For as long as I can remember, there has not been a comeback player of the year race like the one we are witnessing this year between Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning. Before we get into what they’re doing on the field this year, let’s flashback to why they are being considered for comeback player of the year.
We go back to Christmas Eve of last season when the Vikings beat the Redskins 33-26. The outcome of the game was rendered meaningless, but during the game Peterson’s leg got caught underneath another player’s body and was severely injured. Many feared of what was to be confirmed after the game, that AP had torn his MCL and ACL. The injury ended his season, which became the first season he failed to rush for 1,000 yards; and many predicted he would be sidelined well into the next season. Usually, an ACL injury will take up to a year to fully recover from, and many players do not regain the same burst and power that they had pre-injury. When conducting the surgery, Dr. James Andrews was astonished to see that Peterson’s knee had suffered hardly any wear and tear, even though he had been in the league for five years already. He described it as “a new born baby” and it may be the explanation for why he has been able to bounce back with such incredible success. He worked harder than anyone else in the league to get back to full strength and not miss a game. Many fantasy owners passed on the usual first overall pick in such drafts; and chose to wait and let someone else gamble and take him in the 2nd round. Being foolish I took Ryan Mathews over him; and it was the prime reason my team stayed near the cellar for most of the season. Peterson was thought to miss the very beginning of the year at least, but he did not allow that to happen. He is currently number one in fantasy for running backs with 270 points, and he still has three games to go.
(AP Photo/Stephen Morton)
Peyton Manning’s injury can be dated back to before last season, where the future Hall of Famer had surgery to fuse two vertebrae in his neck. Manning missed all of last season after the fusion surgery. He had had another surgery the previous May to fix a bulging disk. The fusion was to remedy a nerve problem that had weakened his right throwing arm. There are many questions surrounding Peyton about whether he could play again, or at the same level that he had in year’s past. The Indianapolis Colts, the team he had played for ever since he entered the league, decided to move on and drafted Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in the NFL Draft. Peyton had an emotional press conference to say good bye to the organization and its fans, and then the sweepstakes began. Four teams were very interested in his services including the 49ers, Dolphins, Cardinals, and Broncos. In the end Manning chose Denver over San Francisco as the other two dropped out late. Tim Tebow was dealt as a result to the Jets, and the Mile High City became Peyton’s home. Hall of Fame quarterback and now VP of Operations for the Broncos, John Elway, put all he had into recruiting Manning, and it worked, but he was taking a huge gamble at the time. Reports surfaced that Manning had trouble throwing to his right side and his velocity was down from what it had been in the past. Then, all those questions were answered once the season began. Peyton has set the world on fire, by leading Denver to a 10-3 record and an already clinched AFC West. His squad is currently riding a current NFL high eight- game winning streak; and there is no reason that the Broncos can’t win out and finish 13-3. Not too bad from a guy, who some stated may never see the field ever again. Doctors questioned how he would be able to sustain hits in the pocket, and if he was putting his life in jeopardy by setting foot on the field. Well, all he has done is become the leading candidate for the MVP Race and put his team in prime position to make a run at a Super Bowl title.
Now that we know how they got themselves in the Comeback Player of the Year Race, let’s take a look at the numbers and make a pick, shall we?
So far on the year Peterson has rushed for 1,600 yards which are the most ever by a running back following an ACL injury-plagued year; keep it mind there are still three games remaining. He needs to average 133 yards per game the rest of the year to eclipse the elusive 2,000 yard mark. Over his last seven games, AP has averaged 157 yards per contest, so to think he can get to 2,000 is not far-fetched at all. If we want to think crazy, Peterson is only 505 yards from the all-time single season rushing record set by Eric Dickerson. To get to that number he must average just less than 170 yards a game, and to be honest he can do that too. He has given Minnesota a fighting chance to make the playoffs as they are now 7-6 and sit one game out of the 6th and final spot in the NFC Playoff picture. In my opinion the Vikings wouldn’t have more than three wins without the stud running back which also puts his name in the MVP Race, especially if he gets to 2,000 yards.
People worried about Peyton’s accuracy this year, but he is putting up his 2nd best completion percentage in his career, with 68.3% of his passes being completed. Manning has tossed 30 touchdowns and only ten interceptions in just 13 games and is on pace to put up his best numbers in the scoring category since 2004. With a slip up by New England potentially against Houston, the Broncos could be looking at a first round bye; which would mean hosting a crucial matchup in January against the Patriots instead of heading to Foxboro, if the situation arose.
One could really make a strong case for either player, which makes this year’s race so intense. If I had to cast my vote, at this point, I would take Adrian Peterson. Many did not believe he would be playing this year at all, and he has himself in position to join the elite group of six running backs to ever rush for at least 2,000 yards in a season. The scary part is that Peterson recently said he hasn’t been playing at full strength and is still recovering. I don’t know if many defenses want to see him at full strength, as he may truly become unstoppable. I could realistically see Peyton Manning winning the MVP because of the position he has the Broncos in as they approach the playoffs, but comeback player of the year goes to the “Purple Jesus”.