Monday, November 24, 2008

A look at the MVP Race

Anyone who has crunched the numbers knows the AFC South division title is over. The Titans won. Tennessee can clinch the division by winning any two of its final five games. Trust me, I ran the tie-breaker scenarios and did the math.

So besides the wild-card positioning what is left to root for? I suggest rooting for Peyton Manning. He has a ridiculously good shot at his third MVP award. Here is my unbiased look at the front-runners. If you think you have a better candidate in mind, I'd be interested in hearing about it. Keep in mind that this award is nearly always won by a QB or RB.

1.) Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals
Stats: 21 TDs, 8 INTs, 3506 YDs, 102.4 Rating
Team Record: 7-4, 1st place NFC West
Last week: 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 Lost Fumble in a loss to NYG
Remaining Games: @Phi, STL, MIN, @Pats, SEA

Warner is still the odds on favorite, but he didn't help himself any with his second uneven performance in a row. The NFC West is horrible, but Warner will still get the credit for the Cardinals first division title since 1975. If no one emerges with a serious case Warner may be the default winner of this award.

2.) Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts
Stats: 19 TDs, 10 INTs, 2823 YDs, 87.2 Rating
Team Record: 7-4, 2nd place AFC South
Last week: 2 TD, 1 INT in a win at SD
Remaining Games: @Cle, CIN, DET, @Jax, TEN

Manning's stats are not eye-catching, but his growing list of clutch wins is very impressive. He certainly deserves to be in the conversation as long as the Colts continue their winning ways. If the race is tight Manning may have an advantage because of his consistently great play since his last MVP win in 2004.

3.) Brett Favre, New York Jets
Stats: 20 TDs, 13 INTs, 2461 YDs, 94.1 Rating
Team Record: 8-3, 1st place AFC East
Last week: 2 TD, 1 INT in a win at TEN.
Remaining Games: DEN, @SF, BUF, @Sea, MIA

As a wise man once said, "Brett Favre is Brett Favre." I could have easily put him in second place. He is leading arguably the best team in the AFC in the biggest media market in the world. The media wants to give him this award, but he'll probably need to win the East and finish with 30 TDs.

4.) Eli Manning, New York Giants
Stats: 18 TDs, 7 INTs, 2319 YDs, 91.6 Rating
Team Record: 10-1, 1st place NFC East
Last week: 3TD, 0 INT in a win at AZ
Remaining Games: @Was, PHI, @Dal, CAR, @Min

I know I recently said there was no way Eli would win the MVP, but 3 touchdowns against a decent Cardinals squad changed my mind. Is he important enough to his own team? I don't think so, but he is the leader of the best team in football. I don't ever remember an MVP race this balanced, so it wouldn't surprise me if the voters gave it to a member of the far and away best team.

5.) Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
Stats: 1088 YDs, 13 TDs, 4.3 YPC
Team Record: 7-4, 3rd place NFC South
Last Week: 117 YDs, 4 TDs in a win over CAR
Remaining Games: @SD, @NO, TB, @Min, STL

Turner is a sleeper pick whose candidacy is dependent on his team finishing strong and winning the division. His quarterback, Matt Ryan, deserves a lot of credit, but he is a rookie and his numbers are pedestrian. Turner has been a revelation in Atlanta and could steal this award with a late season surge.

Others in the conversation: Drew Brees (needs wins), Randy Moss (needs stats and wins), Clinton Portis (needs wins), Adrian Peterson (needs wins), Brandon Jacobs (needs stats)


Westside Rob said...

Hopefully Eli will continue to play well and draw votes away/split the East Coast votes with Favre. If the Colts win most of the rest of their games PM should be in a good position.

chipbennett said...

I'm still wondering why Kerry Collins isn't getting any mention whatsoever? Unless VY was just *that* bad... well, wait: he was. Even still, Collins should at least be getting some mention.

