There is a logjam at the top of the NFL MVP rankings heading into the last two games of the season, though the two names being debated never change: Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
Since we are in an era of football where quarterback play dictates everything, Manning's performance and candidacy is going to be given more weight than what Peterson has done. You can see the Broncos' current nine-game winning streak and AFC West title to see the difference Manning has made.
Plus, the fact that Manning has thrown for more than 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns is going to sway a lot of votes in his favor.
Certainly, what Manning has done with the Broncos, coming off multiple neck surgeries the previous year that prevented him from stepping on the field, is impressive and justifies his presence in the MVP race.
But Manning is going to have to come from behind in the final two weeks of the season if he wants to steal the honor from Peterson.
Broncos head coach John Fox is doing all he can to ensure that voters remember Manning when the season ends, as he told USA Today that there are no plans to sit Manning at any point in the final two games.
"That has not been an option, and not something that we'll talk about," Fox said. "Right now, our main agenda is to get better and improve so we can be playing our best football in January."
All that can change if the Broncos lock up a first-round bye in Week 16—the only way they can do that is with a victory over Cleveland and a New England loss at Jacksonville—but right now we can only take Fox at his word.
Even if Manning doesn't sit, he still has a mountain to climb in order to lock up his fifth career MVP award.
Just looking at their respective resumés, Peterson's looks more impressive than Manning's. The Vikings running back leads the world in rushing yards with 1,812 (Seattle's Marshawn Lynch is second with 1,379) and has the best yards per carry average (6.3) among running backs with at least 200 carries.
Peterson's 20 carries of at least 20 yards nearly doubles the the No. 2 player on the list (Buffalo's C.J. Spiller). He is tied for second in the league with 11 rushing touchdowns and has eight consecutive 100-yard games, including at least 150 in the last three.
Manning is third in the league in completion percentage (67.9) and touchdowns (31), fourth in yards per attempt (7.86) and quarterback rating (103.5), sixth in completions (347) and yards (4,016).
The level of dominance shown by Peterson this season is far more impressive than anything Manning has done. He is head and shoulders above every other player at his position, not to mention carrying a team with no passing game into playoff contention.
For a running back to single-handedly have that much of an impact in a game today where quarterbacks are routinely asked to carry the lion's share of the load, could make this the most impressive season by a back that we have ever seen.
Manning took a team that was already a potential playoff contender and made them better. Peterson has taken a team with no expectations, or certainly no playoff expectations, coming into the season and made them into an 8-6 contender.
The MVP race is going to come down to the wire, but Manning has some serious catching up to do if he wants to knock Peterson off his perch.