Ranking the NFL's Top 10 MVP Candidates in 2010: Vick, Manning, Brady and More

Bryn Swartz@eaglescentralSenior Writer IIIDecember 9, 2010

Indianapolis Colts  quarterback Peyton Manning and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick at a 2005 American Bowl press conference at the Tokyo Dome Hotel in Japan, Thursday August 4, 2005. (Photo by A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

10. Matt Ryan, Quarterback, Atlanta Falcons.

Ryan doesn't have gaudy numbers this season. He's thrown 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His passer rating (91.8) is the 14th best in the league, barely above average for a starting quarterback.

But he's led the Atlanta Falcons to a phenomenal start, with wins in 10 of their 12 games this season. Their two losses came to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles, both Top 10 teams in the NFL.

He's led the Falcons to impressive victories against the 9-3 New Orleans Saints, the 7-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (twice), the 8-4 Baltimore Ravens and the 8-4 Green Bay Packers.

If Ryan leads the Falcons to a Super Bowl victory, he will establish himself as an elite NFL quarterback.

9. Clay Matthews, Linebacker, Green Bay Packers.

Eagles fans can thank Clay Matthews for Michael Vick's dominant season, as Matthews' sack against Kevin Kolb (one of three on the day) knocked Kolb out of the game and led to Vick's surprising season.

Matthews leads the NFL with 11.5 sacks. He also has a forced fumble, as well as a 62-yard interception touchdown.

Matthews is anchoring a powerful, underrated Packers' defense which ranks first in the NFL in fewest points allowed (182).

If Green Bay (8-4) misses the postseason, Matthews has no chance for the MVP, but if he goes wild in the next four games and Green Bay qualifies for the playoffs, Matthews has a chance to receive some MVP votes.

8. Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints.

Brees is actually having a slightly disappointing season, by his standards, which should say something about the dominance of last year's Super Bowl MVP.

Brees has thrown for 25 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. His passer rating is 94.6, and he leads the NFL with a 69.5 completion percentage. He is on pace to challenge his own single-season record for completions in a season (440 set in 2007).

The Saints have quietly won 9 of their 12 games this season, good enough for the NFC's fifth seed if the season ended today. They have a rematch left with the Falcons and could still bring home their second consecutive NFC South division title.

Even if they don't win their division, they will likely have an opportunity to defend their Super Bowl title, which could begin with an easy road win in St. Louis.

7. James Harrison, Linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers.

Harrison has been a total animal for the Steelers this season. The 2008 Defensive Player of the Year, Harrison should win his second award at the end of the 2010 season. 

In 12 games, he has 10 sacks, tied for third in the league. He's forced six fumbles. If he keeps up his current pace, he will become the first player in NFL history to record 15 sacks and force eight fumbles in a single season.

He's registered 59 tackles this season, while anchoring a defense that has allowed the second-fewest points in the National Football League.

The Steelers are 9-3 and an absolute lock to reach the postseason, where they will try to establish themselves as a dynasty with their third Super Bowl title in six seasons.

6. Matt Cassel, Quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs.

Nobody expected Matt Cassel to become one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Through 12 games, however, he has the Chiefs atop the AFC West with an 8-4 record, the only team in the NFL with a two-game lead in their division.

Cassel's 98.4 passer rating ranks fifth in the NFL. He has thrown 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions, one of the best touchdown-to-interception ratios in NFL history. His interception percentage is the sixth best single-season total in NFL history. He just completed a three-game stretch with 10 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Cassel has also cut down his fumbles from 14 to 2.

If Cassel leads the Chiefs to a division title and keeps his touchdown-to-interception ratio well above 5-1, he will garner some MVP votes.

5. Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Green Bay Packers.

Rodgers was my preseason pick for regular season MVP and Super Bowl MVP. So far in 2010, he's led the Packers to an 8-4 record in the highly competitive NFC.

He has thrown 23 touchdowns against just nine interceptions. His 100.9 passer rating is fourth in the NFL. He is averaging 8.1 yards per pass attempt and has dramatically cut down on his sacks (50 to 25) and fumbles (10 to 2) from last season.

The Packers need to reach the postseason for Rodgers to receive any consideration for the MVP voting. If they do, he has a legitimate chance to win the award, especially with his recent hot streak (11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in last four games).

