Every NFL Team's Most Valuable Player in 2011
While football is definitely a team sport, one player can make a huge difference between a successful franchise and an unsuccessful one.
Just look at what players like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have done for their respective teams. As we've seen this year with the Indianapolis Colts, without one player, a team can spiral into awfulness without their best player.
Here are the most valuable players for every NFL team in 2011.
Arizona Cardinals: Beanie Wells, RB
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Had Beanie Wells not spent the beginning of the year dealing with injuries, it is very likely that he would be making his first trip to the Pro Bowl this year.
However, even without a full year, Wells is having the best season of his three-year career. He'll finish this year with well over 1,000 rushing yards and double-digit touchdowns.
Without Wells, the Arizona Cardinals would be nowhere near a .500 team. It appears as if Arizona's backfield has an extremely bright future.
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan, QB
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Not only is Matt Ryan leading the Atlanta Falcons back into the playoffs, but he is doing so by having a career year.
With Michael Turner aging, he has become less of an offensive weapon. This means that Ryan has been forced to throw the ball more than he is used to, and it hasn't affected him yet.
With playmakers like Roddy White and Julio Jones at his disposal, Ryan should continue to have productive years for the foreseeable future.
Baltimore Ravens: Ray Rice, RB
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Without Ray Rice, there is no way that the Baltimore Ravens would even be in playoff contention this year. Sure, that may sound crazy, but it is absolutely the truth.
In games where the Ravens have neglected Rice, and haven't given him they ball, they are 0-4. When they actually allow Rice to be the focal point of their offense, they are 11-0. If that isn't most valuable, then I don't know what is.
Rice is quietly blooming into one of the better running backs in the NFL, and he is already one of the top dual-threat backs in the league. If the Ravens want to make a deep playoff run, they need to keep him involved in the offense.
Buffalo Bills: Nick Barnett, LB
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It's hard to pick just one MVP for the Buffalo Bills this year because it has changed over the course of the season. At the start of the season, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson were easily the top players for Buffalo.
However, Jackson got injured and Fitzpatrick's play has declined as the season progressed. That leaves the MVP for the Bills as none other than Nick Barnett, who was acquired in the offseason.
Barnett is having one of the most productive seasons of his career, and he has a legitimate shot at winning the Comeback Player of the Year Award. He's been the centerpiece of an underrated defense.
With Barnett, the Bills defense is in good hands for the next few years, as long as he can stay healthy.
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB
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Is there really any question that Cam Newton is the MVP for the Carolina Panthers this year?
I mean, he's only having one of the greatest rookie seasons in the history of the NFL. He's brought Carolina back into the spotlight after a few down years, and it is only going to get better for the Panthers.
Newton's ceiling is so high that if he continues to grow and develop at his current rate, he could revolutionize the quarterback position.
Chicago Bears: Matt Forte, RB
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Some would say that the loss of Jay Cutler is what started the decline of the Chicago Bears. I'd disagree, because Matt Forte was the majority of their offense and when he got injured, this offense went to a whole new level of low.
Until he was injured, Forte was having an MVP-caliber season. Not only was Forte making his usual contributions as a receiver, but he was also improving as a runner.
It's all been downhill for Chicago since Forte was injured, and it isn't likely to get any better for the remainder of the season.
Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR
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When A.J. Green was drafted with the fourth pick of the draft, no one really knew what to expect from him with so many questions surrounding the Cincinnati Bengals' quarterback situation.
However, since Green has stepped on the field, he has shown that he is going to be one of the better wide receivers in the league for years to come. He has over 1,000 receiving yards on the season and has added seven touchdowns.
Green and rookie quarterback Andy Dalton have rejuvenated the Bengals, and they will surely be one of the better teams in the league for years to come.
Cleveland Browns: D'Qwell Jackon, LB
There hasn't been much to be excited about for the Cleveland Browns this year. Colt McCoy hasn't improved like everyone thought he would, and Peyton Hillis had all sorts of issues after a breakout year.
