Adrian Peterson rushed for 212 yards and a touchdown to lead the Vikings to a 36-22 victory over the St. Louis Rams. This puts the NFL single season rushing record of 2,105 yards within reach. He has two games left to rack up 294 yards that would give him the record. That's impressive, but it's not the only reason that Peterson is deserving of strong consideration for the League's MVP award.
Peterson's performance today was enough to lead the Vikings to an 8-6 regular season record. With their final two games against the Texans and the Packers, it's likely that the Vikings will not make the playoffs and will end up with an 8-8 record. However, even if they end with just 8 wins, that's a pretty big accomplishment for this team. Many predicted fewer wins, and after an injury to wide receiver Percy Harvin, expectations sunk even lower.
As it stands, Peterson is the only offensive weapon this team has in its arsenal. He is the every down back, Harvin has missed much of the season due to injury, and Christian Ponder averages just 180.5 passing yards per game. Teams know that Peterson is coming. They know that he is the team's only weapon. They stack the box, and Peterson still manages to run through (and over) defenses.
Oh, and let's not forget to put this 1,812 yard 10 touchdown season in context. Peterson suffered a devastating injury less than a year ago where he tore his ACL and had MCL and cartilage damage to his knee as well. He's not just coming back from that injury, he's having an historic season while carrying an entire team on his back.
I know that it's a quarterback's league. But I think that actually makes a stronger case for Peterson's MVP resume. Quarterbacks have every advantage when it comes to putting up video game numbers; defenders have less leeway to cover or hit wide receivers which creates more open targets for QBs and increases incentive for teams to throw the ball. Additionally, QBs are more protected than ever with respect to roughing the passer penalties and how defenders are able to hit quarterbacks. These are advantages that are built into the game via rule changes - we should expect quarterbacks to put up huge numbers based on these advantages that incentivize passing oriented offenses. That has shown when you look at how the quarterback position has risen in value over time. Since 2001, only two running backs have won the MVP award, the rest - quarterbacks.
Running backs have not gained any kind of advantages through rule changes and have actually suffered from those that have benefitted QBs; it now makes less sense to run the football than ever.
Now I'm not trying to minimize what Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers have done thus far. Those are the other likely MVP candidates, and a strong case could be made for each. But what Peterson has done is nothing short of amazing. If he tops the NFL record, I don't see how he doesn't win MVP. Even if he doesn't quite reach that mark, I think that he has made an extremely strong case to be named the MVP.