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NFL MVP Candidates In 2013


December 2, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) runs away from Green Bay Packers linebacker Erik Walden (93) at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard enough to earn an NFL roster spot, much less an MVP award.  But couch potatoes can look ahead to predict who will capture the trophy next season.

The reigning champion, Adrian Peterson, must rewrite history in his repeat bid.  No running back has ever won back-to-back MVP selections.  Only two defensive players (most recently Lawrence Taylor in 1986) have been elected for the award.

More than ever, quarterbacks rule the day.

Not that dominating aerial attacks are a bad thing.  We are witnessing a golden age for pigskin tossers, where 4,000 throwing yards is the new 3,000, and 60% success on completed throws is the standard for keeping a starting job.  Unless you’re a fan of three-and-outs and the battle for field position (like someone), this is a good trend for the sport.  But not for parity with the MVP process.

Here are the frontrunners for 2013 NFL MVP:

Peyton Manning

If Christopher Reeves had access to the same medicine Manning did, perhaps the actor would be standing today.  At 36-years-old, the 2012 Comeback Player of the Year produced the second highest quarterback rating of his career (105.8), yet fell short of his fifth MVP award.  Still, with another year removed from neck surgery and more familiarity with his weapons (plus a match made in heaven in Wes Welker), Manning could realistically improve his play.

Tom Brady

Brady (not Charlie Sheen) is a true winner, because his passion for football overshadows his ego.  Two weeks ago, the three-time Super Bowl champ took a pay cut, saving the Patriots $23 million in cap space while extending his deal to 2017.  Joe Flacco won’t listen, but this will allow New England more flexibility to improve the roster, including the re-signing of good friend Sebastian Vollmer.  Critics may claim Brady’s success is a result of Bill Belichick’s offensive system, but since Mr. Grumpy is still on the sideline, why should we expect any change?

Aaron Rodgers

The best NFL quarterback under 30, Rodgers consistently shreds secondaries in spite of mediocre talent supporting him.  The Packers have struggled for years to field a strong offensive line and running game, so the 2011 MVP makes the most of his deep receiving corps.  Unfortunately, with Greg Jennings, Donald Driver (retirement), and Jermichael Finley (potential cap casualty) headed to the door, there will be no position of strength outside of signal caller.  With Steven Jackson reportedly close to signing, maybe the Pro Bowl running back will add balance to open downfield to play action throws.

Jan 20, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan

Can Matty Ice follow up his career year (68.6% completions, 4719 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, 99.1 passer rating) with an even better sequel?  Whether or not the Falcons sign a new center and a workhorse running back, Ryan’s three favorite targets (Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez) will all return, which means more fireworks in the Georgia Dome.

Drew Brees

Brees has never won MVP (a travesty), but he is an NFL season record holder, so there’s some justice.  The four-time All-Pro had a down year by his standards as he (and his teammates) struggled to deal with the “Bountygate” punishments, throwing 19 interceptions and producing his lowest completion percentage since 2003-04.  Nonetheless, Brees is hardly washed up, and despite losing bodyguard Jermon Bushrod to free agency, the return of Coach Sean Payton will be a positive influence to The Big Easy’s sports hero.

Colin Kaepernick

Idiotic guess?  Perhaps.  But no one foresaw Kaepernick’s exponential development curve (particularly when limiting turnovers) after seizing the starting job in week 11.  If you multiplied his numbers as a starter over the course of the regular season, the 25-year-old would have accumulated 3,675 throwing yards, 544 rushing yards, a 62.5% completion percentage and 27 total touchdowns.  With Anquan Boldin in the mix, Kaepernick’s ceiling may be limitless.  Let’s see if the Super Bowl loss serves as motivation.