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NFL MVP forecast: Peyton Manning on top for first time

It was ridiculously early in the season when we started writing this MVP forecast. With six games left, the best candidates have started to solidify.

Matt Ryan's five-interception game in Week 11 has shaken up the list -- even if three of the picks weren't his fault. We have a new leader.

1. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

We still have reservations about putting Manning first, because the Broncos lost their three toughest games of the year, and Manning didn't play well in two of them. But his overall excellence during Denver's five-game winning streak has been too hard to ignore. He might stay atop the list for a while.

2. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

Watt's pace has slowed down in recent weeks. He'll need monster games against the Detroit Lions on Thursday and the New England Patriots on "Monday Night Football" for a real chance to win. Of course, for Watt, "slowing down" meant notching eight tackles, three QB hits, two tackles for loss, one sack and a tipped pass against Jacksonville.

3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Eleven touchdowns and no interceptions in his past four games. A 21:3 split on the season. Some of Brady's passes up the seam against the Colts were criminal. He's taken for granted.

4. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

We're a little frightened by the thought of what Peterson will do after a week off. Running through the Bears' defense twice in four weeks would prove a point.

5. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers He's playing out of his mind right now and still has a shot to win this thing. Carrying a depleted roster on his back certainly won't hurt his chances.

6. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: It might seem unfair to drop him based on one game, but Ryan hasn't been as consistent as the players listed above since October started.

7. Von Miller, Denver Broncos: Watt has serious competition for the Defensive Player of the Year award with Miller and Bears cornerback Charles Tillman.

8. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: It's his first appearance on the list. A win against the San Francisco 49ers would seriously put the Saints in the playoff race.

9. Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts: We'll think of Wayne's career differently because of this season.

10. Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears: Don't pin Chicago's meltdown on him.

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