It was a bit of a bumpy start for the reigning MVP — Packers QB Aaron Rodgers — this season.
Green Bay fell to 2-3 after being upset by the Colts in Week Five. He and the Packers have been on a tear since then, though, winning eight of nine games (Rodgers has a TD-INT ratio of 22-4 over that span). They locked up the NFC North title in Week 15 with Rodgers throwing three touchdown passes to WR James Jones in a 21-13 win over the Bears, and he’s earned his way to the top of the Meter.
Rodgers is the most sacked quarterback in the league. He does not have the benefit of a running game as productive as those supporting the other leading quarterback MVP candidates — Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Rodgers’ top two receivers entering the season — Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson — have missed significant chunks of the season. Yet, here the Packers are, set to embark on a playoff run with a division championship in their back pocket, and Rodgers has the best passer rating in the NFL (104.7), which does not even take into account the plays he makes as a rusher.
Manning, Brady, J.J. Watt and Adrian Peterson have all certainly overcome plenty of adversity this season, too, and are each worthy MVP candidates. One of those five players will be named MVP, but, with Brady falling back in a loss to the 49ers and Manning having a good but not great day Sunday, Rodgers rises to the top spot on the Meter this week in a race that remains very tight.
(Last week’s ranking in parentheses)
1. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 3) — He has played third wheel to Brady and Manning for much of the season, but Rodgers’ hold on the No. 1 slot is not firm and, the way things have been going recently on the Meter, it won’t be a surprise if he’s unseated in a week.
2. Broncos QB Peyton Manning (No. 2) — Manning threw for a season-low 204 yards Sunday, but he threw a TD pass — as he has done at least once every game this season — and the Broncos’ winning streak grew to nine games by defeating Baltimore.
3. Texans DE J.J. Watt (No. 4) — Coming off Houston's embarrassing loss at New England, Watt was his usual dominant self vs. the Colts, recording a career-high 10 solo tackles, six of which resulted in a loss of yards. He also forced a fumble for the third straight game and is tied for the league lead with 19½ sacks.
4. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (No. 5) — No player has ever rushed for more yards in an eight-game span than Peterson has (1,313), but the two things holding him back on the Meter are his start to the season (83.2 yards rushing per game and two TDs though the first six games) and the fact the Vikings are only 4-4 over his amazing eight-game stretch.
5. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 1) — Brady earned a bump from No. 4 to No. 1 on the Meter last week with his dismantling of the Texans, and he receives a similarly sized drop this week after throwing a couple picks in a home loss to the 49ers. Despite the decline, he is far from out of this race.
6. Falcons QB Matt Ryan (Cusp) — He had not been playing very well heading into Sunday’s meeting with a Giants team that shut him down in last season’s playoffs. Just as league observers were ready to count the Falcons out as contenders, Ryan bounced back with his best game of the season, completing 82.1 percent of his passes and throwing three TDs in the Falcons’ statement 34-0 win.
7. Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (No. 10) — Somehow, Wilson did not score a rushing TD in the first 13 games of the season. He ran in three Sunday — in the first half — and threw another in Seattle’s rout of Buffalo.
8. 49ers OLB Aldon Smith (No. 8) — His streak of seven games with at least one sack was snapped Sunday night, but he did intercept QB Tom Brady in the third quarter. 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick threw a 27-yard TD pass to WR Michael Crabtree on the next play. Smith remains tied for the league lead with 19½ sacks.
9. Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (No. 9) — Lynch has scored at least one TD in six of the past seven games and is averaging an eye-popping 11.5 yards per carry in the past two games.
10. Texans RB Arian Foster (Cusp) — The league leader in rushing attempts (325) and TDs (14), Foster ran for a season-high 165 yards on 27 carries (6.1 average) in Houston’s win over the Colts.
On the cusp (in alphabetical order): Bengals WR A.J. Green, Redskins QB Robert Griffin III, Lions WR Calvin Johnson, Colts QB Andrew Luck, Bears WR Brandon Marshall, Broncos LB Von Miller, Texans QB Matt Schaub.