2011 NFL MVP Race: Brees or Rodgers Will Win, but Eli Manning Deserves It

David Levin@@davidlevin71Senior Writer IIJanuary 17, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 15:   Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants reacts after defeating the Green Bay Packers to win their NFC Divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field on January 15, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Sometimes, nice guys finish first and last at the same time.

While the NFL's MVP race appears to be a two-man battle between the Green Bay Packers Aaron Rodgers and the New Orleans Saints Drew Brees, there are other names to consider.

Some could argue Maurice Jones-Drew was the most "valuable" player to his team. The same could be said for Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens or even someone like a Jared Allen of Minnesota Vikings, who led the league in sacks.

But has anyone thought that maybe a guy from New York is the one person being ignored in all the talk of who should hoist the postseason hardware?

Sure, Rodgers numbers are outstanding (45 touchdowns, six interceptions) and Brees did the unthinkable and surpassed Dan Marino as the single-season passing yardage champion.

But Eli Manning quietly had a great season. He has looked even better as the New York Giants (who had to beat Dallas Cowboys in the final game of the season) have run through the playoffs. He threw for 4,933 yards, which is considered "Peyton-like," and had 29 touchdowns on the season.

Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham all benefited from the more "mature" Manning. The QB became an elite passer this season and proved he has the skills to play on a level of Brady, Rodgers, Brees and his older brother.

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But no one outside of the Big Apple seemed to notice.

Maybe that has something to do with how the Giants are a "workman-like" team. They bring their lunch each day, pound the ballย out and win football games. At times, they looked like the Steelers of old and the Giants of the 1980s.

Manning is a better player than Phil Simms. He is a more accurate thrower than a Matthew Stafford. He is as calm as a Peyton Manning in the clutch. And he deserves the accolades for a change, instead of the criticism he sometimes endures.

While Brees and Rodgers had better talent on the outside to help them, Cruz came into this own and Nicks flashed moments of brilliance. All three will grow together and remain a great trio as the 2012 season gets underway.

Had the Giants had been more consistent over the course of the season, maybe Manning would have garnered more recognition. But who knows?

What is evident is that Brees and Rodgers are sitting home right now and Manning and his Giants are one more win away from another chance at a Super Bowl ring.

While the postseason does not determine who should win regular season awards, isn't it clear more of the media should have taken notice long ago that Manning was showcasing his magic?