2010 NFL MVP Race: Looking at Who Has the Early Lead

Dmitriy Ioselevich@dioselevSenior Analyst IIINovember 30, 2010

2010 NFL MVP Race: Looking at Who Has the Early Lead

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    INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 15:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts greets Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots after the game at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 15, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The Colts won the game 35-34.  (Phot
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    With only five weeks left in the regular season, it's time to take a look at which player might have the early edge for 2010 NFL MVP.

    Unlike most years where the award would go to either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, this year's race is wide open. Several players are having outstanding seasons. Some of them are former MVP winners who are used to being in this conversation. Some of them are young stars getting their first taste of fame. And some of them are former superstars who have just returned to the spotlight.

    Without further ado, here is how the the MVP candidates would rank if the season ended today.

Honorable Mention

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 21:  Arian Foster #23 of the Houston Texans runs the ball against the New York Jets on November 21, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Arian Foster - He leads the NFL in rushing with 1,147 yards and 12 touchdowns, to go on top of 453 yards receiving. He's the only running back in the league who averages over 100 yards/game (104.3). But the Houston Texans are only 5-6 and headed no where. You have to at least make the playoffs to be considered for this award.

    Jamaal Charles - The Chiefs running back is second in the NFL with 1,021 yards rushing, but he only has three touchdowns. He's also only topped 100 yards twice this season. But the Chiefs look good at 7-4 and have an easy schedule ahead of them. If Charles can finish strong he may have a chance.

    Roddy White - Leads the NFL in receptions (84), is second in receiving yards (1,066) and has seven touchdowns. The Falcons are 9-2 and White has a chance to go off the next three weeks against Tampa Bay, Carolina and Seattle. If he finishes with 1,600 yards and at least three touchdowns, he should get some votes.

    Defensive Players - It's just too difficult for a defensive player to get recognition for the MVP award. That's why we have a Defensive Player of the Year award. The leading candidates for that one are Green Bay's Clay Matthews (11.5 sacks) and Pittsburgh's James Harrison (10 sacks, 6 forced fumbles).

    Matt Ryan/Drew Brees/Eli Manning - With so many quarterbacks having great seasons there's just no room for these three, even though Brees and Manning are tied for the league lead in touchdowns at 23 apiece, and Ryan is the leader of the NFC's best team.

5. Aaron Rodgers

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    MINNEAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 21:  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers throws against the Minnesota Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on November 21, 2010 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Green Bay Packers: 7-4

    Rodgers has finally joined the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks with an outstanding season. He's thrown for 2,945 yards and has a 65.0 completion percentage. He's thrown 20 touchdowns to only nine interceptions in leading a Packers offense that is eighth in the league in scoring at 24.5 points per game. 

    Rodgers also has 245 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground.

    If the Packers can win the division, look for Rodgers to leap frog a couple of names on this list and finish at least in the top three.

4. Peyton Manning

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    INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 28:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts throws a pass during the NFL game against the San Diego Chargers at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Indianapolis Colts: 6-5

    It wouldn't be an MVP race without Peyton Manning. The Colts quarterback has been his usual sensational self, throwing for 3,344 yards (third in the league) and 22 touchdowns (fifth in the league) at a 65.2 completion percentage (sixth in the league).

    His performance becomes even more impressive when considering that he's been at the helm of the NFL's No. 1 ranked passing offense despite playing parts of the season without TE Dallas Clark, RB Joseph Addai and WR Anthony Gonzalez. Somehow, the Colts are still fifth in the league in scoring at 25.6 points per game.

    Manning didn't do himself any favors by throwing four interceptions last week against San Diego, bringing his season total to 11. But as long as he's starting he'll stay in this conversation.

3. Philip Rivers

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    INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 28:  Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers throws a pass during the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    San Diego Chargers: 6-5

    Like Manning, Rivers has had to compete this season without some of his favorite weapons—mainly WR Vincent Jackson. Still, that hasn't stopped the seventh-year quarterback from having one of his best seasons as a professional.

    Rivers has thrown for 3,362 yards (second in the NFL), 23 touchdowns (tied for first in the NFL) and only nine interceptions. His 66.2 completion percentage is sixth in the league and his 104.9 QB rating is third. The Chargers meanwhile, are tied for second in the NFL in scoring at 28.2 points per game.

    Plus, with a favorable schedule left against Oakland, Kansas City, San Francisco, Cincinnati and Denver, Rivers could approach 5,000 yards passing and 35 touchdowns, numbers unheard of since Drew Brees in 2008. 

2. Michael Vick

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    CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 28: Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs against the Chicago Bears as teammate Jason Peters #71 trails the play at Soldier Field on November 28, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Eagles 31-26. (Photo by Jonath
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Philadelphia Eagles: 7-4

    Vick's numbers aren't that jaw-dropping at first glance. His 1,941 passing yards put him behind guys like Derek Anderson and Shaun Hill. His 13 passing touchdowns are less than David Garrard and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

    But then you remember that Vick missed three weeks and wasn't even a full-time starter until Week 2. Then you look at Vick's other numbers and realize just how good he's been.

    He leads the NFL in quarterback rating at 106.0. His 8.26 yards per attempt is third in the league. And until last week against Chicago, Vick hadn't thrown a single interception all season.

    Factor in that he also has 419 yards rushing and five rushing touchdowns, plus the fact that the Eagles are tied for second in the league in scoring with San Diego at 28.2 points/game, and it becomes obvious why Vick belongs in the discussion.

    Had he played every game he'd be running away this award. But right now he has to settle for second place.

1. Tom Brady

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    DETROIT - NOVEMBER 25:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots drops back to pass during the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on November 25, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. New England defeated Detroit 45-24.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    New England Patriots: 9-2

    Who else?

    Brady's 2,703 passing yards are only 12th in the NFL, but it doesn't matter how many yards you have if your team is scoring. And the Patriots have been doing lots of that.

    At 30.4 points per game, New England owns the NFL's top scoring offense, and they have Brady to thank for that. His 23 touchdowns are tied for first in the league, and his 66.3 completion percentage is third.

    It's no aberration that Brady had a perfect QB rating against the Lions last week. His season rating of 105.8 is just a hair under Vick's, and this despite throwing four times as many interceptions as the Eagle.

    Brady also had to reconfigure his offense on the fly after the departure of Randy Moss and losing the top three running backs on the depth chart. Nothing's mattered as Brady is once again the best player on the NFL's best team. As long as things stay that way, he should be the MVP.