The 2008-09 NFL Season has been filled with surprise performances by teams and individual players. This isn’t more apparent than in the NFL MVP Race, which is filled of players that at one point were labeled “busts”, “washed-up”, or simply “bench players”.
With one game remaining in the 2008 regular season, MVP candidates will have one last chance to make a case for why they should win the award. Shaun Ahmad gives you his top ten MVP countdown.
Rookie sensation doesn’t begin to describe the performance of quarterback Matt Ryan. His calm demeanor and lack of mistakes have helped put the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs and shed some of the painful memories from the past season. Ryan hasn’t been lights out, but his 15 touchdowns to only nine interceptions have been impressive. More importantly, he hasn’t cost the Falcons any games and has six superb games in which his rating was higher than 120 (higher than 130 in five of them). With Ryan at the helm, Falcons fans have plenty to look forward for this season and beyond.
If only the Saints had a better defense. Drew Brees has put together one of the best statistical seasons by a quarterback of all time. His 4,683 yards is just shy of Dan Marino’s all time single season record. He has thrown for 30 touchdowns, received a 95.5 quarterback rating, and completed over 65% of his passes.
Unfortunately, it’s not likely that an MVP will be given to a player who doesn’t participate in the postseason. Maybe next year.
Had Kurt Warner and the Cardinals decided to keep competing after clinching their playoff birth, he would surely be higher on the list. However his recent subpar performances (including a dismal 30 yards total in passing against New England last week) along with losses in four of the Cardinals’ last five games have all but diminished Warner’s chances of winning the MVP. Still, he should be commended for his very impressive 4,320 yards and 95.5 quarterback rating.
What a sweet, sweet taste of revenge it will be for the classy Pennington if he can go up to the Meadowlands on Sunday and clinch a division title for the Miami Dolphins while knocking his former team, and the man who took his job, out of the playoffs. But forget the subplots of the final game.
Pennington has been everything the Dolphins could have wanted and then some in 2008. Second in the league with a 96.4 quarterback rating, the ninth year veteran has thrown for 3,453 yards and 17 touchdowns while tossing only seven interceptions. His leadership and ability to avoid mistakes has helped the Dolphins become a legitimate contender in the AFC. And for the record, he has thrown for more yards and 11 fewer interceptions than Favre, who leads the league in that category. Had to be said.
It’s only fitting that a ball hawk like Ed Reed played for a team named the Ravens. Any time the Ravens defense has needed a big play or a turnover, Reed has delivered. Without a doubt, the most prolific and important piece on the Ravens stellar defense (Sorry Ray Lewis fans), Reed has put the pedal to the medal in recent weeks by intercepting six passes, forcing a fumble and recovering another, and scoring two touchdowns—all in five games. Not surprisingly, the Ravens have won four of those games and lost the other on a very controversial call against the Pittsburgh Steelers. As long as Reed roams the Ravens’ secondary, teams beware.
When you play on a team with the likes of Tony Romo, Terrell Owens, and Jerry Jones, it’s likely that you may not get noticed that much. But to have 20 sacks the way Ware has and still be relatively out of the spotlight is absurd. Ware has put together one of the best single seasons in recent memory by terrorizing quarterbacks and forcing six fumbles. It has been the Dallas defense, not the star-laden offense full, that has gotten the job done and kept the Cowboys in playoff contention. Unfortunately for Ware, the selfish personalities on his team might overshadow his accomplishments in the eyes of voters.
As late a bloomer as you can imagine with regards to the MVP race, DeAngelo Williams has stormed onto the scene. His league leading 18 touchdowns have helped the Panthers catch fire by winning seven of their last nine contests. The third year player out of Memphis scored four touchdowns twice in a single game, most recently as last week against the New York Giants. He has scored at least a touchdown in his last eight games and helped add a powerful component to compliment superstar receiver Steve Smith in the Panthers’ surging offense.
All he needed was a chance. Michael Turner sat on the bench for four years in San Diego, eager for the opportunity to show the league what he was capable of. Well, in 2008, he got that chance and ran with it—literally. Turner is second only to Adrian Peterson in rushing yards with 1,491. He is second in rushing touchdowns (16) to DeAngelo Williams. Turner’s presence has helped rookie sensation Matt Ryan settle into a comfort zone that has been pivotal for the playoff bound Falcons’ success. Though the team is young and inexperienced, they should feel good about their chances in the playoffs as long as “Burner” Turner gets off.
Who would have thought when the Vikings were 1-3, we would be considering an MVP from their ballclub. Sure enough, Adrian Peterson has willed his fellow teammates to a 9-6 record and a chance to win the division. Peterson has amassed a league leading 1,657 yards rushing with 4.8 yards per carry and nine touchdowns. A strong performance in the season finale against the New York Giants will be important to nudge some of the Manning supporters into his corner.
Similar to the Vikings, who would have thought when the Colts were sitting at 3-4 after week seven that we would even be having this conversation? However, as the NFL has shown time and time again, there is no possible way to predict the future. No one saw the Colts reeling off eight straight wins, in large part due to the spectacular play of quarterback Peyton Manning. In a slightly “off” year, Manning has still managed to throw for nearly 4,000 yards (3,907 going into the final week), 26 touchdowns, just 12 interceptions and a 93.8 rating. In his last game, Manning torched the Jaguars defense for 364 yards on 29-34 passing, three touchdowns and no interceptions. MVP's play their best ball when it counts the most; towards the end of the season and the playoffs. Manning is well on his way.