This week, we’re debuting a new feature — our votes for the MVP award, based on secret ballots from our team of analysts. (Apologies to the excellent Mike Sando, who does his top 10 every week for ESPN.com).
Tallying up the votes, one question begs asking: When did the Kansas City Chiefs start producing MVP candidates? Between our nine voters, 31 players got mentions, and three from Kansas City managed to sneak their way into the top 10: Tamba Hali, Brandon Flowers and Jamaal Charles.
Not bad for three guys drafted no higher than 20th — and all by former GM Carl Peterson, who was run out of town in 2008, months after he picked six of the Chiefs’ current 22 starters in the 2008 draft (including Flowers and Charles).
On to the list, compiled by awarding 10 points for a first-place vote, nine for second, etc. — much better than the Associated Press’ asinine method of every writer picking one player. Not surprisingly, since we actually realize that non-QBs play the game, there’s a good mix of positions in our top 20: QB, RB, T, OLB, ILB, CB and DE. But the list is led by the only player to appear on all 10 ballots, and whose name is fairly familiar to sports fans.
1.Peyton Manning, Indianapolis (8 first place votes, 97 points): Yep. Manning is well on his way to a fifth MVP, and there’s really not much of an argument to be made against him. The two voters who didn’t have him No. 1 had him no worse than third.
2. Philip Rivers, San Diego (1 first-place vote, 56 points): While Rivers deserves a lot of credit — and is the only player in the top 10 from a losing team — Antonio Gates didn’t receive a single mention despite his nine touchdown catches in eight games.
3. Brandon Flowers, Kansas City (55 points): Flowers appeared on all but one ballot, and is more or less replicating the Darrelle Revis season from a year ago — like Revis in 2009, he’s being targeted plenty and doing the job (37.4 defensive passer rating). And Flowers Island has an even better ring to it.
4. Tamba Hali, Kansas City (48 points): Monster pass-rusher wasn’t listed on three ballots, probably because of his so-so run defense, but 53 total QB disruptions in seven games? Sick.
5. Trent Cole, Philadelphia (39 points): On a team with a young offense and facing a tough schedule, Cole’s consistently great play in all phases deserves respect. No player in the league over the past three seasons has been more dominant on a weekly basis.
6. Clay Matthews, Green Bay (38 points): Speaking of dominant, only an injury has kept him from the top of this list. His +10.0 rating in Week 1 vs. Philly is the stuff of legends.
7. Jake Long, Miami (1 first-place vote, 19 points): After the top six, there was a clear fall off to a scattered group of candidates. Long leads those thanks to Ben Stockwell, who sounded a rallying cry for linemen everywhere with his selection of Long No. 1.
8. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City (18 points): You don’t average 6.5 yards a carry over a half season in the NFL, period. But Charles is doing it, behind a good-not-great Chiefs line. As a bonus, he’s great in the receiving game (+2.5) and a solid pass-blocker (+1.1).
9 (tie). Adrian Peterson, Minnesota (16 points): The great season by Purple Jesus is being obscured by all of the dog-like behavior in Minnesota. Jared Allen, Brett Favre and Randy Moss all tanked, but Peterson (3.3 yards after contact this year, up from 2.9 a year ago) is getting it done.
9 (tie). Ray Lewis, Baltimore (16 points): Lewis is a great player having a great year, and you know his value goes beyond the field.
Also receving votes: Haloti Ngata (15), Jason Jones (15), Ahmad Bradshaw (14), Roddy White (14), Tom Brady (14), Brandon Lloyd (10), Aaron Rodgers (10), Darren McFadden (7), Sam Bradford (6), Damien Woody (6), Lawrence Timmons (4), D’Brickashaw Ferguson (4), LaDainian Tomlinson (4), Matt Ryan (4), Michael Vick (3), Carl Nicks (3), Zach Miller (3), Peyton Hillis (2), Josh Freeman (1), Andre Johnson (1), Kevin Williams (1).