I don't want to live in a world where Shaun Alexander owns an NFL MVP award and Adrian Peterson does not. I don't want to live in a world where one of the NFL's all-time great running backs has an all-time great season and does not win the award.
This isn't about lifetime achievement. This is about 2012. No player was better or meant more over the course of the season than ...
1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
Peterson hit the top spot on my weekly MVP rankings for the first time last week. I made his MVP case then, and only an awful Week 17 performance would have knocked him out of the top spot. Instead, he racked up 199 rushing yards in a must-win game to drag an inferior Vikings team to the playoffs. He dragged a lousy offense to 37 points.
Peteson led the NFL in yards from scrimmage by 350 yards. There's nothing more that he could do. That it happened in the season after Peterson tore his ACL makes it a remarkable story, but this season is deserving of the award regardless.
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Manning will receive votes for MVP, and they are deserved. But it's strange that we give Manning a total pass for his biggest games of the season against the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and Patriots. Yes, it was before Manning had hit full stride. But those games count. When you are trying to separate two legendary quarterbacks, something has to break the tie.
3. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
Manning was good right away, great by midseason and keeps getting better. In recent weeks, the Broncos have added some routes that rely on Manning's arm strength even more, and he has handled it so well. He has made all the players around him better. Manning leads the NFL in QBR and completion percentage.
It's not hard to argue Manning was better this season than his final year or two with the Indianapolis Colts. No one saw that coming. He'll get a lot of MVP votes and might just win the award. He's not my pick, but he's certainly not a bad pick. I just worry some voters are voting for the story.
4. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
Watt just completed one of the greatest defensive seasons of our lifetime. His consistency week-to-week was outrageous, and he closed strong with a Defensive Player of the Month award in December.
Here's a good peak at Watt's dominance. Football Outsiders defines a "defeat" as a forced turnover (or tipped pass that leads to turnover), a tackle for loss, or a tackle or pass defensed that prevented a conversion on third or fourth down. Essentially, how many times did a defensive player completely dominate the play?
5. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
We're spoiled by Rodgers. He pulls off ridiculous throws and carries a flawed group of teammates week after week without a lot of notice. As great as Manning and Brady were this season, I'd still take Rodgers for my hypothetical playoff run this year. Only a slow start (by his standards) kept him from contending for the award.