There are several keys that go into winning the MVP award. One, obviously, is producing at an elite level. Last season Tom Brady won the award because he threw 36 touchdowns to only four picks — his 0.8 interception percentage being the second-lowest of all time. Another key is proving overall value. Peyton Manning, a three-time winner of the PFW/PFWA MVP award, is showing just how important he is to the winless Colts this season even though he hasn't played.
But maybe the most important qualification of an MVP is being a winner. Over the past five years, the teams led by the players who have won the award (Brady in '10 and '07, Manning in '09 and '08 and LaDainian Tomlinson in '06) have averaged 14 wins per season, with none of the players winning fewer than 12 games in any of the seasons. Clearly, having players who produce impressive numbers goes hand-in-hand with coming out ahead in the majority of games, but it also shows the respect voters have for star players who can deliver wins for their teams.
This season, it is no surprise that Aaron Rodgers is the runaway leader for MVP while the Packers have been the only unbeaten team remaining since Week Six. It is also no surprise that there are major shake-ups in the MVP Meter rankings on a weekly basis based on which teams won and lost. This week, four players moved either up or down by at least three spots, and the outcome of the games they played in had a lot to do with their rise or decline.
(Last week's ranking in parentheses)
1. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 1) — Rodgers is on his way to erasing Brett Favre from the Packers' record books, and on Monday night, he took another step in doing that. With four touchdown passes, it marked the ninth consecutive games Rodgers has thrown multiple TDs in a game, breaking Favre's franchise mark of eight straight.
2. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 6) — With all that Brady has accomplished throughout his career, it's refreshing to hear him say that a regular-season game meant a lot to him. After throwing for 329 yards and three TDs in an impressive road victory over the hated Jets, Brady said on his radio show that the win was "pretty sweet." Also sweet for Brady is that New England is once again alone at the top of the AFC East.
3. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 7) — In the late-1970s, 3,326 passing yards would be good enough to lead the league at the end of the season. That's a little more than a half-season's worth in 2011. Brees has 3,326 this season, and he still has six games remaining on his schedule. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it's the most passing yards in NFL history by any player in 10 games.
4. Bears RB Matt Forté (No. 4) — For the third time this season, the Bears scored points on offense, defense and special teams in a game, meaning they didn't need too much out of their star runner other than his six-yard TD run in the first quarter.
5. 49ers RB Frank Gore (No. 2) — His five-game streak of 100-yard performances ended when Gore failed to gain a yard on six carries before leaving the game with a knee injury vs. the Giants in Week 10. According to the team, the injury isn't serious. "I would plan on him playing," Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh said about his back's chances of suiting up next Sunday vs. the Cardinals.
6. Giants QB Eli Manning (No. 5) — A week after coming through in the final minutes vs. the Patriots, Manning and the Giants were unable to duplicate that against the 49ers. Despite 311 yards and two TDs, the Giants' signalcaller threw an incomplete pass on 4th-and-2 from San Francisco's 10-yard line. The 49ers took over on downs and ran out the clock, dropping the Giants to 6-3.
7. Texans RB Arian Foster (No. 9) — With QB Matt Schaub reportedly done for the year with a fractured foot, it's going to be up to Foster to lead the Texans to their first ever playoff appearance. Foster had 84 yards rushing in Week 10, but also had 102 yards and a touchdown receiving.
8. Lions WR Calvin Johnson (No. 3) — Before the Lions' Week 10 matchup with the Bears, Johnson told the Detroit Free Press he had a special touchdown celebration ready to go. "If I get in the zone, I'll have something," he said. The public never saw it, though, as Megatron failed to score a TD for only the second time this season. He still leads the NFL with 11 receiving touchdowns.
9. Bills RB Fred Jackson (No. 8) — The Cowboys' defense had great success against the Bills in Week 10, but it still couldn't figure out how to slow down Jackson. He ran for 114 yards on just 13 carries, but he did lose a fumble for the second consecutive game.
10. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (cusp) — In a tough AFC North battle with the Bengals, Roethlisberger made enough plays to give the Steelers a big victory, throwing for 245 yards and a TD. With the Ravens falling to the Seahawks, Pittsburgh moved back into first place in the division.
Five on the cusp (in alphabetical order) — Bears QB Jay Cutler, Jets CB Darrelle Revis, Broncos QB Tim Tebow, Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware, Patriots WR Wes Welker.
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