Tom Brady is making a serious case for this third MVP award with mind-blowing efficiency and a pattern of ruthless blowouts. He makes the right decisions, protects the football, turns up the heat when the heat needs turning and makes a statement when statements need to be made.
This style of play is impressive on its own merit, but it's even more impressive when you consider the fact that some of Brady's most elite offensive weapons have been quiet, injured or missing all season.
This is especially true of Rob Gronkowski, who got off to a slow start. It wasn't until Week 8 when he registered a game with at least 100 yards and multiple touchdowns (he achieved that feat in Week 3 last season).
Gronkowski semi-recently shook off the cobwebs and reverted back to his dominant ways. But soon after, in Week 11, he broke his forearm.
One week earlier than that thrashing, Brady led his team to a 59-24 massacre of the red-hot Colts without the aid of his other injured tight end, Aaron Hernandez.
Hernandez has been hit with injuries and he's only played a handful of games. He has only 19 catches, 179 yards and two scores. At this point last season, through New England's first 11 games of 2011, he had 47 catches, 480 yards and five touchdowns. That's a ton of lost production.
Gronkowski and Hernandez simply haven't been healthy at the same time. Neither guy has been healthy for stable periods of time. The Patriots are a double-tight-end offense, but they've spent 11 games with their tight end tandem in a scattered, beaten form, far from the glowing one-two punch they were last season.
Such a nightmare scenario would doom another team, but not the Patriots.
In the face of all the uncertainty, New England never wavered. They made it work. On the flip of a dime, they reconstructed their offense around new receivers and new running backs.
At the center of it all was Tom Brady, formulating a new method of attack-on-the-fly, orchestrating each game with ice-cold efficiency. He's playing like his offensive unit is in tip-top shape, as if none of his elite weapons were hurt, as if nothing's wrong at all, as if this was always the plan.
The Patriots have 4,794 total yards, 435.8 yards per game, 37.0 points per game and 3,213 net passing yards. Those numbers are staggering.
The Patriots have scored a whopping 407 points, ranking first in the league. The Texans are behind them with 327 points. That 80-point gap shows how potent New England's offense is, even with all their hiccups and obstructions.
This team is 8-3 and looking sharper by the week. They swept the Bills and Jets. They've enforced five severe blowouts, one of which was a 45-7 extravaganza in London.
New England is getting the job done, even with a defense ranked 27th in total net yards and 29th in passing yards. A weak defense and injured superstars doesn't generally equate to greatness, but Tom Brady is squeezing these lemons into lemonade like a true MVP.
Through 11 games, Brady has 3,299 yards, 24 touchdowns and a 105.0 passer rating. He also has three rushing scores.
He's beautifully handling a complex offense that jumps between land and air. He distributes the ball to Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Julian Edelman, Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker with expert precision, keeping every element of the offense hot and hungry.
Brady has put Welker on track for another 100-catch, 1,000-yard season, which essentially pushes Welker one step closer to the Hall of Fame.
Brady is dominating.
His biggest competition for MVP is a familiar rival: Peyton Manning.
Manning has 3,260 yards, 26 touchdowns, a completion rate of 67.7 percent and a 104.8 passer rating. Those are excellent numbers.
Even more impressive is the fact that Manning's doing this with a brand new team. He's restructured the culture of the Denver Broncos. That team was hardly in the gutter last season (8-8 with a wild-card victory over the Steelers), but still, Manning has morphed this playoff team into a Super Bowl contender. That's a special achievement, especially for a guy who missed all of 2011.
Brady is up against Manning's numbers, sure, but he's also up against the drama of Manning's triumphant return to form. A vote for Manning over Brady is a vote for the resurgence of greatness over greatness that never left. Where you stand on the matter will likely depend upon how much you value the drama of the situation.
For me, this goes beyond drama.
This is about properly defining a period of football history. Between 2001 and 2012, no quarterback has had a bigger impact on the game or defined this era more than Brady. He's had so many career seasons, but with only two MVP awards. There's an imbalance here.
Brady has been a stubborn model of consistency. He's kept a ruthless stranglehold over the AFC East for over a decade, virtually wiping out any evidence of divisional contention.
Thanksgiving's blowout broke the Jets and put any notion of a rekindled rivalry on ice. It also confirmed New England's single-minded devotion to domination, even after all these years.
Through 11 games, the Patriots have scored 30 or more points eight times. They've scored over 40 points four times. They've scored over 50 points twice. This is the web of power Brady spins, week after week.
A wicked 59-24 blowout over Andrew Luck and a tense 31-21 victory over Peyton Manning proved that Tom Brady is at the top of his game against the stars of tomorrow and the legends of today. He's as vicious as he's ever been, but he's also as quick and intelligent as he's ever been, too.
And here's the most important thing: Brady protects the football. He's only thrown three interceptions all season (Manning's thrown eight). Brady's dedication to ball security rubs off on his teammates; the Patriots have just eight turnovers this season, with 32 terrific takeaways, amounting to a sensational plus-24 ratio.
That's pure discipline and strong leadership from the quarterback.
In the face of slow starts, critical team injuries and a few disappointing losses, Brady has maintained his stature as the yardstick by which all quarterbacks are measured. Furthermore, he's maintained his team's status as a conference superpower and as a championship contender.
Brady's excellence has become so commonplace, it's easy to miss it. Don't let it pass you by.
Tom Brady is the MVP.
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