4. Philip Rivers, Quarterback, San Diego Chargers.

Rivers has been absolutely brilliant this season without any offensive talent on his roster. He has the NFL's third best passer rating at 102.5. He is leading the league in yards per pass attempt (8.8) for the third straight season, as well as yards per completion (13.4).

He has thrown for 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. His 3,642 passing yards put him on pace for almost 5000. He's been performing without top wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Legedu Naanee is on IR and his running game, without LaDainian Tomlinson for the first time in 10 years, has been below average.

Yet he's still led the Chargers to over 26 points per game and the NFL's third ranked scoring offense.

The Chargers are just 6-6 and two games back in the AFC West race. Rivers has a chance to take home the NFL MVP award if he leads the Chargers to victories in their final four games and a division title.

3. Peyton Manning, Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts.

Forget what you've heard on ESPN. Manning is having a pretty good season after all.

He is on pace to shatter the NFL records for completions and attempts in a season. He has a legitimate chance to break Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yards. He has thrown 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, with a passer rating of 89.4.

Manning's Colts are dead last in the NFL in both yards per carry and total rushing attempts. Their defense ranks 22nd in the year and is playing without former Defensive Player of the Year winner Bob Sanders (as usual).

He has lost running backs Joseph Addai and Mike Hart, wide receivers Pierre Garcon, Anthony Gonzalez and Austin Collie and tight end Dallas Clark (last year's Tuesday Morning Quarterback's Non-QB Non-RB NFL MVP) to injuries this season. Reggie Wayne leads the NFL in drops this season (including one in overtime last week which cost the Colts a victory), and Pierre Garcon is fourth.

He is handing off and throwing to guys such as Donald Brown, Javarris James (who would never be confused with his cousin, Edgerrin), Jacob Tamme, Blair White and Gijon Robinson.

In his well-documented three-game downfall in which he's thrown 11 interceptions, he has also led the Colts' offense to 77 points, an average of 25.7 points per game. His ground game has given him 135 rushing yards COMBINED in the last three games (45 per game). His defense hasn't given him a turnover in any of the last three games, a streak he's never had to deal with before.

And his passer rating during these three games has been 77.7, which is EASILY the best in history by a quarterback who threw at least 11 interceptions in a three-game span. Tom Brady's passer rating during the 2001 postseason, which culminated in a Super Bowl MVP trophy, was 77.3.

Peyton Manning has taken a legitimately below average football team and has led them to a 6-6 record. They are within one game of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South race and could still wind up in the postseason for the eighth straight season.

If Manning leads the Colts to victories in their final four games, securing them a postseason berth and breaks Marino's record for passing yards, as well as Brees' record for completions and Drew Bledsoe's record for pass attempts, he could easily win his fifth Most Valuable Player trophy.

2. Michael Vick, Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles.

Michael Vick has completely rejuvenated his NFL career this season. In just seven complete-game starts, he's posted a 6-1 record, while leading the Eagles to an average of 33.57 points per game (at least 26 in every game).

He has thrown 15 touchdowns against just two interceptions, while rushing for 467 yards and six more scores. His 105.7 passer rating ranks second in the NFL, and he is leading the NFL with 9.2 adjusted yards per attempt, the tenth best single-season total in NFL history.

He also posted arguably the greatest all-around performance by a quarterback in NFL history, throwing for four scores and rushing for two more against the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football.

If Vick stays healthy, and the high-scoring 8-4 Eagles earn a playoff spot, he has a very good chance at capturing the Most Valuable Player award.

1. Tom Brady, Quarterback, New England Patriots.

Brady is on track to take home his second Most Valuable Player award. He has thrown 27 touchdowns and just four interceptions, the highest touchdown-to-interception ratio in NFL history.

His 109.5 passer rating leads the NFL and is the eighth best single-season total in history. He leads the NFL with 8.1 adjusted net yards per attempt and is on track for his fourth 4,000-yard season.

The Patriots hold the AFC's best record at 10-2, and following a beatdown of the powerful New York Jets on Monday Night Football, are the NFL's best team.

Incredibly, Brady has turned in his incredible season without the services of his star wide receiver, Randy Moss, who caught just nine passes as a member of the Patriots.


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