As we head into the weekend of Divisional round play in the NFL, most fans and pundits are focusing their attention, and rightly so, on the four matchups that will take place this Saturday and Sunday.
At the same time, there is an awful lot of focus on the coaching merry-go-round; determining who is to blame for the knee injury suffered by Redskins’ quarterback RGIII; and which teams might be looking to trade for Mike Vick, Alex Smith, and Tim Tebow. That, of course, leads me to make the following blanket statement about a topic entirely apart from this list:
Aaron Rodgers will not repeat as the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player, but he probably should.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson are the odds-on favorites to finish one-two in the MVP balloting, and both have had the kind of year that merits such consideration. But a quick look at some of the statistics would indicate that Rodgers might well deserve better than the third place finish that most prognosticators think he is heading toward.
In comparing the two quarterbacks, it’s true that Manning threw for more yards than Rodgers (4,659 to 4,295), but Rodgers, the reigning MVP, threw for two more touchdowns with three fewer interceptions. And while I am not sure of the algebraic equations that determine the quarterback ratings, Rodgers again bests Manning with a 108 rating compared to Manning’s 105.8.
Peterson came within nine yards of matching Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record of just over 2,100 yards. In fact, he rushed for more yards than both the Broncos and Packers entire teams. The Vikings running back averaged an astonishing 6-yards plus per carry and accounted for 80-percent of his team’s rushing yardage. And he was able to find the end zone 12 times.
Looking at the record of each team (remembering that post season play is not to be taken into consideration), Manning’s Broncos came in with the best record of the three at 13-3. Two of their losses were to teams that made the playoffs (Atlanta and New England) and they did sweep their division – although, sweeping a division where your opponents were Oakland, San Diego, and Kansas City does not automatically qualify you as world-beaters. The Broncos have won 11 in a row.
Green Bay finished first in the NFC North with an 11-5 mark, losing to four teams that made the post-season tournament. Those teams include San Francisco, Seattle, Indianapolis, and the Vikings. And unless you were in a coma in week 3, you probably realize that it is hard – really, really hard – for anyone to classify the loss to Seattle as legitimate. The only team that beat Green Bay this year and did not get a post-season berth was the defending Super Bowl champion Giants.
The Vikings finished a game back of Green Bay with a 10-6 record, losing to four playoff-bound teams (Indianapolis, Washington, Seattle, and Green Bay) and two (Tampa Bay and Chicago) that didn’t qualify. They did string together four consecutive wins at the end of the year to claim that final wild-card spot.
It should also be noted that, of the three, Manning probably had the best supporting cast throughout the season – a stronger running game than the Packers, by far, and Manning’s ability to throw the ball will never be challenged by Peterson’s quarterback, Christian Ponder.
It would be hard to classify the Packers wide receiver crew as anything less than the best in the game, but that’s when they’re healthy, which wasn’t the case for most of the year as Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson both spent a number of games on the sidelines, in street clothes, nursing a variety of injuries. Also, injuries cost the Green Bay offensive line a great deal of missed games, which played a big role in Rodgers being sacked a league-leading 51 times, 30 more times than Manning was sacked.
Rodgers’ Biggest Competition? Himself
There is no doubt that, in debates like this one, statistics can be massaged and skewed to make just about any point one wants to make. And there are solid cases for each of the three to grab the Most Valuable Player award.
But there is no debate as to the player who will, more than likely, push Aaron Rodgers to the third in this year’s balloting: Aaron Rodgers from 2011.
Rodgers’ performance last year, when he won the MVP hardware, was one for the ages.
Last year, it seemed as though he hit almost every pass that he tried, and more often than not they were for long distance. This year, there were a few times in several games when he just couldn’t quite thread the needle like he did so easily last season, and that had some writers and broadcasters talking about how his performance had fallen off. His stats this year may not have matched last year’s totals, but it would be hard to find any NFL coach who wouldn’t take his 2012 numbers for their quarterback.
Manning and Peterson obviously delivered Herculean efforts this season. Both were outstanding, and to make their performances more impressive they were coming off major injuries and surgeries. Without a doubt, one of them will be named Comeback Player of the Year unless, and this will happen if there is such a thing as justice in the voting, they tie for the award.
Only one of the trio will be named MVP this season. For Peterson, whose Vikings are eliminated from the playoffs, that’s now the best he can hope for. For Manning and Rodgers, there is some bling that they are still in the running for and that would probably make up for finishing as an also-ran on the MVP ballot.
A Super Bowl ring can go a long way toward soothing some disappointment over missed individual awards.
Last year Rodgers got the MVP ring he deserved, but his team fell short of expectations in the playoffs. He’s unlikely to win the MVP again this year, but perhaps his Packers can avenge last season’s playoff disappointment and make another unexpected run to the Super Bowl.