The 2009 NFL season has been nothing short of phenomenal so far. For the first time ever, two clubs have made it to 12-0 in the same season. A 40-year-old quarterback is guiding the best team in the NFC North. And the race for NFL MVP is a very tight one.
Or is it?
There's no shortage of names when it comes to players having MVP-like seasons. Quarterbacks Drew Brees and Brett Favre are having stellar seasons. Chris Johnson is threatening to become the next 2,000-yard running back. Jared Allen and Charles Woodson are making play after play for their respective defenses.
However, no one deserves the MVP more than Peyton Manning, and there are a few compelling reasons why.
MVP, of course, stands for Most Valuable Player. When choosing a winner for this award, you have to think about which player has the most to do with his team's success.
In a year dominated by impressive passing statistics, it's probably safe to assume that a quarterback will take home the MVP hardware. Looking at the top three quarterbacks, which one is most instrumental to his team's winning ways?
A popular choice is Brett Favre. Favre has led the Vikings to an impressive 10-2 record. It's easy to see why Favre is considered a messiah to some, but he hasn't exactly turned around a team that was in the dumps last year.
The 2008 Vikings were a very solid 10-6 team. They have one of the league's best defenses. Their one-two running back tandem of Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor has produced nearly 1,400 yards rushing and 70 catches.
Favre was brought in to win a championship. Without him, they are still a playoff team. Of the three main MVP candidates, Favre has the best supporting cast. That is a huge knock against him for winning the MVP.
The argument for Brees' worth is a little stronger. If any quarterback is playing on the same level as Manning, it would be Brees. Both have had games where their arm has single-handedly been the difference between a win and a loss.
But don't think the Saints are devoid of talent beyond Brees.
Nineteen different players have scored touchdowns for the Saints this year. Despite not having a single rusher above 700 yards, the Saints have the league's fifth best rushing attack.
The Saints are loaded with talent. Last year's leading receiver, Lance Moore, has just 13 catches this year. Seven different receivers have at least 20 catches.
Brees hasn't had to be the savior every week. The Saints have won four games this year in which Brees has passed for under 230 yards.
Manning hasn't passed for under 230 yards all season.
Manning is leading the league in pass attempts. While the Vikings and the Saints enjoy productive running games, Manning's Colts are ranked dead last in the league in ground-gained yardage. Joseph Addai is having a productive year but runs simply to keep defenses honest.
The Colts have over 200 more pass attempts than rush attempts. The Saints have fewer than 20 more.
Manning is the Colts' offense. What makes the Colts' 12-0 record even more impressive is the leeway Manning has in running the show, with his ability to choose from multiple plays when approaching the line of scrimmage.
If nothing else, Manning's worth to the Colts was paid the ultimate respect when New England's Bill Belichick decided to go for it on fourth down deep in his own territory. If Belichick, one of the greatest defensive coaches ever, is scared of giving the ball back to Manning, what exactly does that say about Manning's value?
Quite a lot.
The Saints are the feel-good story of the 2009 season. While the Colts have started with the same record, little has been said about their accomplishment. Many have almost taken it for granted that the Colts perform well with Manning.
Manning has never played better in his career. After coming off a major knee surgery and limping to a 3-4 start in 2008, Manning and the Colts have since won 21 straight regular season games, tied for the NFL record. A win over Denver will place the Colts in NFL history. Manning is the backbone of this record-setting run.
The start of this run earned Manning the 2008 MVP. As long as the winning streak continues, Manning should win another MVP this year.