With a lot of the love going towards the Manning brothers and explosive running backs, the league has gotten away from some of the players that really do describe Most Valuable Player, "The player who is considered most valuable in the league."
What some people forget is that the MVP award is a mixture of both stats and what you mean to your team.
Sorry Drew Brees, it is great you threw for 10,000 yards, but even with you, your team is 8-8 and has now missed the playoffs for the second straight year.
There are three players who have really caught my eye this season, but because one of them plays wide receiver and the other two are underrated, I doubt any of these guys would come close to winning.
However they do deserve it.
1. QB Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins
Pennington is the only player on this list that will get some of the attention from the national media and probably will be the closest of these three to win the award. The bad news for Chad though is a certain Peyton Manning ruined his chances to win the award.
The Dolphins went 1-15 last season, everyone remembers that. They were a team of NFL rejects who did not have a single leader in uniform. Enter Chad Pennington and look at the turnaround.
Pennington took over the leadership role and helped led his team to the playoffs. It took him just under a week with his new team to assume the role of leader, and he was named one of the team captains for the season.
Not to mention, he didn’t exactly have great wide receivers to throw to.
Let’s be honest, as much as Dolphin fans may like Greg Camarillo and Ted Ginn Jr. They are both very average wide receivers. And no one is losing any sleep over Anthony Fasano at tight end either.
Pennington proved he didn’t need elite players and turned the ones he had into reliable play makers. Fasano caught seven touchdown passes this season, six more than he had in his whole career up to this point.
Camarillo turned into Pennington’s go-to-guy and hauled in 55 receptions, 613 yards, and two touchdowns. Not too bad for a former undrafted free agent and practice squad member of the San Diego Chargers a couple years ago, who last season caught only eight passes.
After a terrible first season with the team, Ginn now looks like the receiver they drafted with the ninth pick overall. Ginn has put up 56 catches for 790 yards and two touchdowns himself.
Two no-name receivers and a young tight end all had breakout seasons in the same year. Do you think it is just a coincidence that all three players just happened to step up their game with Pennington back there? I think not.
Pennington has made the players around him better. We talk about Tom Brady, making wide receivers out of nobodies, and Pennington has now just done the same thing. Before this year started, who out there would want Ginn, Camarillo, or Fasano on their team? Not many, if anyone at all.
Now, people may look at Pennington’s numbers of 3,653 yards passing (ninth in the league) and 19 touchdowns (12th) and say that those are pretty average numbers for a player, especially when you are talking about MVP candidates.
But what most people don’t realize is that Pennington led the entire NFL in completion percentage with a 67.4 percent rate.
Pennington also ended the season with a 97.4 mark in quarterback rating, which is good for second in the NFL behind only Phillip Rivers (who is next up on this list).
Pennington also threw only seven interceptions this year, which is the third fewest in the league (compared with other starting quarterbacks who threw more than 350 passes). Only Jeff Garcia and Jason Campbell threw fewer balls to the other team.
What ails most quarterbacks in fumbling the football also. Everyone laughs at the number of fumbles Kurt Warner has (except Arizona fans of course). This season, Pennington has only one lost fumble and that came during the last game of the season.
If you still are not sold yet on Pennington, even though his numbers and leadership ability has made the case for him, how about his play in big games?
The Dolphins were in a three-way heat in the AFC East for most of the season. It didn’t start off that way though.
Just like the Colts, the Dolphins started off the year slow, going 2-4 through the first six games (one game worse than that Colts team who started the year 3-3).
Just like the Colts, who so many people are giving Peyton Manning phrase for turning that team around, Pennington did the same thing.
The Dolphins went on a tear down the stretch, winning nine of their last 10 games, including five-straight wins to end the season.
Now, some people look at those wins, and say, hey, those aren’t exactly great teams they beat, and many of those squads played them close. It was Pennington who kept that offense in check, didn’t fold under the pressure and helped them pull out victories.
Need an example? How about Week 16 when the Miami Dolphins went on the road to take on the Kansas City Chiefs?
Everyone in that locker room realized that a loss would ruin their season and eliminate them from the playoff race. Now fast-forward to the fourth quarter of that game.
With the game tied 31-31, on the road, in one of the loudest stadiums to play, Pennington took the Dolphins on a drive to put the game away.
With 12:41 remaining in the game, the Dolphins got the ball to start the drive at the 15-yard line.
With the season on the line, Pennington had ice water running throw his veins, leading his team on a 13-play, 85 yard drive. In those 13 plays, Pennington passed the ball seven times. All seven of those passes were completions, and five of them went for a first down.
With the game and season on the line, Pennington went seven of seven for 65 yards and the decisive touchdown.
Need another one? How about just this week, when the Dolphins took on the New York Jets? If the Dolphins win, they are in the playoffs as champions of the AFC East. If not, they are going to spend the postseason at home, watching it on TV.
How about 22 of 30 for 200 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions? Are those numbers outstanding? No, certainly not, BUT they are good enough to get the Dolphins in the playoffs.
Although he doesn't have stellar numbers, Pennington's ability to make the players around him better, and his leadership and poise in big-game situations, make him a very strong case that he is the Most Valuable Player in the NFL.
2. QB Phillip River, San Diego Chargers
What are the biggest arguments for Peyton Manning to win the MVP award right now?
1. Had Outstanding Numbers
2. Had No Running Game
3. The Defense He Had Was Terrible
4. Started Off the Year Slow
5. Great Leader
6. Played Well in the Big Games
7. Won When it Mattered Most
8. Is in the Playoffs
Funny thing is, not only did I just sum up Manning’s arguments for the MVP award, I also summed up Phillip Rivers' as well.
Rivers is very similar, stat-wise, with Manning (I’ll start with stats first since that is what most people look at only).
