Calling your shot in sports is the ultimate power move. Telling the world what you are going to do, then actually accomplishing it is often attempted, but rarely achieved. That is exactly what Aaron Rodgers did after getting decimated on national television by the Washington Redskins.
Rodgers declared they were going to “run the table” following the loss, and he made good on that promise by defeating Detroit on the road for the division title. The once-desolate Packers are now hosting a playoff game, in large part because of the guy under center. In a year where no clear cut candidate has emerged as the MVP, Rodgers’ late-season run has vaulted him into the conversation.
His 40 touchdowns lead the NFL, and he frankly carried the Packers’ offense that did not have much of a running game for the entire season. Here is the breakdown of the other candidates, and who should ultimately walk away with the hardware.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots QB
It is frightening to think that at age 39 Tom Brady is still at the apex of his career. After taking what amounted to little more than a vacation for the first four weeks of the season, Brady put together a 25 touchdown season over his twelve games, while throwing just two interceptions. The Patriots have looked like an unstoppable machine since Brady has come back to the lineup, outside of a home loss to Seattle by a touchdown. The only hole one can punch in Brady’s candidacy is the fact that he was suspended for four games. Purists in the media may feel that his season is tainted because of that suspension, but that is the only blemish on Brady’s resume this season.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons QB
Quietly, the Atlanta Falcons have become one the historically-great offenses in the history of the NFL. They led the NFL in scoring with 33.8 points per game, and that was due in large part to Ryan taking his game to the next level. He was second in the NFL in touchdown passes behind Rodgers with 38, and led the NFL in QBR with 83.4. Ryan has seemingly flown under the radar, but statistically his season is up there with any quarterback in the league this season. The Falcons secured a first-round bye, but many pundits are hesitant to discuss them as a legit contender for the Super Bowl. That lack of recognition of team success will likely derail his chances, but Ryan deserves credit for the season he has had.
Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas Cowboys RB
The rookie running back has lived up to his billing as the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. It almost seemed too easy to pick him as Rookie of the Year, but sometimes things are as clear as they appear. Elliot led the NFL in rushing with 1631 yards, and he did so with several spectacular performances. The most notable of those came against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 10 where he ripped off this game-winning run. The Dallas Cowboys hype machine is fully behind Elliot’s MVP case, and he can claim to be the best player on the best team in the NFC. The issue with Elliot’s case is that the MVP is that the award has become dominated by quarterbacks. The last running back to win the award was Adrian Peterson in 2012, and he came up eight yards short of the all-time rushing record. As impressive as Elliot’s season was, he did not even set the rookie record for rushing, and that will undoubtedly kneecap his candidacy.
Honorable Mention: David Johnson.