Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Mike Sando's MVP Watch
By Mike Sando
Aaron Rodgers has thrown eight touchdown passes and just one interception for the 3-0 Packers.
Aaron Rodgers' ascension to the top spot in the weekly MVP Watch requires no rationalization.
The Green Bay Packers are the undefeated reigning Super Bowl champions. Rodgers is their best player, the Super Bowl MVP.
Year of the Quarterback
ESPN has dedicated 2011 to examining one of the most crucial positions in all of sports -- the quarterback. Year of the QB »
Esquire has taken note by declaring, "In fact, what distinguishes Aaron Rodgers is not his decision making, which, though impeccable, is in the mortal realm. It's his sheer giftedness -- his economic brand of elusiveness matched with a talent for throwing the damned ball that is the equal of Dan Marino's, Warren Moon's, or (hey, why not?) Brett Favre's."
That is good enough for us after Tom Brady, the MVP Watch leader through Week 2, inexplicably tossed four interceptions in losing to Buffalo. Brady lost ground to Rodgers, who is now on pace for 43 touchdowns with three interceptions, and Drew Brees, whose only defeat came against Rodgers' Packers in a memorable season opener.
Seeing some combination of Rodgers, Brees and Brady atop an MVP list comes almost as a matter of course. Matthew Stafford's inclusion at No. 4 was at least remotely foreseeable given heightened expectations for the Detroit Lions this season. But three names on the list this week -- Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson, plus Tennessee's Matt Hasselbeck -- once would have seemed utterly unfathomable as candidates to anyone outside (and probably inside) their immediate families.
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There are as many Buffalo Bills in the running as Packers, Patriots and Steelers combined. And the best quarterback in the AFC South right now plays in Nashville, not Indy. Hasselbeck, never known for sheer arm strength, is improbably among the NFL leaders (first in QBR, third in NFL passer rating) on throws delivered outside the yard-line numbers.
"It's early, of course, but Hasselbeck's playing like a guy capable of transforming a franchise," AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky observed.
With Hasselbeck, Fitzpatrick, Dallas' Tony Romo and Oakland's Darren McFadden emerging as MVP Watch-worthy, there wasn't room for every qualified candidate.
Quarterback | Green Bay Packers ... Next Game: 10/2 vs. DEN ... Last Poll: 2
Rodgers becomes progressively more effective from first to second to third down. Check out his third-down numbers: 22-of-30 passing (73.3 percent) for 254 yards with three TDs, no INTs and a third-down NFL passer rating that ranks second only to Brees' 156.0.
Quarterback | New Orleans Saints ... Next Game: 10/2 at JAC ... Last Poll: 3
Brees is completing 78.8 percent of his third-down passes and averaging a league-leading 11.9 YPA on those throws. No other QB averages better than 10.3 YPA on third down. His Saints have scored 104 points in three games against playoff-caliber opponents.
Quarterback | New England Patriots ... Next Game: 10/2 at OAK ... Last Poll: 1
Brady leads the NFL in passing yards by nearly 90 per game. He has two more TD passes than any other QB, and his 10.0 YPA stands a full yard better than Romo, who ranks second in that usually telling category.
Quarterback | Detroit Lions ... Next Game: 10/2 at DAL ... Last Poll: 4
The overall numbers and on-field results have been sensational for Stafford during the Lions' 3-0 start. Third-down passing is one area for improvement. Stafford has completed only 47.1 percent of his passes on third down with one TD, one INT and an 8.8 QBR that ranks 30th out of 32 qualifying quarterbacks.
Quarterback | Buffalo Bills ... Next Game: 10/2 at CIN ... Last Poll: NR
Fitzpatrick trails only Rodgers in QBR and NFL passer rating on short throws (those traveling no more than 10 yards downfield before completion). Fourteen QBs rank ahead of him in YPA, but none can top his 3-0 record.
Running Back | Buffalo Bills ... Next Game: 10/2 at CIN ... Last Poll: 7
Jackson ranks fourth in rushing yards, but he leads the NFL in YPC among players with more than 21 carries (McFadden is right behind). Jackson's 38-yard reception against the Patriots was key. He has two receptions for at least 20 yards, more than McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew or LeSean McCoy combined.
Quarterback | Tennessee Titans ... Next Game: 10/2 at CLE ... Last Poll: NR
Few QBs are better than Hasselbeck at dissecting a defense before the snap. The Titans' Chris Johnson hasn't gotten going, but Hasselbeck has used the perceived threat of game-breaking runs to rank second in QBR and third in NFL passer rating on play-action throws. He leads the NFL in both categories from the shotgun formation, which allows for better pre-snap reads.
Quarterback | Dallas Cowboys ... Next Game: 10/2 vs. DET ... Last Poll: NR
Romo knows when to venture from the pocket and knows how to maximize his opportunities once he does reach the perimeter. He has completed 6 of 9 passes for 82 yards and a league-leading 98.5 QBR on these throws (minimum four attempts). Romo has also been among the very best passing between the yard-line numbers, where his 12.7 YPA leads the league by a wide margin (Rodgers 11.5).
Running Back | Oakland Raiders ... Next Game: 10/2 vs. NE ... Last Poll: NR
McCoy's stat line for Philadelphia arguably makes him as worthy or more worthy for consideration than McFadden or Jackson, but the Raiders are 2-1 and averaging 30.1 point per game. McFadden ranks third in total carries while generating a whopping 1.8 additional YPC over the two players with more attempts, Jones-Drew and Ben Tate.
Quarterback | Houston Texans ... Next Game: 10/2 vs. PIT ... Last Poll: 8
Schaub feasted on an easy schedule early and still put up sensational numbers against New Orleans in the Texans' lone defeat. His go-ahead scoring pass with 4:13 remaining should have been enough. Games against Pittsburgh, Oakland, Baltimore and Tennessee over the next month could make it tougher for Schaub to stay on the list.