2011 NFL Predictions: 5 Running Backs Who Will Contend for MVP
The only other position player with a serious shot at winning the trophy would be a running back. Even when Randy Moss had his monster year in New England, he wasn’t even considered as a finalist by most.
As we enter the 2011 season, guys like Brady, Manning, Rodgers, Rivers, Brees and Roethlisberger will all obviously be front-runners for the award.
If you just look at the running backs though, there are five guys I see having MVP-caliber seasons. The usual suspects are there, but there might be some surprising names too. If anyone is going to be able to take the award away from a quarterback this year, it will be one of these five tailbacks.
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
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Turner is a product of a very good running back in a fantastic situation in Atlanta. The offense there will be as explosive as it has ever been.
The addition of rookie phenom Julio Jones will create an unstoppable receiver combo for Matt Ryan. With Ryan slinging the ball all over the field, it will really open up things for Turner.
Not only that, but he is one of the best pass-catching running backs in the league. He will put up some amazing all-purpose numbers in the offensive-friendly NFC South.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
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Of course Peterson will be on this list. He should be on it every year because he is the best running back in the league. His combination of size, speed and agility trump anyone else.
The acquisition of Donovan McNabb should greatly increase Peterson's numbers, as teams will not be able to load up on him in the box. Even going up against tough defenses like Green Bay, Chicago and the Suh/Fairley wall in Detroit, he should still have a great year.
That is how good AP really is.
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
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Baltimore's other Ray is about to have his best season yet.
The addition of Ricky Williams will give him some rest when he needs it, but it won't really have a big effect on his touches. Rice is still one of the best pass-catchers at the position, and we all know what he can do on the ground.
Baltimore's schedule doesn't pose any serious threats to him, other than the Steelers of course. With Flacco ready to throw the ball a little more, it could open up things on the ground even more and possibly allow Rice to catch even more passes out of the backfield.
Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
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There were many people who put the "bust" label on McFadden way too early in his career.
Last season, he exploded onto the scene, leading Oakland in all-purpose yards. McFadden's yards per carry average was at 5.2 by the end of the season. Had it not been for a small injury last year, he could have put up even more yards, which is scary considering he rushed for more than 1,100 of them.
McFadden is also a huge threat in the passing game, so if he can pick up where he left off last season, he should give Raiders fans a reason to talk trash—as if they need a reason.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers
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Gore has always been a tough runner and an elite pass-catcher for San Francisco.
However, he has always had durability issues, which are always a concern for a team without a great quarterback. New head coach Jim Harbaugh will be sticking with Alex Smith, so teams will once again look for the 49ers to run first.
However, they do have some talent for Alex to throw to, such as Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards. That could hopefully create some more space for Gore to run, and he will continue to rack up the receiving yards.
If he can somehow find a way to stay healthy for an entire season, Gore is a guy who is capable of winning this award.