NFL MVP Watch: The Broncos Are Back on Top

The 2014 Broncos may not set records like they did in 2013, but there's still something special going on in Denver.

While other sites and analyses may look at standard statistics like yards per carry and completion percentages to determine the best player in the league - the MVP - we like to dig a little deeper here at numberFire. We like to use our favorite metric, Net Expected Points (NEP), and its position-specific variations.

Since common numbers such as yards, completions, and touchdowns don't tell the whole story about a player, we can use NEP to see who is truly separating himself from the pack and adding value to his team.

Because this advanced metric alters depending on the position being analyzed, we'll look at each of the skill positions individually through the first 11 weeks of the season to determine the most valuable player at each position. You will see higher NEP values for quarterbacks and receivers than for running backs due to the nature of their production.

Take a look below.

Top-5 NEP Performers by Position Through Week 11

Quarterbacks: 1. Peyton Manning – Denver Broncos
Season Passing NEP: 150.12
Passing NEP per drop back: 0.33
Last week: #2

What does it take for Peyton Manning to take back the top spot after two bad weeks? Four touchdowns in a barn-burner against the Dolphins can do the trick as Manning contributed 22.53 Passing NEP, his second best performance of the year. Add that to the rough game Andrew Luck had with a -4.31 Passing NEP during Week 12 and Manning has one of the biggest leads of the season at the quarterback position.

But with Luck performing poorly, Aaron Rodgers climbed another spot too despite a so-so performance. Is the week the top three separate from the pack even more?

While the top three quarterbacks keep playing King of the Mountain, Drew Brees finally decided he wanted to be a part of the party. It's Brees' first top-five entry this year, adding 12.11 Passing NEP in a losing effort.

Brees has been performing well enough to earn this spot with only one performance below expectation from Week 2 against the Browns. He also has five top-10 weeks, with three as high as the top-five. However, with five weeks left, he may have a hard time cracking the top three in the standings.

Playing Catch Up
2. Aaron Rodgers: 131.88 Passing NEP, 0.36 per drop back (last week: #3)
3. Andrew Luck: 124.27 Passing NEP, 0.26 per drop back (last week: #1)
4. Tom Brady: 110.67 Passing NEP, 0.26 per drop back (last week: #4)
5. Drew Brees: 95.03 Passing NEP, 0.20 per drop back (last week: #7)

Running Backs: 1. Justin Forsett – Baltimore Ravens
Season Rushing NEP: 28.00
Rushing NEP per carry: 0.18
Last week: #2

Note: Running backs have been evaluated solely on their performance running the ball, not catching the ball.

Justin Forsett sure doesn't like sharing the spotlight. After losing the top spot for a week because of his bye week, Forsett had the best game of his season according to our Rushing NEP. Not only did Forsett rush for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns, but also he contributed 8.62 points on the ground as the Ravens scraped past the Saints.

It didn't hurt Forsett's chances to take the top spot when Jamaal Charles had his first negative contribution - against the Raiders of all teams. The rest of the top five have the same players with Matt Forte swapping spots with Le’Veon Bell due to Bell's bye week. But the NFL's leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, could jump into the top five soon as well.

Playing Catch Up
2. Jamaal Charles: 18.81 Rushing NEP, 0.12 per rush (last week: #1)
3. Marshawn Lynch: 14.73 Rushing NEP, 0.08 per rush (last week: #2)
4. Matt Forte: 12.23 Rushing NEP, 0.06 per rush (last week: #5)
5. Le'Veon Bell: 11.05 Rushing NEP, 0.06 per rush (last week: #4)

Receivers: 1. Emmanuel Sanders – Denver Broncos
Season Target NEP: 71.58
Reception NEP per target: 0.92
Last week: #2

Note: Receivers and tight ends are evaluated on Target NEP rather than Reception NEP. Target NEP will look at how a player is doing on all targets received, not just on the passes he catches.

Last week I anticipated a tandem of receivers laying assault on the receiver ranks, but it wasn't the tandem I expected. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson were stopped by a good Vikings secondary, and both fell in the rankings as a pair of Broncos took the standings by storm.

Emmanuel Sanders cleared concussion protocols and was a big asset to Manning's game against the Dolphins. Sanders caught 9 passes for 125 yards and contributed 10.14 points on all targets. Demaryius Thomas' Target NEP was nearly identical as he caught 3 of Manning's touchdown passes and contributed 10.07 points on all of his targets.

With the bye weeks all done, it's going to be a tight race to the end with the top six receivers within 14.01 Target NEP of each other.

Playing Catch Up
2. Antonio Brown: 64.95 Target NEP, 0.82 Reception NEP per target (last week: #2)
3. Demaryius Thomas: 64.64 Target NEP, 0.83 Reception NEP per target (last week: #5)
4. Randall Cobb: 61.04 Target NEP, 0.99 Reception NEP per target (last week: #3)
5. T.Y. Hilton: 60.82 Target NEP, 0.94 Reception NEP per target (last week: #7)

Tight Ends: Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
Season Target NEP: 57.00
Reception NEP per target: 0.96
Last week: #1

One race that isn't as tight as the receiver race is the competition among the tight ends. Gronkowski has taken a chokehold of the standings currently and isn't looking back. This could end similar to last year where Jimmy Graham had a few great games in the middle of the season that helped to separate him from the pack. It was basically a race for the runner-up finish the last few weeks of the season.

In fact, Gronk can have a horrible week and still have a comfortable lead. Travis Kelce had the best week of the top five, adding 4.00 Target NEP, but is still 13.50 Target NEP behind Gronkowski. And as Philip Rivers continues to suffer on the field so will Antonio Gates. The Chargers offense is starting to slow down, so Gates could be in trouble for the rest of the season.

Playing Catch Up
2. Travis Kelce: 43.55 Target NEP, 0.95 Reception NEP per target (last week: #4)
3. Antonio Gates: 42.72 Target NEP, 1.02 Reception NEP per target (last week: #2)
4. Julius Thomas: 40.20 Target NEP, 1.03 Reception NEP per target (last week: #3)
5. Dwayne Allen: 32.09 Target NEP, 1.07 Reception NEP per target (last week: #5)