Reporters begin making their case

Bills running back Fred Jackson, right, runs away from Redskins safety Laron Landry during Sunday's game in Toronto. (Associated Press)

With the NFL regular season almost halfway over, mainstream reporters have started to make their pitch for local MVP candidates. I’ll probably address the Peyton Manning scenario later (not realistic, but an interesting discussion), but will focus on active players as I cull the interesting arguments:

Buffalo News — Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson

Jackson’s total of 1,074 scrimmage yards is the second most in franchise history over that time period, trailing only O.J. Simpson, who had 1,106 in 1975. Only Simpson, who also had 1,073 in 1973, and Thurman Thomas, who had 1,032 in 1991, have topped 1,000 yards in seven games.

… In two of the previous three seasons when a Bills running back has cracked 1,000 yards in seven games, they went on to be the league’s MVP: Simpson in ’73 and Thomas in ’91.

Philadelphia Inquirer — Eagles running back LeSean McCoy

McCoy has 10 touchdowns (rushing and receiving), equal to (Adrian) Peterson and one behind Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, who also has played one more game.

In just his third year in Philadelphia, McCoy is on pace for 1,723 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns, which would destroy team records of 1,512 yards (by Wilbert Montgomery in 1979) and 18 total TDs (by Steve Van Buren in 1945).

Grantland — Bears running back Matt Forte

Forte got to 1,000 yards from scrimmage in fewer games than anyone since 2004 (Tiki Barber and Priest Holmes also did it in seven games). On his current pace, he would finish with 2,494 yards — second all-time behind Chris Johnson’s 2,509 in 2009.

… For me, it’s not the totals that have made Forte’s 2011 so ridiculous. It’s just how important he is to Chicago’s offense. Through seven games, Forte’s 1,091 yards from scrimmage make up 43.6 percent of the Bears’ offensive output. Since the AFL/NFL merger, only four players have finished the season with a higher percentage (O.J. Simpson in ’73, LaDainian Tomlinson in ’03, Johnson in ’09 and Jamal Lewis in ’03).

ESPN New York — Giants quarterback Eli Manning

Using the old traditional passer rating stat, he ranks third, at 102.1, behind only (Tom) Brady and the incomparable Aaron Rodgers. He is fifth in the league in completion percentage, fourth in passing yards per game and second behind only Rodgers in yards per attempt. He’s thrown 13 touchdown passes and, more importantly, only five interceptions.

… Many of the traditional elements on which the Giants have long been able to rely are failing them this season. They are a terrible running team, their 85.6 rush yards per game ranking ahead of only Seattle and Tennessee. They are poor at stopping the run, as only four teams — Carolina, Detroit, Indianapolis and St. Louis — have allowed more yards per game on the ground. They have scored only 10 more points this season than they have allowed, which makes the 5-2 record almost impossible.

USA Today — Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers is on pace to eclipse Dan Marino’s 5,084-yard, 1984 single-season passing record, Peyton Manning’s (2004) 121.7 passer rating and Drew Brees’ 70.6 completion percentage record set in 2009.

… Rodgers is the only quarterback since the 1970 merger to start a season with a 110 or better passer rating in seven consecutive games.

Chattanooga Times Free Press — Colts quarterback Peyton Manning

But with Peyton sidelined with a neck injury for the entirety of this season to date, the Colts are not only winless, but in serious danger of becoming only the second NFL team in history to go 0-16 since the league went to the 16-game format in 1978. The other was Detroit in 2008.

How much does Peyton mean to this team? With Manning at the helm the Colts have consistently been among the top five or six offenses in the NFL. Without him they rank 29th among 32 teams in scoring, 30th in yards per game, 31st in time of possession and 27th in passing yards.

Before Week Eight, some publications looked at the MVP race without focusing on a particular player:

Toronto Sun: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady

CBS Sports: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Calvin Johnson, Matt Forte, Peyton Manning

Grantland: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Calvin Johnson, Eli Manning

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