NFL MVP Race 2013: Peyton Manning's Top Competitors for Prestigious Award

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistDecember 29, 2013

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 12:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos congratulates quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers after a 27-20 loss to the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on December 12, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Peyton Manning is going to win the 2013 NFL MVP award, and it's not going to be close. 

Sorry for taking the fun out of bickering over who deserves the honor, but this year presents us with a no-brainer. Unless you're's Tom E. Curran, you know the dude with 51 passing touchdowns and more than 5,000 passing yards will win his fifth MVP trophy.

But we can still argue about who else deserves praise. Take out Manning, and the debate would get awfully heated.

Does Russell Wilson deserve recognition for his efforts in the Seattle Seahawks' successful, but run-heavy offense? What about a guy like Philip Rivers with better numbers on a worse team?

Don't forget that players outside of quarterback exist. Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy have carried their offenses while most of the league operates mainly through the air.

With apologies to Luke Kuechly, Robert Quinn, Vontaze Burfict and Richard Sherman, defensive players don't get much love. Sorry, but let's at least give some other offensive players some praise.


QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 22:  Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers looks on from the sidelines against the Oakland Raiders on December 22, 2013 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

After Manning, no quarterback has played better than Rivers this year.'s Gregg Rosenthal agrees, but Wilson (as well as Cam Newton and Tom Brady) frequently pops up earlier in MVP rankings.

In reality, there's a better chance of a Republican presidential nominee winning California while the Democrat takes Texas than Rivers receiving significant MVP votes. The MVP is an award bestowed to an individual, yet it is oddly evaluated by team performance. Since the numbers are close enough between Wilson and Rivers, the one on the better team gets the insurmountable edge.

But what does the Seattle Seahawks having a better defense and running back have to do with Wilson's individual play? Considering how tough the NFC West is this year, perhaps the Seahawks don't make the playoffs with a replacement-level quarterback. Without Rivers, the Chargers would struggle to win a game.

Rivers leads the league with a 69.4 completion percentage, and those are not just dinks and dunks beefing up that rate. His 8.32 yards per attempt rate is better than Manning's 8.26 clip.

His 29 passing touchdowns are great by non-Manning standards, and he ranks third with 4,249 passing yards. Rivers does not play for an amazing team, but he has played spectacular football.


RB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

Jamaal Charles is the entire Kansas City Chiefs offense.

Alex Smith does what is asked of him, which boils down to protecting the football by completing short, safe passes. But his 3,313 passing yards are child's play in this NFL model.

Charles won't beat out McCoy for the rushing title, but he has compiled 1,980 total yards. In fact, Charles leads the team in receptions (70), receiving yards (693) and receiving touchdowns (7).

The dynamic back has accounted for 37.5 percent of the offense, so nobody can say the back isn't involved enough to be taken seriously as an MVP candidate. Unfortunately, there's that Manning guy, so we can't take him that seriously as a viable MVP candidate. 

If it's any consolation, his 19 touchdowns make him the clear fantasy football MVP. Let's just hope his owners all played their championship in Week 16, because the Chiefs are locked in to the fifth seed entering their final game.


RB LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 22:  LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles carries the ball with pressure from David Bass #91 of the Chicago Bears during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on December 22, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

It just didn't seem fair to sprinkle Charles with kind words and say nothing about McCoy's spectacular season.

The only real difference in their numbers is the touchdowns, an incredibly fickle rate that says more about Kansas City's lack of alternatives to Charles than McCoy. A dozen scores is hardly anything to scoff at either.

Otherwise, their production is even, with McCoy getting some slight edges. He averages 0.1 yard more for carry and has gained 32 more all-purpose yards this season. McCoy has a better offense surrounding him, but he has nonetheless generated identical outputs for his squad.

If that seems trivial now, consider that he plays the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL's worst defense, with the NFC East on the line to close out the season. He'll gain some ground on the possibly idle Charles, making the Most Valuable Running Back discussion very interesting.

As for now, let's take the cowardly route and say they're both amazing.