The candidates for this season's NFL MVP award are plentiful. So we asked our writers who they would pick if they had a vote. Their answers might give us a good indication of who will actually win the award when it is officially announced on Friday. Here they are:
Steve Wyche: Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning wrapped up the MVP in Week 16 when he completed his first 17 passes and rallied Indianapolis to a 31-24 victory over Jacksonville, sealing the Colts' seventh consecutive playoff appearance. He clinched it by leading his team on a run of nine consecutive wins to end the regular season, throwing 17 touchdowns to just three interceptions in that span. Manning, who brought the Colts out of a 3-4 funk to start the season, is the MVP not because he put up the gaudiest numbers, but the most meaningful and timely numbers. Also, put any other worthy MVP candidates -- Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner, Kurt Warner, Steve Smith, Albert Haynesworth, James Harrison, DeMarcus Ware -- on a Colts team without Manning. Would Indianapolis be any better? Or even as good? Now put Manning behind center on their teams, minus those players. Case closed.
Award tour: NFL.com's picks
Who was this year's MVP? Top coach? Best offensive rookie? NFL.com's Steve Wyche, Vic Carucci, Pat Kirwan, Thomas George and Gil Brandt reveal their picks. More ...
Vic Carucci: Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning has won this honor after more dominant seasons statistically, but is no less deserving. In fact, it's conceivable that Manning has never been more valuable. He hardly looked like an MVP candidate in September while working his way back from two operations to deal with an infected bursa in his left knee that sidelined him for the preseason. Manning has since regained the form that makes him one of the greatest players in NFL history. Thanks to his prolific passing and unparalleled leadership, the Colts overcame a struggling running game and defense and became the league's hottest team through the second half of the season.
Thomas George: Ed Reed
The Baltimore defense has long gained its reputation and its identity with Ray Lewis controlling the flow at middle linebacker. But it is at the rear of this defense where safety Ed Reed roams and that is where the game's most impactful player and its MVP resides. Reed has been so good for so long that fans now routinely expect the spectacular from him. He has helped push a Ravens club that is not extraordinary from top to bottom but full of desire to a successful first season under coach John Harbagh. Reed's nine interceptions this season have been returned on average for 29.6 yards and two were touchdowns. He is an offensive threat on defense. A gifted punt returner. A difference-maker. The most valuable.
Pat Kirwan: Peyton Manning
My finalists included Adrian Peterson, Drew Brees, and even Eli Manning. But Peyton Manning's performance with all the injuries, including his own (which caused him to miss the preseason), was second to none. The Colts defense is ranked 24th vs. the run, which limits Manning's opportunities. The Colts offense struggles to run the ball, ranking 31st. His center, Jeff Saturday, missed significant time, guard Ryan Lilja is out with an injury and teams blitzed him early in the season. Manning put the team on his back and carried them to the playoffs. At times we all take him for granted but this year he has been above and beyond what a league MVP should be to his team.
Gil Brandt: Peyton Manning
There are plenty of worthy candidates this season, and the seven I consider the most deserving, in alphabetical order, are: Kerry Collins, Matt Cassel, Peyton Manning, Chad Pennington, Ed Reed, Matt Ryan, and DeMarcus Ware. My choice is Manning. He missed all of training camp and the preseason with a knee injury, then came back with an offensive line that was riddled with injuries. He started the season behind three rookie linemen who started a combined 20 games this season. Also, the Colts' running game was a non-factor, allowing teams to play the pass and not worry about the run. After the Colts started 3-4, Manning came up big over the final nine weeks. He threw 17 touchdowns and only three interceptions in the nine-game stretch -- all victories. Nobody over the last nine weeks has played better or contributed more to his team's success.