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Week Five MVP meter

Culpepper rises to the top; Barber makes an entrance

By Mike Wilkening
Oct. 12, 2004

In making the case that Daunte Culpepper is the NFL’s MVP through five weeks, you can start with this statistic: The Minnesota quarterback has had a hand in all 14 of his team’s touchdowns. He has thrown 13 TD passes and run for one score.

What resonates more than statistics, of course, is what we see on the field. And last Sunday at Houston’s Reliant Stadium, Culpepper was the best player out there.

In a game where the Minnesota defense could not stop Texans QB David Carr and WR Andre Johnson, it fell to Culpepper to carry the day. That he did, completing 36-of-50 passes for 396 yards and five touchdowns in the Vikings’ 34-28 OT win.

PFW’s editors were so impressed, they vaulted Culpepper from fourth to first in this week’s MVP Meter. Culpepper, who was first or second on all but one ballot, moves Colts QB Peyton Manning from No. 1.

Culpepper detractors very well may point out there’s more to the Minnesota offense than Culpepper. The offensive line is quite good. There is a depth and talent at running back, the brilliance that is the play of WR Randy Moss.

But Culpepper makes the Minnesota attack potent. The fast feet, the strong arm, the sound mind — now, that’s a complete quarterback.

He is pure hell to try to play against right now, especially since he’s making a fewer mistakes. I am crossing my fingers that NFL Films will do a feature on the faces defenders make when Culpepper’s taking the snap near the goal line. Is he going to pass? Uh-oh, he’s going to run — wait, somebody cover Moss!”

He is on pace for 52 TD passes and four interceptions. Video-game numbers. That’s the slang these days for the stats quarterbacks like Culpepper are putting up.

Speaking of video-game numbers … we come now to Manning, displaced this week after Culpepper had Houston’s secondary seeing taillights in Week Five. Manning didn’t do anything to lose the top spot, throwing three TD passes in the Colts’ 35-14 win vs. Oakland. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hey, everyone was in Culpepper’s wake on Sunday.

Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, getting a day of rest as the Eagles had their bye week, falls from second to third this week. Next up for McNabb are the Panthers, who are having problems stopping the run. Can you say play-action bomb to Terrell Owens?

Patriots QB Tom Brady checks in at No. 4 on our countdown. Look for him to bounce back this Sunday vs. Seattle after throwing for 76 yards in New England’s 24-10 win vs. Miami. While the Meter doffs our cap to the Patriots for setting an NFL record by winning their 19th game in a row, we also salute the Dolphins’ secondary, which is No. 1 in both pass defense and yards per pass attempt.

Entering the Meter at No. 5 and in style is Giants RB Tiki Barber. “Did I really vote for my boy Tiki?” one editor wrote on his ballot. You sure did, Trent. Barber, who leads the NFC in rushing and is gaining 6.0 yards a tote, is the catalyst for the Giants’ 4-1 start.

Moss comes in at sixth this week. It will surprise no one if he scores 20 touchdowns this season. Nor will it be a shocker if Marcus Robinson scores 10 TDs because secondaries have their stomachs tied in knots trying to prevent Moss from going off.

Three players tied for seventh place: Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander, Jets RB Curtis Martin and Eagles WR Terrell Owens. Alexander, the toast of fantasy football players, is third in the NFC in rushing. Martin keeps grinding out yards, and the Jets keep grinding out victories. And Owens’ fast start in Philadelphia put him on the cover of this week’s Pro Football Weekly.

The Meter had room for one last gamebreaker, so Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson rounds out the list. Tomlinson led the charge as San Diego dismantled Tennessee and Jacksonville in consecutive weeks.

Here is this week’s MVP Meter, with last week’s rankings in parentheses:

1. Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper (4)
2. Colts QB Peyton Manning (1)
3. Eagles QB Donovan McNabb (2)
4. Patriots QB Tom Brady (3)
5. Giants RB Tiki Barber (—)
6. Vikings WR Randy Moss (T-7)
T7.Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander (—)
T7.Jets RB Curtis Martin (5)
T7.Eagles WR Terrell Owens (6)
10.Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson (T-9)

Dropping out this week: Jets QB Chad Pennington, Ravens RILB Ray Lewis.