NFL Awards Watch, Week 16
Peyton Manning battles Adrian Peterson at top of MVP race
Falcons' Michael Turner enters Offensive POY discussion
Bill Belichick deserves credit for keeping banged-up Pats competitive
Don't look now, but a two-time league MVP has thrust himself squarely into the conversation for the league's top individual honor.
Peyton Manning, the league's MVP winner in 2003 and 2004, has led the Colts' to the league's fifth-best record (10-4) while ranking in the top seven in passing yards (3,543), touchdowns (23), and completion percentage (65.2). Though we have come to expect this kind of production from the future Hall of Famer, the way Manning has overcome adversity throughout this season has made him worthy of recognition for his play.
After getting off to an uncharacteristic 3-4 start, the Colts have reeled off seven consecutive wins and placed themselves back into title contention behind the superb play of Manning. The eight-time Pro Bowler has completed over 69 percent of throws and connected on 13 touchdown passes with only three interceptions during the streak. While those numbers would lead most to believe the Colts' offense has displayed its normal explosiveness, the fact the team has morphed into a ball control unit makes Manning's stellar play more impressive.
The Colts rank sixth in the league in passing offense, but the team has only recorded 33 completions of 20 yards or more, and only averages 6.9 yards per attempt. That represents a significant drop from the 53 completions of 20 yards or more and the 7.6 average yards per attempt the team produced season ago. In addition, the Colts' running game ranks 30th in the league and has failed to provide the balance Manning has enjoyed throughout most of his illustrious career.
While Manning's ability to produce in a workman-like offense has been impressive, it has been the leadership he has displayed while guiding the Colts through numerous injuries to their top players that makes him deserving of the league's top honor. Pro Bowlers Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark and Jeff Saturday are a few of the key offensive starters that have missed time this season, and Manning has played behind an offensive line that has been reshuffled repeatedly to compensate for injuries to other starters. Throw in the fact Manning has guided the team to their seventh consecutive season with 10 wins or more while recovering from his own career threatening knee injury, and his play is praiseworthy in every regard.
1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings (1): The league's leading rusher has carried the Vikings to the top of the NFC North by topping the century mark in nine games. Although opponents are loading the box with eight-and nine-man looks, Peterson continues to shred defenses by breaking off big runs up the gut. Peterson's 22 runs over 20 yards led the league and are a major reason he has amassed 1,581 yards in only 14 games.
2. Peyton Manning, QB, Colts (2)
3. James Harrison, LB, Steelers (5): Characterizing the disruptive playmaker as a one-dimensional pass rusher would diminish his value to the league's top defense. Though Harrison leads the Steelers in sacks (15) and forced fumbles (7), he also ranks as the team's second leading tackler with 94 stops.
4. DeMarcus Ware, LB, Cowboys (NR): The two-time Pro Bowler has earned the right to be mentioned in MVP talks by putting the Cowboys' D on his back in recent weeks. Ware's three-sack performance against the Giants was his second three sack game in three weeks, and his third such performance of the season. The league-leader in sacks (19) is closing in on Michael Strahan's single-season record (22.5) and spearheading the league's top pass rush.
5. Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals (3): The Cardinals' poor performances against legitimate playoff contenders will hurt his candidacy, but Warner's outstanding numbers and the team's division title make him a viable candidate.
Offensive Player of the Year
1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings (1)
2. Drew Brees, QB, Saints (2): The Saints' triggerman has cooled considerably since starting the season with eight 300-yard plus passing games in the team's first 11 outings. In spite of the drop off, Brees still ranks as the league-leader in passing yards (4,332) and touchdowns (28) with two games remaining.
3. Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals (3)
4. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons (4): For all of the talk of Matt Ryan deserving MVP consideration, it has been the superb running of Turner that has carried the Falcons to a surprising 9-5 record. With seven 100-yard rushing games and a league-high 15 rushing touchdowns on the season, Turner should garner some consideration for the league's most valuable offensive player.
5. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers (NR): The dazzling playmaker has come on strong during the second half of the season with five of his six 100-yard rushing games coming in the team's last seven contests. As the league's fourth-best rusher (1,229), Williams leads the league in yards per carry (5.5) and runs over 40 yards (five). He also has tallied 16 touchdowns, which ranks as the highest total of any non-quarterback this season.