Detroit Lions: Why Matthew Stafford Will Compete for League MVP This Season

Nick Kostora@@nickkostoraContributor IIIApril 11, 2012

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 24:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions shakes hands after a 27-15 loss with Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on November 24, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Matthew Stafford was overshadowed on his own team and the NFL at large in 2011, but in 2012 he will compete for NFL MVP honors.

His 5,000-yard campaign in 2011 was a surprise to most, but there is no reason to believe that Stafford cannot continue to build and improve his game.

The MVP race has become largely a quarterback exclusive club. In fact, a QB has won the award in each of the last five years.

With that in mind, Stafford should be in a perfect position in 2012 to compete for the crown.

He has developed an all-important relationship with superstar receiver Calvin Johnson and having that kind of weapon at wideout can only help Stafford's chances of posting MVP-esque numbers.

Of course, Johnson himself may prove a worthy candidate as well, but again this is a QB driven distinction, which puts Stafford in the better position to battle for the crown.

Some of the players that are likely competition should at least have some vulnerabilities.

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees is enduring the bounty scandal that has engulfed his organization and there is talk he may even hold out due to contract negotiations.

Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning is entering his first season with the team and while he is capable of winning the MVP award at any time, it would be hard to believe that he could be the best player in the league after missing an entire season.

Stafford, meanwhile, has no distractions, only a chip on his shoulder.

Entering 2011, all the talk surrounding the top pick in the 2009 draft was of how he was injury-prone and had a shoulder made of glass.

These are warranted claims after the multiple shoulder surgeries Stafford endured in his first two NFL seasons, but he proved all the naysayers wrong by starting every game and winning NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors.

Not only that, the former Georgia Bulldog became only the fourth player in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards in a season (Drew Brees has accomplished the milestone twice) and yet was not even selected to the Pro Bowl.

Even if individual honors are not what motivates the Lions signal-caller, perhaps the fact that he faces questionable NFC North secondaries multiple times a year will propel him into the MVP conversation.

The Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears all ranked in the bottom third of the league in passing yards allowed in 2011.

This is not to say the road to the MVP award will be rolled out to Stafford like a red carpet, though. Players like New England Patriots QB Tom Brady and Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers should both be at the top of their games, but Stafford will certainly be in a position to compete with them for accolades.

Still doubt it? That's fine. Stafford seems to do well when he is discounted.