Both quarterbacks threw for over 4,000 yards (Rivers had seven more yards than Manning), while Rivers threw seven more touchdowns (34 in total), one less interception, and had the highest QB rating in the league at 105.5 (10.5 point higher than Manning).
So for all of those people who say Manning because of his numbers, your arguments don’t really hold up seeing as Rivers had better.
How about the teams in general? A lot of people have said that Manning had no team around him or that the defense was terrible and he had to keep them in games, when Rivers had to do the same exact thing.
First on the offensive side of the ball, we all know how Manning had a horrific running attack to help him, but Rivers wasn’t that much better.
Sure, he has LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles, but both of them were very streaky players. Just like what Manning had, the running game was very inconsistent. The Chargers ranked 20th in the league in rushing, which in turn put a lot of pressure on the fifth-year signal caller.
A lot of people also praise Manning for leading the Colts who had practically no defensive help. I hate to break it out there to the Manning supporters, but the Chargers' defense was even worse than that of the Colts.
Just looking at the two defenses. The Colts allowed 18.6 points (seventh in the NFL), 310.9 yards (11th), 188.1 yards passing (sixth) and 122.9 yards rushing (24th) per game.
The Chargers, on the other hand, allowed more points (21.7 points, 15th), more total yards (349.9 yards, 25th) and more yards through the air (247.4, 31st) than that Colts team. The only thing they did do better was stopping the run.
Then comes the whole “Well, the Colts started off the year slow, and then came back” thing when really not only did Pennington do similar with his squad, Rivers also led a team with a horrible record on a late season run to make the playoffs.
The Chargers were 4-8 and looked out of it through their first 12 games. They realized they had to win out and also get some serious help in order to make the playoffs.
Their quarterback stepped up his game even more when the Chargers needed it. During the last four games, in which the team went 4-0, Rivers threw for 1,054 yards, 11 touchdowns and only one interception. During that same span, he had a completion rate of 66.1 percent and a quarterback rating of 123.55!
Not too shabby for a quarterback who doesn’t get a lot of recognition for leading his team to the playoffs.
Not only did Rivers win the games that mattered most, but just like Manning, his Chargers team is in the playoffs.
(NOTE: We will get to see these two matchup in the AFC Wild Card Game! The game will be played Saturday, Jan. 3 at 8 PM (eastern) on NBC).
3. WR Wes Welker, New England Patriots
Wes Welker is a guy that you hate when your favorite team goes against the Patriots, but boy, would you love to have him in your team’s uniform.
Yes, I know that the MVP is reserved for quarterbacks or running backs, and that a wide receiver has never won the MVP award since it started to get handed out by the Associated Press in 1957.
However, if you are looking for a guy that is truly indispensable, and most important for his team, look no further than Wes Welker.
Let’s be honest here, if Wes Welker is not on the Patriots last season, the team does not go 16-0 during the regular season, and if Welker is not wearing a Patriots uniform in 2008, the team gets nowhere close to the 11-5 record they achieved without their star quarterback, Tom Brady.
You can say that Randy Moss is the reason Welker is so successful. Most people think that is indeed the case because they think defenses are triple covering Moss and leaving Welker open over the middle all game.
While a little bit of this is true (teams do tend to give a little cushion to Moss so they don’t get beat deep) the majority of it is false. You can figure that out by watching Welker play in a game or seeing video of him. The guy is just uncoverable.
Welker can beat a zone easily. He runs his route and finds the whole in the zone and sits there. You also can’t cover him man-on-man. Teams try to put linebackers on him, which is, of course, a huge mistake.
Welker already ran a nice crisp route and is getting the ball thrown his way before the linebacker even realizes what is going on. He can beat a corner in coverage, too.
You think Matt Cassel would have the numbers his does and played so well if he didn’t have Welker? Welker was a rock for that team. When they needed to convert on third down, they turned to Welker. If they needed to get a first down to ice the game, they turned to Welker.
If they just needed to move the ball down the field, you guessed it, they turned to Welker. Don’t believe me? Well don’t worry, I got the numbers to back it up, something people seem to drool over.
For starters, Welker had 18 catches that moved the chains for his team on third downs.
Don’t believe me that he was reliable and a rock for that team either?
Welker had the ball thrown in his general direction 149 times this season. He caught 111 of those passes, good for a 74.5 percent rate overall. That 74.5 percent is the 14th highest rate in the league. You might be saying, “Well sure that is good, but 14th best isn’t exactly eye popping."
Of those 13 players ahead of him, 10 are running backs and two are tight ends. Welker is also the only guy on the list that has more than 76 passes thrown his way.
There is only one other wide receiver in the league that has a higher percent caught rate higher that Welker and that is Tampa Bay’s Ike Hilliard.
Welker was also 10th in the league with 57 receiving first downs.
And I know you are wondering what I am talking about when I say the team looks for him when they need to get yards. Welker led the league in yards after the catch with 741 yards. That sure helps the offense get down the field.
Now, how did he finish the season? Well, his 111 receptions were the second most in the NFL. His 1,165 yards receiving put him as ninth best in the league. The thing that people will look at though in his touchdown total (he only had three).
So like always, because of his touchdown total, people will completely over look Welker, despite how much he means to his team. Just ask a Patriots fan how important Welker is. Maybe they are the only ones who can tell you the truth about the guy.
While the Associated Press will probably vote someone with a great stat line as MVP, these players deserve the same attention and will perhaps unfairly be ignored by the voters.
While these players don’t have the great numbers to match up with the big guns, they are certainly among the Most Valuable Players in the league and should be equally considered for the award.
Comments are of course welcomed and greatly appreciated. If you had a vote, whom would you vote for MVP this season? Does Peyton have it wrapped up already? Am I crazy for putting any of these guys on the list?
Tell me what you think.