2016 Prediction: Aaron Rodgers Reminds everyone he’s the MVP
From Brian E Murphy, Packers Insider senior editor
~Aaron Rodgers is coming off a poor season. That’s what his critics call his 2015 season.
His passer rating was 92.7, his worst year of his starting career as the Packers’ signal-caller.
But did you know that Tom Brady didn’t have a passer rating above 92.7 until his seventh season starting, which was his record-setting 2007 season.
It was also the year the Patriots added Randy Moss.
ESPN already is making a case for Brady as MVP this season, even with him missing the first four games. But imagine if the Patriots struggle in those first four games without him, and then he comes back and they roll once again. It would make his work look even better.
Realize this: Rodgers has set the bar pretty high. How high? Higher than anyone, ever. And hopefully nobody ever breaks that record. Unless it’s him. But that seems impossible.
His 2011 season was the best season ever, per the QB passer rating chart.
He set the record with an incredible 122.5 that year, when he was 28 years old.
Peyton Manning had the best season ever prior to that one, back in 2004. His rating that season was 121.1, and he also was 28 years old that season.
So do quarterbacks peak when they are 28 now? Not necessarily.
Here’s the thing about Rodgers performance last season and that 92.7 passer rating: Back in 1997, Brett Favre won his third straight NFL MVP award, with a passer rating of 92.6. Hmm, maybe Rodgers’ season last year wasn’t that bad afterall.
The difference was those Packers were at the top of the mountain, getting to the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season. Favre’s age that 1997 season was also 28.
The next three seasons, Favre’s ratings were 87, 74, and 78. Yikes.
In fact, Favre did not have a season over 96 until his first season with the Vikings, 2009, at age 40. His rating that magical (regular) season was 107.2. It was the first season since 1996 for him throwing fewer than 15 interceptions.
Rodgers threw eight interceptions last year. Yes, 8.
Favre’s fewest ever in any season was 13.
Rodgers worst season was also 13 in his first season starting, 2008.
He also threw 11 interceptions in 2010. But he ended up winning the Super Bowl MVP that season as well. Rodgers has thrown no more than eight interceptions since that 2010 season, or 33 total interceptions over the past five years, since delivering that Super Bowl. And that’s against 170 touchdown passes.
So let’s take a step back and realize how truly great Rodgers has been.
And still is. With his supporting cast.
Of course, Packer fans are well aware of what the problem was last year. The problem was Jordy Nelson going from being as good as any receiver in the NFL, to being out for 100% of the season.
And even though a lot of the pundits, nationally and locally, refuse to comprehend just how significant that was. They say “well that can’t be the whole reason”.
True, Davante Adams played like a butterfingers candy bar mascot.
Remember, the tight ends and leading receiver, James Jones, could barely outrun some offensive tackles.
But it all started with Jordy going down. Some players are special. They are not replaceable. Nelson is one of them.
However, now it’s 2016 and he’s back.
So is this guy, Jeff Janis.
He appears to have finally arrived, finally was given a chance in the last game in Arizona. And he delivered. He and Nelson both possess a great combination of size, and “deceptive” speed.
Second year receiver Ty Montgomery also should return healthy. When healthy last year, the first six games of the year, he put up good numbers and was a mismatch for the defense.
Remember, the Packers were undefeated while Montgomery was healthy, even without Nelson.
Adams will be healthy again by week one. And so will Jared Abbrederis be. He showed in the playoff game last year at the Redskins that he can be counted on to make plays. Remember the red zone problems?
Stalls near the goal line in losses to undefeated Carolina at the end of the game, the end of the Bears game at Lambeau cost the Packers wins. The Packers also failed there against the Lions too, ultimately losing that one when placekicker Mason Crosby shanked his tee shot as time expired.
But by the playoffs, Abbrederis was healthy. And he did this:
Nobody can predict who is going to be healthy and who is going to get injured. There are always injuries. They happen to every team. Dallas was decimated last year with big injuries to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant.
Seattle lost Jimmy Graham, whom they traded a first round pick and a former first round pick for. He was lost during the season to a bad knee injury, worse than Nelson’s.
But if all things are fair this season, Aaron Rodgers is going to be back at the top of the quarterback chart. Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Carson Palmer are fine quarterbacks, and Newton certainly earned that MVP last season. He also had lost his top wide receiver in the preseason, to an ACL. Wilson lost Graham, who was supposed to be his top target. Those two stepped up.
But they also were thought of as running teams, and opposing defenses didn’t gameplan to stop them, rather they focused on stopping the running games. Defenses will adjust this year on them.
In the meantime, I expect Nelson comes back slowly, but rounds into form by the beginning of November. While he’s working his way back, Rodgers will realize that Janis and Abbrederis can be counted on.
And at tight end, Rodgers has a new toy in Jared Cook. Cook is very similar to Jermichael Finley, skill-wise. Cook signed just a one-year deal, so he’s going to lay it all on the line to put up as big of numbers as he can. He wants a long term deal the following season. Adding Cook’s speed and size, along with getting Nelson and Montgomery back, Cobb and Adams, Rodgers will have a plethora of options.
The MVP pretty much always goes to a quarterback now, with the exception being Adrian Peterson and his 2000-yard season back in 2012.
To be the MVP, the QB has to put up huge numbers, and his team has to be one of the best few teams in the NFL.
That leaves the usual suspects, from Rodgers to Brady to Newton, Wilson to Palmer, Roethlisbreger to young Andrew Luck perhaps.
My money is on Rodgers. And yours should be too.
I’m calling for Rodgers to notch 37 touchdowns to 7 interceptions, for about a 109.5 passer rating. He will do so in leading the Packers to a 13-3 record, good for the NFC’s number one seed, where they belong.