Sports awards are in general kind of silly, since statistics and team performance offer a much more reliable measure of an athlete's contributions than the inevitably biased opinions of the voters. Peyton Manning not winning the Heisman in 1997, Bonds losing to Terry Pendleton, Mo Vaughn besting Albert Belle, Lawrence Taylor only winning one MVP and Deion Sanders none--the list of injustices is quite long. The systemic silliness is worse--the last time the AP awarded its football MVP to a player who didn't line up at quarterback or running back was 1986. Defense wins titles, but in the half century since the AP started awarding an MVP, only two defensive players have ever walked away with the hardware.
We can agree that, with some exceptions (Barry Sanders' 2000-yard season, for example), it's basically an award for the best running back/quarterback on an elite team, with a heavy lean toward QBs liked by the press. Given that, I repeat my bewilderment that Peyton Manning is not getting any attention. After two summer knee surgeries, he has started every game, helped the offense overcome a horrific stretch of injuries/non-production from key players (I'm looking at you, Joseph Addai), and has his team in position to lock up a 12-4 record. His numbers are lower than normal for him, but he'll probably wind up with about 27 touchdowns and 13 picks, which would be fantastic for anyone besides Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees. The only QB's with unquestionably better stats are Phillip Rivers and Brees, neither of whom was battling injuries and both of whose teams tanked down the stretch.
As far as running backs, I see three pretty good picks: Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner, and DeAngelo Williams. It's hard to pick against Peterson, especially if the Vikings make the postseason, but I really like Williams, whom I hadn't seen much of until the Monday night game last week: with about 1,400, he's going to wind up with maybe 150 yards less than Turner and 300 less than Peterson. At the same time, he has the highest yards-per-carry of the three, has scored five touchdowns more than Peterson (and one less than Turner), and has carried a team that has gotten really mediocre QB play to a likely number-two seed.