NFL MVP Race 2013: Peyton Manning and Top Contenders for League's Highest Honor

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NFL MVP Race 2013: Peyton Manning and Top Contenders for League's Highest Honor
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Let's be honest.  When it comes to the NFL MVP award, Peyton Manning is the clear favorite.  But there are other contenders that are certainly deserving of the league's most prestigious prize.

The regular season is nearly over, and teams are beginning to clinch playoffs spots as well as division titles.  However, there are others teams that have yet to guarantee a postseason berth, making every minute count.

Let's take a look at a few top-tier candidates for the 2013 MVP award, break them down and explain just what makes them the best players in the league.

Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Somehow, at 37 years old, Manning just keeps finding ways to get better, and he's having the best season of his career in 2013.

Heading into Week 16 with 47 passing touchdowns this season, Manning threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns against the Houston Texans.  That gave him the NFL record for the most passing touchdowns in a season, and the league's official Twitter account provided a video of the play.

No quarterback has ever had a season like Manning has had.  With just one game left, he's already thrown for 5,211 yards, 51 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.

Manning has helped lead his team to an impressive 12-3 record, and the Denver Broncos have already clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs.  With how much the rest of the AFC has struggled this year, they're the clear favorites to represent the conference in the Super Bowl, and Manning is a big reason for that.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs

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The AFC West has two of the top MVP candidates, and the other has got to be Jamaal Charles.

As a runner, the numbers are impressive enough for Charles.  He went off for 106 yards and a touchdown in the loss to the Indianapolis Colts, giving him 1,287 yards and 12 scores on the ground this season.  But what's been even more impressive has been his production in the passing game with 70 receptions for 693 yards and seven touchdowns.

That's 1,980 total yards along with 19 total touchdowns, and he still has a game left to go.

Just two years ago, Charles had to miss almost the entire 2011 season with an ACL injury, and when he came back last year, the team went just 2-14.  Now, he's having the best season of his career, and his team has already clinched a playoff berth.

It's a quarterback-driven league, but Charles is more important to the Kansas City Chiefs than anyone else on that team.

Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks

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There are so many quarterbacks that are so valuable to their respective teams, but there's just something different about Russell Wilson on the Seattle Seahawks.

From a numbers perspective, Wilson is great but not the best in the league.  He's thrown for 3,185 yards, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season, adding another 540 yards and a score on the ground.

But what the numbers don't show are the big plays Wilson makes time and time again.  He's able to step up when the team needs him to, and he can make some truly beautiful throws.  Pro Football Focus (subscription required) has Wilson as the fourth-best overall quarterback in the league behind Manning, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers.

He's only in his second year in the NFL, but Wilson is playing like a true MVP candidate, and he should be in the running for the award over the next five years and beyond.

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