Leading Off

Just like NFL, race for MVP is wide open

Last year, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was the clear choice for MVP.

Heck, Manning, who passed for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, had the award wrapped up by midseason.

This year, much like the NFL – eight teams already have won at least 10 games, and there’s no clear Super Bowl favorite – the race for MVP is wide open.

Manning is having another solid season, but he has plenty of worthy competition this season.

Manning: Though he’s 38, he’s passed for 4,143 yards and 37 touchdowns, and the Broncos (11-3) have clinched the AFC West. The Broncos play at Cincinnati on Monday and host the Raiders to close the season.

Aaron Rodgers, Packers: He’s having another great season, with 3,837 yards, 35 touchdown passes and just five interceptions. Yes, he had an awful game in Sunday’s loss to the Buffalo Bills (17 of 42, 185 yards, no touchdown passes, two interceptions), but the Packers (10-4) play the lowly Tampa Bay Bucs this week before closing the season against Detroit in an NFC North showdown.

Tom Brady, Patriots: At 37, he continues to put up big numbers, passing for 3,847 yards and 38 touchdowns, and his team has clinched the AFC East. The Patriots (11-3) close the season against the Jets and Bills. Brady will put up big numbers against the Jets, but the Bills could treat him like they did Rodgers.

Andrew Luck, Colts: Indianapolis (10-4) has clinched the AFC South, led by Luck’s 4,492 yards and 38 touchdown passes. After playing the Cowboys on Sunday, the Colts close the season at Tennessee. If the Colts are playing for home field, Luck could have a monster game against one of the league’s weakest defenses.

DeMarco Murray, Cowboys: Even a broken bone in his hand might not slow Murray, who leads the league in carries (351), rushing yards (1,687) and rushing touchdowns (11). If he can play against the Colts and Redskins, he has a chance to beat out the quarterbacks, who have won the award six of the last seven seasons.

J.J. Watt, Texans: He’s getting a lot of support because he’s considered the most disruptive defensive player in the league, but the award hasn’t been won by a defensive player since Lawrence Taylor in 1986. Plus, the Texans are 7-7.

– Tom Couzens