With the Redskins leading 23-20 and a minute and a half to play Sunday at MetLife stadium, it looked like the student had become the teacher, at least for one day. Rookie Robert Griffin III had just thrown a touchdown pass — his second of the game — to WR Santana Moss and Griffin was on the verge of leading Washington to a victory in his first head-to-battle with two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.
Manning had struggled. He was picked off twice in the game. Yet, as per usual with Eli Manning, he made the big play when he had to Sunday. Only 19 seconds of game time after Moss’ TD, Giants WR Victor Cruz scored a 77-yard TD on a deep pass over the middle by Manning. The Redskins had a chance to respond, but a Moss fumble effectively ended the game, and the Giants escaped with a 27-23 win.
It was a "not-so-fast" memo from Manning, who held his ground as the No. 2 player on the Meter, to Griffin, but the game only strengthened Griffin’s standing as a lower-tier but certifiable MVP candidate.
(Last week’s ranking in parentheses)
1. Falcons QB Matt Ryan (No. 1) — The first quarterback Todd Bowles is gameplanning for as Eagles defensive coordinator happens to be our frontrunner for MVP, so the honeymoon could end quickly for Juan Castillo’s replacement. The Falcons don’t sound like they are expecting a huge difference in Philadelphia’s scheme, though. “I’ve known Todd a long time,” Falcons head coach Mike Smith said Monday. “He’s an excellent coach, so we’ve got to be prepared for some unscouted looks, and I don’t think there will be a mass change in what they do philosophically because they’ve invested so much time into the scheme that they’re running.”
2. Giants QB Eli Manning (No. 2) — His statistics are not as pretty as some of the other leading candidates on the Meter. They certainly have not been in either of the fourth-quarter comebacks he has led this season (he had a TD-INT ratio of 4-5 in those two games), including Sunday’s win over the Redskins. The Giants are not in the driver’s seat in the NFC East without Manning’s late-game poise, though.
3. Texans DE J.J. Watt (No. 3) — Watt and the Texans’ defense made a former top-10 player on the Meter, Ravens QB Joe Flacco, look like just another ordinary quarterback in Houston’s 43-13 win Sunday. Watt, who still leads the league in sacks (9½) even though he didn’t have one Sunday, deflected yet another pass that resulted in a pick-six, giving him three such plays this season.
4. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 4) — The league’s highest-rated passer (109.6), Rodgers has lifted the Packers (4-3) above the .500 mark for the first time this season after racking up nine TDs and zero interceptions in the past two games (both wins).
5. Broncos QB Peyton Manning (No. 5) — Coming off a bye, Manning could pick up right where he left off vs. the Chargers. He will line up across from a Saints defense that allowed Bucs QB Josh Freeman to throw for 420 yards and three TDs in Week Seven.
6. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 7) — While the Patriots’ defense finished off the Jets on Sunday by forcing and recovering a fumble in overtime, it was the 54-yard drive engineered by Brady at the outset of overtime that set the stage for New England’s win. Brady, who threw two TDs and no interceptions vs. the rival Jets, completed 5-of-8 passes for 41 yards on the overtime drive that set up PK Stephen Gostkowski’s 48-yard field goal.
7. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (No. 8) — Only Aaron Rodgers (109.6) and Peyton Manning (105.0) have a higher passer rating than RG3 (101.8), who is second in the league in rushing TDs with six. With one final stand from his defense, another impressive outing by Griffin may have been capped off with an upset road win against the Giants on Sunday.
8. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (No. 9) — The Steelers didn’t have their top two running backs Sunday night against the Bengals, but they had Big Ben, who guided Pittsburgh to a crucial division win.
9. Saints QB Drew Brees (not ranked) — Brees is trying to throw the Saints back into relevance, and he’s doing a pretty good job of it. New Orleans has won two games in a row heading into a Sunday-night bout with the Broncos, and Brees has a TD-INT ratio of 11-2 in the past three games.
10. Texans RB Arian Foster (No. 10) — Foster has carried the ball more than any other back and leads the league in rushing yards (659) and rushing TDs (nine) after a 19-98-2 performance in Houston’s blowout win over Baltimore.
On the cusp (in alphabetical order): Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles, Giants WR Victor Cruz, Ravens QB Joe Flacco, Bengals WR A.J. Green, Vikings WR Percy Harvin, Bears CB Tim Jennings, Broncos LB Von Miller, 49ers QB Alex Smith, Bears CB Charles Tillman, Colts WR Reggie Wayne.