There will be no announcement of a league MVP for another three weeks, but let's be honest, people: You can close the polls today. The race is over. Tom Brady wins, and he wins in a landslide. Everyone else is just playing for second place.
Which is why I'm here. If everyone else is playing for second, what I want to know is this: Just who is everyone else? If Brady is the runaway leader -- and he is -- which name gets mentioned first in the sentence beginning, "Others receiving votes were ..."
I have my ideas. I'm sure you have yours. But I hold the guest list, and invitations are ready to be mailed.
So let's get started. There will be no more than four candidates, which means guys like Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Houston's Arian Foster and Indianapolis' Peyton Manning -- a four-time winner -- get excluded, but, sorry, that's how it goes.
This isn’t the Offensive Player of the Year we're talking about. This is the MVP of a team still in the playoff picture, and let the roll call begin:
|Vick is high on the league MVP list, behind Brady. (Getty Images)|
WHY: He's not only having the best season of his career; he's having one of the most extraordinary seasons of anyone anywhere, and the numbers prove it. He's second only to Brady in passer rating. He has more than four times as many touchdowns (17) as interceptions (4). He leads all quarterbacks in rushing and has more yards running than backs like Joseph Addai, Beanie Wells, Marion Barber or Cadillac Williams. Most important, the Eagles are 7-1 when he starts and finishes, 2-3 when he doesn't. Michael Vick is carrying this club, and that's the definition of an MVP. For years, the knock on Vick was that he was a marvelous playmaker but a not-so-accurate passer. Well, this just in: He is now. In fact, he completes 63.6 percent of his passes, leads the NFC in fourth-quarter passing and third-down passing and is second only to Philip Rivers in yards per attempt. Check, please.
WHY NOT: He lost a little momentum lately, not because he's been sputtering but, frankly, because he hasn't been as good as he was in high-profile victories over Indianapolis or Washington. OK, so that's nit-picking. He couldn’t be expected to be that extraordinary. Nobody could. I'm just saying there have been more blemishes -- i.e., interceptions, hits, missed passes -- than there were then. If the Eagles win their division, he may gain more than a handful of first-place votes, but I reserve my opinion until he plays the Giants this weekend.
VERDICT: He probably winds up pushing Brady the hardest ... which, granted, won't be all that hard. But Vick has played at such a high level for so long that it's hard to ignore the obvious -- which is that Philadelphia wouldn't be where it is today without him.
WHY: All the guy's done is complete a run of six straight 100-yard games, and that's important because of where it has the Jags -- which is where they weren't supposed to be ... namely, first place in the AFC South. Jones-Drew is the complete player, someone who can run and catch and score important touchdowns, and I offer last weekend's come-from-behind defeat of Oakland as proof. It was Jones-Drew who delivered the knockout punch with a 30-yard scoring run, and how perfect. I know he doesn't lead the league in touchdowns. Heck, he doesn't even lead his own team in touchdowns. But I don't care. This isn't about numbers. This is about value. There is nothing extraordinary about the Jaguars other than their running game, and Jones-Drew IS the Jacksonville running game.
WHY NOT: Because Jacksonville is 8-5, might not win the division and forget about Jones-Drew not leading the league in rushing; he doesn't even lead the division. Plus, there are people who will tell you it's as much about David Garrard re-establishing himself as a bona fide quarterback as it is Maurice Jones-Drew.
THE VERDICT: I'd have a hard time deciding between him and Vick. I'm serious. Jacksonville was supposed to be the bottom feeder in the AFC South. Instead, it's a game up on Indianapolis. There must be a reason, and there is. You're looking at him.
WHY: Easy. The Chargers have gone through more players than Rocky Balboa has sparring partners. Seventy-one players suited up this season, and if that sounds like a lot it's because it is. The league record is 74, set by Arizona in 2004. So there have been injuries galore, yet the Chargers remain in the playoff picture -- and the only reason is their quarterback. Philip Rivers keeps pumping out the touchdown passes and pumping up prodigious numbers, but he must if the Chargers are going to survive. Against Houston, for instance, Rivers was missing his top five receivers (including Vincent Jackson) entering this season, yet he pulled off the victory by throwing for four touchdowns. Typical. He has more touchdown passes than all but two quarterbacks and more passing yards than everyone but Peyton Manning. But look how he got there: His best wide receiver missed the first 10 games of the season, his star tight end missed three of the last five and there have been so many dropouts that he has completions to 17 different receivers, most in the league. Somehow, Rivers keeps the Chargers going. He isn't just the team MVP. He's one of the league MVPs.
WHY NOT: The Chargers are 7-6 and widely perceived as underachievers. People credit Rivers for an extraordinary season, but they'll be reluctant to acknowledge him if the Bolts don't win the AFC West ... which they might not.
VERDICT: His candidacy isn't as hot now as it was three weeks ago because the Chargers could miss the playoffs for the first time in five years and because Rivers' numbers are down the past month. I know, the Bolts won five of their last six, and that's good, but I'm talking about Rivers here. He hasn't had a 300-yard passing game in five straight starts, with three TDs in his last three. That shouldn't diminish what Rivers has done this season, but it does lessen his chances for support.
WHY: He not only quarterbacks the best team in the NFC; he quarterbacks one of the top two teams in the business. In fact, I know some people who will tell you that the Falcons are better -- yes, better -- than New England. I'm not one of them, but I do believe Ryan is a legit candidate to push Brady as the No. 2 guy for one very important reason: HE DOESN'T LOSE. He's 19-1 at home, and the only quarterback I can think of who is better is Brady, with an NFL-record 26 regular-season victories at Gillette Stadium. Ryan is also accurate, makes few mistakes and specializes in fourth-quarter comebacks -- all of which give him MVP credibility.
WHY NOT: Because there's another potential MVP candidate in the lineup, and, Michael Turner, please step forward. I always believed that when you have two guys on the same team competing for one MVP they cancel each other out. I mean, how can one player be the league MVP when a teammate competes for the same award? He can't. Yeah, I know it's happened, and I think back to the Kurt Warner-Marshall Faulk days, but that doesn't make it right.
VERDICT: He gets attention because the Falcons are the best team in their conference, but Turner's play makes Ryan's role in the Falcons' rise to the top a little less discernible.\