So today’s Mark Maske story asks and gets some answers on a question that’s bubbled below the surface for much of the season: Could Robert Griffin III be the NFL MVP?

The gist of the story: Not at 5-6, but maybe at 9-7 and in the playoffs. And Kurt Warner makes the point that rookie of the year candidates don’t often get considered over established vets for MVP.

There are a couple of traditional ways to pick MVPs: Best player on the best team, the definition NFL voters often use, or the guy who’s done the most for his team, period.

By the first definition, Falcons QB Matt Ryan could end up with the award. More than likely, it’ll go to someone like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, who are highly respected to begin with and are having fairly good seasons.

But going by the theory of “where would Team X be if Player Y wasn’t having the season he’s having?,” it’s pretty hard to ignore Griffin. The Redskins got by at quarterback last season, but that was with a 13th-ranked defense. This season (28th ranked defense), with a couple more wins, Griffin’s quarterback credentials would put him in the mix. He’s top-five in several passing metrics, including No. 2 in yards per attempt — and he’s No. 2 in yards per rush, ahead of Vikings RB Adrian Peterson but behind Bills RB C.J. Spiller.

Where would the Redskins be without Griffin, if they’re 5-6 with him? You may shudder to think.

Who else makes his team so much better? New Orleans QB Drew Brees rallied his team to mediocre (5-6) after a slow start under rough circumstances. The Bears (8-3) are a much less effective offense without QB Jay Cutler, just as the Steelers (6-5) struggle without QB Ben Roethlisberger. The Vikings (6-5) would probably be pretty hopeless without Peterson. The Colts (7-4) are surprisingly good behind QB Andrew Luck, the only player drafted before Griffin. Nobody mentions Eli Manning, but the quarterback of the Giants (7-4) could play his way into the race with a strong finish.

Of those, Peterson probably has the best shot at the award as of now. Peyton Manning doesn’t pass the “where would they be without him?” test, because the Broncos (8-3) were a playoff team last season. Ravens LB Ray Lewis has missed several games, but Baltimore (9-2) keeps on winning, so he’s another big name that doesn’t really work.

I can’t think of a defensive player this season who makes that much difference, though I wish MVPs these days would occasionally come from defenses or offensive lines. They should just rename it the Top Offensive Back Award.

Who makes more difference than Griffin? Leave some names in the comments, if you think of anyone.

And how should MVPs be determined — best player on a winning team, or the player who does the most for his team, period?

Your comments, as always, are appreciated.