There is no doubt that the NFL's 2011 Most Valuable Player award will come down to Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. Rodgers was considered almost a shoe-in to win the award most of the season, but Brees made things interesting the last few weeks of the season, in terms of being mentioned as a strong MVP candidate as well.
Still, my vote would go to Rodgers.
Let's look at the statistics of both Rodgers and Brees first.
Rodgers threw 45 TD passes to just six interceptions for 4,643 yards and also had a QB rating of 122.5. Rodgers also had a completion percentage of 68.3. The 122.5 QB rating was the best in the NFL and also broke the all-time record set by Peyton Manning in 2004, when Manning had a 121.1 QB rating.
The QB rating system also determines which QB wins the passing title in any given year. Therefore, Rodgers won the overall passing title in the NFL in 2011.
Rodgers also led the Packers to the NFC North title with a 15-1 record, which was the best mark in the NFL, plus the Packers have secured home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs.
Finally, Rodgers and Brees met in the very first game of the NFL season, and it was Rodgers and the Packers who beat Brees and the Saints on that Thursday night 42-34.
Brees has had an outstanding season as well. Brees has thrown 46 TD passes versus 14 interceptions for 5,476 yards and had a QB rating of 110.6. Brees broke two NFL records in 2011, as he broke the previous all-times best yards passing mark set by Dan Marino in 1984 (5,084 yards) and also the completion percentage mark of 70.6 set by Brees himself in 2009.
Brees also led the Saints to the NFC South title with a 13-3 record and the third seed in the NFC playoffs.
Again, Brees and the Saints lost to Rodgers and the Packers in the opening game of the 2011 NFL season.
Now, let's take a closer look at these statistics.
Rodgers did not play in the final week of the 2011 season versus the Detroit Lions, as the Packers had already clinched home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Head Coach Mike McCarthy decided to rest a number of key players in that game, which included Rodgers, Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews.
Matt Flynn, the backup to Rodgers, had the best passing day any QB ever had as a Green Bay Packer versus the Lions. Flynn threw six TD passes versus one pick for 480 yards. The six TD passes and the 480 yards passing were the best ever marks by a Green Bay QB in a single game.
One can assume Rodgers would have had similar success. In fact, when Rodgers met the Lions on Thanksgiving, Rodgers threw two TD passes versus zero interceptions for 307 yards and had a QB rating of 116.6. Rodgers may not have thrown six TD passes or thrown for 480 yards, but he would have had a big game, based on his success in 2011 overall, and his success versus the Lions.
Brees set his record-breaking yardage mark in what they call "garbage time." The Saints were leading the Atlanta Falcons 38-16 very late in the game, when head coach Sean Payton sent Brees back onto the field to keep throwing and to try and break Marino's record on "Monday Night Football."
Brees did indeed keep throwing and he broke Marino's record in the process, as the Saints added another "garbage" touchdown in a 45-16 win versus the Dirty Birds. Head coach Mike Smith of the Falcons was not amused, nor were a number of the players on the Falcons.
Then in the final week of the season versus the Carolina Panthers at home, Brees once again stayed in the game in "garbage time," as the Saints pummeled the Panthers 45-17. Brees ended up throwing five TD passes versus one pick for 389 yards in the game.
The Saints led the Panthers 24-17 at halftime, but pulled away scoring 21 unanswered points in the second half. Brees kept throwing liberally as well, even with the game well at hand for the Saints.
The Packers have had similar situations themselves in 2011, but McCarthy has used that occasion to take Rodgers out of the game and insert Flynn. And in the last week of the regular season, McCarthy didn't even play Rodgers, letting Flynn play the entire game when he had a record-setting day in the 45-41 win over the Lions.
I'm sure the voters for the MVP award will look at all of this as they determine who they will vote for.
The bottom line is that BOTH Rodgers and Brees have had fantastic seasons in 2011. The performance by Brees in 2011 would win the MVP award in most years. But 2011 wasn't like most years.
Rodgers won the NFL passing title. Rodgers led his team to the best record in the NFL. Rodgers beat Brees in their head-to-head battle in Week 1. Rodgers had only six turnovers all season (six interceptions and no fumbles), while Brees had 15 (14 interceptions and one fumble).
Therefore, Rodgers is the NFL MVP in my opinion.
Finally, I think there a good possibility that the Saints and Packers will meet again in Green Bay for the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 22. At stake will be an appearance at Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
Brees was the MVP of Super Bowl XLIV, while Rodgers was the MVP of Super Bowl XLV. If indeed that NFC Championship Game matchup happens, it could be a game for the ages in NFL postseason history.
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