With only two weeks left in the NFL season, Peyton Manning is looking more and more like a lock for this year's NFL MVP Award, but is he a lock? Or can Justin Tucker sneak in and win the award by hitting a game-winning 67-yard field goal against the Bengals in Week 17 that sends the Ravens to the playoffs?
For Peyton Manning's grip on the MVP Award to loosen, here's three things I think would have to happen:
1. The Broncos don't win the AFC West: For the Broncos not to win the division, that means they'd have to lose to either Houston or Oakland in their final two games -- or both. Plus Kansas City would have to win out. A loss to the Raiders or Texans would have voters questioning their ballot extensively before they wrote Manning's name on it. And a lost to both teams would practically be Manning saying, "Here, someone else take the award.' One loss doesn't mean he'd definitely lose, it just means voters will likely be more open to considering other candidates.
2. Jamaal Charles explodes: I don't mean this literally because no one wants to see a player explode, I'm talking about scoring three touchdowns in each of the Chiefs final two games. If Charles does that, he'd finished the season with 24 total touchdowns, which would be the sixth highest total in NFL history. If you combine that with the Chiefs overtaking the Broncos for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, then Charles has a chance. An outside chance, but I'm telling you there's a chance.
3. Something crazy: Vikings running back Adrian Peterson ran for 199 yards in Week 17 last season to steal the award from Manning. The 199-yard total put Peterson over 2,000, gave him the second highest single-season rushing total in NFL history and made him almost impossible not to vote for. A 500-yard passing game from Drew Brees or a six-touchdown pass game from Russell Wilson over the final two weeks of the season would both qualify as crazy things that aren't completely out of the realm of possibilty. Tom Brady's not on the list this week, but if Brady and the Patriots were to finish as the No. 1 seed in the AFC, that would qualify as 'something crazy,' and Brady would be back in the conversation.
Anyway, enough talk about Peyton Manning choking away the MVP, lets get to the projection.
NFL MVP Projection
1. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning: Broncos coach John Fox thinks Peyton Manning is the NFL MVP this season and he thinks Manning should win the award in a landslide, "I don't think it's close, personally," Fox said on Wednesday. Broncos wide receiver Andre Caldwell would vote for Manning and he even explained why, "[An MVP] should be on a winning team, and it should also be about how much your team depends on you. There are some great players out there, but things would still roll. If we didn't have Peyton, it would be a totally different show around here." Unfortunately for Manning though, Caldwell and Fox don't have votes.
2. Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles: It's one thing to have your own coach say you're an MVP candidate -- like John Fox did for Peyton Manning -- it's another thing altogether to have an opposing coach vouch for you. Colts coach Chuck Pagano had this to say on Wednesday when he was asked if Jamaal Charles should be in the MVP race, "If he's not in the conversation then something is wrong." Fortunately for Pagano, everything's right in the world and Charles is in the conversation, if you count this projection list as a conversation.
3. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson: We should all probably enjoy what Russell Wilson's doing right now because there's a good chance that he's going to get bored of football after four or five years and then go play for the Texas Rangers. Then after he wins two American League MVP Awards, he'll probably go play hockey. Wilson might not win the NFL MVP Award this year, but Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson sees one in his future, "One day, he'll be the MVP of this league," Robinson told MMQB.com after Sunday's 23-0 win over the Giants.
4. Saints quarterback Drew Brees: We've now reached the portion of the MVP Projection where I've run out of teammates and coaches to vouch for the players listed. John Fox thinks Peyton Manning should win, but not a peep from Sean Payton about Brees. Drew Brees MVP talk just hasn't been a hot topic around New Orleans this week. I'm guessing that probably has something to do with the two interceptions that Brees threw against the Rams in Week 15. Sean Payton might jump on the 'Brees for MVP' bandwagon if his quarterback can lead the Saints to a win over Carolina.
5. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy: The most inexplicable thing to happen in Week 15 -- besides Matt Flynn leading a 23-point comeback -- is that LeSean McCoy only got eight carries against the Vikings. I'm not an NFL coach, but I am a strong believer that if the NFL's leading rusher is on your team, you should give the ball to him more than eight times. With McCoy doing absolutely nothing on the ground against the Vikings, the Eagles lost 48-30 and Philadelphia is now 1-7 since 2010 when McCoy touches the ball 10 times or less.
6. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker: A kicker winning the NFL MVP Award seems kind of ridiculous until you realize it's actually happened before. In 1982, Washington kicker Mark Moseley won the MVP Award playing for a Redskins team that would win the Super Bowl. In the strike-shortened season, Mosely won the award by two votes (35-33) over San Diego Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts. The man who was in charge of collecting MVP votes that year, Bruce Lowitt, recently explained why he thinks Mosely won it.
"His value was in winning games," Lowitt told the New York Times. "There's a big difference between a player of the year and the most valuable player. Player of the year can be the best running back on a last-place team, but the most valuable has a great influence on a team getting as far as it does."
The only reason the Ravens are where they are this season is because of Tucker. Tucker's scored 43.9 percent of the team's points (130 out of 296) and has basically won five games for the Ravens. Unfortunately for Tucker though, Anchorman 2's chances at the best picture Oscar are probably better than his MVP chances.