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Mike Sando's MVP Watch: 10 to consider

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

This 2009 debut edition of the weekly MVP Watch draws from two decades of history for guidance.

Quarterbacks and running backs have won the award every year since Giants great Lawrence Taylor prevailed for his efforts during the 1986 season.

In 2008, DeMarcus Ware's 20-sack performance bought him exactly zero votes in MVP balloting. Peyton Manning commanded 32 of 50 votes to win for a third time. Steelers linebacker James Harrison was the only defensive player -- the only player other than a quarterback or running back -- to register in voting. Three of 50 panelists chose him. Tom Brady's return from knee surgery could prevent Manning or anyone from winning so convincingly this time.

I've put together an initial top-10 list based mostly on expectations. The list will shrink and the names could change as the season progresses, but it's an upset if a defensive player makes a serious run.

Manning has never missed a start, his team has won at least 12 games for six consecutive seasons and the Colts have ranked fourth or higher in points eight times over the past decade.

Not even Brett Favre's arrival will dissuade the Vikings from handing off to the best running back in the league. Peterson should cut down on fumbles this season.

Brady's mechanics appeared intact upon his return from knee surgery. He still has the weapons, too. All signs point to good things for No. 12 despite a preseason shoulder scare.

The stats figure to be there for Brees and the Saints' passing game. Overall team success will again determine where Brees figures into the MVP discussion.

Rivers pumped up his numbers significantly last season. LaDainian Tomlinson has the potential to turn TD passes into TD runs, however, possibly hurting Rivers' stat line.

Ken Whisenhunt has taken over play-calling duties and the Cardinals would like to show more balance. The passing game remains Arizona's strength, however.

Turner will have to share the ball -- and the credit -- with emerging star Matt Ryan, but the Falcons aren't likely to become pass-happy anytime soon.

Coming off a 4,000-yard season, Rodgers must improve in key situations for the Packers to significantly improve upon their 6-10 record last season. I like his chances.

The stats haven't always been there for Roethlisberger, but he wins consistently and that's half the battle for most MVP candidates.

McNabb has reached 20 touchdown passes in a season only once in the last four and twice in the last seven. He'll need better numbers to seriously challenge for MVP.