There is no runaway favorite in this year's NFL MVP race. The plethora of possibilities in the chase for the award makes it both exciting and intriguing, but it also raises question marks.
Where has each player stumbled? What will hold them back from the title?
Of the top seven contenders, each has at least one valid argument against their claim to the crown. Let's break each of them down, starting with a certain running back in Minnesota...
Argument Against Peterson: Minnesota is not a legitimate contender
Adrian Peterson has had the type of season that people will never forget, rehabbing months ahead of schedule on his torn MCL and ACL and returning at a level consistent with that of his best career years.
Peterson's 1,128 rushing yards led the league heading into Week 12. He has also averaged 5.8 yards per carry and added seven touchdowns.
The problem is that AP plays for a Minnesota Vikings team that sits at 6-4 on the season and is not considered a real contender. While it would be easy to argue that AP has carried the Vikings to the record they have, voters rarely lend themselves to players on middle-of-the-road teams.
The combined record of the last four MVPs was 55-9. A 9-7 or 10-6 season simply provides a tough hurdle for Peterson to overcome.
Then again, he has become accustomed to such endeavors.
Argument Against Ryan: His play is getting worse as the season wears on
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons started the 2012 season hotter than any other team in football. The team may have cooled only slightly in the last few weeks, but Ryan's MVP case is quickly going ice cold.
Looking past that poor excuse for a pun, Ryan has shown points of weakness in the past two weeks, particularly in Week 11 against the Arizona Cardinals. In that contest, Ryan completed 28 of his 46 passes for 301 yards, zero touchdowns and five interceptions.
MVP candidates simply do not have such terrible outings, and Ryan's (fair or unfair) moniker as a player that can't step up in the clutch could wear on him should he continue playing at a mediocre level in the next few games.
This ship could quickly be righted, and Ryan is still firmly in the hunt, but his stock is falling the fastest of anyone on this list.
Argument Against Rodgers: He has not been as good as 2011
In the last 10 years, only Peyton Manning has repeated as MVP, and he did it twice. On both occasions (2003-2004 and 2008-2009) Manning's numbers increased in his second triumph.
Enter Aaron Rodgers.
The reigning MVP is having a great season, but he is not on pace to distance himself from 2011.
Rodgers is on pace for fewer yards and touchdowns, but more interceptions. His numbers are still elite, as he has 2,619 yards, 27 touchdowns and six interceptions through 10 games. It is just hard to get over the fact that he is not going to exceed his statistics from a season ago.
It is fair to argue that Rodgers has faced more adversity this year in the way of injured receivers, a struggling offensive line and a lesser defense to support him, but the year-to-year argument is a legitimate one.
Argument Against Watt: Defensive players don't win the award
The reality of J.J. Watt's situation is quite clear. He is going to have to perform at a level higher than any other defensive player in history to win MVP.
We live in an offensive age of the NFL, and QBs win votes.
Quick question: Who was the last defensive player to win MVP?
The answer: Lawrence Taylor, all the way back in 1986.
Watt's 14.5 sacks, 11 stuffs and 13 pass deflections are impressive, but to beat out offensive players seems an insurmountable task.
Argument Against Brees: The Saints took too long to get going
Drew Brees has quickly thrust himself into the MVP race with his superb play in recent weeks. Heading into Week 12, Brees ranked first in the NFL with 28 touchdown passes and was second in yards behind only Matt Ryan.
Where Brees' MVP case takes a hit is in the fact that his New Orleans Saints may have started their turnaround a little too late. If the Saints miss the playoffs, he has no chance in the race, but even if the Saints sneak in, he will undoubtedly run into many of the same problems as Peterson.
Voters love wins, and the Saints started the season 2-5. Winning five of their last six games and seeing the rise of Brees has to put him in the discussion, but those early-season struggles will be a serious hit to his campaign.
Argument Against Brady: Peyton Manning has been more impressive
Let's face it: All the QB talk this season has circulated around Peyton Manning and his amazing comeback. His play has justified the hype, and we will get to that later, but Tom Brady has undoubtedly played just as well.
After Week 11, he was ahead of Manning in passing yards and had thrown four fewer interceptions. Brady leads the highest-scoring offense in the league, and the Patriots have topped 30 points on six different occasions.
Still, the hype has surrounded Manning's work toward a Comeback Player of the Year award. He has come back after a year off and developed immediate chemistry with a new offense and molded a Super Bowl contender in the process.
Brady has been as amazing as fans would expect, but his long-time rival has excelled in a new city with a new team. That change of scenery actually makes an argument against Brady's performance.
Argument Against Manning: Denver hasn't stepped up against elite competition
The Denver Broncos' play has impressed in all kinds of ways this season—first and foremost has been the superb play of QB Peyton Manning.
Manning has thrown for 2,975 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has led the Broncos to a 7-3 record and racked up a 68.5 completion percentage in the process.
However, Denver crumbled in three early-season meetings against elite competition. Losses to the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and New England Patriots showed there are still growing pains to be had for the Broncos.
Manning played well in those contests, but it is still important that Denver look strong against great competition.
A late-season game against the Baltimore Ravens will give the Broncos one last chance to beat one of the NFL's best. If they do so, Manning's MVP case is solidified. If they don't, there is at least a valid argument against him winning.