And bottom line: Manning is the MVP. I love Warner, and wish him all the best in AZ, but swap the teams (or just the QBs), and Manning in AZ would have that team vying for the #1 seed, and Warner would have the team struggling to challenge Houston and Jacksonville for cellar dweller.

Manning just makes that much of a difference.

Bob M. said...

I think you are off-base re Brees and Turner. If Brees breaks Marino's 5,081 yards record, has a rating north of 96, 30 TDs, I say he takes it over Peyt or Kurt or Brett. I just don't see Turner in the running at all. I would not be surprised by a Favrian media bias, and don't really see Eli winning when most see the NYG as a defensive and running oriented team where the QB is not asked to carry the team. I can also imagine a pro-Saints bias after all the crap they've bene through and bounced back from the past 3 years. (As the late comedian, Sam Kinnison, might have said "Maybe, if they didn't want to be dispaced by hurricanes and floods every year, they should MOVE AWAY FROM THE HURRICANE BELT!!!!")

And with Saturday going down, despite the easy sked, we have the line that we started out with, more or less. Remember how much fun September was? I know we're not facing Chicago or Minny's DL, but it could get ugly.
The run game will suffer, basic pass-pro will suffer, Manning will suffer.... Hopefully we can keep the #5 playoff slot and get Saturday back for the playoffs. Frankly, if we clinch a WC slot before Week 17, I could see Old Jeff and the other starters sitting out the 2nd half. Stuff like that could also hurt PM's stat-compiling and MVP chances.

I don't know about you all, but I am getting kind of a 1995 feeling (but with this being a much better team). I expect to watch games thinking "we really don't deserve this but I'll be darned if we're not just taking it away from those other guys."

I'd be much happier for PM to get another SB MVP than a regular season MVP.

WillyDuer said...

While he has definitely improved, Eli just isn't very important to the Giants this year. They could plug in just about anyone and succeed, given the strength of that roster top to bottom. I wouldn't put him in the conversation at all.

Ditto Favre. Much to my surprise and dismay, that team is solid in all phases, playing great football, and while he's been incredibly accurate, he's not the reason that team is great. I'd give Jenkins, the O line, and Jones much more credit. Jenkins has been a monster. Now I understand why Polian was so high on him before the last game in Carolina.

Brees is piling up some huge stats but I don't think he gets a whiff of the award unless they streak into the playoffs. Warner will get a lot of attention because of the division title, but really, none of those guys have done what Peyton has. If he loads up the headliner stats (TDs, yards) in these next few games to take peoples' eyes off his lower-than-usual TDs, QB rating, completion %, he will have a hell of a case.

Adam said...

I honestly don't get the Kurt Warner for MVP hype. I mean, the Cardinals are chronic underachievers. The play in the worst division in the league. I could probably win 8 games in the NFC West. Do we really want to award their creaky incredibly inopportune turnover-prone QB an MVP award for his team, which is positively loaded with talent, living up to their potential?

Kerry Collins isn't getting any love for MVP because if it weren't for Albert Haynesworth, the Titans would be scrapping it out in the basement with the Texans and Jaguars.

To answer your next question, Haynesworth isn't getting any MVP love because A) defensive players rarely do, B) he's still the guy that stomped on Andre Gurode's head two years ago, and C) everyone knows he's playing for a new contract, and after he gets it he'll go back to being a lazy sack of crap.

I think everyone remembers that Favre basically held the Packers hostage and forced a trade. If it weren't for Bernard Pollard, the Jets would be scrapping it out with the rest of the AFC East after getting steamrolled by New England.

The Giants have the most QB unfriendly system in the world. Eli will never win an MVP playing there. No matter what he does, he'll get overshadowed by the defense and their run game.

The Chargers should have kept Turner and traded LT. But that doesn't make Turner an MVP.

Brees should be getting some MVP love, but the yardage record really isn't that big a deal.

