Picking the midseason fantasy football MVP can be difficult.
Normally, a few worthy candidates emerge after seven weeks and fantasy players can make their case for any of them.
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This year? Not so much.
In the 15 seasons I've been doing this column, there's never been a bigger slam-dunk winner than Broncos QB Peyton Manning, who is putting up numbers you'd see if seasoned Madden video-game players went through an entire season on "rookie" level.
He's on pace to break Tom Brady's record for passing TDs in a season (Brady had 50, Manning's on pace for 52); and on pace to absolutely shatter the single-season yardage mark of Drew Brees (5,476; Manning's on pace for 5,863!).
In my regular snake-draft league, Manning has a whopping 271 points, while Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford sit a distant second and third with 185 and 184 points, respectively. He has twice as many points as the 12th-ranked player (Cam Newton) and 141 more points than the top running back (Jamaal Charles).
So Manning owners, sit back and enjoy the ride to the fantasy playoffs.
The rest of the midseason awards:
The Philip Rivers checked in at No. 18 on my preseason rankings, but the Chargers' signalcaller has lit up the league in a pass-first attack. The impressive thing is how Rivers is doing all of this with no big-name receivers, save Antonio Gates, who is hardly the Gates of years past. Rivers is on pace for 4,873 passing yards and 34 TDs.
Ryan Tannehill, Jake Locker (who missed two games), Alex Smith, Joe Flacco and Geno Smith all have more fantasy points through seven weeks than the Patriots' Tom Brady. Ugh.
In the three leagues I checked, teams with Brady are 1-6, 2-5 and 4-3 (and that 4-3 team is eighth in total points out of 12 teams).
Brady has ONE touchdown pass the last three weeks while averaging just 231 passing yards. He's bench material until further notice.
Last season, I took Jamaal Charles in my auction league and he was mostly terrible for the first 10 weeks (except, of course, in Week 3 when I benched him and he compiled 288 yards from scrimmage with a TD). This season, Charles has become the running back I thought I was getting as he leads all tailbacks in fantasy points with 898 yards from scrimmage and 8 TDs. He's scored every week, giving us exactly what we all want in our fantasy players -- consistency.
Tough call here between two studs having downright putrid seasons -- Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew and Baltimore's Ray Rice. Based on their preseason rankings, I've got to go with Rice. Three TDs and barely over 300 yards from scrimmage just doesn't cut it when you're a consensus top-10 draft pick. To see how far Rice has fallen, a team in one of my leagues sat him three of the last four weeks in favor of Knowshon Moreno -- and was 100 percent right to do so.
On pace for 1,282 yards, the Bears' Alshon Jeffery is 11th in fantasy points for WRs, just behind big-time names like Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker, Brandon Marshall, Jordy Nelson and Victor Cruz. Even more impressive: Since Week 4, only Jackson has more points per game than Jeffery.
Every year a few players ranked in the preseason top 10 disappoint their owners, but few have completely disappeared the way Atlanta's Roddy White has. A fantasy stud for six straight seasons, the banged-up White has just 14 catches for 129 yards and no scores, ranking 75th among wideouts.
My teams: My unit-league team (5-2) somehow won despite facing Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson. It was a heart-pounding 64½-64 victory in which Peterson came up 5 yards short of giving my opponent the victory. My regular team (2-5) lost 110-82. MJD, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson are all badly underperforming and torpedoing my chances of making any sort of run.
• Skins QB Robert Griffin III at Denver. With 161 rushing yards in his last two games, RG3 is flashing his pre-injury form. Watch for a monster performance against the Broncos, who are tied with Dallas for most fantasy points allowed to QBs.
• Seahawks QB Russell Wilson at St. Louis. The reeling Rams will barely have the football in this game. I like Wilson to pile up the points through the air and on the ground.
•Patriots RB Stevan Ridley vs. Miami. Starting in Week 2, here are the RBs who have scored against Miami: Ahmad Bradshaw, Jason Snelling, Darren Sproles (2), Ray Rice (2) and Fred Jackson. Ridley will be added to that list.
• Packers RB Eddie Lacy at Minnesota. After watching a washed-up Peyton Hillis steamroll the Vikings' defense, those of you facing Lacy (68 carries, 301 yards last three) should be very worried.
• Giants WRs Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle at Philadelphia. Both Nicks (9-142) and Randle (6-96-2) abused the Eagles' secondary three weeks ago.
• Cardinals WR Michael Floyd vs. Atlanta. Those of you with bye-week issues could do worse than the 6-8 points Floyd should post against a Falcons D that's given up 14 passing TDs and 267 passing yards a game.
• Eagles defense vs. New York Giants. Scrambling for a defense with six teams on the bye? Take a chance on Philly, who gets to face the always-giving Eli Manning.
• Tom Brady vs. Miami. I'd take Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick over the struggling Brady this week.
• Falcons RB Jacquizz Rodgers at Arizona. Averaging just 3.1 yards per carry the last three games, Rodgers does somehow have 4 TDs in Atlanta's last two games. He seems like Eddie Royal was earlier this year, though -- a guy who gets hot that eventually has to cool down.
• Vikings RB Adrian Peterson vs. Green Bay. Kind of just putting him here for fun. Nobody's sitting AP, but defenses have put eight and nine men up front because they don't have to respect the Vikings' non-existent passing game.
• Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe vs. Cleveland. Facing stud CB Joe Haden, Bowe may get shut out this week.
• Raiders WR Denarius Moore vs. Pittsburgh. No team allows fewer fantasy points to wideouts and tight ends than Pittsburgh.
• Cowboys defense at Detroit. Only five teams allow fewer points to fantasy defenses than the Lions.