The NFL is technically over halfway through the 2012 regular season, and besides the Atlanta Falcons, no team has really been dominant. In the NFC, the New Orleans Saints started out terrible, the Green Bay Packers have shown they are vulnerable and the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers run hot and cold.
In the AFC, the Houston Texans looked untouchable until the Packers showed up. The New England Patriots lost to the Arizona Cardinals at home, and try figuring out what is going on in the AFC West.
Pro Bowl voting for fans is well underway, and the players who want to earn a trip to Hawaii will start to separate themselves from the pack. As the playoff push hits full bore, the MVPs rise to the top. Here are the MVPs for Week 9 in the NFL. The winner is selected from the winning squad.
MVP: Broncos QB Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning was voted October AFC Offensive Player of the Month by the NFL, and his hot streak will continue versus the Cincinnati Bengals. Manning has the best passer rating in the NFL and has five straight 300-plus-yard passing games. In his last five games, Manning has thrown 14 touchdowns and only one interception.
The Bengals are 21st in the NFL in total defense and give up, on average, 26.7 points a game. The Bengals defense allows too many explosive plays, already giving up 28 pass plays of 20 yards or more.
Manning will keep hitting on all cylinders and will continue to get all his offensive weapons involved. The Denver Broncos will blow out the Bengals in Cincinnati as Manning throws for over 300 yards again and four touchdowns.
MVP: Ravens WR Torrey Smith
Torrey Smith tore up the Cleveland Browns in the Baltimore Ravens' Week 4 victory. Smith was just three yards shy of 100 yards receiving and added a touchdown. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has struggled of late, but against the Browns, look for Flacco to target Smith all game long.
The Browns have one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, Joe Haden, but the team is still 26th in the NFL in passing defense, allowing 260.8 yards a game through the air.
Smith should get ample opportunities to be matched up versus cornerback Sheldon Brown, who Smith battled in the first matchup. Look for Smith to finish this contest with over 100 yards and another score as the Ravens get a much-needed AFC North win.
MVP: Packers WR James Jones
The loss of wide receiver Greg Jennings has forced players like James Jones and Randall Cobb to step up their games in the Green Bay Packers offense. With the possibility of receiver Jordy Nelson out this week with a leg injury, Jones will be Aaron Rodgers' go-to guy.
Jones has seven touchdowns on the year and should be able to continue his scoring ways versus a passing defense that has gotten abused the past two weeks in losses to the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers.
Jones seems to have found a rapport with Rodgers, and he will lead both teams in yards receiving and touchdowns. Jones will be the runaway MVP selection in a huge Packers rout.
MVP: Bears RB Matt Forte
Matt Forte is quietly putting together another solid year for the Chicago Bears. While quarterback Jay Cutler and wide receiver Brandon Marshall garner all the headlines, Forte is the engine that makes the Bears offense run.
Forte has averaged over 4.7 yards a run the last three games and will be facing a Titans run defense that has allowed, on average, 139.3 yards per game.
Forte will get the football over 25 times for 150 yards on the ground. The former Tulane star only has one rushing touchdown in the last three games, but will double that with two touchdown runs on Sunday.
MVP: Dolphins WR Davone Bess
Davone Bess is one of the best slot receivers in the NFL, and his talents will be showcased this weekend in Indianapolis. Though the Miami Dolphins still don't know who will start at quarterback between Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore, Bess has the ability to get on the same page quickly with either player.
Quick passes in the slot like shallow dig routes or slants are a sure way to get the passer comfortable in the pocket and allow a team’s playmakers to get free in space.
Bess has yet to score a touchdown this season, but all that changes versus the Colts, who have allowed 24.4 points a game. Bess will have over 85 yards receiving and at least one touchdown as the Dolphins get a tough road win.
MVP: Panthers WR Steve Smith
Steve Smith is still one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL at receiver and will put on a show in the nation’s capital this weekend. Smith is coming off his best game of the season in a tough loss to the Chicago Bears and will top those numbers versus the Washington Redskins.
Versus the Bears, Smith had 16 grabs for 118 yards. Though Smith has yet to score this season, the Redskins are a prime candidate to be the first. The Redskins have given up a total of 227 points on the season for an average of 28.4 per contest.
