By now you’re well aware that Michael Vick put up godlike numbers Monday in a rout of the Washington Redskins. As the Eagles soar over the competition and continue to stay afloat in the heated NFC playoff race, several pundits are clamoring for Vick to earn Most Valuable Player consideration.
And while his stats and play are extraordinary, I humbly beg to differ.
In fact, I’d submit 10 other NFL stars who are staking their claim for the MVP nod, each of whom has a uniquely different road to getting there. Vick is a fantasy stud and absolute go-to playmaker, but is he enough to overwhelm the attack of Peyton Manning? Or the yards of Philip Rivers? Or the tackling of Clay Matthews?
Let’s take a look at the other top stars who have seven games left to stake their respective claims as the NFL’s most valuable player.
Yes. Jay Cutler. Now here me out on this one before you jump to the logical conclusion that I have, in fact, ingested an entire bag of mushrooms.
The Bears are 6-3 this season, and Cutler has played in all but one of those games. In his five victories this season, Cutler has thrown for 1,295 yards (259 yards per game) with 11 touchdowns and only four interceptions. His quarterback rating was, on average, a 102.5 rating.
In his three losses, Cutler has thrown for 613 yards (206.5 yards per game) with just one touchdown and five interceptions. His quarterback rating was, on average, a 54.8 rating.
Yes, Chicago handily won the only game Cutler didn't play in, but since it was against the lowly Carolina Panthers—we aren't very surprised.
In short, when Cutler is on his game, the Bears win and survive in a very competitive NFC. When he's off, the Bears don't stand a chance. I'd say that pretty much defines what an MVP is.
Yes, the Texans are 4-5 and coach Gary Kubiak could be looking for a new home by season's end. But all that said, the Texans are still in the playoff hunt in the AFC and can thank the contributions from their stellar running back for such standing.
In years past, the Texans have relied on the Matt Schaub-Andre Johnson connection to get the job done week-to-week. But from the opening snap of the 2010 season, a new hero has emerged to take the reigns for the last expansion team.
Foster is an absolute beast this year. His 920 yards and 10 touchdowns are tops in the running back category thus far, and he's only fumbled the ball once this season, helping Houston fans forget about the lumbering Steve Slaton.
Foster has even proven to be a steady wide receiver option, catching more than 30 passes with a score to his credit. He's rushing for 5.3 yards per carry and looks primed to be the rushing champion in 2010. Still, if the team could be 4-5 without him, questions arise about whether or not he can fill the quota needed for an MVP.
I'd say his chance are far better if the Texans punch their first playoff ticket.
He's the center of NFL debating nearly every week, but most of the time, it isn't for his MVP abilities. Rather, the controversial linebacker has become the NFL's most notorious hitter, finding a way to be scrutinized for any tackle that appears to be leading with a helmet on his target.
James Harrison isn't necessarily a bad guy or a dirty player. Actually, he's a tough, bone-crushing tackler that plays old school football and makes huge stops for the Pittsburgh defense.
On a team ripe with defensive standouts, Harrison is the best of all elements defenders possess. He's got 64 tackles through the year with seven sacks, four forced fumbles and an interception. In a league where linebackers are becoming more versatile defenders—Harrison is leading the charge with no mercy.
If only he can keep off the NFL's fined or suspended list, he'll be a marvelous choice for the honors by the end of the year.
The day Peyton Manning becomes ineffective is the day football stops being fun for Indianapolis. The Colts are once again standing atop the AFC South at 6-3, but they wouldn't even be competitive if it weren't for Manning under center.
Since the first day of the season, Peyton has had to make applesauce from apples when he lost nearly his entire supporting cast of starters. A fully healthy Indy team is still miles away from coming to fruition, so in the meantime, Manning has time and again created new targets on the field and appears to be putting his name in the hat for best quarterback of all time.
Look at the numbers. 2,663 yards, 16 touchdowns, just four interceptions. Seems typical, but with a depleted roster, it is amazing.
Manning has completed passes to 13 different players this season, with touchdown passes to six of them.
Each week, he seems to find a new favorite receiver that he targets mercilessly. From Austin Collie to Jacob Tamme, it doesn't matter who suits up for the Colts. As long as Peyton is throwing the ball, they're going to be targeted and get plenty of opportunity to score.
