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NFL MVP 2013: Breaking Down Top Candidates for Prestigious Award

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 01:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos prepares to snap the ball during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 1, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Jesse ReedCorrespondent IDecember 11, 2013

Heading into Week 15, there's only one man worthy of winning the NFL's MVP Award for the 2013 season, and unless you've been living under a rock the past few months, you know who it is. 

It's Peyton Manning—in case you didn't know.

All other contenders for this honor are a distant second. 

However, with three games yet to be played, there's still time for the other top candidates to make a huge statement before the conclusion of the regular season.

Adrian Peterson rode a hot finish in 2012 to win the prestigious award over Manning, who was brilliant in his first season with the Broncos, leading Denver to a record of 13-3 while passing for 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns.

Here's a look at how the top players stack up for the NFL's MVP Award as the league heads into its final few weekends. 

 

1. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos

Manning's 2013 campaign will go down as the best in NFL history. 

Through 13 games, Denver's field general has put up jaw-dropping numbers, leading the league in passing (4,522 yards) and touchdown passes (45). Even better, his team is currently the top seed in the AFC with a record of 11-2.

Jan 12, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos tackle Ryan Clady (78) against the Baltimore Ravens during the AFC divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field.  Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

His brilliance has been on display all year long, despite the fact that he has been missing two-fifths of his offensive line. All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady was lost for the season with a foot injury in Week 2, and center Dan Koppen was lost for the year when he blew out his knee back in July. 

His leadership was on display when the Broncos powered through a brutal four-game stretch with a 3-1 record after a bye in Week 9, taking down the Kansas City Chiefs (twice) and San Diego Chargers, while losing to the New England Patriots in overtime.

Head coach John Fox was out for that stretch after he underwent heart surgery, yet the Broncos never missed a beat, thanks in large part to Manning's demand for excellence from his teammates.

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 10: Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos runs to the sideline during the game against the San Diego Chargers on November 10, 2013 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

His seven touchdown passes against Baltimore in Week 1 tied an NFL record, and he broke another one in Week 14, as detailed by ESPN Stats & Info:

He's likely going to shatter Tom Brady's record of 50 touchdown passes, too. He only needs six more in three games, and there have been only four games this year in which he has thrown fewer than three touchdown passes.

In all honesty, unless Manning completely falls apart in the final weeks, then this list begins and ends with him.

 

2. Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints come into Week 15 with a record of 10-3, which makes them the No. 2 seed in the NFC. The team's defense has been much improved under Rob Ryan, and Drew Brees has been brilliant, as he always is. 

However, the Saints would be nowhere without Jimmy Graham, who has scored more touchdowns (14) than any other non-quarterback in the NFL this season. Incredibly, he's scored two touchdowns in a game on five occasions—one more than his four games without a touchdown.

Furthermore, those 14 touchdowns represent 42.4 percent of Brees' total of 33 in 2013. Marques Colston and rookie Kenny Stills are tied for second place on the team with four touchdowns apiece. 

With three games left, it's hard to imagine Graham won't break Rob Gronkowski's record of 17 touchdowns, which he set back in 2011.

He's getting overshadowed by Manning's record-breaking season, but Graham's 2013 campaign is no less impressive.

 

3. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

Dec 8, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) leaps into the arms of center Ryan Wendell (62) after he threw the winning touchdown pass during the fourth quarter of New England's 27-26 win over the Cleveland Browns at G
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

You've got to throw the stats out the window when evaluating Tom Brady's season for the New England Patriots. 

If raw stats were all that mattered for the MVP award, then Brady wouldn't stand a chance compared to what Manning and Brees have done. For the record, he's passed for 3,685 yards with 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Battling through a constant string of injuries, Brady has found a way to triumph.

On offense, Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski, who was recently lost for the season (again) after suffering a horrible knee injury in Week 14 against the Cleveland Browns, have all missed extended time.

Making it even more challenging for Brady, the Patriots suffered devastating losses on defense, as well, with Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly suffering season-ending injuries.  

He's led the Patriots to a record of 10-3, despite all these challenges, but most impressively, he's led five fourth-quarter comebacks this year—a few of which were performed under miraculous circumstances. Most recently, Brady and the Patriots scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes and 39 seconds to win by one point.

The Patriots would be lost this season without the future Hall of Fame quarterback, which is a true measure of his immense value. 

 

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 17:  Quarterback Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles jogs off the field following the Eagles 24-16 win over the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field on November 17, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Dark-Horse Candidates

  • Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have become a dangerous playoff-caliber team since Foles took over as the permanent starter. He's thrown 20 touchdowns and just one interception, and the Eagles are in first place in the NFC East.
  • Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints: The league's second-hottest quarterback has been phenomenal this year, and the Saints are in great shape for a home playoff game as the NFC South leader.
  • Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks: Lynch embodies everything that makes Seattle great. He's the heart and soul of the NFC's No. 1-seeded Seahawks, and he's scored 12 hard-earned touchdowns this year.

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 

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