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MVP Meter: Guarding against overreaction

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
Associate editor

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Posted Sept. 11, 2012 @ 10:06 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

The race for the MVP award is technically wide open with 15 games left in the season, but we have a sense — at least I think we do — of who the main contenders are now and who will still be in December. That is the balance we are forced to try to strike here — acknowledging the most recent developments while keeping a long-term perspective.

This list should reflect where the race is likely to end up. We base that projection in large part on what we have already seen in this season and prior ones, and in some cases we have just 60 minutes to go of off (Robert Griffin III).

In our post-Week One look at the MVP race, no player that was in our preseason top 10 moved up or down more than three spots. Aaron Rodgers, even after the Packers lost at home to the 49ers, is still on top. Wins and losses matter on the MVP Meter, but the top contenders that lost or did not quite live up to their billing in Week One were not docked much for a reason — for the most part, they do not often lose, or struggle, two times in a row.

(Last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 1) — It’s really hard to get down a player for completing 68.2 percent of his passes, racking up 300-plus yards and throwing more touchdowns (two) than interceptions (one) against arguably the league’s best defense. Rodgers is staying put on the Meter.

2. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 3) — Tom Brady is 20th in the league in passing yards. Don’t get used to saying that. New England’s defense looks much improved, and Brady looked like Brady as the Pats cruised to a 34-13 win at Tennessee.

3. Broncos QB Peyton Manning (No. 6) — Manning generates one of the biggest moves on the Meter after leading the Broncos to a win over the Steelers in his first game since Jan. 8, 2011.

4. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 2) — The Saints were dealt the opening week’s most stunning loss, and Brees was off his game. He racked up yards as the Saints tried to catch up to the Redskins at the Superdome, but it was not enough. The first of his two fourth-quarter interceptions was (the second pick came on a Hail Mary on the final play of the game) cashed in for a TD on the next play and put the Saints in a hole they did not escape.

5. Giants QB Eli Manning (No. 4) — Aside from a couple second-half drives, Manning and the Giants’ offense were not able to do much of anything against the Cowboys in Week One. They were moving in the first quarter before RB David Wilson’s fumble cost them. Manning will try to bounce back against a Bucs defense that allowed only 10 points vs. Cam Newton’s Panthers in Week One.

6. Panthers QB Cam Newton (No. 5) — The Panthers’ offensive line was shredded all day long, and Newton struggled badly through Week One, throwing a touchdown and two picks in Carolina’s loss. With a completely ineffective running game, Newton and the Panthers could not get on track.

7. Falcons QB Matt Ryan (Cusp) — Ryan accounted for four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) as the Falcons sent an early message, dropping 40 points on the Chiefs at Arrowhead. Ryan already has one Pro Bowl under his belt, but this could be the season he joins the league’s most elite producers.

8. Ravens QB Joe Flacco (not ranked) — Flacco was pulled from the game about midway through the fourth quarter after guiding a dominant, up-tempo offense in Baltimore’s blowout win Monday night vs. the Bengals. Like fellow 2008 first-round pick Matt Ryan, Flacco seems to be taking his game to another level.

9. Lions WR Calvin Johnson (No. 7) — The Rams kept the league’s best receiver out of the endzone and fairly well covered — Matthew Stafford actually targeted Brandon Pettigrew (10) and Nate Burleson (eight) more than Johnson (seven). He still had six catches for 111 yards as the Lions rallied late for a win.

10. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (not ranked) — RG3 helped Washington to a shocking win over the Saints and became the only player in league history to pass for at least 300 yards and two touchdowns without throwing an interception in his NFL debut. It's only one game, but the strength of the case he made warrants recognition on the Meter.

On the cusp (in alphabetical order): Bears QB Jay Cutler, Texans RB Arian Foster, Raiders RB Darren McFadden, Ravens DT Haloti Ngata, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul, Jets CB Darrelle Revis, Ravens RB Ray Rice, Chargers QB Philip Rivers, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, Cowboys QB Tony Romo, Jets QB Mark Sanchez, 49ers QB Alex Smith, Lions QB Matthew Stafford, Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware.

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