While the Browns offense has struggled, their defense has actually been quite good. They have plenty of young and talented players, which are led by D'Qwell Jackson.
Jackson has been one of the better middle linebackers in the AFC. He's been a tackling machine and a great leader and playmaker for the Browns.
With players like Jackson, Jabaal Sheard, Phil Taylor and Joe Haden, this defense should be successful for many years.
Dallas Cowboys: DeMarcus Ware, LB
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Tony Romo was a possible pick for the Dallas Cowboys, but after deep consideration, DeMarcus Ware was more deserving.
Ware has been one of the top pass-rushers in the NFL since he entered the league, and this year has been no different. He once again finds himself near the league lead in sacks.
His ability to disrupt opposing quarterbacks is one big reason why the Cowboys are in contention for the NFC East division crown. Without his pass-rushing skills, the Cowboys would likely find themselves in the cellar of their division.
Denver Broncos: Von Miller, LB
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Look, I know Tim Tebow has been the media's reason for the resurgence of the Denver Broncos, and while I agree that he has been something special for them, the MVP for this team for the entire year has been Von Miller.
The rookie out of Texas A&M has been simply spectacular for Denver in his first season. Not only has he proved to be the pass-rusher that everyone expected him to be, but he has also become more of a complete linebacker than many thought possible.
Sure, without Tebow, the Broncos are probably nowhere near a playoff contender, but the same, and maybe more, could be said about Miller.
Detroit Lions: Calvin Johnson, WR
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It was a toss-up between Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, and ultimately, Johnson won.
Don't get me wrong; Stafford has been great and has been key in the Detroit Lions making their first playoffs since Noah stepped off the Ark. However, Johnson has been better this year, and without his amazing late-game catches or huge performances, Stafford wouldn't be as impressive.
Johnson has separated himself from the pack of other great receivers in the league to become truly elite. What makes him even scarier is the fact that he is only 26 years old.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers, QB
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Not only has Aaron Rodgers been the MVP for the Green Bay Packers, he's been the MVP for the entire league.
He was on pace to have the greatest season ever by a quarterback before his play has slowed down in the past few weeks. Even with the little decline, he is still having quite the season.
He's thrown for 4,643 yards and 45 touchdowns thus far, both franchise records. It's never easy to follow a legend, but Rodgers has done an incredible job at replacing Brett Favre in Green Bay.
He's one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in the NFL right now.
Houston Texans: Arian Foster, RB
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Even though Arian Foster missed the first couple of games for the Houston Texans because of injury, he is still their MVP of the season.
Last year, Foster broke onto the scene, and this year he has proven that it is no fluke. He's added another dimension to his game as a receiver, and he is quickly sprinting up the ranks of running backs in the NFL.
When the Texans lost Matt Schaub to a season-ending injury, Foster stepped his game up even more and kept Houston running. That is exactly what you want from your best player, and that is exactly what Foster has done.
Indianapolis Colts: Robert Mathis, DE
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Peyton Manning was deeply considered as the MVP for the Indianapolis Colts this year, as there is no doubt that he is the most valuable player on their team.
However, Robert Mathis is having another productive season for Indianapolis. He's getting pressure on the quarterback and has been one of the few bright spots for this defensive unit.
While he hasn't been as dominant as he's been in past years, he is still having a quality year.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew, RB
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There isn't a more underrated player this year than Maurice Jones-Drew. If he was on a better team, he would easily be in MVP talks for the entire league.
Unfortunately, Jones-Drew is stuck on a crummy team with problems all over the field. Even without any help from his teammates, Jones-Drew is still leading the league in rushing yards.
It's an absolute shame that people haven't been able to see more of Jones-Drew this year because he has been simply amazing.
Kansas City Chiefs: Tamba Hali, LB
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After a breakout season last year, Tamba Hali is once again having a fantastic year.
