NFL MVP Race: Why Adrian Peterson Is the NFL's Most Valuable Player

Chris SchadContributor IIIDecember 30, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 30: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings runs against the Erik Walden #93 of the Green Bay Packers on December 30, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Andy Clayton King/Getty Images)
Andy King/Getty Images

As the National Football League wraps up its final week of regular season games, the race for the Most Valuable Player award has been narrowed down to two players with much in common.

Both Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos and Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings have had spectacular seasons coming off of major injuries. These injuries were so severe that many people thought that they would never be the same player once they returned.

However, both players returned and led their teams to the playoffs and made a major case for the NFL's most prestigious individual award.

So, who should take home the hardware? It's obviously Adrian Peterson.

Peterson, who tore his ACL and MCL in his left knee on Christmas Eve 2011, has single-handedly carried the Vikings to the playoffs despite multiple deficiencies in the passing game.

While Peterson started slow with 499 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings' first six games, he took off in the final 10 games.

His 1,898 yards and 11 touchdowns helped pose the most legitimate threat to Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record since Jamal Lewis rushed for 2,066 in 2003. Finishing nine yards short of the record, Peterson still carried the Viking offense all season long.

The best example of this came after Week 9 when the Vikings' lone receiving threat, Percy Harvin, went down with what turned out to be a season-ending ankle injury.

Peterson really turned on during that stretch with 162 yards per game despite constantly facing eight or more defenders toward the line of scrimmage.

With Christian Ponder struggling to hit the century mark in passing yards on a consistent basis during that stretch, Peterson took the team and ran them straight into the team's first playoff berth since 2009.

While the Broncos have captured the AFC's top seed, Manning just didn't have the same dramatic effect on his team.

Yes, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas had career years with Manning under center. Yes, Manning has had a similar rebound from major injury. However, the Broncos made the playoffs in 2011 with Tim Tebow at quarterback.

The Bronco offense has more explosive parts than the Vikings do. This makes defenses account for everything rather than stuffing the box like packaging peanuts to stop the best running back in the NFL.

The NFL MVP award has not been awarded to a running back since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006. With Peterson's historic season, voters should consider going against the grain.