Although he hasn't been as unprecedentedly out-of-this-world productive over the last month as he was to start the season, Peyton Manning is still an absolute lock to win the NFL MVP in 2013.
Sure, Russell Wilson has been marvelous quarterbacking the 11-1 Seattle Seahawks, and he absolutely diced the New Orleans Saints to pieces in front of a national Monday Night Football audience in Week 13.
And yes, Nick Foles has thrown 19 touchdowns without an interception in his limited time as the Philadelphia Eagles starter. Oh, and Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson does have 1,299 receiving yards with 12 touchdown catches.
But no one's been better, and no one's been more valuable than Manning.
He's not "trending" like he once was in September, you know, when he completed 75 percent of his passes and threw 16 touchdowns without a pick in four games all while averaging 367.5 yards per outing.
That shouldn't matter, though.
After all, we probably should have realized Manning wasn't going to keep up the astronomical pace he set to start the year.
The funny thing is, while he's not going to throw 112 touchdowns or even 72 touchdowns—his pace after Weeks 1 and 2—he's still been MVP-caliber in his last four games:
|Peyton Manning's Last Four Games|
Although the completion percentage of just a shade above 61 isn't overly impressive, the rest of that projected stat line is MVP-worthy, no?
Then again, he did lose the only prime-time game he played over the past month and put up rather dreadful numbers, so the buzz he created early, unfortunately, died down.
Manning's perennial greatness has spoiled us, spoiled us to the point that he can lose ground in an MVP race during a four-game stretch in which he throws 12 touchdowns and two interceptions at over eight yards per attempt.
For perspective, Wilson has thrown nine touchdowns with two interceptions in his last four games and has completed 73 percent of his passes at a robust 10.44 yards per attempt.
However, he's attempted only 100 passes in that span compared to Manning's 147.
Either way, the MVP isn't an award given to the hottest player after Week 17. Let's keep that in mind.
Nothing against Wilson—he's been outstanding in his sophomore season—but he did go from Week 2 to Week 11 without a 300-yard passing game while Manning had only game below 300 yards passing over that time period.
Manning's still on pace to break Drew Brees' single-season passing-yard total and throw 55 touchdowns to only 12 picks.
Therefore, even if he slides off the pace, a 5,000-yard, 45-touchdown, 15-interception season is certainly not out of the question, and the Broncos are in line to earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. Among quarterbacks who've thrown at least 200 passes this year, Manning's 115.3 QB rating is the highest in the league.
But that shouldn't take anything away from what Manning's done.
Remember, too, Denver's defense isn't the elite group it was a season ago.
According to Football Outsiders, heading into Week 14, the Broncos defense is 17th in points allowed per drive, 18th in yards allowed per drive and 20th in touchdowns allowed per drive.
Manning basically had to be as good as he's been to keep his team ahead and get its win-loss record to 10-2.
Only six teams have surrendered more points per game than the Broncos (26.4) this year.
So, while a few sizzling MVP candidates may very well emerge as the 2013 regular season nears its conclusion, because of his entire body of work this year, Peyton Manning should still be a lock to win the NFL's most prestigious individual award.