- Jeffri Chadiha, NFL
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There isn't going to be any surprise when the NFL names its Most Valuable Player this season.
New England quarterback Tom Brady wrapped up that award sometime around midseason, when it became obvious that he would be unstoppable unless an injury or Mother Nature got in his way. Sure, Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss and Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre might get some votes.
But they should know the league's MVP award is a done deal by now. Brady simply has been that good.
In fact, Brady's dominance made us think about all those other players who've been obscured by his brilliance. After all, it's not like he's the only man in the league who's enjoyed an impressive season. There's been at least one player on every team who has merited some level of recognition -- even if this season has belonged to Brady and the Patriots -- and that's why we've decided to focus on those individuals. Instead of trying to figure out who can come in second to Brady for league MVP, we're going to name an MVP for each team.
Some of these players are being honored because they've produced extraordinary numbers. Others are being recognized because of their consistency and toughness.
But let's make one thing clear about this list: All of these men had tremendous value. Each of their teams would have been hard-pressed to compensate for their absences.
So without any further explanation, here are the Most Valuable Players in the NFL this season:
New England: Tom Brady, QB. Can there be any question about this one? Brady is enjoying one of the best passing seasons in NFL history and he might as well clear some space in his home for the league MVP trophy as well.
Buffalo: Jason Peters, LT. He started his career as a right tackle, but he's already made the Pro Bowl after 23 starts on the left side. How good is Peters? He allowed just two sacks through his first 14 games.
New York Jets: Leon Washington, RB-KR. He provided a fair share of the big plays for a team that hasn't had many of those this season. His performance as a returner (he scored on three kickoffs) was also as good as anybody in the NFL.
Miami: Jason Taylor, DE. A lousy season in Miami didn't stop Taylor from playing with the same spirit that earned him NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2006.
Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger, QB. After an injury-plagued, error-filled 2006 campaign, Big Ben has proven that his troubles are behind him. He's going to his first Pro Bowl because he has shown that he can handle an offense built around his strengths.
Cleveland: Derek Anderson, QB. All you have to know about Anderson is that Browns general manager Phil Savage said he "saved our season." Anderson also happens to be the most improved player in the NFL.
Cincinnati: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR. There haven't been many positives for the Bengals this season. Houshmandzadeh's career-high and league-best 103 receptions (through 15 games) -- along with his first Pro Bowl appearance -- qualifies as one of the few.
Baltimore: Ed Reed, FS. He's still the best playmaking safety in the NFL.
Indianapolis: Reggie Wayne, WR. He's been a reliable weapon in an offense that has been plagued by injuries to its receivers. If not for Randy Moss, Wayne would've been the most dominant wideout in the AFC this year.
Jacksonville: David Garrard, QB. It looks like the Jaguars made the right call when they dumped Byron Leftwich in the preseason and gave Garrard the starting job. Through Week 16, Garrard has thrown 18 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.
Tennessee: Albert Haynesworth, DT. Talk about a turnaround. Last season Haynesworth was known as the guy who served a five-game suspension for stomping on the head of Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode. This season he has been the key variable on a defensive line that had been dominant until a hamstring injury slowed him down. If you don't double-team this guy, he dominates.
Houston: DeMeco Ryans, MLB. The 2006 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year will go to his first Pro Bowl. Something tells us he'll be back in Hawaii many times before his career ends.
San Diego: LaDainian Tomlinson, RB. The Chargers started turning their season around when they remembered that the league's best runner operated in their backfield. Tomlinson has been unstoppable recently with three 100-yard games in the last three weeks.
Denver: Champ Bailey, CB. On a defense that disappointed for most of this season, Bailey wasn't part of the problem. That's why he's heading back to the Pro Bowl.
Kansas City: Jared Allen, DE. He put last season's alcohol problems behind him by playing like a man on a mission (his 13 ½sacks through 16 games are a career-high). The Chiefs need more players with his combination of talent and desire.
Oakland: Justin Fargas, RB. With LaMont Jordan and Dominic Rhodes in the fold, he was supposed to be an afterthought. He wound up producing his first 1,000-yard season and proving that he was Oakland's best offensive weapon.
Dallas: Tony Romo, QB. He's answered all the questions about whether he deserved a fat extension from the Cowboys this season. Even though he can still be a little too cavalier at times, he's going to be an elite quarterback for a long time.
New York Giants: Plaxico Burress, WR. You want to talk about tough? Burress produced every Sunday despite nursing an ankle injury so painful that he couldn't practice during the week. Giants quarterback Eli Manning should be grateful he has this guy on the roster.
Washington: Sean Taylor, FS. The fans, coaches and players honored him by posthumously selecting him to the Pro Bowl. It wasn't just a nice gesture. He really had been playing that well before he died on Nov. 27 following a gunshot wound sustained in a home invasion.
Philadelphia: Brian Westbrook, RB. He's been beaten up all season, but that hasn't stopped him from producing. In fact, it's hard to remember when his diminutive size was a major reason the Eagles were concerned about his receiving as many touches as he's had this year.
Green Bay: Brett Favre, QB. Another no-brainer. If not for Brady, Favre would be running away with the league MVP award this season.
Minnesota: Adrian Peterson, RB. He's been the most dynamic player in the Twin Cities since Randy Moss was running past hapless defenders a few years back. If not for a knee injury that cost him two games, Peterson would've broken Eric Dickerson's NFL rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards.
Detroit: Jon Kitna, QB. His prediction of 10 wins for the Lions made people snicker, but his leadership kept them competitive for much longer than most cynics expected.
Chicago: Lance Briggs, LB. He' s been of the few highlights on a team that has disappointed all season.
Tampa Bay: Jeff Garcia, QB. He's been exactly what the Bucs hoped he'd be -- a reliable, experienced leader who will limit his mistakes. Garcia's numbers haven't been spectacular, but his presence has been invaluable.
New Orleans: Drew Brees, QB. The Saints could have crumbled after opening the season with four straight losses. Instead, Brees led them back into playoff contention with his passing.
Carolina: Jon Beason, MLB. The Panthers fell out of contention so quickly that it was easy to miss Beason's contributions. He has a bright future in this league.
Atlanta: Michael Boley, OLB. He leads the Falcons with 106 tackles and he's also added three sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions. Those would be Pro Bowl-worthy numbers on a better team.
Seattle: Patrick Kerney, DE. Kerney signed a six-year, $39.5 million deal in the offseason and then produced a league-best 14.5 sacks. That's a pretty good return on investment.
Arizona: Larry Fitzgerald, WR. The Cardinals played the quarterback shuffle (Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner) and they lost Anquan Boldin to injury at different points of this season. None of those problems affected Fitzgerald's productivity.
San Francisco: Patrick Willis, LB. This rookie seemed to be a perfect fit on a team that employs one of the greatest middle linebackers ever (49ers assistant head coach Mike Singletary). It turns out that Willis was even better than advertised as he leads the NFL in tackles.
St. Louis: Torry Holt, WR. A lot of things went wrong for a Rams offense that was ravaged by injuries to stars like quarterback Marc Bulger, running back Steven Jackson and left tackle Orlando Pace. Holt wasn't one of them.
Jeffri Chadiha is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
17hEric D. Williams
2dSharon Katz & Hank Gargiulo