Where Does the NFL MVP Race Stand After Week 17?

Chris Trapasso@ChrisTrapassoAnalyst IDecember 31, 2012

Where Does the NFL MVP Race Stand After Week 17?

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    Did Adrian Peterson wrap up the NFL MVP award with his performance in the Minnesota Vikings' playoff-clinching win over the Green Bay Packers

    Well, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, of course, aren't ready to just hand the dynamic and powerful running back the hardware just yet.

    Let's rank where the MVP race stands with the 2012 regular season complete.

5. J.J. Watt

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    J.J. Watt is the front-runner in the Defensive Player of the Year race, as he finished a masterful 2012 season with 20.5 sacks, 81 total tackles, four forced fumbles and an almost unfathomable 16 passes defended. 

    When the Houston Texans donned the best record in the NFL, many considered the second-year defensive end out of Wisconsin as a prime MVP candidate

    Although his individual dominance rarely waned, Gary Kubiak's club didn't play especially sound football over the final month of the season, going 2-2 with a blowout loss at the hands of the Patriots in New England and a defeat in the season finale against the Indianapolis Colts

    Unfortunately, Watt simply doesn't have the momentum needed to win this award that typically goes to an offensive player. 

4. Aaron Rodgers

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    The 2011 MVP began the year relatively slowly, as his Green Bay Packers started 2-3. Since then, Aaron Rodgers has played MVP-caliber. 

    He had seven games with a QB rating higher than 106, and in three of those contests his QB rating exceeded the 130 mark. 

    His Packers went 9-2 down the stretch, with wins over the Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears

    No. 12 finished the year with 39 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Not bad. In a traditional NFL season, Rodgers would be in line to win his second straight MVP trophy. 

    Unfortunately for him, this hasn't been a traditional NFL season. 

3. Tom Brady

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    Tom Brady is in the MVP discussion every year. Seems like it, right?

    He was super steady in 2012—as usual—ending the year with a 98.7 QB rating with 34 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions. 

    As the New England Patriots cruised to seven consecutive wins, Brady actually was the MVP favorite in most circles. 

    Over the stretch, he tossed 19 touchdowns and a mere one interception—Brady being Brady. 

    But a two-pick evening in a loss against the San Francisco 49ers and a rather shaky effort against the bottom-feeding Jacksonville Jaguars will probably be the reasons he doesn't win the award this year. 

2. Peyton Manning

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    Peyton Manning has the Denver Broncos on a sizzling 11-game winning streak entering the playoffs, and the team has averaged more than 31 points during that span. 

    He threw 37 touchdowns with only 11 interceptions coming off the severe neck surgeries that kept him on the sidelines for the entire 2011 season. 

    Manning's comeback story will undoubtedly bolster his MVP candidacy. 

    With the Broncos finishing the year 13-3 and the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, Manning has a legitimate chance to win his fifth MVP award. 

    Remember, though, Denver was a playoff team a year ago with Tim Tebow under center for most of the season.

1. Adrian Peterson

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    Almost miraculously, Adrian Peterson capped off his MVP-worthy season with 199 yards against the Green Bay Packers to finish with 2,097 rushing yards a year removed from reconstructive knee surgery. 

    The Minnesota Vikings absolutely rode their workhorse back all year, especially since the middle of October. 

    Without Peterson, Leslie Frazier's squad, in all likelihood, wouldn't have made the postseason. And frankly, they would have been lucky to have won five or six games. 

    His comeback story is arguably the best in football, and after a campaign of epic proportions, Adrian Peterson is the front-runner to win the MVP. 

    He deserves it.