At the midway point of the season, Peyton Manning has to be under serious consideration for the MVP trophy.
Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately) the AP doesn't hand out an MVP award until the end of the season. Even so, Manning is in a great position to contend for the trophy in the latter half of the season.
Of course he'll see competition from the usual suspects. Aaron Rodgers, 2011's winner, has recovered from a rocky start to put his team back in contention. Tom Brady has managed to put up good numbers with receivers in and out of the lineup and could always have a strong second half.
He'll also see some new challengers with Matt Ryan's squad still undefeated, and while the award hasn't gone to a defender since 1986, J.J. Watt is making a pretty strong case thus far.
With so many contenders in the field this season, Manning will be a name in the debate for the duration of the season. Here's a breakdown of why he's established himself as a front-runner for the award.
Who's your NFL MVP thus far?
The MVP is supposed to go to the league's most valuable player, but there's no denying that there is a statistical component to the award. Most of the time it ends up going to the quarterback with the most prolific stats.
Manning currently ranks second in the league in yards per game (301), second in passer rating (105) and has multiple touchdown passes in every game but one this season.
Any doubts about Manning's ability to put up elite passing numbers have been silenced by now. He's currently on a four-game streak of 300-yard games and doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
As long as Manning keeps up this pace, he'll be one of the most effective and efficient passers in the league statistically.
You can't win the MVP on numbers alone. Because the award goes to the most "valuable" player of the year, the winner is almost always on one of the better teams.
The Broncos don't appear to be one of the league's elite teams at 3-3 right now, but they are set up to make a late-season push.
With the first half almost out of the way, the Broncos should be favored in nearly every game the rest of the way. The schedule features the likes of Carolina, Kansas City (twice), Oakland and Cleveland. Not only will Manning have the opportunity to put up big numbers, the Broncos could realistically go 11-5 or 12-4.
If the Broncos do get to 11 or 12 wins this season, Manning will receive a ton of the credit.
John Elway and the Broncos took a huge risk when they signed Manning to a mammoth free-agent deal this offseason, but they knew that he had the ability to make them an immediate contender.
Thus far Manning has lived up to that billing. The Broncos offense has made a complete 180-degree turn with Manning at the helm.
Last season the Broncos relied heavily on the defense to keep them in games while hoping that Tim Tebow could churn out enough points to pull off the win. With Manning, the offense is a fast-paced, well-oiled machine that simply wears teams down.
Last season, the Broncos were a scrappy team that could do just enough to win. Manning has single-handedly transformed them into a high-powered team that can win whether or not the defense is playing at an elite level.