By Steve Silverman-

(CBS) OK, this thing has gotten ridiculous in Denver.

It was a nice story at the start of the year as Peyton Manning showed he was healthy enough to come back from his neck injury and play in the NFL once again.

It seemed there was a bit of an issue with both his arm strength and his grip on the ball at the start of the season, but he was still a far superior performer at his position to the departed Tim Tebow.

General manager John Elway and head coach John Fox were more than happy to let Manning find his sea legs.

He did that long before the season reached the midway point. He appeared to get much of his arm strength back and if he was having a problem gripping the football, it was no longer showing.

Heading into the final three weeks of the season, the Broncos have a clinched the AFC West and are fighting for one of the top two seeds in the AFC playoffs.

They just may get there because they just don’t lose any more. The Broncos have won eight games in a row. That could come crashing down this week as they face the Ravens in Baltimore, but they close with games against Cleveland and Kansas City at home. There’s no way that the Broncos will finish any worse than 11-5.

It’s Manning who deserves the credit. His numbers are where they were in the 2006 season, the same year his Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl by beating the beloved.

Manning has completed 330-of-483 passes for 3,812 yards with 30 TDs and 10 interceptions.

His remarkable performance has placed him right in the middle of the conversation for NFL Most Valuable Player Award honors.

He’s one of the co-favorites, along with old rival Tom Brady of the Patriots.

It’s been another spectacular showing for Brady, who led his team to an impressive 42-14 win over the front-running Houston Texans Monday night.

Brady threw for 296 yard and four TDs against the Texans and did not throw an interception. He picked apart the Houston pass defense with a prodigy’s know-how and he’ll get the second half of his back-to-back tests when the Pats host the 49ers Sunday. A similar performance will make him the frontrunner for the MVP.

Brady has completed 319-of-495 passes for 3,833 yards with 29 TDs and 4 interceptions. Brady’s great strength is not just all the big plays he makes, it’s the bad ones he avoids. His thought process is so sound that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick says he must do extra homework just to prepare for his meetings with Brady because the quarterback knows the offensive game so well.

Aaron Rodgers finds himself right behind Manning and Brady as the Packers prepare for their huge game with the Bears. In many ways, Rodgers has had a much more difficult assignment than those two quarterbacks because he has played much of the season without a running game and the Green Bay defense does not always provide the requisite support.

But Rodgers’ unfailing accuracy and ability to get himself out of trouble has landed the Packers in first place. Rodgers has completed 293-of-438 passes for 3,297 yards with 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

The Packers have just started to find their ground game in the last two weeks and if that continues this week, he, Rodgers could be setting himself up for an impressive finish.

Don’t think for a second that rookie Robert Griffin III couldn’t win the MVP award if the Redskins find a way to get past the New York Giants and win the NFC East. RGIII’s spectacular talent has come to the fore throughout the season and his reckless style has endeared himself to every fan of the burgundy and gold-clad Skins.

RGIII is a meteoric force this season and the brutal shot he took last week against the Ravens indicates that he may not be a longtime force in the NFL. So RGIII should enjoy it while it lasts. He has completed 233-of-351 passes for 2,902 yards with 18 TD passes and just four interceptions.

Avoiding interceptions as a rookie is an almost-impossible task, but RGIII has done it. Look at No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck, who has thrown 18 interceptions for the Colts.

RGIII, of course, is also a dynamic force on the ground with 748 yards, a 6.7 yards per carry average and six rushing touchdowns.

Finally, you can’t count out the remarkable Adrian Peterson. Every Vikings opponent makes stopping him their top priority since Christian Ponder is an imposter at the quarterback position. Nevertheless, Peterson has been ripping through everyone and has 1,600 rushing yards, a 6.0 yards per carry average and 10 TDs.

Can you say 2,000 yards?

Peterson has had 100 yards or more in seven straight games and his last two against the Packers and Bears have seen him gain 364 yards.

If the Vikings find a way to make the playoffs with their one-dimensional, 1960s-style offense, Peterson has to get his share of MVP support.

steve silverman small Silverman: Breaking Down The NFL MVP Race

Steve Silverman

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.

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