Peyton Manning is trying to run away with the MVP race this season. On Sunday, he thrashed the Tennessee Titans with a 397-yard, four-touchdown performance in a 51-28 rout. The Denver Broncos are 11-2 and seemingly in control of the AFC.
No player is more responsible for that success than Manning. He had an amazing year for the Broncos in 2012 but didn't win the award. This year, things could be different. There is no magical, injury-recovery season from Adrian Peterson to contend with. Aaron Rodgers has gone down with an injury that may very well have ended his season weeks ago.
Even with those two very formidable challengers absent from the MVP mix this season, Manning still does have a couple of serious challengers.
Stats are just one part of the equation, but it is usually one of the first things we look at when determining which candidates are worthy.
Every player with a realistic shot has gaudy numbers, but here's the one stat for each that sticks out the most.
Sure Manning's 4,522 yards and 45 touchdown passes through 13 games are impressive, but that's nothing compared to his ability to take care of the football. Despite having thrown 539 passes so far this season, Manning has been picked off just nine times. That's an amazingly low interception percentage of 1.7, per pro-football-reference.com.
Seven games with 100 or more receiving yards isn't normally that big of a deal, but when you consider the fact that every team in the NFL knows Megatron is coming, and they still cannot stop him, it becomes even more impressive.
Aside from his Madden-on-rookie-level, 329-yard performance Oct. 27 against the Dallas Cowboys, Calvin Johnson has had five other games with a touchdown, over 100 receiving yards and a yards-per-catch average over 16.
He is everything to a Lions team that is clinging to first place in the NFC North.
Manning has the more impressive stats, but Tom Brady would be my choice as MVP. Don't get me wrong, 3,685 passing yards and 21 touchdowns through 13 games is nothing to sneeze. However, Manning is set to challenge or break Brady's single-season records for touchdown passes.
Still, the fact that the New England Patriots are 10-3 despite injuries and player personnel changes on the offensive side of the ball is most amazing.
The constant—besides a really good offensive line—is Brady. He completed his fifth come-from-behind victory on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns and out-dueled Manning in their head-to-head matchup.
He's had better years statistically, but none have been more impressive from a leadership standpoint and as a stabilizing force.