So far this season there is no clear-cut, runaway candidate for NFL MVP as there was a year ago when Tom Brady was the easy selection. The most high-profile player on arguably the best team is Giants quarterback Eli Manning and if New York stays on its current trajectory, Manning is probably the favorite.
My choice after 11 games is Atlanta's Michael Turner because of the Falcons' improbable comeback from the hopeless gloom of 2008 and Turner's role in all that. Interestingly, on one list I saw of odds on players to win the league MVP, Turner wasn't even among the 21 candidates. Two old pros, Kurt Warner and Brett Favre, are among the frontrunners. Clinton Portis is on my short list and Adrian Peterson could just as easily be there as well. Only one receiver is mentioned as a long shot because the MVP typically goes to a quarterback or running back. Defensive players are rarely selected. If they were, I'd have Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison (12 sacks, four forced fumbles) in the mix.
Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta. Stats: 1,088 yards, 13 TDs. Turner is a key to both the Falcons' 7-4 turnaround season and the success of rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. Much as the Ravens have given Joe Flacco a limited script, the Falcons have been able to take some of the weight off Ryan because of Turner. Despite leading the NFL with 251 carries, Turner has not lost a fumble.
Eli Manning, QB, NY Giants. Stats: 2,319, 18 TDs, 7 int. Manning's numbers are good but not huge. However, his maturation is the primary reason why the 10-1 Giants are the best team in football at the moment, with all due respect to the Tennessee Titans.
Kurt Warner, QB, Arizona. Stats: 3,506 yards, 21 TDs, 8 int. For the NFC West-leading Cardinals (7-4), Warner is putting up the kind of numbers he did when he was the league MVP in St. Louis. For a team that's so reliant on the pass, Warner has been the perfect fit.
Brett Favre, QB, NY Jets. Stats: 70.6 completion percentage, 20 TDs, 13 int. For Favre to come in cold with the Jets and have them in contention is just astounding. Certainly, Favre, the Jets (8-3) and the rest of the AFC East have been the beneficiaries of the season-ending injury to New England's Tom Brady. But Favre connecting on more than 70 percent of his passes is incredible.
Clinton Portis, RB, Washington. Stats: 1,206 yards, 4.9 yards per carry, 7 TDs. Portis provides both inspiration as well as offensive production to the Redskins. Without him, Washington (7-4) is not a contender in the NFC playoff picture. He leads the league in rushing yardage and has done it despite being nagged by injuries.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota, 1,180 yards, 8 TDs.
Kerry Collins, QB, Tennessee, For the obvious reason, the Titans' 10-1 record.
Jeff Garcia, QB, Tampa Bay, 5-2 as a starter.
Anquan Boldin, WR, Phoenix, 11 TD catches.