You put any other QB behind center of the Colts this season, and they'd already be talking about next season. You put Manning behind center of the Chiefs, Lions, or Raiders, and they'd at least be competitive enough to still be competing for a playoff spot.

Demond Sanders said...

1.) Collins stats are junk. Stats matter.

2.) It's not clear how much KC's value is impacting the team versus the negative value of VY.

I'm not saying Collins won't get a vote or three. I'm just listing the names I think could be in real contention if the breaks go their way.

3.) Brees is going to have a great statistical year, but his remaining schedule is very difficult. If his team still finishes 9-7 is he really more valuable than my top 4? I won't take him very seriously until he beats TB and ATL in the next couple weeks. That said, he was added hastily to my list after last night's impressive win.

4.) Eli is my contigency plan. If the other contenders struggle down the stretch (unlikely) while Eli continues to win games and put up good numbers. . . I could see it.

5.) QBs & RBs win the MVP.

Demond Sanders said...

6.) Turner is on the list only because he has 13 TDs. He would need 20+ to win it and a division title. Both are real possibilities. His team does have an exciting story and that helps.

7.) The Saints are currently in last place in the South. Here is their remaining schedule: @TB, ATL, @CHI, @DET, CAR. They play 4 teams ahead of them in the playoff race.

Deshawn Zombie said...

This is really more a list of who will the award than who should.

Westside Rob said...

OK, everyone HERE already knows that PM is the MVP, there is no sense debating that. However since none of us have votes and a bunch of people like Peter King do have votes what I think is more interesting is to debate how the votes go down. With such a wide open field this year, the MVP vote could end up like a lot of Heisman votes and be geographically driven. This should favor PM.

If Favre stays on a roll he's going to get a lot of the NE votes, so we want Eli and the Giants to be strong to pull some of those votes (Eli could never win on that team unless all of the other contenders got hurt or went in the tank but he can steal some Northeast votes from Favre).
Brees has to have NO pretty solidly in the playoff mix to have a chance even with the yardage record in sight. NO is currently the 10th seed which doesn't bode well for him.
If Warner stays strong hopefully him and Favre will split a lot of the sentimentalist votes. I think PK is a perfect example of a sentimentalist. I'd bet money that he votes for Warner or Favre. If Favre stays solid I'd guess Favre because of his East coast bias.

So PM needs to dominate MidWest voting (which he should since there aren't many contenders around here). He needs to get enough respect from the East and West coast media, which is dicey. I'm not sure what would help him more, some big blowouts in the coming weeks or some more 4qtr heroics, but he needs to win and play solid high-TD, low-int football to get the votes.

Anonymous said...

"Matt Ryan, deserves a lot of credit, but he is a rookie and his numbers are pedestrian."

A quick check at Pro Football Reference puts him ahead of Peyton in yards per completion, yards per attempt, interception rate, and passer rating. Obviously he isn't playing better, but when Football Outsiders has someone at ninth in DYAR and fourth in DVOA (and those will probably improve after the Carolina game), and the team's defense isn't great, the QB is doing pretty well. That might take steam off of Turner's candidacy.

Demond Sanders said...

FO stats are great and fun to play with. But one can make the argument that there really are only two relevant statistics for the MVP: Touchdowns and Wins.

You need plenty of each. Matt Ryan has 11 TDs which I label as pedestrian.

That being said, you are correct that having another great player on your team could hurt you. For example: Eli has Brandon Jacobs. Turner has Matt Ryan. Collins has Haynesworth. Plenty of people will say, "But you're not even the most valuable player on your own team."

Demond Sanders said...

To continue that thought: This is the cool thing about the 2008 season for Peyton Manning. None of his teamates are having their usual monster years. Addai and Harrison certainly aren't. And Reggie is on pace for the first statistical regression (catch-wise) of his career.

To the casual observer it looks like #18 is doing it with smoke and mirrors. This makes his MVP case much stronger than the average qb with similar stats. Of course he needs to keep winning games, but every MVP candidate needs to at this point.