MVP race: Manning vs. Peterson

adrian-peterson3

Sometimes, things aren’t clear cut. Like this season’s MVP race. I think if you want to expand the pool names like Brady, Rodgers, or Watt would slip in there, and deservedly so, but when it all comes down to it this year’s MVP race can be simply defined: Manning vs. Peterson. So, who wins the MVP?

Value to Team:

Manning wasn’t on the Broncos last year, and they won the AFC West. Manning was on the Broncos this year, and they won the AFC West. So, he couldn’t have been that valuable right? Well, the Manning-less Broncos went 8-8 and sneaked into the playoffs as a fraudulent 4-seed. The Manning-led Broncos finished tied for the league’s best record and the 1-seed with home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. This isn’t nearly enough to describe how important Manning was to the team. He transformed the Broncos into a serious Super Bowl contender and changed the whole culture of the Broncos.

Peterson was on the Vikings last year, and they finished 3-13. Peterson was on the Vikings this year and they finished 10-6 and earned a wild-card bid on the last week of the season. So, how can Peterson be valuable when the team finished 3-13 with him there the year before? Last year was a mess for the Vikings, so the blame can’t lie on Peterson, but how do we know this year’s success wasn’t because of a better defense, Christian Ponder’s maturation, or even first-round pick Matt Kalil. Well, I think Peterson’s value goes beyond his spot on the field. His speedy recovery for ACL, MCL tear not only motivated the team, but his performance, jumping right back in better than before, raised the whole team to another level. Peterson is without question the face of the Vikings, and when he came back so fast and so good, the team responded. He turned a 3-13 team into a 10-6 team. He carried them every week, and made the entire team better. Manning did the same thing, but the way Peterson did it was more impressive. The thing is, though, anytime you can take a team and make them a Super Bowl contender, it’s impressive.

Edge: Draw

Numbers:

Manning – 68.6% completion percentage, 4,659 passing yards, 37 TDs, 11 INTs, 105.8 QB rating

Peterson – 348 carries, 2,097 rushing yds, 6.0 yards per carry, 13 TDs, 40 receptions, 217 receiving yds

The only thing against Peterson is he had 4 fumbles. Other than that, he had a season for the history books. Manning put in a great season, even by his standards, but Peterson’s was all-time great.

Edge: Peterson

WAR:

I’m not really sure how to calculate Wins Above Replacement (WAR), but I get the concept. Peterson led the league in rushing and the second place finisher was 484 yards behind. That’s astounding, at a position that is coined by many as easily replaceable. Manning, it could be argued, isn’t that much better than Brady and Rodgers, even put Drew Brees in that category. Andrew Luck, RGIII and Russell Wilson led their teams to the playoffs as rookies. In the end, though, I think the quarterback is the most important position in sports. Having a great one makes your team great, no matter the rest of your team. I think the distant between Peterson and the second best running back is farther than Manning and Brady, but the distant between Manning and Andy Dalton is so much more than say the distant between Peterson and Stevan Ridley.

Edge: Manning

Competition:

Manning and the Broncos had one of the easiest schedules, if not the easiest schedule in the league. They played 5 playoffs teams and only beat 2 of them: the Bengals and the Ravens. Their division had a combined record of 26-38, and that’s including the Broncos 13-3 record. The Broncos also were in the AFC which as this season proved is far less deep than the NFC and has easier competition. The Broncos had a cupcake schedule.

Peterson and the Vikings had one of the hardest schedules. Their division’s combined record was 35-29. They played seven playoff teams and their record in those games was 3-4, but in their toughest stretch of the season they played their final six weeks against the 10-6 Bears, the 12-4 Packers, the 10-6 Bears, the 7-8-1 Rams, the 12-4 Texans, and the 12-4 Packers. In those last six weeks they were 4-2 to finish strong and make the playoffs, and in those last six games Peterson had 969 rushing yards1 and 6 TDs. He carried2 the Vikings through their toughest stretch of the season and into the postseason; he was at his best when the games mattered the most.

Edge: Peterson

Injuries:

This argument wouldn’t be complete without the comeback stories. Manning had four neck surgeries3 and missed the entire 2011 season. He was then replaced by his former team and found a new city, new team, and made the transition as if nothing had happened. He is a football machine.

Peterson tore his ACL and MCL in Week 16 of last year, making his timetable for return Week 16 of the next season as ACL tears are usually a full year injury. Well, no one told Adrian Peterson. He was back for Week 1 of the 2012 season and was other-worldly. Just a freak of nature and I can’t believe I am the same species as him.

Both injuries were serious and both comebacks were amazing and something that will always be remembered. The 2012 season was built on replacement refs, Calvin Johnson, J.J. Watt, and the comebacks of Peterson and Manning. Neither one was better than the other, both were amazing.

Edge: Draw

Verdict:

Both had amazing years, but when making a decision on who is the 2012 NFL MVP my answer is Peterson. He motivated his entire team with his amazing comeback, had a year statistically for the history books, did it against the toughest competition, rose to another level when the games mattered most, and was the most valuable player in the NFL. Watching highlights from yesterday’s Vikings-Packers game, I thought every time Peterson touched the ball he was going to run for 60 yards. After every big run, the crowd was going crazy, Peterson’s teammates were rallying around him, high-fiving, hugging; they carried him of the field! I found myself cheering for Peterson and the Vikings, not because I like underdogs or wanted the Giants out of the playoffs, or because I don’t like Rodgers and the Packers. It’s because Peterson was putting forth a superhuman effort, playing as hard as he can for as long as he could, and I wanted to see that effort rewarded. So, I think it’s time for Peterson to have that effort rewarded with the MVP. Watching Peterson run yesterday made me realize that this year’s MVP race is clear cut. Adrian Peterson is the MVP.

 

  1. When I saw that number on my calculator, I added them up again thinking I added something wrong. That number is crazy.
  2. Really, though, Peterson wasn’t letting the Vikings lose. He was everything for the Vikings.
  3. No surgery is minor. I was out of commission for a week when I had my wisdom teeth out. Four neck surgeries! Then comes back like nothing happened.
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