Commentary

Early-season MVP: Cool Brees or rolling Rivers?

The Saints' Drew Brees is headed for a record season, but the Chargers' Philip Rivers is the league's top-rated passer.

Originally Published: October 16, 2008
By | ESPN.com

Best team: Giants, Steelers or Titans? | Best running back? | Best end of Favre deal?
Best MVP candidate: Philip Rivers or Drew Brees? | Worst team: Bengals or Lions?

Drew BreesJames Lang/US PresswireDrew Brees is on pace to break Dan Marino's single-season mark of 5,084 yards passing.
When you debate MVP candidates, the conversation inevitably turns to quarterbacks. So forgive us, Tennessee D-tackle Albert Haynesworth. You're having an excellent season (five sacks) for the NFL's stingiest scoring defense and only unbeaten team, but we can't include you in this conversation. A pair of quarterbacks from 3-3 teams frame this debate.

Saints QB Drew Brees: Move over, Dan Marino?

Anyone challenging a Dan Marino record should be a lock for the MVP award. That's why Drew Brees is the clubhouse leader for that honor after six weeks.

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Brees not only is challenging Marino's record of 5,084 passing yards but is ready to shatter it. The Saints' quarterback is on pace for a 5,315-yard season by averaging 332.2 passing yards a game. Even more amazing is that he has been doing it mostly with backup receivers. Marques Colston, David Patten and tight end Jeremy Shockey have been sidelined with injuries. But Brees has been on fire.

Marino set the standard for quarterbacks in 1984, throwing for 48 touchdowns and 5,084 yards. Peyton Manning topped him with 49 touchdowns in 2004 and won the MVP award. Tom Brady threw for 50 touchdowns last year for a Patriots team unbeaten in the regular season. He won the MVP award.

Although the Saints are only 3-3, Brees can't be blamed for a lack of clutch field goal kicking. He had the Saints in position to win two more games, but Martin Gramatica missed field goals. (Gramatica has since been put on the injured reserve list.)

Brees' numbers are staggering. He's completing 71 percent of his passes and averaging 8.9 yards an attempt. He's a master of making the right reads and getting rid of the ball. He has attempted 224 passes but has been sacked only six times. At 29 and on a roll, Brees should win the MVP award in a breeze.

-- John Clayton, ESPN.com senior writer

Philip RiversStan Liu/US PresswirePhilip Rivers leads the league in passer rating at 109.4 and is tied for the lead in TDs with 14.

Chargers QB Philip Rivers: In total command

The NFL MVP thus far this season is San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

No quarterback has a better command of his team than Rivers. A first-class leader, Rivers has catapulted the Chargers out of a 0-2 start. They are 3-3 and trail Denver by one game in the AFC West.

The Chargers are coming off their best overall game of the season, a 30-10 win over the New England Patriots. Although the Chargers as a whole have been inconsistent, Rivers has been outstanding all season.

At 26, he is becoming one of the game's best all-around players. With key offensive players LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, Nick Hardwick, Marcus McNeill and Chris Chambers dealing with injuries this season, Rivers still has led the offense beautifully.

Rivers, who is coming off a torn ACL in his knee suffered in the 2007 postseason, has among the best individual numbers in the NFL despite the team's issues. His passer rating of 109.4 leads the league. His 14 touchdown passes is tied for the league lead, and he has thrown only four interceptions.

This is your NFL MVP.

-- Bill Williamson, AFC West blogger