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NFL MVP Forecast: Adrian Peterson makes his move

Last week I opened by saying that anyone not named Peyton Manning or Tom Brady would have to go absolutely bananas over the last three weeks to rise to the top of the MVP race.

So Adrian Peterson and J.J. Watt went absolutely bananas in Week 15. Peterson is starting to get more national push for the award. It will be a very interesting year for the voters.

1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Brady could have clinched my hypothetical vote Sunday night, but came just short. Still, I can't move him off the top spot when he throws for 443 yards and helps the Patriots score 31 points against one of the best defenses in football. My guess is that Brady won't win the award because his story isn't as compelling as the next guys on the list. Weak reason.

2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings

Peterson's case for the top spot, made lovingly by Michael Silver this week, becomes stronger by the week. Peterson didn't come out of the gates that hot, but he's absolutely carrying an offense that has next to no passing game.

I don't think an MVP should come down to whether Peterson breaks Eric Dickerson's record or whether the Vikings make the playoffs. But if Peterson continues his amazing late-season run the next two weeks, he might top the quarterbacks after all.

3. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Is Manning getting knocked slightly for making it all look too easy against mostly inferior competition? Yes, yes he is. I would have absolutely no problem with Manning winning the award at this stage. This is not a year where the wrong guy is going to win.

4. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

Watt all but won the Defensive Player of the Year award with another ridiculously dominant performance against the Indianapolis Colts.

It's hard to evaluate a defensive tackle against a quarterback. (That's true for running backs too.) But we can't imagine a defender being more valuable to his team than Watt this year.

5. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

The NFL leader in touchdowns-per-pass, quarterback rating, and sacks taken. His 291-yard, three-touchdown effort against the Chicago Bears was typical of his season. Rodgers is closing very strong.

6. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: He played his best game of the season in a huge spot against the New York Giants.

7. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: It's fun to see how defenses are loading up to stop Megatron and they still can't put it off.

8. Von Miller, Denver Broncos: He had a quiet week in Baltimore. That was notable because it's the first time it's happened since October.

9. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks: I love everything Russell Wilson has accomplished this year. But Lynch is the best player on the offense, the guy that has carried them all year. It's insane to say otherwise.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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