Despite his team's poor record, the All-Pro back is still showing his value this season.
Five on the cusp (in alphabetical order) — Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, 49ers RB Frank Gore, Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck, Panthers WR Steve Smith, Steelers WR Mike Wallace
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