Peyton Manning should win his second consecutive and fourth overall MVP award Saturday.
His Colts have won the past 23 games Manning started and finished. My perception was that Manning's stats weren't off the charts by his standards this season, and to a degree that is true. He tossed 16 interceptions, Manning's highest total since 2002. But after taking into account the 14-0 record Indianapolis posted to open the season, consider these statistical milestones:
Manning completed 68.8 percent of his passes, a career high.
Manning passed for 4,500 yards, the second-highest total of his career.
Manning completed 59 passes of at least 20 yards, the second-highest total of his career.
Manning tossed 33 touchdown passes, tying the second-highest total of his career.
Manning took a career-low 10 sacks despite attempting 571 passes, tied for the second-most attempts of his career.
The Colts set an NFL record with seven fourth-quarter comeback victories.
Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Brett Favre also deserved consideration. Their teams won big during the regular season. Manning wasn't always as flashy as the other candidates, but he was easily the most important player on the most impressive team.
I can hear the protests already.
"Peyton Manning stays at the top because why?" Eric from Chicago wrote during an ESPN.com chat Tuesday. "Because he only played hard in 14 games? Because he played a half against the Jets and then the Colts lost? Because they lost to Buffalo when he started? How is that possible when Chris Johnson became only the 6th person in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards, or for Brett Favre and/or Aaron Rodgers to throw for half the INTs Peyton did. Doesn't make sense, does it? Didn't think so!"
Chris Johnson? Put him on the list, sure, but put him over Manning? Not happening.
"I put Chris Johnson in the conversation because he had a terrific year," my in-chat reply read. "How valuable could he have been? His team started 0-6 and missed the playoffs. How many running backs are leading their teams to glory right now? It's a passing league. Carolina had two 1,000-yard rushers and what did it get the Panthers? Steven Jackson led the NFC in rushing for the 1-15 Rams. Frank Gore had his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season and fourth consecutive season without the playoffs. Peyton Manning is multiple times more valuable than any running back in the league."
Manning was usually the difference during those seven fourth-quarter comeback victories. And he was 14-0 when management forced him to shut it down.
This was a fairly easy call for me. We'll see if MVP voters agree.