NFL Awards Watch, Week 14
Vikings' Adrian Peterson enters Most Valuable Player discussion
Titans' Albert Haynesworth is no longer frontrunner for Defensive POY
Giants coach Tom Coughlin earns high marks for keeping team focused
"Best player in the league."
With that simple statement, Bears coach Lovie Smith has summed up what many observers are saying about Adrian Peterson after watching the Vikings' star rally his team to the top of the NFC North with a series of outstanding rushing performances.
"Oh, man, the kid's a stud," Bucs' defensive tackle Chris Hovan told the St. Petersburg Times prior to facing Peterson."You talk about the top backs in the league and I'll put him at No. 1 right now. His explosion, running ability, the way he breaks tackles. The kid is special, man."
Peterson, the league's leading rusher with 1,311 yards, has been outstanding since putting the team on his back after a disappointing 1-3 start. The Pro Bowl back has rushed for 891 yards in the Vikings' last eight games, leading the team to a 6-2 record since the woeful beginning. Although defenses have been gearing up to stop the electrifying runner with an assortment of eight- and nine-man fronts, Peterson has produced five 100-yard games during the eight-game span and averaged nearly five yards a carry while steadying the Vikings' offense.
Remarkably, Peterson has been able to post his outstanding production with the Vikings' passing game ranking near the bottom of the league. The Vikings only average 184.8 passing yards a game, and veteran quarterback Gus Frerotte has thrown 13 interceptions, tied for the second-highest total in the league.
With the team unable to move the ball consistently through the air, Brad Childress has called on his star runner's number more often and Peterson has responded. In the seven games that Peterson has received 20 or more carries, he has averaged 126.5 yards and the Vikings have won six of those seven.
With the division title within reach, the reigning MVP relishes the opportunity to put the team and its postseason hopes on his back.
"I feel like I'm getting stronger," Peterson told the St. Petersburg Times. "That can be scary... I do see myself getting strong and faster and my game is picking up."
Peterson has earned the nickname "All Day" due to his tireless endurance as a runner, but his scintillating performance this year may earn him another moniker at season's end: MVP.
1. Eli Manning, QB, Giants (Ranking last week, 5): If a quarterback is ultimately measured by his ability to win games, then Manning's ascension to the top of the MVP race should not be a surprise. The reigning Super Bowl MVP has guided the Giants to the league's best record (11-1) while producing career-best totals in passer rating, completion percentage and yards per attempt.
2. Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins (2): He has earned the respect of the league with his gutty play this season. Though he has been plagued by a balky knee for most of the year, Portis has reeled off six 100-yard games and tallied his best yards-per-carry average (4.8) since becoming a Redskin in 2004.
3. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings (NR)
4. Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals (1): The former two-time league MVP suffered his worst performance of the season at the hands of the Eagles. With the team in the midst of a two-game losing streak, Warner will need to raise his level of play to keep the Cards from falling apart down the stretch.
5. Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys (NR): The return of the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback has energized a Cowboys' offense that sputtered in his absence. Romo has guided the team to a 7-2 mark this season and has topped the 300-yard passing mark in six of his nine games. If Romo can successful guide the Cowboys through a rough December schedule, he may wind up stealing the trophy at season's end.
Offensive Player of the Year
1. Drew Brees, QB, Saints (1): The two-time Pro Bowl QB shredded the Bucs' second-ranked pass defense for 296 yards and two touchdowns, but his three interceptions proved to be the difference in the Saints' narrow loss. With the Saints' playoff hopes all but gone, Brees' impressive run at history may be all for naught.
2. Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals (2)
3. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings (NR)
4. Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins (4)
5. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons (5): The Falcons' star has been instrumental in the team's surprising surge. With back-to-back 100-yard rushing days in the Falcons' last two wins, Turner has topped the century mark six times on the season. He is currently the league's third leading rusher (1,208 yards).