In a perfect world, the voting for the National Football League would include first, second, third, all the way down to 10th place. It doesn't, however. Voters can pick just one player in the entire league for their MVP, which means that some very talented players such as Matt Ryan and Eli Manning have never collected a single MVP vote.
Over the last decade, the MVP award should basically be renamed the Peyton Manning award, as the Denver Broncos star has collected five trophies since 2003, as well as 220 out of a possible 500 votes (44 percent).
Below are my picks for the top 10 MVP candidates this season, starting with a player I think has a chance to go down as the greatest player in the history of the sport. For the sake of this article, we're going to pretend that voters are allowed to vote for more than one player.
1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
No quarterback in the National Football League is more poised for a dominant season this year than Aaron Rodgers.
A broken collarbone cost Rodgers seven games in 2013, and he finished the season with just 2,536 passing yards and 17 touchdowns. Expect him to return to the form he displayed in 2011 and 2012, when he threw for a combined 84 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions.
He's my pick to collect his second MVP, as well as his second Super Bowl title. This is the year he becomes the unquestioned best quarterback in the league for at least the next half-decade.
2. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
I don't care about Andrew Luck's solid, but not great, statistics. I use the eye test for Luck, and the eye test tells me that he is quickly becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the game. After the Big Four (and I shouldn't have to identify the Big Four), he's the clear-cut fifth-best quarterback in the league.
Despite playing for a brutal team, Luck has led the Colts to consecutive 11-win seasons, which includes an otherworldly 16-2 record in one-score games. He's in line for a major breakout season as he enters his third season. It helps that he has easily his best set of receiving weapons since he joined the league.
If and when the Colts reach the postseason again this year, Luck will likely be the biggest, if not the only, reason why. After two years of winning games, but posting average stats, I'm expecting wins AND stats from Luck in 2014.
3. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
You can pretty much pencil Drew Brees in for 5,000 passing yards and 40 touchdowns every single season. That's about what I'm predicting this year. He lost Darren Sproles and Lance Moore, but he gained Brandin Cooks. He'll be fine.
A first-ballot Hall of Famer, Brees is quietly working his way up the all-time ranks. It'll be interesting to see if he can pass Brett Favre/Peyton Manning for No. 1 in the major statistical categories.
4. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
I'm not buying Tom Brady on the decline yet. He's 37 this season, but Peyton Manning just produced one of the best seasons by a quarterback in NFL history at the same age.
Brady won't ever throw for 50 touchdowns again, but he should be able to lead the Patriots to 13 wins, more than 500 points and another bye in the playoffs. If he can also throw 35 touchdowns, which is easily possible with a fully healthy Rob Gronkowski, he'll be an MVP candidate again.
5. Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos
Fifth in the regular-season MVP voting after one of the best seasons by a quarterback ever? Yes. Fifth is not exactly an insult, especially when you consider the ridiculous talent at the quarterback position these days.
Manning won't throw for close to 5,500 yards or 55 touchdowns again, and Denver is not going to score 600 points. But if the 38-year-old can stay healthy and throw for 4,500 yards and 40 touchdowns, he'll be in the running for his sixth MVP award.
Personally, I think Manning plays more like he did from 2005 to 2010, when he averaged 30 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 97.9 passer rating per year. That's still a terrific season, especially for a 38-year-old quarterback.
6. J.J. Watt, DE, Houston Texans
It's really not even fair that J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney get to play on the same football field, doing the same thing at the same time: rushing the passer.
Watt collected 20.5 sacks and 16 batted passes in 2012, and that was with average help, at best, on the other side of the field. How is he going to play with a once-in-a-generation talent like Clowney? It's going to be insane.
Defensive players don't typically win the MVP award. No player has since Lawrence Taylor in 1986. Sixth is about as high as you could expect for a defensive player.
7. Darrelle Revis, DB, New England Patriots
I'm really not sure why more people aren't talking about the best defensive back in the NFL teaming up with one of the best defensive coaches in the league. Darrelle Revis is going to be all over the field for the Patriots. He's a complete shutdown corner who is an absolute steal at his current contract.
8. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions
I'm not the biggest fan of Matthew Stafford as a quarterback. He's very inconsistent on a year-to-year basis, and he clearly needs top-quality weapons in the passing game to succeed.
Well this year, he has a ridiculous amount of talent to throw to. He has Reggie Bush and Joique Bell out of the backfield, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate at receiver and three tight ends in Brandon Pettigrew, Eric Ebron and Joseph Fauria.
I'm realistically expecting 4,500-5,000 passing yards from Stafford, with 30-35 touchdowns, similar to what he did in 2011.
9. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
After two seasons in a row out of the playoffs, the Steelers are my pick to win the AFC North in 2014. Their quietly consistent veteran quarterback should be the biggest reason why.
Roethlisberger puts up 4,000 yards and 25 passing touchdowns each season. With 11 wins, especially if a few are by the comeback variety, Big Ben should be a top-10 MVP finalist.
10. Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
I'm expecting a slight drop statistically from Russell Wilson. I don't expect the running game to be as dominant, especially with an aging Marshawn Lynch and an unproven Christine Michael, and the receiving corps lacks a proven No. 1 talent.
Wilson should still be able to lead Seattle to 11 or 12 wins and 25 or 30 combined touchdowns. That should rank him among the upper echelon of quarterbacks in the National Football League.
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