Apologies to J.J. Watt and Adrian Peterson, but it's become pretty clear that the 2012 NFL MVP is going to a quarterback. Each of the past five awards and nine of the last 11 have been handed to a man behind center.
With Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan all performing at an MVP level heading into Week 15, it's a virtual lock that one of those men will be handed the trophy. Each signal-caller has led his respective team to a playoff berth and has statistics that are on par with Peterson's and Watt's at their positions.
Which of these quarterbacks is the favorite heading into this week's slate of games? Here is a complete breakdown of each player's chances along with a look at why their season is MVP-worthy.
Note: All odds are courtesy of Sportsbook.
Matt Ryan (QB, Atlanta Falcons)
Once the odds-on favorite at the season's midpoint, Ryan has precipitously fallen to a second-tier candidate as the Falcons' season has also taken a bit of a nosedive. Though 11-2 heading into Week 15, Atlanta has lost to the Saints and Panthers—two non-playoff teams—and has barely scraped by consistently middling squads for most of the season.
Still, it's undeniable that Ryan has taken a leap to stardom in 2012.
Carrying the offensive burden like never before, the fifth-year signal-caller has put up 3,932 yards on the season and thrown 24 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.
The latter statistic is likely what will keep him from hoisting the MVP trophy. Ryan tossed five interceptions against the Cardinals in Week 11, almost single-handedly costing Atlanta a victory against one of the three worst teams in the league.
It was just Ryan's second multi-interception game of the season, but one that made the Falcons quarterback a source of national scorn.
His brilliance in the other 10 games and Atlanta's likely place atop the NFC keeps Ryan in the hunt. However, like his team, Ryan is more of a fringe contender than anything worthy of serious consideration at this juncture.
Tom Brady (QB, New England Patriots)
One nationally televised evisceration of the Texans later and Brady's odds are looking better by the minute. New England has won seven straight games since a one-point loss to the Seahawks in Week 6 and its superstar quarterback has been the overarching reason.
Equipped with a 1,000-yard running back for just the second time since 2004, Brady has been a bastion of efficiency all season. The Patriots star has thrown for 3,833 yards and 29 touchdowns against just four interceptions, stats that already compare impressively to his MVP campaign in 2010.
When breaking out the advanced metrics argument, there's little doubt Brady has been the best quarterback in the NFL this season. According to Football Outsiders' DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) and DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) metrics, Brady is unquestionably 2012's star behind center.
In DYAR, Brady has been worth 1,844 yards more than a replacement-level quarterback. In DVOA, he's had 42.9 percent more value against that same barometer.
Second place in those statistics is Manning, who has a 1,367 DYAR and 29.1 percent DVOA. In other words, it's not close.
With another nationally televised matchup against the 49ers coming Sunday, Brady could either buoy his argument further or give the award to Manning. Either way, barring a complete malfunction down the stretch, Brady will go down as the best statistical quarterback of 2012.
Peyton Manning (QB, Denver Broncos)
Brady may have the better statistics, but it's unquestionable that Manning has the better story.
Cut by the only team he's ever known after four neck surgeries left his career in doubt, Manning came to Denver amid controversy and resurrected his career, looking like it was 2008 all over again.
Like Ryan and Brady, Manning's stats are what you would expect from an MVP candidate. He's thrown for 3,812 yards, 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, all while leading an offense essentially unchanged from the one that ranked 31st in passing offense last season.
Manning's brilliance becomes most apparent when taking a look at the split statistics—especially in the second half and when the Broncos are behind. In the final 30 minutes of game time, Manning has thrown for 1,877 yards and 19 touchdowns against three interceptions. When Denver is trailing? He's accumulated 1,723 yards and 17 touchdowns against three picks.
When the Broncos have needed him, Manning has come through—nearly without fail. Considering what he went through to come back and be great again, Manning's season leaps from great to historically unprecedented.
Denver comes into Week 15 with a first-round bye in sight and an opportunity for a signature win against Baltimore. If Manning is able to pick apart the Ravens' secondary on the way to a Broncos win, we might as well start etching his name on the trophy now.