The top of this week’s MVP Meter is a bit like that comfy old blanket you may have pulled out from the closet on a cold night recently. It’s familiar, seasoned more than worn down and still so effective.
The elder statesmen of the Meter — Peyton Manning and Tom Brady — hold the first and second slots, respectively, for the first time this season. With five weeks to play in the regular season, two of the greatest quarterbacks in league history have their teams in line to win a division title and one of them is likely to take home the MVP award barring a late-season swoon by both players.
(Last week’s ranking in parentheses)
1. Broncos QB Peyton Manning (No. 1) — His production has dropped off a bit in the past two games, but his streak of games (eight) with a passer rating of 90 or better is still alive. He could get back to posting gaudy numbers Sunday vs. the Bucs, who rank 32nd in the league vs. the pass.
2. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 3) — No Gronk, no problem. Brady threw for 323 yards and three TDs (and he did not turn the ball over for the fifth straight game) on the road against the Jets on Thanksgiving night. Only Manning’s Broncos (six) have a longer winning streak going than the Patriots (five).
3. Texans DE J.J. Watt (No. 5) — It looks like Watt is not going to go down without a fight in the three-way battle for the league lead in sacks. Watt (14½) is sandwiched between Aldon Smith (16½) and Von Miller (14) in the sack competition. Watt delivered down the stretch for the Texans in their Thanksgiving Day win over the Lions, recording two of his three sacks in the fourth quarter with Houston trailing.
4. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 2) — Rodgers was sacked five times and turned the ball over twice (one INT, one fumble) in Green Bay’s blowout loss to the Giants. He’s still the league’s highest-rated passer (105.6), and getting WR Greg Jennings back this week should help the cause.
5. Falcons QB Matt Ryan (No. 4) — Ryan leads all quarterbacks in game-winning drives (six), and only Andrew Luck, who has four, has more than three. Ryan turned the ball over twice in the Falcons’ one-point win at Tampa Bay, but he did lead the team on the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, when RB Michael Turner punched the ball into the endzone for a three-yard TD.
6. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (No. 9) — The Redskins’ rookie signalcaller didn’t panic when the Cowboys fought their way back into the game on Thanksgiving. RG3 — PFW’s Offensive Player of the Week — threw four TD passes and led Washington on a game-sealing drive in the fourth quarter to deal Dallas another loss.
7. Bucs QB Josh Freeman (No. 6) — Freeman could not rekindle the fourth quarter magic vs. the Falcons. One week after leading the Bucs back from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit for a win over the Panthers, Freeman failed to throw a TD pass for the first time this season in Tampa Bay’s 24-23 loss to the Falcons.
8. Texans RB Arian Foster (Cusp) — Foster, the league leader in rushing attempts (269), added two more rushing TDs to his league-leading total in Houston’s win over the Lions. Foster has 12 rushing TDs, three more than the Bucs’ Doug Martin, who is in second place with nine.
9. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (No. 7) — He still has a firm hold on the league lead in rushing yards with 1,236 after rushing 18 times for 108 yards, but Peterson moves down after being kept out of the endzone and fumbling in Minnesota’s lopsided loss to the Bears. He was also scolded by his head coach, Leslie Frazier, for missing the team bus on Sunday. As Frazier said, anytime a team leader is not where he is supposed to be, “it’s not good.”
10. Broncos LB Von Miller (No. 10) — Miller recorded another sack in Denver’s win over Kansas City, making it eight sacks for him in the past four games. He was part of a defense that held the woeful Chiefs to nine points (three field goals).
On the cusp (in alphabetical order): Saints QB Drew Brees, Bengals WR A.J. Green, Colts QB Andrew Luck, Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, Bears WR Brandon Marshall, Bucs RB Doug Martin, Texans QB Matt Schaub, 49ers OLB Aldon Smith, Bears CB Charles Tillman, Colts WR Reggie Wayne.