You know that saying, “the more things change the more they stay the same.”
Last August when I wrote an NFL MVP predictions story, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was the 11/2 favorite at Bodog (now Bovada in the U.S.). That made sense considering the Packers had just won the Super Bowl and Rodgers was the game’s MVP. Green Bay also was the preseason Super Bowl favorite heading into the 2011 season. NFL MVP winners simply don’t come from teams that aren’t in contention.
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I said then it was hard to argue against Rodgers being the MVP favorite but that my worries were that he was concussion-prone and working behind an “iffy” offensive line. And I also believed the Packers were going to be too well-balanced for Rodgers to put up gaudy stats.
The Green Bay ground game once again stunk it up, ranking 27th in the NFL, meaning the Packers offense was Rodgers. And he was brilliant, setting an NFL single-season record with a 122.5 QB rating, completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 4,643 yards (led NFL by a wide margin with 9.25 yards per attempt) with 45 touchdowns and six picks. Rodgers might have set the NFL record for TD passes if he had played in the season finale against Detroit. But the Packers went with backup Matt Flynn as Green Bay’s top playoff seeding was locked up. All Flynn did was throw for six touchdowns, giving the Packers a record 51 on the season.
Rodgers became the fifth Packer to win MVP and first since Brett Favre won his third consecutive and last 14 years prior. It was the ninth year in the past 11 that a quarterback won the MVP, just proving further that the NFL has switched from a running to a passing league.
Well, Rodgers is again the Bovada favorite to be the 2012 NFL MVP and again is at 11/2. It’s actually somewhat common to repeat as the MVP in football. Peyton Manning has done it twice this century on the way to a record four awards. Favre had his threepeat, Joe Montana and Jim Brown also repeated.
It appears that Packer ground game is going to be lousy again unless you believe in James Starks, Alex Green or Cedric Benson. I don’t. Plus, Rodgers has probably the NFL’s deepest collection of pass-catchers led by Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Randall Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finley. Rodgers also gets to face one of the NFL’s easiest schedules, at least by 2011 opponents’ winning percentage. But I don’t like him on this prop because there’s almost no way he can match last year’s numbers, just as there’s no way Green Bay will finish 15-1 again.
Quarterbacks make up the Top-5 favorites, with New England’s Tom Brady (13/2), the Saints’ Drew Brees (9/1), Broncos’ Peyton Manning (10/1) and Eagles’ Michael Vick (12/1) following Rodgers.
Brees set a handful of NFL records last season, including single-season yardage. But he won’t have Sean Payton in his ear this season with the Saints’ offensive mastermind suspended. As good as Brees is, I think the New Orleans offense is hurt a bit by that. I believe Manning’s best days are behind him, no question. Vick simply can’t stay healthy – he already has left two preseason games with injuries. I can’t really argue against Brady, especially considering the Patriots added Brandon Lloyd to Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski.
But the best value pick is Chicago’s Jay Cutler at 30/1. Will he put up the huge numbers of Brady, Rodgers, Brees and perhaps Detroit’s Matthew Stafford? Probably not, as the Bears are still going to run the ball with Matt Forte and Michael Bush. But Cutler had his best seasons in Denver when Brandon Marshall was his receiver and Jeremy Bates was on the Broncos’ coaching staff. The Bears acquired Marshall this offseason from Miami and hired Bates as their quarterbacks coach.
Cutler’s only Pro Bowl appearance came in Denver in 2008, although the QB might have been on the way to earning one last year before suffering a season-ending thumb injury after the Bears had started 7-3. Marshall had his best season by far in Denver as in ’08 he hit career highs in catches (104) and yards (1,265).
If there’s one concern, it’s Chicago’s leaky offensive line could get Cutler killed as the Bears still aren’t sure who their left tackle will be to protect Cutler’s blind side (that decision reportedly will come out of Friday’s exhibition game vs. the Giants). But the Bears are a bit of a chic pick for Super Bowl contenders this year – keep an eye also on rookie WR Alshon Jeffery to boost Cutler’s numbers -- and if they do have a great regular season, Cutler will get most of the recognition. Brady’s probably my MVP favorite, but I would also take a shot with Cutler.
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