Adrian Peterson for MVP.
There, I said it.
In what seems to be a quarterback-centric league, Peterson had one of the single greatest seasons ever by a running back. Everything that Peterson accomplished on and off the football field this year has been spectacular.
Interestingly enough, nine of the NFL’s past 11 MVP’s have been quarterbacks. Shaun Alexander and Ladanian Tomlinson have been the exceptions. Much like these two backs, Peterson’s near record-breaking season deserves some serious recognition.
Questions surrounding Peterson’s health persisted all offseason. Was his injured knee healthy? Is he an injury risk? Can he handle a full workload?
Peterson silenced his critics with the best season of his young career, becoming just the seventh player in NFL history to reach the 2000-yard club. He fell just nine yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, finishing with 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns on 348 carries.
That’s right, a mere nine yards short of perhaps the greatest season ever by a running back. On a team lacking talent and playmakers, Peterson single-handedly carried his Vikings team to a 10-6 record and their first playoff appearance since 2009.
Manning came back in vintage fashion, but his season wasn't that much better than those of Brady or Rodgers. With Tim Tebow under center for much of the 2011 season, Denver went 8-8. They won the AFC West title and topped the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Wild Card Game (thanks to a few miracles).
There’s no doubt Manning significantly improved the Broncos, but they were already a playoff-caliber team. Manning had a lot of help in this year’s successful season. A great offensive line, which was led by All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady, protected Manning.
Denver's defense ranked among the NFL’s best, thanks in large part to DPOY candidate Von Miller, and a future Hall of Famer, Champ Bailey. In a normal year, with his numbers, Manning would most likely win MVP, but 2097 yards just can’t be overlooked.
Without Peterson in the lineup, the Vikings almost certainly have no shot at making the playoffs. All they would likely contend for is the number one pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Peterson was far and away the NFL’s best running back this year. On just three fewer carries (348) than Arian Foster, Peterson rushed for 673 more yards. The NFL’s second leading rusher Alfred Morris, trailed Peterson by an astonishing 484 yards
Before his injury, receiver Percy Harvin was a key weapon for quarterback Christian Ponder and the Vikings offense. Harvin got off to a great start, leading the NFL in receptions, with 60 in the season’s first eight weeks. In fact, he was an early MVP favorite until he suffered a torn ligament in his left ankle in early November.
When all hope appeared to be lost, the Vikings offense didn’t miss a beat, and the team went 5-2 in the seven games Harvin missed. Peterson rushed for an average of 172.2 yards in five December games, leading the Vikings to four consecutive wins to close out the season. The rest of the Vikings' offense without Harvin was rather ordinary. That meant that Peterson gained all those yards against defenses that were primarily focusing on just him.
Quarterback Christian Ponder struggled mightily during the Vikings run. Yet Peterson picked up the slack, and unbelievably ran for more yards in December than his quarterback threw, and rushed for as many touchdowns as his quarterback tossed into the end zone.
His pace was so outstanding that he broke the NFL record for rushing average per game, in a month with a minimum of four games.
The Vikings ranked just No. 20 in the NFL in total offense this year, but AP accounted for an unprecedented 43 percent of their yards from scrimmage.
Peterson played the best football of his career when it mattered most. In week 17 with the Vikings playoff hopes on the line, Peterson showed up in a big way. Peterson's 34th and final carry was a crucial 26-yard scamper that gave the Vikings the field position needed for kicker Blair Walsh's game-winning 29-yard field goal as time expired. In the teams most important regular season game, he ran for 199 yards.
If that's not the definition of an MVP, than what is?
He single-handedly turned a Vikings squad that was pegged to be bottom feeders of the NFC, into a playoff team.
By the seasons end, he had collected 1,019 of his rushing yards after the first hit from the defense, and averaged 4.1 yards after contact. Remarkably, he fumbled only twice in his 388 total touches.
Quarterbacks are generally much more responsible for their team's success than other players. However, Peterson proved to be an exception to the rule with a near record-breaking season.
The accomplishments Peterson achieved and the injury obstacles he had to overcome should make him a no-brainer for NFL MVP award.