Mike Sando's MVP Watch

Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (right), New Orleans' Drew Brees (center) and New England's Tom Brady remain the focus of the MVP conversation. US Presswire

The MVP Watch list heading into Week 16 is half new and, hopefully, not half bad.

The Big Three haven't changed for weeks. Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady have earned their spots at the top. The other seven spots are largely negotiable from week to week.

Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Terrell Suggs, Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker appeared last week. All five are sitting this one out for various reasons:

  • Manning: Blame a 1-5 record over the Giants' last six games even though Manning remains supremely valuable to his team.

  • Roethlisberger: A nasty ankle injury and the San Francisco 49ers' defense doomed Roethlisberger to a three-interception performance while raising questions about his status for the near future.

  • Suggs: Great player, horrible defensive performance from Baltimore against San Diego.

  • Gronkowski: How dare the Patriots target other players for a week. Gronkowski went without a touchdown after scoring 11 in his six previous games.

  • Welker: Had four receptions for 41 yards, his second-lowest totals of the season.

Those five remain in the conversation outside The Conversation. In other words, none is going to seriously challenge for MVP honors while Rodgers, Brees and Brady are rewriting record books, but all five remain worthy of a mention.

The same was true for the five players new to the list from last week.

Good seeing you again, Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford. You, too, Tony Romo and Philip Rivers. There was also room for Justin Smith in the No. 10 spot after his 49ers held the Pittsburgh Steelers to three points Monday night. Smith is the best player on arguably the NFL's best defense, and one reason the 49ers have not allowed a rushing touchdown in 15 games or a 100-yard rusher in 36.