|The Packers have won 8 of 9, a stretch in which Aaron Rodgers has been the NFL's most efficient passer. (US Presswire)|
Aaron Rodgers is on the phone and he notes that a snowstorm is coming. "It's going to be a big one," he jokes, "maybe this is the storm the Mayans were talking about."
The way Rodgers is playing -- a storm, the Mayans, a presidential decree -- couldn't stop him. While Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson are MVP front-runners (and maybe Tom Brady), there's no question that Rodgers, very quietly, is playing as well as any of those players.
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In many ways, he's the stealth MVP candidate.
He won't talk about himself in that way -- “I focus on the Packers,” he said in an interview -- but what Rodgers has done is fairly remarkable. Green Bay started the season 2-3, including a brutal loss to Indianapolis in the fifth week. The team was beat up physically, Rodgers was frustrated, and it looked like the Packers were dead.
“We faced a great deal of adversity early in the season,” said Rodgers. “We lost to the 49ers and they're obviously very good. We beat the Bears. There was the Fail Mary game against Seattle. It wasn't looking good. Then came the Houston game and everything changed for us.”
The Packers obliterated the Texans in Houston and from that point on, everything changed.
“We needed a game that could remind us of how good we could be,” said Rodgers. “It was that Houston game, no question. After that, we took off. We were a different team.”
In some ways they were different, yes. In one major way, no. They had Rodgers, who has been on a tear. The stats are impressive enough. Green Bay has won eight of its nine games since that Colts loss. During that streak, Rodgers has 22 touchdowns to four interceptions. He has the NFL's best passer rating at 104.7.
But go beyond the stats and you see Rodgers' real value. The Packers have no truly viable running game. Maybe his best receiver, Jordy Nelson, has been hurt for large chunks of the season. His other top receiver, Greg Jennings, has more commercials than touchdowns,
also because he's been hurt.
Rodgers is the most sacked thrower in the sport and his defense has been solid but certainly not as good as Manning's and maybe not as good as Brady's. Rodgers has demonstrated a steel nature and determination that makes this season one of the best he has ever had
because he's winning without the weapons he once possessed. Quietly, the Packers won their division, a division some picked Chicago to win.
“I remember when I was a younger player, I used to look at the older players and say, ‘I'm going to have a lot of opportunities to get to a Super Bowl,' ” said Rodgers. “But then you play in the league a little longer and you realize that's not the case. The opportunities are few and far between. We learned that last year (losing in the postseason) and we weren't going to forget that this year.”
Rodgers has watched the other MVP candidates and views them with amazement the way many people in football watch Rodgers with the same awe.
On Peterson: “As a fellow reconstruction guy (Rodgers had similar surgery) I'm really proud of him. I've told him that directly.”
On Manning: “I told Peyton last year that the league is better when he's in it. He's amazing.”
On Brady: “Maybe the most taken-for-granted player in football because he's always so good.”
The way Rodgers is playing, watch out for the Packers, and definitely watch out for the stealth MVP candidate.