He continues to be a disruptive force to opposing offenses. His best game of the year came against the Green Bay Packers in Week 15, where Hali single-handedly shut down Aaron Rodgers.
The Kansas City Chiefs defense is one of the better young units in the league, and Hali is the anchor of the unit right now.
Miami Dolphins: Reggie Bush, RB
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Through the first month of the NFL season, it appeared as if Reggie Bush was once again going to have a difficult season.
However, he turned it on in Week 7 against the New York Giants and hasn't looked back since. He has over 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career, and while his numbers as a receiver have dropped, that is due more to the offense he is currently in than a loss of talent in that area of his game.
Bush is finally showing people that he can be an every-down back in this league. He's finally started to get rid of the "bust" label placed upon him early in his career.
Minnesota Vikings: Jared Allen, DE
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Not only has Jared Allen been the best defensive player for the Minnesota Vikings, he has been the best defensive player in the entire league.
His 19 sacks are the best in the NFL. He's added one interception, one safety and four forced fumbles to his impressive sack total also. There isn't much that Allen hasn't done for the Vikings this year.
It's unfortunate that Allen is stuck on a terrible team, because it will likely take away from the awards that he deserves at the end of the season.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady, QB
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The NFL is a quarterback world and Tom Brady is sitting on top of it.
His 2011 season is nearly as impressive as his 2007 season where he set numerous NFL records. What is so impressive about Brady is that he isn't doing it with a receiving corps like Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers has. After Wes Welker, there aren't many impact wide receivers on the roster.
The New England Patriots look poised to make a deep playoff run this year, and it is mostly in thanks to what Mr. Brady has done on the field.
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees, QB
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The season that Drew Brees is having may be even more impressive than the season that Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers is having.
He's likely to break Dan Marino's single-season passing yards record Monday night against he Atlanta Falcons, and with one more game remaining, he'll set a record that will be nearly impossible to break. The New Orleans Saints have the most potent offense in the league right now, and Brees is a legitimate MVP candidate.
There may not be another player that means as much to his team than Brees.
New York Giants: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE
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Both Eli Manning and Victor Cruz were MVP options for the New York Giants, but at the end of the day, Jason Pierre-Paul has been their most important player.
It isn't just his impressive sack numbers (16) that make him so dominant, but his entire game has evolved. He has 81 tackles on the year, which is far more than any other of the top sack leaders in the NFL. He's also a constant bother to opposing quarterbacks by knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage with his athleticism and long arms.
Pierre-Paul could be a sleeper candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, and he should continue to anchor New York's defensive line for years to come.
New York Jets: Darrelle Revis, CB
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To say that the New York Jets have been a disappointment would be a rather fair assessment of their season. None of the players who were expected to take a step forward this year (Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene) have done that.
The only player who has been consistently god for the Jets has been Darrelle Revis. While his play has dropped off the past few weeks, the first half of his season was one of the most dominant seasons by a cornerback ever.
He didn't just shut down opposing receivers, he made them completely disappear. It was like half of the field was missing to quarterbacks because of Revis.
There is no doubt that he is the best shutdown cornerback in the league.
Oakland Raiders: Michael Bush, RB
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Had Darren McFadden not missed time because of injuries, there is no doubt that he would have been the Oakland Raiders' MVP this year.
Unfortunately, McFadden did miss time, but as impressive as McFadden was to start the season, Michael Bush has been equally impressive in the final stretch of the season. In fact, he's played so well that the Raiders offense has barely missed a beat in McFadden's absence.
The Raiders still have a chance to make the playoffs, and if they want to succeed, Bush will have to continue to play at a high level.
Philadelphia Eagles: LeSean McCoy, RB
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If a quarterback doesn't win the MVP this year, it is likely that the award would go to LeSean McCoy. He's been better than Calvin Johnson, Wes Welker or any other non-quarterback this year.
To call this season for McCoy a breakout season would be a major understatement. He's easily been the most productive running back in the league. His 17 rushing touchdowns are five more than any other running back in the league.
