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NFL Most Valuable Player Race 2012: Wide Open Between Manning, Brady, Rodgers, RGIII and . . . Adrian Peterson

 

Last year, Aaron Rodgers ran away with the Most Valuable Player Award. At a time when Drew Brees was on his way to the all-time yardage title, Rodgers was the clear choice based on past voter behavior and his play. Rodgers was the leader in the categories that have historically corresponded best with MVP awards, ranking in passer rating and adjusted net yards per attempt, followed by touchdowns and yards per attempt. It was so clear cut last year that it led to a cottage industry of seeing who could outdo each other in naming a ridiculous MVP. Remember when Gregg Doyel said Tebow should be a candidate?

This year, though, the buzz has been reduced. This year, though, there are way more reasonable candidates because no one is on their way to a 50 TD season. No one is a clear cut favorite. I think the candidates are down to five names based on past behavior of voters: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Robert Griffin III, and Adrian Peterson.

I went through, for the quarterbacks, other seasons that were most similar, and then pulled the MVP years on the list amount the twenty most similar passing years (so this does not include Griffin’s rushing, something that has traditionally not been a factor for quarterbacks in MVP consideration).

Here are the number of MVP’s who had similar years (out of 20) to each candidate.

Peyton Manning: (3) Brian Sipe in 1980, Joe Montana in 1990, Peyton Manning in 2003. Manning currently leads in touchdown passes and is in a virtual dead heat for passer rating and adjusted net yards per attempt. He also has the comeback factor and taking a new team to a 10-3 record at this point, and I think he’s the favorite with four weeks left.

Tom Brady: (2) Brian Sipe in 1980, Peyton Manning in 2003. Brady is having a similar statistical year to Manning, so it’s no surprise they share the same previous winners. It is pretty awesome to see that Brian Sipe season show up. That was a year with the Cardiac Kids in Cleveland, where Sipe put up similar rate stats to Manning and Brady while also winning several close games.

Aaron Rodgers: (1) Brett Favre in 1996. Pretty funny that the only MVP similar season to Rodgers belonged to the man he replaced. Rodgers currently has a slight lead in passer rating, but his touchdown rate and yards per attempt are low compared to most MVP candidates with 4 games left.

Robert Griffin III: (1) Rich Gannon in 2002. Gannon’s 2002 season isn’t that similar, and obviously RGIII is doing it in a different offense. Gannon’s rate stats were more similar, but he threw it a ton. Griffin also runs the ball and his rushing contribution is a wildcard here. Ken Anderson’s 1975 season, when he was not selected but could have been, also shows up. Anderson, like Robert Griffin III this year, ran an offense that was unusual for the NFL.

Adrian Peterson: (3) Walter Payton in 1977, Shaun Alexander in 2005, LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006. Three of the top twenty rushing yardage seasons since the merger have resulted in a running back being named MVP. Of course, Alexander and Tomlinson also broke touchdowns records. Peterson has eight this year. On the other hand, he has the factor that he is coming back from a knee injury. He is on pace right now to finish with just below 2,000 yards. If he crosses it, he will get a boost.

Many of the comparables for our other candidates show up in years when other running backs run it, particularly in 2005 and 2006. If the quarterbacks split votes amongst each other, I wouldn’t rule out Peterson getting the award while getting less than a majority of the votes.

Still four weeks to go, and at least five candidates with a case based on where they are now, and past voter behavior. Unlike last year, it really is up for grabs, and someone can have their MVP moment in December.

[photo via USA Today Sports Images]

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