With all the talk about the explosive Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense, perhaps it is Clay Matthews that simply doesn't get enough credit. Truth be told, this USC linebacker is more than just a great defender—he's an absolute animal.
Matthews leads the NFL with 10.5 sacks this year, already eclipsing his mark of 10 last season. He's recorded just over 30 tackles and even managed to get himself a pick six a week ago, much to the chagrin of the Dallas Cowboys.
What separates Matthews from his competition right now is a ferocity and explosive nature that can terrify any QB under center. He always seems to be in on the blitz, finding the holes and speeding past the offensive line to make plays. He's amongst the league's best when it comes to tackling for a loss of yards and is right there to pressure the quarterback every down.
Just imagine how much more he could accomplish had not he missed a game which, coincidentally, the Packers lost. Just saying.
105 tackles. That's an impressive mark to end the season with for anyone playing defense at the NFL level. But 105 tackles after just nine games? That's downright beastly.
Mayo has 17 more tackles than any other NFL player this season, a figure that is pivotal in New England's defense, which currently ranks 30th in pass defense. So despite the poor execution of the Pats' overall defense, Mayo seems to right the ship and keep the team from sinking.
Look at his numbers in the past six weeks, in which Mayo is averaging 13 tackles per game. I'm not saying he's the greatest defender, but on this defense, he certainly is the only one who seems to be all over the field all of the time.
Just for a second, assume that the San Diego Chargers didn't have Philip Rivers behind the offensive line. The 4-5 underachievers would likely find themselves burrowing down around 1-8 had not it been for Rivers, who has emerged as the NFL's deadliest offensive weapon.
With a plethora of receivers whose names were likely drawn out of a scrabble bag, Rivers is turning in elite level performances each and every week. At the beginning of the season, with discussions of Manning, Rodgers, and Brees as the top three in the NFL—Rivers has proven he may outrank all of them.
The record for passing yards in a single season is 5,084, a record that still belongs to Dan Marino from way back in 1984. Rivers is on pace to sit out a game and still eclipse that mark 26 years later. And on a game-to-game basis, it is hard to point out a single performance that Rivers had that was unremarkable.
I suppose his worst affair of the year was a 20-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams, where Rivers only threw for 249 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. More than 60 percent of the NFL's quarterbacks would struggle to produce that on their best day.
Speaking of San Diego, do you think the Chargers miss LaDainian Tomlinson? He may have looked burnt out and tired in his final few seasons for the Bolts, but just one half season in New York has erased all doubt that LT is back to form.
Tomlinson is a surefire Hall-of-Famer. But that doesn't factor in to his current statistics and play, which are the biggest reason that the Jets offense can fire on all cylinders.
Tomlinson took over as the lead back early on in the season, returning to feature back form with a 4.7 yards per carry average and a minimum of 50 yards per game. In fact, as a flex option, Tomlinson is easily one of the top running backs in the history of the NFL. If he isn't rushing the ball in on the goal line or breaking tackles, LT is catching the football on draws, screens and even broken plays.
His 36 catches are the most among running backs in the AFC. By the end of the year, Tomlinson could have 14,000 career rush yards with 150 career rush TD's. Add into that 600 catches and the potential for his first Super Bowl ring, and redemption for LT isn't far out of reach.
You can learn a lot from playing on the same field with Michael Strahan. For Osi Umenyiora, this season is just another example of how deadly and dangerous the defensive end can be at any time on the field.
Forget about the 26 tackles, nine sacks, and marvelous seven forced fumbles. Just look at how many bone-jarring, back-breaking hits Umenyiora puts on the opposing team's players. Lost amongst these stats are the cold hard facts of nearly a half-dozen quarterbacks left laying after Umenyiora and Big Blue have had their way with them.
All he needs now is a fluke interception return to round out an already devastating season.
Simply put, Roddy White is money in the bank. His connection this season with starting QB Matt Ryan has been at the center of the Atlanta Falcons' NFC dominance, and with very, very good reason.
White is the superior wideout in the Atlanta system and is the favorite target of Matty Ice. His 70 receptions? League lead. 934 yards? Second only to Denver's Brandon Lloyd. Seven touchdowns? Tied for fifth in the league.
And Ryan rarely misses White when he's targeted. White is among the league's leaders yet again in targets, but his nearly 70 percent success rate with catches are a testament to his ability to fight off tacklers and defenders to make plays. Throw to him on first, second, third, or even fourth down.
White WILL get open.