Peterson has 1,812 rushing yards on the season—which leads all NFL running backs— to go along with 11 touchdowns, which are tied for the second-best mark. If he can continue his pace of 129.4 rushing yards per game against the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers, he’d fall around 35 yards shy of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record.
Regardless of whether Peterson’s able to break the record or not, there are a couple of things holding him back from being named the NFL’s top player and also some factors that his competition—New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning—can take advantage of.
First off is that there’s no guarantee that the Vikings make the playoffs. Minnesota sits at 8-6 which currently has them as the sixth seed in the NFC. The Vikings not only have to face two of the top teams in the NFL in the remaining two weeks of the regular season, but also two Super Bowl contenders.
The Texans are currently the top seed in the AFC while the Packers are the NFC third seed—and would end up playing Minnesota again if everything stays the way it is now. Losing either or both of those games could knock the Vikings out of postseason contention, which would be severely detrimental toward Peterson’s MVP candidacy.
On the contrary, both Brady and Peyton have already locked up playoff spots for their respective franchises.
Another factor to consider is that although Peterson is around 400-plus yards ahead of Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch—who’s second in the league in rushing yards—the Vikings’ top playmaker is three touchdowns behind Houston Texans running back Arian Foster.
Being the top player in the league most likely leads that one player leads the league in their respective statistical categories—which Peterson currently does not.
Lastly, Peterson doesn’t have history on his side as there have been just 17 running backs to be named NFL MVP while 36 quarterbacks have won the award. LaDanian Tomlinson was the last running back to do so and that was in 2006, a year when he ran for 1,815 yards and scored 28 touchdowns.
While Peterson is just three yards away from Tomlinson’s yards total, he sits miles away in the touchdown count.
Both Brady and Manning have surpassed 4,000 yards passing and 30 touchdowns, marks that are more than respectable for a quarterback and are amongst the league’s leaders, making them serious MVP candidates in addition to Peterson.
But the problem for Peterson is that although he’s the most feared running back in the game, he is not necessarily the most feared player—and the discussion begins as to whether that's Brady or Manning.