When it comes to selecting any league's Most Valuable Player, there is plenty of debate on the criteria that should determine the winner of the award.
Should it only go to the player that is more valuable to his team, as its name implies, than all other players are to their respective teams? Or should it simply go to the best and most productive player regardless of perceived value?
For example, Detroit's Calvin Johnson set the single-season receiving record, yet many would argue that the Lions would have won as many games (four) without Megatron.
In other words, many will argue that a player on a team with a losing record should not be considered for MVP. Considering there are individual awards for the best offensive and defensive player in the NFL, I would only consider a player from a playoff team for league MVP.
Here are my choices for winner and runner-ups for the NFL Most Valuable Player:
Without question, the NFL has become more and more of a passing league with each (no pun intended) passing year. That trend is unlikely to change.
That also makes it more difficult for a non-QB to win the award. In order to do so, he needs to do something really special, and that's exactly what Peterson has done.
Despite the overall shift in the sport's landscape, Peterson nearly broke Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record of (2,105 yards). With 2,097 yards, Peterson's output this year ranks second all-time and he has became only the seventh player in NFL history to reach the 2,000-yard milestone.
There was some doubt whether or not Peterson would be healthy enough to start the season as he worked his way back from a torn ACL suffered in December 2011. He vowed to ready and he certainly was.
Peterson started (relatively) slowly in the first six weeks and then there was no stopping him.
From Week 7 to 17, Peterson rushed for 100-plus yards in all but one game. During that span, he had seven games with at least 150 yards and three games with at least 199 yards.
Over that 10-game stretch, Peterson rushed for 1,598 yards and 10 touchdowns. That means he averaged just under 160 yards per game and 6.80 yards per carry since Week 7.
Especially after the team lost Percy Harvin for the season, the team even lacked a mediocre passing game to keep opposing defenses honest. Opponents stacked the box but to no avail.
Peterson gained a phenomenal 1,109 yards after contact.
Largely due to the tremendous success of Peterson, the Vikings have improved their win total by six games and made the postseason even though most expected them to finish last in the division.
After missing all of 2011 following multiple neck surgeries, Manning had one of his best seasons as a pro. Considering he has won this award in four other seasons, that is saying something.
Playing as well as any quarterback in the league, Manning has led the Broncos to 11 consecutive victories and the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Manning has thrown for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns, both of which are the second-highest total in his illustrious career. In addition, he threw only 11 interceptions, his lowest total since 2006 (nine).
Although the Broncos won eight games last year, won the AFC West and even won a playoff game, there is no question that Manning's ability as a passer has turned this team into a legitimate Super Bowl contender. In fact, Sportsbook.com has installed the Broncos as the Super Bowl XLVII favorites with 13/5 odds. By comparison, the Vikings are the longest of long shots among playoff teams at 70/1.
If it weren't for a blown call in Seattle early in the season, the Packers would not be playing Wild Card weekend. Instead they would have earned another first-round bye.
Once again, Rodgers led the NFL in passer rating (108.0). Not only did he set the single-season record for passer rating (122.5) last year, but he is the NFL's all-time leader in the category.
Rodgers, who was named MVP last season, was only one touchdown shy of becoming the second player in NFL history to throw 40-plus touchdowns in back-to-back seasons. He finished the year with 39 touchdowns and only eight interceptions.
While the Packers have the league's most dangerous receiving corps with four stud receivers, they are finally healthy heading into the postseason. For much of the year, he was missing at least one of those receivers.
In addition, no quarterback was sacked more than Rodgers (51). That did not prevent him from having another MVP-caliber season.
Fourth: J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
Not just a pass-rushing specialist, "J.J. Swat" is tied for 10th in the league in passes defended (16). The only other non-DBs to have double-digit passes defended were Washington linebacker London Fletcher and Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs (11).
As a pass-rusher, however, Watt led the NFL in sacks this season with 20.5, which is tied with Giants Hall-of-Famer Lawrence Taylor for the sixth highest single-season output of all time.
Only nine players have ever reached 20 sacks and the only three active players to do so are Watt, Minnesota’s Jared Allen and Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware. Unlike Ware or Allen, however, Watt plays a position (3-4 defensive end) that typically does not put up huge sack totals.
Finally, Watt led the NFL in stuffs (24) as the Texans finished fourth in the league in that category with 54 as a team. Tampa Bay rookie Lavonte David finished second behind Watt with 15.
In leading the Falcons to the No. 1 seed in the NFC, Ryan set many career highs (by a lot) this season.
He set career highs in passing yards (4,719), passing touchdowns (32), completion percentage (68.6 percent) and passer rating (99.1).
The Falcons may be perceived to be a relatively weak 13-win team as they have had their share of doubters all year, but Ryan has taken a big step forward in his development this season.
Sixth: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Luck lacked support when it came to a strong running game and/or defense to ease the rookie into the NFL.
While his efficiency statistics aren't great, Luck and the Colts played from behind often and no quarterback led his team on more game-winning drives than Luck (seven). In the process, he threw for a rookie-record 4,374 yards, which ranked seventh in the NFL among all quarterbacks this season.
With a rookie head coach that missed the majority of the season due to leukemia treatments, Luck led the Colts to a nine-win improvement over last season's two-win disaster. Oh, and he did that with the pressure of following in the footsteps of Peyton Manning, who was released one month before Luck was drafted first overall.
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