Roughly a half of the 2013 NFL season is in the books, and it’s time to take a look at two of the most notable awards in the NFL. The MVP and Offensive Player of the Year award are sometimes difficult to distinguish, because the best player on offense is often times regarded as the Most Valuable Player to the team. This player is usually a quarterback, and I’m not going to deviate from this. Peyton Manning is obviously at the top of most people’s list for either (or both) awards, and I’m not exactly going to deviate from that either. However, my pick for MVP goes to somebody other than Manning, because I think that this player has carried his team on his back. But first, let’s get to Manning, who is my pick for the Offensive Player of the Year so far in the regular season.
Offensive Player of the First Eight Weeks: QB Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos
This is as easy of a choice as it gets, and it would be a fool’s errand for me to try and sell any other player but Manning in this space. Well, maybe I could get away with giving Calvin Johnson the Offensive Player of the Year award for the season thus far, but I don’t think anybody other than Manning deserves this honor. He’s had plenty of help from an elite group of pass-catchers, but it also takes plenty of talent to put up his gaudy numbers. He’s been brutally efficient at the end of ballgames, too, as he has the highest QB Rating of any quarterback in the fourth quarter with a 122.3 QB Rating (minimum 15 fourth quarter attempts). Just for the heck of it, I’ll tell you that Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford are second and third.
Manning has the clear lead on QBs in passing yards and touchdowns, and it’s obvious that his historic numbers make him the leading candidate for the Offensive Player of the Year award. He has six interceptions, but those picks definitely don’t tell the whole story. Manning has attempted 333 passes this season, so he is actually doing a great job of not throwing many interceptions; he’s throwing a pick on just 1.8% of his passes.
8.8 yards per attempt, 9.7 adjusted yards per attempt, an insane 364.9 yards per game, and 12.3 yards per completion are four key rate statistics worth noting. Manning is hitting his receivers deep, creating mis-matches with his head (as usual, the gridiron is just the extension of a chess board for #18), and he is making things look easy when it comes to play action plays.
It’s interesting to note that Broncos receivers have dropped 23 of Manning’s passes (looking at you, Eric Decker), but they have made up for it by providing a large amount of yards after the catch. Granted, great quarterbacks, especially ones as smart as Peyton Manning, have a knack for making it easier for their wide receivers to get yards after the catch.
There are ways to discredit Manning by pointing to all of his pass-catching talent (Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, and two darn good receiving backs) and the fact that he rarely faces pressure in the pocket, but that shouldn’t overshadow just how good of a player he has been. These arguments discredit his MVP candidacy, but they don’t blot out his offensive production enough to legitimately hurt his case at winning the OPOY. He has an unreal 119.4 QB Rating, leads ESPN’s TQBR, and he has been as precise as ever. Manning’s counting stats are slightly inflated when compared to the stats of a few other QBs since he has played in eight games through eight weeks, but his rate stats are still better in just about every facet.
If you are like me and you are interested in hardcore football analytics, then I think you will enjoy looking at these WPA and EPA totals. Don’t overlook Manning’s ability to get the job done at the end of games, even if he has that “playoff choker” tag.