"Where's my hug for being awesome?"
For all the talk about Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and the remarkable season he is having, which is going to warrant serious MVP consideration, there is another, more deserving player who should steal the Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson continues to defy any and all expectations placed upon him, even when he is coming off a torn ACL.
Manning and Peterson are, arguably, the top two MVP candidates in the NFL right now. They are the only two players in the conversation for Comeback Player of the Year, which is a great debate that will rage until the end of the season.
So what is stopping Manning from being the choice for Comeback Player of the Year? Let's take a look at the tape.
230-of-330 (69.7%), 2,705 yards, 21 TD, 6 INT, 8.20 yards per attempt, 108.0 QB Rating.
Manning has been nothing short of spectacular for the Broncos this season. He is in the top five in completions, completion percentage, passing yards, yards per attempt, touchdown passes and quarterback rating.
In addition to his individual accomplishments, Manning is doing all this while leading a Broncos offense that leads the AFC West and is second in points per game (30.1). There are not enough superlatives to describe how great Manning has been after missing all of last season recovering from neck surgery.
195 carries, 1,128 yards, 5.8 yards per attempt, 7 TD, 49 first downs.
As dominant as Manning has been at his position, Peterson is doing even more damage at the running back spot.
Peterson is third in the league in attempts, first in yards, first in yards per attempt among running backs with at least 100 carries, runs of at least 20 yards (13, six more than LeSean McCoy and C.J. Spiller), (Seattle's Marshawn Lynch is second with 1,005), second in rushing first downs and tied for second in touchdowns.
Not one running back in the NFL can match that level of dominance in all those categories. He is well on his way to a 2,000-yard season, thanks in large part to four straight games with at least 123 yards and one touchdown.
So What Separates Peterson?
The Vikings are in playoff contention right now thanks in large part to the job Peterson has done this season. They have no passing game whatsoever, as Christian Ponder once again looks lost at sea.
Peterson changes the game at a position that most fans and analysts would agree has been de-valued in recent years with the trend towards a two-back system and the fast-paced, throw-the-ball-all-over-the-field style that has taken over the NFL since defensive backs are not allowed within 20 yards of a receiver without being flagged for a penalty.
What Manning is doing, while great in its own right, is nothing that we haven't seen from him or any other quarterback many times before.
The neck surgery and missing an entire season is going to give Manning the narrative voters love, but Peterson being able to return nine months after tearing an ACL in his knee, which is kind of an important body part for a running back, deserves high praise.
The Broncos were always going to be a contender, even if they kept Tim Tebow, because they had built a strong defensive front and a good running game led by a fantastic offensive line.
There were no expectations for the Vikings, yet they are still hanging around because Peterson is a special player at a premium position.