I don't think that anybody has ever been more critical of Peyton Manning than myself. I have argued all season long that Manning should never have won MVP, but after going back, looking at the data and the games, and plenty of thought, I have decided that Manning deserved this MVP more than other candidates like Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Philip Rivers, and Chris Johnson. Here is the cause of my sudden revelation:
1. Manning is the most efficient and effective passer in the NFL: What I learned during my meditation was that Brees having an NFL record completion percentage, a higher yards per attempt, a lower interception percentage, and a quarterback rating ten points higher is completely irrelevant to determining which passer is the more efficient. Just think, only nine quarterbacks were able to exceed Manning's yards per attempt.
Manning also put himself in elite company with his ability to avoid throwing interceptions:
1. Jay Cutler 26 interceptions
T 2. Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford 20 interceptions
T 4. Jake Delhomme and Josh Freeman 18 interceptions
6. Matt Hasselback 17 interceptions
T 7 Peyton Manning and Matt Cassel 16 interceptions
As you can see, every quarterback on this list was in contention for a Pro Bowl berth this year, and Manning even had fewer interceptions than Mark Sanchez, Matthew Stafford, and Josh Freeman who all posted career lows in interceptions.
2. Manning had a limited receiving corps: What impressed me about Manning's season was how little his receivers were able to contribute to helping the team win. After all, his top two receivers had stats that looked like this:
Reggie Wayne: 100 catches, 1264 yards, 10 touchdowns
Dallas Clark: 100 catches, 1106 yards, 10 touchdowns
It is pretty typical for a quarterback to have two receivers surpass 100 catches, 1000 yards, and 10 touchdowns, which is made obvious by the fact that the Colts were the only team to do so. Imagine what would happen if he actually had multiple Pro Bowlers on the receiving end of his passes.
And naturally, the receivers of the Saints have always been a collection of elite targets, evidenced by the multitude of receivers that they had voted to the Pro Bowl this year.
3. Manning had to overcome a subpar defense to win: Man did I make a mistake in thinking that the Colts had a good defense. They are terrible, as evidenced by the fact that they are only eighth in the league in scoring defense. I was stupid to assume that a defense that keeps the score down is an asset to your team. Most people would prefer the Saints defense that's ranked 20th in points allowed, and that's a natural and reasonable preference.
4. Manning was faced with limited opportunities to produce: Manning only had the second most attempts in the NFL, so it becomes easy to see how players like Brees, Rivers, and Favre were given more opportunities to gather passing yards and touchdowns. Having 57 more passing attempts than Brees makes it readily apparent that Manning would have been leaps and bounds ahead of Brees given a more even number of opportunities.
As you can see, I have given up my efforts to put Brees on a higher tier than Manning, as it is immediately obvious that Manning had a better season. It's also obvious that Manning had a better year than Rivers, Favre, and Johnson, and is the league's most valuable player.