After Monday night, Tom Brady is your 2012 NFL MVP.
Brady was absolutely superb against what had been a very good Houston defense. He finished the game completing 21 of 35 passes for 296 yards and four touchdowns.
The Texans had been struggling against the pass recently, but the Patriots were without Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski. Brady probably could have had much higher numbers had New England not been up 21-0 at the half.
For most of the season, Peyton Manning has been almost universally regarded as the top choice for MVP, and it's been very hard to argue otherwise.
He has the fourth-highest passer rating in the league while throwing for 3,812 and 30 touchdowns. The Denver Broncos have gone from a team barely making the playoffs last year to contenders for the Super Bowl.
Brady has actually thrown more more yards, a higher passer rating and six fewer interceptions.
Manning deserves plenty of plaudits, but the play of the team's defense warrants almost as much praise.
The Broncos defense is what elevated the team into the postseason last year, and it's doing the same again this year. Denver ranks fourth in yards per game, which is actually a huge improvement from last year when it finished 20th.
New England, on the other hand, has a merely average, possibly even below-average defense. The Patriots rank 27th in the league, giving up an average of almost 381 yards a game. The defense also ranks 11 spots below the Broncos in terms of scoring defense.
Brady isn't able to rely on a steady defense like Manning. He must compensate, carrying a larger part of the team on his back.
In addition, Brady is doing it against tougher competition. The Patriots' strength of schedule is .524, whereas the Broncos' is .467. New England also has a much higher strength of victory.
The narrative for Manning is very appealing.
After recovering from two neck surgeries, he was cast aside by the Indianapolis Colts in favor of rookie Andrew Luck. Now Manning is back to his old self, winning football games and racking up a ton of yards.
That shouldn't be taken into account when evaluating the most valuable player. Sentiment should be cast aside when trying to objectively determine one player's value over another.
It's neck and neck between Manning and Brady, but right now, Brady should get the advantage.