Without McCoy, the Philadelphia Eagles would have an even worse record than they have right now.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Mike Wallace, WR
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There hasn't really been a "clear" MVP for the Pittsburgh Steelers this year. They've have a very balanced offense and defense.
However, since I have to choose someone, I'm going with Mike Wallace as their best player this year. Even with a deep receiving corps for Pittsburgh, Wallace is having his second straight productive season.
There aren't many receivers that are better deep threats than Wallace, as evidenced by his 16.6 average yards per catch. He's also continuing to become a better red-zone target for Ben Roethlisberger.
This award could have gone to numerous other players for the Steelers, but Wallace has been the best.
San Diego Chargers: Eric Weddle, S
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This season has been quite the disappointment for the San Diego Chargers. They were expected to steamroll the AFC West, but a slow start to the season took them out of playoff contention early.
Their usual MVP candidates in Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson have all had a down year, but Eric Weddle has proven that he was worth that big contract he received in the offseason.
His seven interceptions are tied for the most in the league. He's also added 83 tackles to have one of the better statistical seasons for a safety in the league.
Many people thought the Chargers overpaid for Weddle, but he has absolutely shown to be worth every paycheck he's received this year.
San Francisco 49ers: NaVorro Bowman, LB
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Alex Smith, Frank Gore and Patrick Willis were all considered for the San Francisco 49ers MVP, but NaVorro Bowman took home the hardware. Willis has missed some time, Gore started the season slowly and Smith hasn't been impressive enough to be considered the MVP.
Bowman has come out of nowhere to be a force on defense for San Francisco. He's got a nose for the football and can always be found somewhere near the ball.
The 49ers have the best defensive unit in the league, and the play of Bowman has been a huge reason why they've been so successful.
Seattle Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch, RB
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The Seattle Seahawks were a popular preseason favorite to be the worst team in the league, and for the first month of the season, they didn't do much to change people's minds.
However, a late-season push put them back in the playoff picture for a second, and the man that deserves credit for that push is Marshawn Lynch. This year, Lynch has compiled the most rushing yards and touchdowns of his career.
At times, Lynch has looked like the best running back in the NFL. Especially when he has gone into "Beast Mode."
St. Louis Rams: Steven Jackson, RB
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What the heck happened to the St. Louis Rams this year? They were the preseason favorite to win the NFC West, but they have completely crumbled.
Even in a down year, Steven Jackson has still proven that he deserves to be considered one of the elite running backs in the league. Few running backs play as hard every single down as Jackson does.
When Jackson finally gets some help on offense, he could become an even more dangerous player.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mason Foster, LB
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Mason Foster has literally come out of nowhere to be one of the better defensive rookies in the NFL.
His production has slowed down since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been on their current losing streak, but he has still had a quality rookie season. He has a unique skill set which allows him to to succeed in Tampa Bay's defense.
It looks like Foster will be the middle linebacker for the Buccaneers for a long time.
Tennessee Titans: Nate Washington, WR
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When Kenny Britt went down with injury early in the season, the Tennessee Titans needed someone to step up.
Even though it took some time, Nate Washington finally became the top target for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. He may not be as talented as Britt, but he has solid hands and can make plays after the catch.
When Britt returns next year, the Titans should have one of the better one-two punches at the receiver position in the NFL.
Washington Redskins: London Fletcher, LB
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The Washington Redskins were one of the surprise teams early in the season and have since fallen off the face of the Earth.
With his team playing poorly, London Fletcher has still been able to have a fantastic season. In fact, if the Redskins offense was any better, this could be a playoff-caliber team because of their defense.
Washington has one of the better defenses in the league and Fletcher is the player that makes it all work. He's once again having a Pro Bowl worthy season, as he leads the NFL with 163 total tackles.
Fletcher has been as consistent as they come for Washington, and yet he always seems forgotten at season's end.