Peyton Manning. Tom Brady. Aaron Rodgers. All of these quarterbacks have claimed MVP awards since the last running back – LaDainian Tomlinson – took home the honor in 2006. In what is largely considered a passing league, is 2012 the year this streak ends? Through 15 weeks of the season I am inclined to say yes. Because truly no player has been as valuable as Minnesota Vikings’ running back All Day Adrian Peterson. Not only is Peterson on track to break Eric Dickerson’s record for rushing yards in a season, but he’s single handedly carry the Vikings to the postseason less than a year after suffering the gruesome injury in the video above.
While many had considered LeSean McCoy or Arian Foster or even Ray Rice the top back in the NFL heading into the 2012 season, it has become adamantly clear that AP has regained his top dog status. Through 14 games played, Peterson has amassed 1,812 yards on the ground on 289 carries for a career high 6.3 yards per carry (his previous high was 5.6 YPC which he set in his rookie season). Peterson has found the end zone 11 times this season – all rushing. But his ability to rack up yards on the ground has been nothing short of amazing. Especially when you consider that Peterson has been the only threat Minnesota has brought to the field every Sunday this season.
In a “league dominated by quarterbacks,” Peterson is averaging more yards per carry than Christian Ponder is averaging through the air. Ponder is only averaging 5.9 yards per attempt. While he has not had the luxury of throwing to Percy Harvin for a the majority of the season, that would not change the fact that Ponder is nothing more than a game manager who can scramble and improvise when the situation arises. Ponder is not going to go out there and win you a game on his own. He may do just enough to not lose it for you. Ponder is the definition of mediocre as his 16 touchdowns scored and 16 turnovers seem to balance each other out.
Nine out of the 14 games this season have seen Peterson rush for at least 102 yards. The last time Peterson failed to rush for 100 in a game was against the Washington Redskins… on October 14. Since that time, Peterson has only failed to rush for 150 yards twice. Peterson has also surpassed the 200 yard threshold twice over that same time period.
While many predicted three teams from the NFC North to reach the postseason this season, few even contemplated the Vikings’ chances of reaching the second season. Peterson was not even supposed to be ready for the start of the season, as it was unknown how large of a load he would even see in Minnesota’s Week 1 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Instead, AP started off the season with a 17 carry, 84 yard performance which included two trips to the end zone.
The only thing working against Peterson’s MVP campaign is the fact that the Vikings have yet to register a signature win this season. The only quality opponents Minnesota has beat this season were the 49ers in Week 3 and a collapsing Bears squad in Week 14. Other than that, the Vikings have lost to Indianapolis, Washington, Tampa, Seattle, Chicago (at Soldier Field), and Green Bay in Lambeau. With a trip to Houston and a home game against a Packers team which has already clinched a playoff spot in Week 17, the Vikings not only have a chance to make the playoffs but also add some signature wins to Peterson’s resume’.
So who is his competition for MVP this season? The usual suspects: Brady, Manning, and Rodgers. Then there are lesser shots like Charles Tillman and J.J. Watt. And even lesser challengers such as rookie quarterbacks Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson. In reality, Peterson’s main competition comes from Peyton Manning. Why?
The NFL loves Peyton Manning. I’m surprised they didn’t lock out in 2011 since he was planning his year long vacation. While the Vikings play in an incredibly tough NFC North, Manning has enjoyed his second year of vacation in the AFC West. Who is the best team Manning defeated in 2012? A Ravens team who lost to a Charlie Batch and an injured rookie in consecutive weeks? A Saints team who couldn’t beat Alabama at the time of the game? A Ryan Clark/James Harrison-less Steelers team in Week 1? Not exactly a stout resume’ for Manning, even if his individual stats are on point. Manning lost to the Falcons, Texans, and Patriots in the first five weeks of the season.
Brady was the frontrunner in my eyes before the debacle against the 49ers on Sunday Night Football. Aaron Rodgers has his Packers back on top of the NFC North after early season struggles, but for some reason he has not stood out this year as he did last season when he led Green Bay to a 15-1 regular season. There has just been something off about his play. Maybe it was the loss of their offensive coordinator in the offseason? Or it was the injury to Greg Jennings? Perhaps it was the inconsistency of Jermichael Finley and Jordy Nelson? Who knows. But out of Peterson, Manning, Brady, and Rodgers, I have Rodgers in clear fourth place in this discussion.
All Day needs 294 yards over these next two games to break Dickerson’s record of 2,105 which he set back in 1984. 147 yards per game. Considering he has been averaging over 180 YPG over his last three contests, it certainly is not out of the question. In my eyes, if Peterson breaks the nearly 30-year-old record and leads his Vikings to the playoffs he should take home the record. No one thought this Vikings team was going to do much of anything this season, and not too many thought that Peterson would ever return to his Pro Bowl form. Instead, AP has proven the majority of people wrong on both fronts and is about to wrap up one of the most impressive individual seasons in NFL history. Enjoy these last two weeks football fans. I know this is the most I’ve cared about the Minnesota Vikings since Randy Moss was catching bombs from Daunte Culpepper.