Peyton Manning is one step closer to adding to his own record with what would be his fifth regular-season Most Valuable Player award. At this point, he would win the award unanimously.
The rest of the ballot is completely up for debate. There's no obvious No. 2 player, and you could make the argument for up to two dozen players as top-10 candidates. As usual, these rankings are dominated by the most important position. Here's my top 10:
1. Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning is on pace to set single-season records for completions, completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns, interception percentage, passer rating and QBR. He's the best player on the best team in football. His Broncos are on pace to just obliterate the single-season record for points scored. At this point, Manning is a virtual lock to win the MVP award.
2. Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck won't win the MVP this season, but he may win it every year for the next decade. He's led the surprising Colts to a 4-1 record, tops in the AFC South. He's engineered victories over two of the NFC's powerhouses, the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.
Luck has thrown just two interceptions in five games this year. He ranks fourth in the league in QBR.
3. Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints
The Saints are a virtual lock for their fourth postseason appearance in the last five seasons. They could have the division clinched by late November. Home-field advantage is their biggest goal right now.
Brees has been his usual magnificent self, completing 69.4 percent of his passes for 12 touchdowns. He's fourth in the NFL in yards per attempt and passer rating, and he's third in QBR.
4. Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots
The Patriots are 4-1 this season even with a struggling offense. They're winning games because of a solid defense, but on offense, there's just one factor keeping this team together, and that's three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady.
5. Tony Romo, Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
Tony Romo made the worst possible mistake at the worst possible time against the Denver Broncos. In the 58 minutes before that, he played one of the best games of football a quarterback has ever played, throwing for more than 500 yards and leading Dallas to 48 points.
He's the football equivalent of a starting pitcher who pitches eight shutout innings and allows a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth of a scoreless affair.
This season, Romo has tossed 13 touchdowns against just two interceptions. His 71.8 percent completion percentage and 114.8 passer rating would be among the top single-season marks in NFL history.
6. Philip Rivers, Quarterback, San Diego Chargers
The Chargers have just two victories this season, but the career revival of Philip Rivers has been one of the top storylines in the NFL. He's completed 73.7 percent of his passes, with 13 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He's on pace for more than 5,000 passing yards, he boasts a 110.6 passer rating, and he's succeeded despite a mediocre receiving corps and a weak offensive line.
7. Jimmy Graham, Tight End, New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees' favorite weapon has established himself as the top tight end in the game. This season, he's hauled in 37 balls for 593 yards and six touchdowns. That puts him on pace for 118 catches, 1,898 yards and 19 touchdowns. I'm not sure there's ever been a receiver who had a year that dominant, let alone a tight end.
8. Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson isn't playing as well as he did last season. But that doesn't mean he's having a sophomore slump. Not even close. He's a top-10 quarterback in the game for a second straight year.
He's the biggest reason why Seattle is 4-1 and atop the NFC West. He's thrown for eight touchdowns while adding 233 rushing yards.
9. J.J. Watt, Defensive End, Houston Texans
J.J. Watt is on track to collect his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award. He rates as the best player in the entire NFL, just like last year, by Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Watt has collected 21 tackles, four sacks, eight hits and two batted passes. No player in the league is better against the run, and only Robert Quinn has a higher rating as a pass-rusher.
10. Justin Houston, Outside Linebacker, Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs sent four defensive players to the Pro Bowl last year. They might send even more this year, with outside linebacker Justin Houston playing the best of them all.
Houston has recorded 7.5 sacks and 17 hurries to go with 15 tackles and two batted passes. The Chiefs have a 5-0 record and have surrendered just 58 points, the lowest total in the NFL.
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