Peyton Manning is the unquestionable, clear-cut selection for NFL MVP in 2012.
Manning vs. Brady?
Peyton Manning (2012):
400 of 583 (68.6) for 4,659 yards (8.0 YPA), 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Passer Rating: 105.8
ESPN QBR: 84.11 (first in 2012).
Tom Brady (2012):
401 of 637 (63.0) for 4,827 yards (7.6 YPA), 34 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Passer Rating: 98.7
ESPN QBR: 77.05 (second in 2012).
Some will point to the Patriots' 31-21 victory over the Broncos as evidence that Brady was better in head-to-head competition.
Only problem being—he wasn't.
Peyton Manning (vs. Patriots):
31 of 44 for 337 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.
Passer Rating: 115.4
Tom Brady (vs. Broncos):
21 of 31 for 223 yards, 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions.
Passer Rating: 99.3
Manning contributed much more to Denver's chances of winning, but difference in team performance resulted in a 10-point loss. Again, illustrating the difference between what Manning has had to work with versus what Brady has to work with—the story of their careers.
Couldn't stop Manning from being a master of efficiency.
Manning ranked first in the NFL in completion-percentage.
He also ranked first in the NFL in yards-per-attempt (amongst passers with 400 or more attempts).
ESPN QBR Comparison:
The difference between Manning's 84.11 and Brady's 77.05 is a total of 7.06 points.
Meaning, there is a greater differential between Manning and Brady than there is between Brady and Alex Smith (70.1).
Is Manning as far ahead of Brady as Brady is ahead of Smith?
Furthermore, Manning's 84.11 ranks as the second-greatest QBR season in history since ESPN created the statistic in 2008. Just a sliver below Aaron Rodgers' incredible 2011 season (86.2).
Brady's 77.05 ranks as the seventh-greatest QBR season since 2008.
No doubt that both quarterbacks were impressive, but Manning's 2012 ranks ahead of Drew Brees' 2011, 2009 seasons and well above Brady's MVP season in 2010 (a full 7.31 points higher).
No longer can the value of rushing-support be ignored (ironic seeing as I'll tackle the Manning vs. Peterson debate later on).
Running the football might not contribute as much to your team's chances of winning as passing the football, but a lack of rushing support enables defenses to load up in nickel-plus coverages in an effort to shut down passing efficiency.
Analysts talk about defenses stacking the box in an effort to shut down Adrian Peterson, but just imagine what happens the other way around when defenses drop DB's back into coverage in an effort to prevent Manning from throwing the football.
Denver Broncos (2012):
16th in the NFL in total rushing, 23rd in yards per carry.
New England Patriots (2012):
seventh in the NFL in total rushing, 14th in yards per carry.
Things have been harder for Manning in terms of the support he's been given on the ground and the ridiculous coverages he's had to throw into as a result of Denver's one-dimensonal offense.
Nevertheless, that hasn't prevented Manning from turning completely unproductive receivers into statistical superstars.
Demaryius Thomas (2012):
94 receptions for 1,434 yards (15.3 YPR) and 10 touchdowns.
*Thomas had more receiving yards than Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker, A.J. Green, Roddy White and Victor Cruz.
Eric Decker (2012):
85 receptions for 1,064 yards (12.5 YPR) and 13 touchdowns.
Demaryius Thomas' career highs pre-Manning were 32 receptions for 551 yards and four touchdowns.
Demaryius Thomas' career highs post-Manning are 94 receptions for 1,434 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Eric Decker's career highs pre-Manning were 44 receptions for 612 yards and eight touchdowns.
Eric Decker's career highs post-Manning are 85 receptions for 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns.
It's not just about how incredible Manning's targets have been, it's about how much Denver's passing game has improved while Manning has been throwing to the same targets Tim Tebow was unable to produce with.
The Denver Broncos ranked 31st in passing in 2011, 26th in efficiency (passer rating).
The Denver Broncos ranked fifth in passing in 2012, second in efficiency (passer rating).
Perhaps the easiest argument to debunk is the whole quarterback vs. running back debate.
Let's call it Peyton Manning vs. Adrian Peterson.
Credit Peterson; he's had one of the greatest rushing seasons in NFL history.
Adrian Peterson (2012):
348 carries for 2,097 yards (6.0 YPC) and 12 touchdowns.
40 receptions for 217 yards (5.4 YPR) and one touchdown.
*2,314 total yards and 13 total touchdowns.
Yet no matter how impressive, it's just not as valuable as what the quarterback brings to the table.
Since Bo Jackson was drafted No. 1 overall in 1986, the NFL has seen 16 quarterbacks taken No. 1 overall in the NFL draft in comparison to only one running back (Ki-Jana Carter in 1995).
There is absolutely no question as to which position is more valuable to NFL franchises.
"Put your money where your mouth is"—NFL franchises have responded overwhelmingly by continuing to draft quarterbacks to help their franchise win games.
It's a matter of common sense, it's much more valuable to be a Top-5 passing team than a Top-5 rushing team because passing the football accumulates more yards than running the football.
