Watt, Peterson ready to make history
HOUSTON – Adrian Peterson watches J.J. Watt, and he sees the work of a Divine Creator.
"God created him to play this game," Peterson said.
Kind words from Zeus, there.
Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings running back, is perhaps the most divinely designed football player in existence. He runs not just fast, and not just powerfully, but like he's trying to tell us all something about the nature of humanity. He is two good games away from having the greatest rushing season ever had in the NFL. With 294 rushing yards over the final two weeks, he'll break Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record.
"He's playing as good as anybody in the league this year," said Watt, whose Houston Texans (12-2) host Peterson's Vikings (8-6) at noon Sunday with a chance to grab home-field advantage in the playoffs.
So is Watt. From his defensive-end spot in the Texans' 3-4 scheme, he has an NFL-leading 19.5 sacks to go with 15 pass deflections. He's the first player since Reggie White to get 15 of each in the same season. He also leads the Texans in tackles, and has three forced fumbles. Depending on what happens the last two weeks, he could end up having recorded the best season ever by a defensive lineman.
And yet one of these men is considered a serious MVP candidate, and the other is thought of as more of an outsider. This may be why Peterson calls Watt the work of God, and Watt calls Peterson "as good as anybody."
Watt wants to win the MVP award, he wants to break Michael Strahan's sack record, and he wants to end up in the Hall of Fame. He has said all these things, in one way or another, at one point or another. There is no real reason to think Watt is not a good teammate, but he has not gone out of his way to disguise the relative extent to which J.J. Watt is about J.J. Watt.
If you want to, you can get him involved in a discussion about the MVP race, particularly that race's historical bias toward offensive players.
"I agree with what you're saying," he said. "I'll say that. I don't want to go any farther into that. Obviously, all the awards and everything are very cool. That's an award that obviously generally goes to an offensive player and I understand that, just like the Heisman, you know. You wish it could be appreciated more, but I'm just worried about winning a (Super Bowl) trophy. That's it."
Peterson said he wants to break Dickerson's record, but did not seem especially interested in the MVP award.
"I've always told myself that awards don't make me," he said. "It is good that I put myself in a position to be able to accomplish some awards, but ultimately it's about 'team.' It's about making the playoffs and we're in a position to do that now. To say that, God willing, if I continue to play the way I've been playing, I'll be able to continue what I told myself earlier and help lead my team to a championship. They kind of go hand in hand."
It is not difficult to imagine the MVP race being decided Sunday in Reliant Stadium. Both players are also competing with Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, but both are capable of the sort of spectacular performance it would take to change the direction of the race.
Peterson is a constant threat to run for 200 yards, and he has a way of making it feel like he could do it in one carry. A defensive end rarely gets the chance to make a spectacle of himself on a single play, but anybody watching with even the most rudimentary understanding of football can pick up that No. 99 seems to be the one doing all the stuff for the Texans' defense. A three-sack, three-pass breakup, forced fumble day for is well within the realm of his Watt's capability.
Whether such a performance would sway voters is unclear. A defensive player hasn't won the MVP award since Lawrence Taylor did it in 1986, three years before Watt was born.