Smith and quarterback Cam Newton will get back on track together and abuse the 29th-ranked defense in Washington. Smith will walk away with a win and game MVP.
MVP: Lions QB Matthew Stafford
Matthew Stafford has been wildly inconsistent this season but still has all the talent in the world to be one of the best in the game. A career game versus one of the worst teams in the NFL goes a long way toward building confidence in Stafford and a floundering Detroit Lions team.
Stafford is sixth in the NFL in passing yards and should get into the top five after another solid game this weekend.
Stafford threw for over 350 yards against a solid Seattle Seahawks defense last week, and the Jacksonville Jaguars are not nearly as talented as Seattle. Stafford may pass for over 400 yards and three scores as the Lions get even on the season at 4-4.
MVP: Texans WR Andre Johnson
Andre Johnson has had a quiet individual season statistics-wise in 2012, but is still one of the best in the NFL. The Houston Texans are coming off a bye week, so Johnson should be fresh and ready to exploit a porous Buffalo Bills defense.
The Bills give up 32.4 points a game and allow, on average, 7.6 yards per passing play. Johnson will get his scoring going this week, as the Bills have allowed 14 receiving touchdowns.
Johnson will score at least once and have over 150 receiving yards as the Texans embarrass the Bills for an easy home win.
MVP: Buccaneers WR Mike Williams
Wide receiver Vincent Jackson has been a godsend to quarterback Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense. But Mike Williams is quietly putting together a very solid year and will have an MVP-type game versus the Oakland Raiders.
The third-year veteran out of Syracuse already has four touchdowns on the season and is on pace to eclipse his career high in reception yards.
Versus the Raiders, with Jackson pulling the coverage his way, look for Williams to exploit the Raiders safeties in the middle of the field for solid gains all game long. Williams will finish the game with over eight receptions and 90 yards. Williams will add a score on a big play as the Buccaneers steal a win on the road.
MVP: Vikings WR Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin may be the most dynamic player in the entire NFL. Look for Harvin to follow the lead of the Detroit Lions offense and wear down the Seahawks secondary. Cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner like to play physical at the line of scrimmage.
Harvin will line up in the slot most of the game and is too quick to get manhandled at the line. Quarterback Christian Ponder will hit Harvin on crossing routes all game long. Harvin will break one of these routes for a long touchdown.
Harvin will have over 150 total yards in the game and will make a game-winning play that will help quiet the 12th man in Seattle.
MVP: Giants QB Eli Manning
Eli Manning somehow always manages to play lights-out with the brightest lights shining, and he will again on Sunday in what is bound to be a very emotional game for him and the entire New York Giants team.
Manning is third in the NFL in passing yards but is a totally different player, in a good way, at home versus on the road. Manning has thrown for 300 yards or more in every home contest, and this game will be no different.
Though the Pittsburgh Steelers boast the best passing defense in the NFL, they have shown cracks in the armor that Manning will exploit. Manning will once again throw for over 300 yards and for three scores as the Giants lift up the New York area with a huge win.
MVP: Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez
The greatest tight end in NFL history is playing what he says will be his last season. Tony Gonzalez is playing on the best team in the NFL and possibly his career.
The Cowboys' loss of linebacker Sean Lee exposes the middle of the Dallas defense and is exactly where quarterback Matt Ryan will find Gonzalez all game long. Neither inside linebacker Bruce Carter nor Dan Connor have the pass-coverage ability to handle Gonzalez down the seam.
The last time Gonzalez faced the Cowboys was in 2009 when the former California star only had 37 yards receiving. Look for Gonzalez to add a one to the front of those numbers as well as a score as the Falcons stay undefeated on the season.
MVP: Saints QB Drew Brees
Drew Brees always seems to be down a key offensive piece each week this season, and yet he continues to play at a high level. This week, with the loss of running back Darren Sproles, Brees will have to again put the New Orleans Saints on his shoulders.
The Philadelphia Eagles defense already fired one defensive coordinator this season, and Brees may force them to fire No. 2 if the former Super Bowl MVP can find receivers Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Lance Moore all game long.
Since 2008, Brees has never lost on Monday Night Football. That streak will continue for the quarterback who is second in the NFL with 20 touchdown tosses. Brees will pick the Eagles defense apart for over 300 yards passing and three touchdown passes.