Adrian Peterson runs for eighth touchdown of the season.

2012 NFL MVP: An Argument for a Runningback

Adrian Peterson has admitted that winning the NFL’s most valuable player award would mean a lot to him. Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning says he hasn’t thought much about it and New England Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady simply doesn’t care.

So let’s just give the award to Peterson right now. After all, one thing is certain: Without AP the Minnesota Vikings would not be 7-6 heading into Week 15 and they would not be in a position to make the playoffs.

Adrian Peterson

“It would mean a lot,” Peterson told ESPN on Thursday. “I work to be the best to play.”

Good for him. It’s nice to know the people who are playing at the top of their games and providing fans with their money’s worth every week, understand what they do. It’s been said that the highest praise anyone can pay an athlete is to pay money to watch him play. When you pay money to watch Adrian Peterson, you get value.

Just look at the numbers: With three games remaining, Peterson leads the NFL with exactly 1,600 yards rushing on 265 carries. He’s averaged exactly six yards per carry and has 10 touchdowns in 13 games. Most importantly, he has rushed for more than 100 yards in seven consecutive games. His average over that stretch is 157.3 yards per game. Even if he isn’t the MVP, he’s definitely the most outstanding player.

This week, the Vikings head to St. Louis and with a win, they will be 8-6 and probably tied with Chicago (the Bears face Green Bay with an injured Jay Cutler) for second place in the NFC North. They will also be in the thick of the Wild Card hunt.

Meanwhile, Peterson needs to average about 134 yards per game to pass the iconic 2,000-yard rushing plateau. He also needs 169 yards per game to break Eric Dickerson’s record 2,105 yards set in 1984. That might not be the most difficult task this season. After all, Peterson has rushed for more than 170 yards in three of his past five games.

The most amazing Peterson stat this season, however, is this one: 832 yards after contact, just about 300 more yards than the next best rusher. The guy has speed, power and tremendous cutting ability, and he’s done it all this year despite reconstructive knee surgery last winter.

I know, I know, quarterbacks pretty much own the MVP, but if there was a case to be made for someone other than a quarterback, Adrian Peterson’s 2012 performance could very well make that case.

Let’s take a close look at the Top 3 candidates for NFL MVP:

Adrian Peterson runs for eighth touchdown of the season.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Here’s the thing about Peterson’s 832 yards after contact, only 16 other players in a 32-team league have more rushing yards total after 13 games. Last week against Chicago, he carried 31 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He almost single-handedly beat the Bears. He’s the only reason the Vikings have a shot at the playoffs and he’s rushed for 1,600 yards in an offence that allows the defense to put eight and nine men in the box because the other teams know Christian Ponder can’t pass. Most valuable player means, “Would your team have as much success without you?” In Minnesota, the Vikings would have NO success without Peterson.

Peyton Manning: The probable winner.

Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos: I love Peyton Manning and I love what’s happened in Denver, but remember, the Broncos made the playoffs last year with Tim Tebow at quarterback and he can’t get on the field with the wonky Jets. Granted, he’s won eight straight games at the most important position on the field, his team is now 10-3 and he leads the NFL in QBR. He’s sixth in passing yards with 3,812, first in percentage (among QBs with 300 or more passes) with 68.3 percent, is No. 3 in average at 7.9 yards per completion and is second in touchdown passes with 30. But remember, the Broncos made the playoffs in 2011 with Tim Tebow at quarterback.

Tom Brady: Runner Up?

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: According to ESPN, “Brady ranks a close second to Manning in Total QBR and leads the NFL by that measure from Week 3 to present.” He’s great. Period. The way he eviscerated Houston last week was something beyond imagination: 21-for-35 for 296 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s fifth in passing yards with 3,833, fifth in percentage (among QBs with 300 or more passes) with 64.4 percent, is No. 4 in average at 7.7 yards per completion and is third in touchdown passes with 29, although he’s thrown only four interceptions all year. The Patriots are 10-3 and if they beat the 49ers this week, there are a lot of experts who will rank Brady No. 1 in the MVP race.

Don’t worry, we also like Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers, runningback Marshawn Lynch in Seattle, Houston defensive end J.J. Watt (although a defensive player will not be MVP this season) and also rookie quarterbacks Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Robert Griffin III in Washington.

However, all things being equal, and hoping that Peterson, Manning and Brady remain healthy over the final three weeks, one can pretty much guarantee that one of them will be MVP.

And while my vote remains with Peterson, I wouldn’t begrudge either Brady or Manning the recognition.

Adrian Peterson : MVP

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