If you listen to NFL analysts, the race for the league's MVP has already been decided. Columnists long ago began focusing on four players — QBs Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Brett Favre and Philip Rivers — leaving everyone else to fight for fifth place.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Indianapolis Star, Manning will win by a landslide. Why? After the talking heads anointed these four signalcallers the pseudo-finalists, it became selection through elimination: Brees and Favre faded in December, while Rivers was simply too late arriving to the party.
This sort of thing is par for the course when it comes to how football's most coveted award is decided each year. Media outlets begin to narrow the choices (usually much too early) and voters follow the crowd. And the formula for what constitutes football's Most Valuable Player? It changes year to year.
But the so-called experts have mistakenly left one player out of the discussion — Packers QB Aaron Rodgers.
Consider a few facts:
• Rodgers has more passing yards and touchdowns than either Favre or Rivers, and a better passer rating than Manning.
• He is tied for the fewest interceptions (seven) in the league among starters with 250-plus attempts (four fewer than Brees and eight fewer than Manning).
• He leads all quarterbacks in rushing yards (314) and touchdowns (four).
• Rodgers also has not thrown an interception inside the red zone (16 TDs).
But let's get down to the "meat" of the argument, shall we? The league's MVP should be a difference maker ... not just a stat monster but a player whose presence makes a good team great, and a great team a contender. All of the candidates are difference makers, but Rodgers has made the biggest difference of all.
Did anyone really expect the Colts, Vikings, Saints or Chargers to win fewer than 10 games? All were picked as Super Bowl contenders by various media outlets. Rodgers' Packers were supposed to be a .500 squad at best. Coming off a 6-10 season, no one expected 10 wins, and few thought Green Bay had a prayer of landing a playoff berth. Yet, heading into Week 17, the Packers are fighting for an 11th win and the No. 5 seed in the NFC.
Rodgers is the first NFL quarterback to have passed for more than 4,000 yards in his first two seasons as a starter. He has thrived while playing in the shadow of a legend, has proven scouts wrong about his arm strength and athleticism, and has played with a level of consistency rare for QBs his age.
Another reason to give Rodgers the nod: He has accomplished more with less. He does not have a running back of the caliber of Adrian Peterson or a tight end who can measure up to Dallas Clark or Antonio Gates. All four of his MVP competitors, except perhaps Favre, have a deeper set of wide receivers to throw to. And as far as offensive lines go ... well, let's just say Rodgers has been handicapped this season.
Here's my plea to MVP voters: Be responsible. Do your homework. If you do, you'll learn that this year the consensus has been wrong all along.
Week 17 MVP Meter
Manning clear choice for league MVP
Mike Beacom is a sportswriter based in Wisconsin who writes a weekly column for ProFootballWeekly.com.
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