In the latest issue of Pro Football Weekly, the editorial staff ranked all 32 teams based on how hard they each have been hit by injuries this season. Arguments could be made for several clubs being the most banged up, and a similar discussion could be had when it comes to deciding the MVP candidate most affected by being injured.
A handful of players that would have been contenders for the award were sidetracked when something went wrong physically this season. The list of injured stars includes:
All of those players, except Manning, appeared on the MVP Meter at some point this season. Injuries have pushed them all off the list. Their exclusion from the Meter doesn't mean that they have no value or that they aren't terrific players. It's a sign that they have been overtaken on the list by players who are still making contributions on the field.
(Last week's ranking in parentheses)
1. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 1) — In a season full of jaw-dropping statistics, this may be the most stupefying — in the second quarter of the Packers' Week 14 blowout win over the Raiders, Rodgers threw four consecutive incomplete passes for the first time all season. The fourth throw actually wasn't incomplete. It was intercepted in the endzone, marking Rodgers' first red zone turnover of the season.
2. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 2) — Playing outdoors for the first time since Week Six, Brees handled the elements in Nashville and helped his team clinch a playoff spot in its last outdoor game of the regular season. Brees threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns to Marques Colston and remained on pace to break the single-season record for passing yardage.
3. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 3) — While the sideline outburst between Brady and Patriots assistant coach Bill O'Brien attracted a lot of attention, Brady's play on the field deserves recognition as well. With three TD passes against the Redskins, Brady thrown multiple touchdowns in eight straight games. He already has thrown for more yards this season than he did last season, when he was named MVP.
4. Giants QB Eli Manning (No. 7) — At the start of the season, Manning made news for saying he was an elite quarterback. More of the football world is agreeing with him after his performance in Week 14. The Giants rallied from a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the Cowboys behind Manning's 400 yards passing and two touchdowns, helping New York move into first place in the NFC East.
5. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (No. 4) — Not even a sprained ankle was enough to stop Roethlisberger in Week 14. He stayed in the game after being hit hard in the leg, throwing for 280 yards (including a 79-yard touchdown to WR Antonio Brown) in the Steelers' 14-3 victory over the Browns.
6. Cowboys QB Tony Romo (No. 6) — The Cowboys keep stumbling at the end of games, but unlike early in the season, these miscues can't be blamed on Romo. With five touchdowns and no interceptions during Dallas' two-game losing streak, Romo is doing his best to overcome the failures of his teammates and coaches.
7. Broncos QB Tim Tebow (No. 10) — Call it magic, destiny or anything else to justify the way Tebow plays at the end of the games, but the truth is in the numbers. In the fourth quarter, Tebow has completed 61 percent of his passes, thrown for six touchdowns and ran for two others. He's unorthodox, but Tebow has developed into one of the sport's best crunch-time players.
8. Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs (No. 8) — With three sacks (giving him 13 this season) and three forced fumbles (six on the season) in Week 14 against the Colts, Suggs now ranks fourth in sacks and is tied for first in forced fumbles. The Ravens will take on a Chargers offense that has had trouble protecting the passer this season, and Suggs has a great opportunity to add to those tallies.
9. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (NR) — Aside from a few quiet games in the middle of the year, the second-year tight end has been nearly unstoppable in 2011. Gronkowski has scored at least one TD in all but four games, and has 16 TDs this season. Fifteen are receiving, the most ever by a tight end in NFL history.
10. Ravens RB Ray Rice (NR) — As the Ravens look to win the AFC North for the first time since 2006, they are becoming more and more dependent on their versatile back. Rice has come on strong in recent weeks, rushing for more than 100 yards in three of his last four games. His 62 receptions are second among running backs. He trails only Darren Sproles (74) of the Saints.
Five on the cusp (in alphabetical order) — Texans RB Arian Foster, 49ers RB Frank Gore, Lions WR Calvin Johnson, Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch, Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware.
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