2013 NFL MVP Race: Final Ranking of the Top 10 Candidates
On top of setting a major single-season record (passing yards) for the second consecutive week, Manning helped his team clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
The Broncos quarterback is a lock for the MVP, but where does the rest of the field stand? Here are the final rankings for the 2013 NFL MVP Award.
All statistics courtesy of ESPN.
The best tight end in the game simply has a knack for finding the end zone. With an NFL-leading 16 receiving touchdowns, few non-quarterbacks have been as valuable to their teams as Graham has been for the New Orleans Saints.
Aside from his 16 TDs, Graham racked up 1,215 receiving yards, by far tops among NFL tight ends—Jordan Cameron was second with 917.
The leading receiver for Drew Brees, Graham is one of this year's most valuable players.
The best player on the AFC's best defense, Burfict led the NFL in tackles. The Bengals hardly missed a beat when Geno Atkins went down with an injury, because Burfict carried the defense.
There is little debate that the Cincinnati Bengals would not be in their current position without Burfict's ability to tackle anything that moves on the football field.
Forte would have been higher up this list had the Bears made the playoffs, but he still had a fantastic season. His 1,339 rushing yards ranked second in the NFL, and he also compiled 594 receiving yards.
It's also not Forte's fault that the Bears failed to reach the playoffs. He did all he could in Week 17, with 157 total yards and three touchdowns.
But when you have a defense like Chicago's, a running back can only do so much to help his team.
Sherman proved he is indeed the NFL's top defensive back, leading the league with eight interceptions. His 16 pass deflections also tied him for 14th in the NFL. The best player on the NFL's best defense, Sherman certainly backed up his trash talk by coming up big this year.
Of the NFL's elite wide receivers, only Green and Demaryius Thomas played on teams that qualified for the playoffs. Green ranks above Thomas because he carried the receiving corps on Cincinnati, while Thomas had help from a pair of other top receivers (Eric Decker, Wes Welker). Also, Green didn't have Peyton Manning throwing to him.
Ninety-eight catches, 1,426 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. That's what A.J. Green was able to accomplish in 2013, and he led his team into the playoffs. Not bad.
10. Luke Kuechly
The best defensive player in the NFL this year, Kuechly was the leader of the NFL's second-best defensive unit. (The Panthers trailed only the Seahawks in points and yards allowed.)
During the Panthers' run of 11 wins in 12 games, their defense allowed opponent to score more than 20 points only once. Kuechly was the biggest part of that success, racking up 156 tackles, including 118 during that 12-game span.
The Panthers linebacker also recorded four interceptions, a pair of sacks and seven pass deflections.
ESPN's David Newton argues that Kuechly should be the NFL MVP this year. While that might be a bit overzealous, he is at least the Defensive Player of the Year. For that, he earns a spot in the top 10.
9. LeSean McCoy
McCoy was the second-best running back in 2013 behind Jamaal Charles, but his MVP candidacy suffers for a couple of reasons.
First, he wasn't even the most valuable player on his own team; that honor belongs to Nick Foles (more on him later).
Secondly, McCoy was not particularly consistent. He failed to reach 80 rushing yards nine times, relying more on monster performances to compile his big rushing total. He also failed to find the end zone eight times.
With that being said, McCoy led the NFL in rushing yards. He also helped the Eagles make a late-season surge that propelled them into the playoffs. The combination of Foles and McCoy is scary for any defense in the playoffs.
8. Cam Newton
Newton might have received a lot of help from his defense this year, but his numbers still show he played a big part in the Panthers' finish as the NFC's second seed. On top of leading all quarterbacks in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, Newton had 24 passing touchdowns.
But Newton's value goes beyond his numbers. His ability to lead the Panthers on key scoring drives, like the one against the Saints in Week 16, was perhaps his most valuable asset.
Granted, many of those drives would not have been possible without the Panthers defense keeping the games close. But that's why Newton ranks eighth on this list. He wasn't the best quarterback in 2013, but he was one of the most valuable. And the Panthers, winners of 11 of their last 12 games, are headed to the playoffs.
