By all accounts, Peyton Manning had a great season for the Denver Broncos.
His stats speak for themselves: More than 4,600 yards passing, 37 touchdowns, a 13-3 record and the AFC's No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs.
In a normal season, Manning would have run away with the NFL MVP award, especially since he was returning from multiple neck surgeries that sidelined him in 2012. Throw in the first team-change in his Hall of Fame career, and it's a no-brainer that Manning will be announced as the MVP on Saturday night, right?
And that's all because of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
Coming close to breaking Eric Dickerson's all-time rushing record, Peterson finished the regular season with 2,097 yards rushing, 12 TDs and a 5.4 YPC average. It was one of the best seasons for a running back in NFL history, as he finished just nine yards away from breaking Dickerson's mark.
A.D. also almost single-handedly took his team to the playoffs, running for 199 yards in a must-win against the Green Bay Packers in Week 17. He didn't equal that success in the playoffs, but he was also missing his starting QB (Christian Ponder) and playing on the road against an inspired team.
Throw in Peterson's remarkable return from an ACL tear in less than nine months, and there's little reason why he shouldn't win the award, too.
If it sounds familiar, it's because it is. The same can be said for Manning. In fact, when breaking down these players, there are plenty of similarities to be had about their roles in making Denver and Minnesota playoff-caliber teams.
The duo are both in the running for MVP and Comeback Player of the Year, and there's a good chance either man could go 2-0, 1-1 or 0-2 by the end of the voting cycle.
Both returning from injury, the best player of their current team and monster seasons in the books, this MVP race could really go either way. Rick Reilly thinks so, but also sees the writing on the wall with this tweet:
Should be MVP: Peyton Manning.Will be MVP: Adrian Peterson.— Rick Reilly (@ReillyRick) February 1, 2013
Simply put, Manning is the victim of the "wow" factor in Peterson.
Watch one of Minnesota's game films this season. Peterson jumps off the screen because he's constantly making two or three guys miss, burst through the line when no hole seems to be there or take it to the house by outrunning the secondary.
It's not Manning's fault. To be honest, Manning is a victim of his own success, even with the added element of his comeback from injury.
We're so used to seeing Manning put up big numbers, lead offenses with limited talent from skill positions and make the playoffs. He did all those things and more in 2012, and there's no doubt that Denver was the favorite in the AFC because he was captaining the offense.
Still, it isn't as pretty as what Peterson does, and since we've seen it before, it's going to lose votes. He's being punished as much for his big season as he is rewarded by it, which is a shame when you consider the gaudy numbers he put up after sitting out an entire year.
Who will win the 2013 NFL MVP award?
As unpopular as that sounds and likely will be with readers of this article, it's the truth. Manning is a perennial top-five QB, a future Hall of Famer and the case can be made that he is the best QB to ever suit up in league history.
Peterson put on a show this year, did it on a team with an at times non-existent offensive line and all-the-while knowing teams would put nine guys in the box on every possession.
Still, Manning has a case in the Comeback Player award, and he is the epitome of a most valuable player in the NFL—this season proved that.
Unfortunately, it isn't going to win him the 2013 NFL MVP award.