Four neck surgeries later and Peyton Manning looks as good as ever. He has posted an impressive stat line by already throwing for more than 3,500 yards, while completing 68 percent of his passes, throwing 29 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions. These numbers would be excellent in any year, let alone one in which he is coming back after missing the entire 2011 season.
His passer rating of 104.6 is good for second in the NFL, as is his 29 touchdown passes. He is also averaging nearly 300 yards passing per game, and has led the Denver Broncos to an AFC West championship with still four games to go.
Due to the unfathomable recovery he has made, silencing all critics who believed that he could not successfully comeback from such a debilitating injury, Peyton would appear to have the inside track on the Comeback Player of the Year Award, especially considering he is making a very serious case for NFL MVP. However, the problem with Manning and his apparent lock down on the award is Adrian Peterson.
A.D. has been equally impressive. He leads the NFL with an astounding 1,446 yards rushing, more than 300 yards more than the next closest rusher, Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks. He averages 6.2 yards per carry on less than 20 carries per game, while posting an eye-popping 17 carries of 20 yards or more. Peterson actually has a chance to eclipse the 2,000 yard mark if he can continue to post numbers like he did on Sunday against Green Bay, when he finished with 210 yards on just 21 carries in the Vikings 23-14 loss to the Packers.
Peterson qualifies for the Comeback Player of the Year Award as well, due to a nasty leg injury that occurred on December 24th of last year, in which he tore both his ACL and MCL. Just nine short months later Peterson was back at work and his play has only become stronger as the season has progressed.
One of the most amazing things about Peterson's season, is that he has been so successful despite Minnesota having the worst passing offense in the league. Teams are stacking the box just daring Minnesota to beat them through the air, and yet Peterson has flourished.
Never has there been two bigger names in the running for the award, with Manning posting an NFL best four MVP awards and Peterson proving that despite his injury, he is still head and shoulders above every other running back in the NFL. Having an inside track on the NFL MVP may hurt Manning in this race. If voters feel that Manning will win the MVP, they may turn their votes towards Peterson for the CPOY Award.
In the end, this two-horse race may come down to the wire. Both deserve the award and would be a runaway in any other year, but with Peyton seriously in the mix for the MVP, Peterson may get the nod. Unfortunately, if Peyton loses out on the MVP to Tom Brady or Matt Ryan, and voters turn to Peterson for this award because of Manning's status in the MVP race, Manning may walk away from his incredible season with neither award, which would be unfortunate.