Once the regular season ended, the MVP race was considered a showdown between Peterson and Manning, but according to NFL .com, the explosive 27-year-old rusher may have already dashed off with the coveted honor.
The league’s official Web site has examined public statements by voters from the Associated Press on television and Twitter, and has determined Peterson holds a commanding 17-to-six lead over Manning.
No results are official, but fans will learn who is the AP's 2012 MVP Saturday night during the NFL’s Honor Awards ceremony.
Less than eight months removed from a brutal and debilitating knee injury, Peterson nearly broke the NFL’s 28-year-old single season rushing record with 2,097 yards, and guided the Vikings to the playoffs despite teams putting as many as eight defenders at the line of scrimmage to stop him. It was Minnesota's first playoff apperance since 2010.
Manning missed all of 2011 recovering from numerous neck surgeries, and was let go by the Indianapolis Colts after 14 seasons and a Super Bowl title in 2009. The 36-year-old landed with the Denver Broncos, and led them to a tie for the best record in the NFL, a five-win improvement, while posting the league’s best completion percentage with 4,659 yards and 37 passing touchdowns.
It was the second most yards in a season for Manning, and the second best passer rating, 105.8, in his 15 year career. Manning is up for his fifth career MVP.
Debate surged throughout the league, with many suggesting anyone could have won with the Broncos current roster, while Peterson carried Minnesota's offensive load on his back.
Over the past several weeks, Peterson even proclaimed his confidence, and said he knows he will be named MVP. History suggests otherwise.
Running backs have won the award just four times in the last 15 years, with quarterbacks being the most prevalent recipient. San Diego Charger LaDainian Tomlinson was the last rusher to win the MVP in 2006, and he followed Seattle Seahawk Shaun Alexander, who won in 2005.
Before them, Marshall Faulk captured the MVP in 2000 with the St. Louis Rams.