Tom Brady Leads NFL MVP Race in Week 12: Ranking the Top 5 Candidates

Chuck SteakContributor INovember 23, 2010

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 21: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts with teammate Dan Koppen #67 of the New England Patriots after a touchdown in the first half at Gillette Stadium on November 21, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Eleven weeks into an unpredictable NFL season, the MVP race is really starting to heat up.

Like most years, this is a race dominated by quarterbacks, and while the leading candidates remain the same, the shuffle amongst them continues.

Here's where they sit this week.


1. Tom Brady - QB - New England Patriots

Brady has thrown for 2,362 yards and 19 touchdowns while completing 65 percent of his passes, accumulating a passer rating of 100.6 so far this season. He has the Patriots boasting the best record (tied) in the NFL at 8-2.

Brady has outdueled other MVP candidates Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, beating the Chargers in San Diego in Week 7 and the Colts at home in Foxboro just this weekend. In games against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, two of the league's best defenses, he managed two more wins.

Despite the highly publicized departure of Randy Moss, leaving New England with a middle of the road receiving corps, the Patriots have continued on their road to success nobly. Undrafted journeyman Danny Woodhead is the head of their committee of running backs.

The major blemishes on Brady's MVP résumé are the two interceptions in the loss at the Jets and the baffling loss to Cleveland, where he struggled with completing passes. His totals aren't quite as high as the other candidates either.

Bottom line: Brady has taken one of the more mediocre offenses he has played with and still managed great numbers and beaten other top NFL teams, and there are few things you can count against him.


2. Matt Ryan - QB - Atlanta Falcons

Ryan has thrown for 2,518 yards and 18 touchdowns and has completed 63 percent of his passes, all of that adding up to a 92.1 passer rating. This is the lowest passer rating of the five top contenders, but like Brady he boasts the best record (tied) in the NFL at 8-2, putting the Falcons atop the NFC.

Ryan and Atlanta's only two losses came in road games against the Eagles and the Steelers, two of the league's tougher teams. They had an impressive win going into New Orleans to beat the defending Super Bowl champions and impressive home wins against the Buccaneers and the Ravens.

Ryan is close to having the most talent around him of anyone on this list, including Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner.

White was in consideration for this top five list, and while he didn't make it he's in the top 10 for sure giving Ryan a top notch go-to target. Turner wears down defenses with his bruising style and helps the Falcons set up an excellent play action pass. This talent helps, but Ryan is still the one delivering the ball.

Ryan's only downside is that both losses were some of the few games that he threw inceptions in. Also, his stats don't quite match up with the likes of Rivers or Manning.

Bottom line: Ryan has led the talented offense around him to the top spot in the NFC, but mistakes in what could have been two huge wins might count against him.


3. Philip Rivers - QB - San Diego Chargers

By the numbers, Rivers is having the best season with 3,177 yards, 23 touchdowns and a 65 percent completion rate for a combined passer rating of 105.0. At this pace, Rivers is on track to break Dan Marino's record for passing yards in a single season, set back in 1984.

Like most years, Rivers and the Chargers have been excellent at home, losing just one game this season there, to New England. Their most impressive win came against the now 6-4 Jaguars in Week 2 at home, which is not an exceptional win. However, mistakes on special teams have cost San Diego a lot of their games, and their losses don't necessarily reflect Rivers' play.

No one deserves more praise for making the best with what they have than Philip Rivers this season. This is the first season without L.T., Vincent Jackson is yet to make it on the field this season and Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd have been sidelined with injuries. Despite missing all of those players, Rivers used players like Seyi Ajirotutu and Randy McMichael to still pump out offense.

Rivers has two major blemishes: interceptions and losses. Rivers has thrown an interception in seven different games this year for a total of nine. He is 5-5 this year, losing games on the road to subpar teams like St. Louis and Seattle, as well as losing to division opponents Kansas City and Oakland.

Bottom line: Rivers is having an exceptional, possibly record-breaking year by making the best of the players put around him, but interceptions and losses hurt him.


4. Peyton Manning - QB - Indianapolis Colts

In pursuit of a fifth MVP, Manning has thrown for 3,059 yards and 20 touchdowns and completed 65 percent of his passes, accumulating a passer rating of 94.2 so far. The Colts are struggling more than usual this year, at 6-4 and second in the AFC South.

Manning and the Colts' best win was their dissection of the Giants in Week 2, followed by a Week 5 win against Kansas City. Indy is undefeated at home this year as well.

However, losses at divisional opponents Jacksonville and Houston make up two of their four losses, while the other two come from losses at Philadelphia and New England. Those are tough teams to beat for the road on the most part, and he has had success at home against some good teams.

The Colts offense has been plagued with injuries, most notable the loss of Dallas Clark at tight end and most of the running back corps. Manning's done well making the best out of Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon and Jacob Tamme, but he has still has Reggie Wayne at his disposal too.

Manning's big downsides are the losses and the fact that six of his seven interceptions were in losses decided by a field goal or less. However, while he may be the reason for those losses, he is the main reason the team is in them in the first place.

Bottom line: Riddled with injuries and having a down year by his standards, Manning still has the level of play that makes him a candidate, but the mistakes against other good teams have lost the team games.


5. Michael Vick - QB - Philadelphia Eagles

In limited time Vick has only managed 1,608 yards, 11 touchdowns and a 63 percent completion rate but owns a 108.7 passer rating. His ground contributions are also noteworthy: 375 yards and five touchdowns. The Eagles are 5-2 when he's played and are atop the NFC East, and he holds the best individual performance of the year with the prime time performance against Washington.

Some impressive wins on his résumé include the Colts, Giants and Jaguars. In the losses against Green Bay and Washington he wasn't able to stay on the field the entire game, which is the chief reason they lost those games in most people's opinions. The Eagles did beat the Falcons too, but Kevin Kolb won that game.

It's between Vick and Ryan for the best supporting casts. Vick has a huge weapon in the dangerous DeSean Jackson and another good target in Jeremy Maclin. LeSean McCoy provides a good punch between the tackles, but Vick shares duties in running the ball. He is yet to throw a pick, which accounts for the high passer rating.

Vick's big downside is his overall lack of production. Even if you include his rushing stats, he still has the fewest yards, touchdowns and wins and lowest completion rate of all the contenders on this list.

Bottom line: Vick has been great, but only when he can manage to stay on the field, so the overall lack of production and wins land him on the bottom of the list.


This is how it breaks down this week, but with the way the league has been so far, you can expect it to be completely different next week.