7. Drew Brees
Brees put up another monster year statistically, and he led his team into the playoffs.
He would likely have finished as high as second in these rankings if he and the Saints hadn't faltered late in the season. Losses in three of four games, including to the Seahawks and Panthers, cost New Orleans its division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
But that shouldn't take away from Brees' incredible season.
He still led the Saints to an 11-5 record while passing for over 5,000 yards for the fourth time in his career. He also had five games with four or more touchdown passes, finishing with 39 total on the season. (Yes, only Peyton Manning had more.)
Brees' huge Week 17 performance (four passing touchdowns and a near-perfect 157.4 passer rating) means he will head into the playoffs with some momentum; the Saints' high-powered offense is not a fun matchup for any team in January.
6. Russell Wilson
Wilson had another strong performance in Week 17, completing 65.2 percent of his passes for a 102.1 rating. Most importantly, he helped the Seahawks lock up a first-round bye in the playoffs and secure home-field advantage.
The argument against Wilson's MVP candidacy centers around his team's defensive prowess, but that shouldn't take away from his fantastic numbers this year. He finished seventh in the NFL in passer rating, and three of the quarterbacks ahead of him didn't play for the entire season.
Wilson also finished fourth in passing yards per attempt and third among quarterbacks in rushing yards. His statistics, and his team's 13-3 record, earn Wilson a spot in the MVP rankings for 2013.
5. Tom Brady
The statistics aren't quite there for Brady, but the team record certainly is.
Brady actually had a decent shot at capturing the MVP after the Patriots beat the Broncos earlier this season. But a couple of lackluster performances by Brady and Manning's overall dominance to end the season snuffed out the New England quarterback's MVP chances.
That shouldn't take away from what Brady has done for his team, however. By now, everyone knows that he overcame the Patriots' below-average defense and a lack of established receivers to lead New England to a 12-4 record.
Now Brady can really prove his value in the playoffs. The road to the Super Bowl won't be easy, but at this point, it would be foolish to doubt Tom Brady.
4. Nick Foles
Ho hum. Foles led the Eagles to a victory with another spectacular performance in Week 17. Since taking over as Philadelphia's starting quarterback, Foles has a 9-2 record with just two games with a passer rating under 100.
He finishes the season with an NFL-best 119.2 passer rating to go along with an astounding 27 touchdown passes against only two interceptions.
For his consistency and the overall turnaround of the Eagles during his tenure behind center, Foles earns the fourth spot in the final rankings.
3. Jamaal Charles
Charles didn't play in Week 17. But his incredible play during the season's first 15 games led to his day off, so it shouldn't hurt his ranking. He moves down one spot only because of the play of the man ahead of him, not because he didn't suit up on Sunday.
There is little debating that Charles was the best running back in 2013. He led the NFL with 19 touchdowns (12 rushing, seven receiving), racked up 1,980 yards from scrimmage and proved to be his team's most reliable offensive weapon.
Charles' true test will come in the playoffs, but in the regular season, he was simply spectacular.
2. Philip Rivers
It's really quite amazing how far Philip Rivers has come since his struggles in 2011.
The San Diego Chargers quarterback skyrockets up the list due to his MVP-caliber performance in Week 17 that sent the Bolts into the playoffs. He led the Chargers on what proved to be a game-winning drive on the first possession of overtime, finishing with three touchdown passes and a 104.2 passer rating in the game.
That is as MVP-worthy of a performance as any, given that he was playing in a win-or-go-home type of game.
Rivers finishes the season fourth in touchdown passes, first in completion percentage, fifth in passing yards and fourth in passer rating. But most importantly, he led the Chargers to four straight wins to finish the season.
San Diego is a dangerous team in the playoffs, especially with Rivers at quarterback.
1. Peyton Manning
Aside from securing the top seed in the AFC, the biggest victory from Manning's Week 17 performance is likely ensuring that he will win the MVP unanimously. He had four touchdown passes by halftime and also set the single-season record for passing yards.
With 55 touchdown passes, 5,477 passing yards and a team record of 13-3, Manning is, easily, the 2013 NFL MVP.