Aaron Rodgers is putting himself in elite company this season.
It's the company of Secretariat in the 1973 Belmont Stakes, Vince Carter in the 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest and Joey Chestnut in the annual Nathan's hot dog-eating contest. He's in a club that dominates its competition so badly that the accolade they are in the running for could be awarded before the contest is over.
That's where Rodgers is this season when it comes to the MVP discussion. At the midway point of the 2011 season, the quarterback of the undefeated Packers is so far ahead of everybody else that he could seemingly sit out a few weeks and still be atop the MVP Meter. Just as Green Bay is far and away the best team in the league, Rodgers is making the same statement with his individual performance.
How good has Rodgers been? Just look at these numbers from Week Three win at Chicago: 28-of-38 (73.7 percent), 297 yards, three TDs and one interception. That was Rodgers' worst game of the first half of the season. Repeat that performance 15 times, and you have a top MVP candidate. Exceed that in every game, as the Packers QB is doing, and you have the runaway winner of Usain Bolt proportions.
That's not to say the race is completely over. There are still two full months left in the regular season and plenty of viable candidates. But if there was ever a year to call it early, it would be 2011 thanks to Rodgers' outstanding performance so far.
(Last week's ranking in parentheses)
1. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 1) — More jaw-dropping stats on A-Rod: Through seven games, he is on pace to break the NFL single-season records for passing yards (5,084, held by Dan Marino), passer rating (121.1, held by Peyton Manning) and completion percentage (70.6 percent, held by Drew Brees). Oh, and his team has won 13 consecutive games, including the playoffs, dating back to last season.
2. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 2) — Coming off a tough loss to the Steelers, Brady will be out for revenge in Week Nine against the Giants. It's the first time the teams have played each other since the Giants' shocking upset of New England in Super Bowl XLII. In nine career regular season games vs. NFC East opponents, Brady is 8-1 and has averaged 287.4 passing yards per game, his highest against any division.
3. Lions WR Calvin Johnson (No. 3) — The Broncos stuck Champ Bailey on Johnson, and the future Hall of Fame cornerback held Megatron without a first-quarter reception. Johnson picked it up after a slow start, however, and he finished the game with six catches for 125 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown, despite not even playing much in the fourth quarter of the Lions' 35-point win.
4. Bills RB Fred Jackson (No. 5) — Every MVP candidate needs a statement game, and Week Nine feels like the time when Jackson will have his. Going up against a highly-respected Jets defense in a big AFC East showdown, a big game from the Bills' back will keep Buffalo in first place in the AFC East and keep Jackson moving up the MVP Meter.
5. Bears RB Matt Forté (No. 6) — With Forté doing so much of the work, the Bears' offense is as close as any NFL offense gets to a one-man show. Through seven games, the running back has accounted for 46.2 percent of the Bears' offensive production.
6. 49ers RB Frank Gore (No. 7) — With a 31-134-1 performance Sunday vs. the Browns, Gore has exceeded the century mark in rushing yards in four consecutive games. He has 28 career games with 100-plus yards rushing, this is the first time he has ever done it four games in a row.
7. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 4) — Traveling away from the Superdome has been an issue for Brees this season. In his three home games he's completed nearly 76 percent of his throws, with 11 TDs and just two picks. In five road games, however, he's completed 68 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Saints are also 3-0 at home and 2-3 on the road.
8. Eagles RB LeSean McCoy (NR) — While QB Michael Vick gets much of the attention, it is McCoy who has been the Eagles' top offensive threat this season. The running back has scored at least one touchdown in every game. Against the Cowboy's run defense, which was ranked first in the league entering Week Eight, McCoy torched Dallas for 30-185-2 on the ground.
9. Steelers WR Mike Wallace (No. 10) — The Steelers have become a passing team, and Wallace is emerging as a top-shelf wideout. Nearly one-fifth Ben Roethlisberger's 284 passes this season have been intended for Wallace, his top deep threat. He's tied for second in the NFL with nine receptions of 25 yards or more.
10. Ravens RB Ray Rice (cusp) — With three touchdowns in Week Eight, Rice carried the Ravens to a dramatic victory and is back in the top 10 on the Meter. Though he was good at finding the endzone, Rice's rushing and receiving yardage have trailed off after a hot start, something the Ravens would like to reverse this coming Sunday vs. the rival Steelers.
Five on the cusp (in alphabetical order) — Texans RB Arian Foster, Raiders RB Darren McFadden, Jets CB Darrelle Revis, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, Panthers WR Steve Smith.
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