People have put so much emphasis upon the value of Peterson's rushing yards in 2012, yet many conveniently ignore that rushing yards move your team up and down the field no more than passing yards.
FACT: Manning contributed to producing more than double the amount of yards Peterson did.
Manning's 4,659 passing yards minus Peterson's 2,314 total yards equals plus-2,345 yards in Manning's advantage.
The importance of scoring touchdowns for MVP running backs:
My greatest criticism of Peterson's 2012 season is that despite producing great results on the ground, he didn't find the endzone nearly as often as past running backs to win the MVP award.
Shaun Alexander scored 28 touchdowns (168 points) in 2005.
LaDainian Tomlinson scored 31 touchdowns (186 points) in 2006.
*Adding Tomlinson's two touchdown passes in 2006, he contributed to 198 points in 2006.
Adrian Peterson scored only 13 touchdowns in 2012 (78 points), nowhere in the statistical stratosphere of what has been needed to secure a league MVP from the running back position.
The "CJ2K argument": In 2009, Chris Johnson out-produced Adrian Peterson's 2012 in terms of both total yards and touchdowns.
Chris Johnson (2009):
2,509 total yards (setting the all-time NFL record) and 16 total touchdowns (96 points).
Despite Johnson's milestone season, he lost out on the MVP award to Manning.
The parallels are very similar.
Johnson had one of the greatest seasons a running back has ever had (even more productive than Peterson's 2012). It could be argued that Johnson had a greater season as a running back than Manning did as a quarterback. His performance simply didn't contribute as much to his teams' chances of winning as Manning's did.
In 2009, Manning ranked first in the NFL in terms of QBR (just like he has this year) and was the driving force behind securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs (the Colts were 14-0 in games Manning played throughout).
Bottom line—Johnson's 2009 was more productive than Peterson's 2012 and Manning's 2012 has certainly been much more productive than his 2009 MVP season.
If Johnson couldn't beat out Manning for the MVP award in 2009, Peterson should not win the MVP award in 2012.
Peterson has done a fantastic job of moving his team up and down the field; his 2,097 total rushing yards are a testament to that. It's not his fault, but the limitations of the running back position have kept him out of the end-zone.
Quarterbacks have no such limitations, that's why we draft them No. 1 overall.
Quarterbacks contribute much more to your team's chances of winning
That's why they award them with the league MVP.
The limitations of Peterson's "less valuable position" resulted in him contributing to 78 total points in 2012.
Manning's excellent mastery of the league's most important position resulted in the Broncos scoring 222 points off his right arm.
222 points > 78 points.
Question: If the Broncos had Peterson, who moved them up and down the field but was limited in getting into the end-zone, leaving them with 78 points on the board—and the Vikings inherited Manning who mastered the league's most valuable position and helped contribute 222 points, which would be more valuable?
Peterson's battle scars are overrated.
Some will point to Peterson's battered and bloodied uniform at the end of the Vikings' Week 17 victory over the Packers as evidence of Peterson's noble struggle to help guide his team to a playoff spot.
The Vikings forced the ball into Peterson's hands for a career-high 34 times.
No doubt that they fought very hard to get Peterson the record he never broke.
As a result of Peterson's inclusion in the MVP discussion, people pay his battle scars a bit of extra attention; overlooking the countless offensive and defensive linemen who fight in the trenches every Sunday looking no less battered than Peterson.
We acknowledge that offensive and defensive linemen are not valuable enough to be named "most valuable," yet they fight just as hard as Peterson did this past Sunday only to receive minimal recognition.
It's something to consider.
So too was Manning's performance in the final game of the regular season:
Peyton Manning (vs. Chiefs):
23 of 29 (79.3) for 304 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Passer Rating: 144.8
Turned out to be Manning's highest rated passing game of the season, securing home field advantage in the playoffs and adding more incredible NFL milestones to his resume.
Manning threw three touchdowns in a single game for the 73rd time in his career, passing Brett Favre for most in NFL history.
Since 1943, only two teams in NFL history have gone on winning streaks of 11 games or more, winning each contest by seven points or more.
2005 Indianapolis Colts (13 straight games).
2012 Denver Broncos (11 straight games).
How can we ignore this?
Not to mention coming back from four neck surgeries, after having missed an entire season of football, only to join a brand new organization with brand new coaches and teammates.
Manning acclimated himself in months where it would have taken a lesser man years.
He didn't just learn to fit in, he dominated the entire sport of professional football.
*Coming back from being down 24-0 on the road and winning the game 35-24 (vs San Diego).
Manning began the 2012 season tied with Dan Marino for most 300-yard passing games with 67.
He passed Marino in Week 1 and upped the NFL record to 80 by the end of Week 17.
What more do you need? It's not even close.
Milestones aside, comeback stories aside—Peyton Manning is the MVP of 2012.
Ryan Michael is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report. Any questions, comments or professional inquiries can be directed to his email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/#!/theryanmichael
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