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Three of NFL's Four Best Players Still in Action

Rodd CaytonCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2009

I don't begrudge Peyton Manning's selection as the Most Valuable Player in the National Football League.

More than 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns...he's in the conversation. Every year.

Indeed, Manning's consistency once he rebounded from a knee injury is what led the Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs after a slow start, with a nine-game winning streak.

However, I'd like to point out that the MVP of a particular season isn't necessarily the best player in the NFL.

The league's best player is...not Manning.

The Top 10

10. LaDainian Tomlinson

He once held the crown as the league's creme de la creme, but he's heading toward 30—the point of no return for running backs. He's still a force to be reckoned with.

9. Shawne Merriman

All those preseason predictions that had the Chargers hoisting the Lombardi Trophy assumed he and L.T. would both be healthy. Merriman would've been welcome during the team's dismantling at Pittsburgh.

8. Bob Sanders

Remember the Super Bowl drive of 2006? The Colts' run defense is terrible—then it isn't? The difference: Bob Sanders.

7. Drew Brees

Just when we thought we'd seen the last of Dan Marino...Brees' 5,069 passing yards this season are obviously his best ever, but Brees hasn't thrown for fewer than 4,400 in his three years with the New Orleans Saints. This guy is the real deal.

6. Andre Johnson

Who? He plays for the Texans. In 2008, he caught 115 passes for 1,575 yards (both league-leading totals); it was his second 100-catch season in the past three. In 2007, while missing seven games, he still averaged better than 94 yards a contest. He'll become a household name should the Texans start winning. Also likes to buy toys for orphans at Christmastime.

5. Peyton Manning

He's smart, he's got the pedigree, and he knows what his receivers will do. Oh, yeah, he also throws lasers.

4. Larry Fitzgerald

He's what Randy Moss used to be—the big, fast guy who'll just catch the ball. Fitzgerald was a Vikings ball boy who got to watch Moss up close. Now, he's keeping defensive coordinators up at night.

3. Tom Brady

"It's the system," they shouted. When you've got two minutes left in a tied Super Bowl, it ain't "the system" that'll get you the ring. It's Brady.

2. Troy Polamalu

This guy does everything right all the time. He hits (ouch!). He makes shoetop interceptions. He leads his defense when it needs a big stop.


1. Ed Reed

That's right. Reed is always in the right place at the right time and knows all the rules. Nine interceptions, two returned for scores in the regular season, and two more in leading the Baltimore Ravens to two road playoff victories. Reed is quite possibly the most "game-planned" defensive player since Lawrence Taylor.

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