Identifying the NFL's Non-Peyton Manning MVP

Andrew WatkinsCorrespondent IDecember 26, 2013

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 22:  Running back Jamaal Charles #25 of the Kansas City Chiefs carries the ball across the goal line for a touchdwon during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Arrowhead Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Ever since Peyton Manning shredded the Baltimore Ravens’ defense for seven touchdowns on opening night, there was little question as to who was the front-runner for the NFL’s MVP award for 2013.

On his way to an unprecedented fifth MVP award, Manning has posted perhaps his most impressive season yet. The 37-year-old set a single-season record with his 51st touchdown pass of the season last Sunday against the Houston Texans. And with a game left to play he’s 266 yards from breaking Drew Brees’ record for passing yards in a single season.

Manning’s failed to cross that threshold only once this year.

But suppose for a moment that Manning’s stellar 2013 was barred from contention. Maybe John Fox is caught with strategic information he shouldn’t have access to. Or perhaps Manning is tossed aside because the Broncos felt their title hopes were stronger with Tim Tebow at the helm.

Whatever the case, please join me in suspending disbelief for a moment and pondering who the 2013 NFL MVP should be were Manning’s remarkable year not in the running. One finds that the race becomes much more muddled.

Both Russell Wilson and Nick Foles have played with efficiency well beyond their years. And, of course, they’ve been aided greatly in doing so by the likes of Marshawn Lynch and LeSean McCoy, respectively.

In Cleveland, Josh Gordon has shown the makings of a perennial All-Pro while catching passes from the likes of Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden.

Meanwhile, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger are on the cusp of franchise-best seasons for the Steelers and have managed to make their Week 17 contest mean something in spite of an 0-4 start to the year.

All of these players have had superb years, but in this writer’s opinion, one player deserves MVP-type recognition ahead of them.

Jamaal Charles.

This year’s Chiefs have gained 5,064 offensive yards and Charles, the NFL’s second leading rusher, has accounted for nearly 40 percent (1,980 total yards) of them, easily the largest such total in the league.

The former Texas Longhorn leads Kansas City in rushing yards, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. In fact, with 19 scores, Charles has found pay dirt more than anyone else in the league this year.

As Andy Reid’s resume suggests, he has a penchant for pass-catching running backs. One need look no further than Brian Westbrook and the aforementioned McCoy for evidence of that.

Heading into his first year as the Chiefs’ head coach, many anticipated that Reid would try to get Charles more involved in the passing game. But few could’ve predicted the 70-catch explosion for a player who caught just half that many passes a season ago.

Of course, some would point to Charles’ spectacular Week 15 showing against the Oakland Raiders as a game that inflated his stats. And they’d be right to do so.

In the contest, Charles piled up 195 receiving yards and scored five total touchdowns (four receiving). But like with Manning’s Week 1, it’s tough to fault a player too much for flat-out dominating an opponent.

Perhaps the best evidence of Charles’ value to the Chiefs is the chatter that he should get more touches. In spite of the fact that Charles ranks in the top 30 in both carries (ninth) and catches (29th), fans and analysts alike recognize that the Chiefs’ best chance to win lies in his hands.

And that’s just it, without Charles incredible season, there’s no way the Chiefs would’ve been able to more than quintuple their win total from a season ago.