Green Bay Packers

Midweek Musings: Rodgers quietly enters MVP conversation

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For a myriad of reasons, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is not going to win Most Valuable Player this season.

Probably.

The reigning MVP, Rodgers entered this season with the second-best odds to recapture the award, according to most oddmakers (Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes had the top odds).

Naturally, those odds dipped after Rodgers’ miserable performance Week 1 against the Saints. But gradually, as the Packers continue to stack wins and his individual statistics returned to form, Rodgers has re-entered the conversation.

Entering Week 8, here are the MVP odds via Bovada (notice a certain Packers receiver is the only non-quarterback):

Of the top six candidates, here’s where each sit statistically:

In terms of traditional statistics, it’s hard to make an argument for Rodgers over some of his contemporaries. Other measurements are slightly more favorable — Rodgers ranks third overall in QBR (66.3) behind only Stafford and Brady, and fifth overall in EPA/play.

Take away Rodgers’ dreadful Week 1 performance, and here are his numbers: 70.1 completion percentage, 15 touchdowns, 1 interception, 118.6 passer rating, 8.17 yards per attempt. And the Packers are 6-0 during that stretch.

Ignoring the outlier game, Rodgers ranks right there with those considered to be MVP favorites.

Now, MVP is often a narrative award. Remember, it wasn’t until late last season that consensus shifted toward Rodgers as the frontrunner — pundits spent eight weeks lauding Russell Wilson, then passed the torch to Mahomes. Allen and Murray, as the new kids on the block, also had moments of serious consideration.

But Rodgers’ 2020 statistics were so head-and-shoulders above the rest, eventually it became impossible to ignore his candidacy.

All the narratives are against Rodgers this year. While ignoring Week 1 gives a better perspective on his play overall, the fact is that the game happened and must be factored in for these discussions.

It’s also incredibly rare for players to win the award in back to back seasons. The last to do it was Peyton Manning in 2008-2009.

Are voters willing to forget Rodgers’ offseason of drama? Unlikely.

On the other hand, look at the script for some of the other candidates:

  • Stafford: Leaves a terrible situation in Detroit and, at 33 years old, has the best season of his career for an NFC contender. It’s the Rich Gannon path.
  • Murray/Allen: Young quarterbacks who have A) Never won the award and B) Have their teams in position for top seeds in their respective conference, while also dazzling spectators with playmaking ability. If there’s anything consistent about MVP voters, they love to anoint the Next Great Quarterback.
  • Brady: “Can you believe what this guy is doing at 44, leading the NFL in touchdowns?”
  • Prescott: The  heartwarming pick, having an incredible season after suffering a gruesome ankle injury last year. Being quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys certainly helps.

Then there’s Rodgers, who is having another excellent season by any standard, but one that doesn’t excite voters via narrative or gaudy statistics.

There’s a case to be made that Rodgers is actually more valuable to the Packers this year compared to last.

In 2020, Rodgers was the conductor of a magnificent orchestra, like John Williams gesturing during a playing of the Indiana Jones theme. The offense, thanks to Rodgers’ understanding of the playbook and Matt LaFleur’s playcalling, was always in rhythm with an answer to every question opposing defenses would ask. And the team, aside from a missed game here or there from Adams and David Bakhtiari, was operating at full strength for much of the season. 

That hasn’t been the case in 2021. The Packers’ offensive line has been in a constant state of flux, while the team’s field stretcher (Marquez Valdes-Scantling) has been out the last four games. There’s an element of *Just go make a play* to the offense that wasn’t present last year when everything always seemed to click.

Rodgers will have his stiffest test of the season in Week 8, traveling to undefeated Arizona on a short week, likely without his primary pass-catcher. And on the other side is one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL.

It’s a game that could decide the top seed in the NFC, and the Packers will play it with one hand tied behind their back.

Come out with a win and snatch that No. 1 seed midway through the season, and suddenly those MVP narratives could shift.

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