Who are your MVP candidates after ten weeks? Gotta have Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan in there. If you’re making a case for a defensive guy, J.J. Watt and Charles Tillman warrant a mention. All those guys are solid candidates. But right now I don’t think anyone has a better case than Adrian Peterson.
Start with the stats. He’s leading the league in rushing with 1,128 yards. He’s averaging 5.8 yards per carry which is an insane number. His seven rushing TDs is second to Arian Foster. But the raw stats don’t really tell the story. You have to consider those stats in context. This guy is putting up these numbers on a team that has struggled mightily to mount a passing attack. He is threatening to run for 1,800 yards even though defenses consistently stack the box to stop him.
You have to watch him week-after-week to really appreciate what he’s doing. The way he’s exploding through holes and punishing defenders. The way he’s been able to cut back. How he’s bouncing plays outside. His Hulk-like stiff-arms. The way he eludes defenders even in the backfield on plays where it seems he’s going to get stuffed. This is a guy who for years has looked super-human. But right now he looks beyond super-human. He looks legitimately unstoppable.
Oh and here’s the other thing you shouldn’t forget. He’s doing all this less than a year after having his knee rebuilt.
If ever a guy deserved bonus MVP points for pure physical freakishness, Peterson is the guy. What he’s doing seems like it should be impossible. But he’s doing it.
Over the last four games Peterson has kicked it up from amazing to jaw-dropping. Here are his rushing totals over those games. 153. 123. 182. 171. He’s padded his numbers with some long runs of course, but even his short runs are consistently impressive. His five yard runs often come in situations where it looks like he should be stopped for minimal gain. And his big runs are just electrifying. His 61-yarder against Detroit was backbreaking. Probably his best play in the bunch was the long non-TD run against Seattle where he stiff-armed two defenders and cut back, and only got caught because he seemed to pull up at the end.
Again, this is all happening even though the Vikings are one of the worst passing teams in the league. Against Arizona and Seattle the passing game didn’t even crack 50. But Peterson still ran roughshod over those teams. Can he pour it on like this the rest of the season and challenge 2,000 yards? It’s a long-shot right now. But I’m not putting anything past this guy. He gets a week to rest up now and come charging back out of the gate for a final six-game spurt. He needs to average 145.33 yards-per-game over the final six to make it to 2,000. Sounds like a tall order. Of course, over his last four games he’s averaged 157.25. And he faced some good defenses in that stretch. So it’s not out of the question that he could still flirt with 2,000.
But what about the MVP question? Right now I think Peterson is arguably the front-runner. Taking everything into consideration: coming off the injury, what he’s doing despite defenses stacking the box, just the pure ferocity of his performances. And the fact that the Vikings are actually in the playoff hunt after ten games. That’s maybe the biggest point in his favor. This is a rebuilding team with a shaky quarterback and an up-and-down defense. But the one consistent factor has been Peterson. He’s carried his team like no one else has carried theirs. And he’s only gotten stronger as the season has gone on.
It goes without saying that the Vikings would be nowhere without Peterson’s presence. He makes them legit. You can make a good case for several other guys as MVP, but to me no one has a better case right now than Peterson. He is making everyone in the football world stand up and take notice. As things stand today, there is no better player in pro football.
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