Defense doesn't always win NFL championships. It almost never wins MVP awards.
The MVP Watch list after Week 16 reflects this reality.
But in a league where offense is king, defensive players fall by the wayside. Lawrence Taylor was the last defender to earn MVP honors, and that was 23 years ago. Current sack leader Elvis Dumervil might have had an outside chance if the Broncos had kept winning and Dumervil had kept up his early pace (8.0 sacks through four games, 10.0 through six).
Manning's chances grew with every Colts victory, including quite a few close ones in which quarterback play made the difference. While the team's decision to rest Manning and other starters did not hurt Indianapolis in our most recent power rankings, it might hurt Manning among MVP voters. An undefeated season would have differentiated Manning from all other candidates, notably Brees.
But the manner in which Indy finally lost -- only after Manning left the game -- again demonstrated Manning's value.
He looks like the favorite.