Super Bowl 46: Dark Horse MVP Candidates for Sunday's Epic Showdown

Austin GreenCorrespondent IFebruary 4, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 22:  Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants runs for yards after the catch against the San Francisco 49ers in the second quarter during the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park on January 22, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Tom Brady and Eli Manning are headlining Super Bowl 46, but as Dexter "15 Minutes of Fame" Jackson proved in 2003, you don't have to be a big name to take home the MVP award.

Brady knows this as well as anyone—in 2005, he watched teammate Deion Branch take home the individual hardware.

I'd still bet on one of the two superstars being crowned MVP this year, but don't be surprised if a less-heralded player swoops in to steal the spotlight.

Here are some possible dark-horse candidates for Super Bowl Sunday.


Victor Cruz, WR, Giants

Victor Cruz exploded onto the scene this year, finishing in the top 10 in the NFL in receptions (82), receiving yards (1,536) and touchdown catches (nine).

The speedy Cruz is one of the most dangerous deep threats in a league that's full of them. In the regular season, only Calvin Johnson and Steve Smith had more receptions of 20-plus yards.

Cruz was quiet early in the postseason (seven catches, 102 yards in two games), but he erupted for 142 yards on 10 catches in the NFC Championship Game.

I wouldn't expect another 99-yard touchdown from him on Sunday, but if he makes a couple big plays, he will definitely be in the running for MVP.


Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots

Gronkowski is battling a high ankle sprain, but I'm still expecting him to produce at a high level.

The 22-year-old was a monster this season. He led the league in touchdown catches (17) while finishing fifth in receptions (90) and sixth in receiving yards (1,327).

He didn't miss a beat in the Patriots' first game of the playoffs when they destroyed the Denver Broncos. Gronkowski had 10 catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns, all of which came in the first half.

The injury will certainly have some effect on his game, but Gronk at 70 or 80 percent health is still better than most tight ends in the league. He's such a matchup nightmare that he will have an impact, even with a bum wheel.

If selected, Gronk would be the first tight end to win Super Bowl MVP.


Kyle Arrington, CB, Patriots

The Patriots secondary is often scrutinized, but Arrington quietly had a great season.

He recorded 88 tackles (66 solo), and finished tied for first in the NFL with seven interceptions. On Sunday, he has the unenviable task of covering Cruz.

If Arrington wins his individual matchup, and makes an interception or two, he could join the immortal Larry Brown (Dallas Cowboys, 1996) as the only cornerbacks to be crowned Super Bowl MVP.