Our 10 top candidates for MVP remain the same this week, but we have a new leader that looks a lot like the old leader.
Back when we started this feature, Philip Rivers was the solid No. 1 choice before team fortunes and slightly diminished his accomplishments. Now, he’s back in charge. Our 10 voters were split on the relative merits of Michael Vick, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady, but almost everyone placed Rivers 1, 2, 3 or 4.
And why not? He entered the Week 15 grading period as our top-rated passer, and the Chargers’ injuries in the receiving core have been notable. Of course, it’s not as simple as that – San Diego’s receivers have all been pretty good this year regardless of pedigree, and Rivers has taken a remarkable amount of penalties that knock his overall grade down.
But he’s also been the most consistent performer of any QB this year, notable in a season where there have been so many good ones.
1. Philip Rivers, San Diego (84 points, 3 first-place votes)
Another fact in Rivers’ favor? He’s got one of the bottom 10 pass-blocking units in front of him according to our grades.
2. Michael Vick, Philadelphia (69 points, 3 first-place votes)
His passing grades aren’t near our other top candidates, but he grades out as the game’s top running threat, passing the idle Adrian Peterson with his stellar performance vs. the Giants.
3. Matt Ryan, Atlanta (67 points, 4 first-place votes)
Ryan is probably out of the running for the actual MVP award, but could still end the season as our top-graded passer on a 14-2 team – which would be some pretty impressive credentials.
4. Tom Brady, New England (64 points)
His team has been really rising to the occasion of late, good news for the Patriots’ playoff aspirations, not as good for Brady’s one-man-team reputation.
5. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (46 points)
Two subpar games by Rodgers followed by a game on the bench have pretty much torpedoed the Packers’ season, but Rodgers’ contributions shouldn’t be forgotten.
6. Drew Brees, New Orleans (45 points)
A lot of differing opinion on Brees, who failed to appear on three ballots but was ranked highly on four others. The biggest knock on him this year is his poor performance under pressure (+3.0, well behind the other top QBs).
7. Kyle Williams, Buffalo (31 points)
We haven’t graded the Bills-Dolphins game as yet, but it was certainly a miserable day for the Miami offense and Williams is likely to have had a lot to do with it.
8. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis (30 points)
Old No. 18 is right there with Rivers and Ryan atop our QB grades, and it’s tough to argue that any quarterback has had to overcome more this season to succeed as a passer than Manning has.
9. Julius Peppers, Chicago (27 points)
Since Kyle Williams is unlikely to get any serious attention for Defensive Player of the Year, we wouldn’t mind seeing Peppers get it instead. He certainly has shown huge worth to a Chicago team that has relied so heavily on the defense.
10. Trent Cole, Philadelphia (20 points)
The Eagles’ defense is on a fairly steady slide these past few weeks, and Cole will need to play at his normal top form for them going forward.
Others receiving votes: Peyton Hillis (13), Terrell Suggs (13), Cameron Wake (11), Jamaal Charles (6), Andre Johnson (5), Matt Cassel (5), Maurice Jones-Drew (4), Darren McFadden (4), Adrian Peterson (3), Bart Scott (3), Tamba Hali (2), Brandon Flowers (1), Roddy White (1), Nick Mangold (1).