It's preseason predictions time. The Around The League crew has been rolling through our division previews and now it's time to break out some awards. First up: Our MVP picks:
Gregg Rosenthal's pick: Ben Roethlisberger
Aaron Rodgers should be the favorite to win the MVP award every season during his prime, but Big Ben is my upset pick this year. Only 31, Roethlisberger is too often forgotten when discussing the game's best quarterbacks. The outstanding young crop of QBs hasn't passed him yet. It's laughable that many consider Joe Flacco and Eli Manning superior to Roethliberger, who is far more consistent.
The longtime Pittsburgh Steeler was playing outstanding football last season before his shoulder and rib injuries. In Year 2 under offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Roethlisberger is primed for a huge season. Haley builds in more easy throws and understands better now how to use Big Ben's incredible vertical skills. Perception matters, and the perception will be that Roethlisberger carried an offense with questions in the backfield. A surprise division title, the Steelers' underrated receivers and an improved offensive line won't hurt.
Dan Hanzus' pick: Andrew Luck
Dan Marino is the last player to win NFL MVP in his second full season. That will change in 2013 with Andrew Luck.
Everything feels right for Luck. He's coming off one of the best rookie seasons ever. He's comfortable in an offense now led by Pep Hamilton, his former coach at Stanford. He has talented targets in Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, and an improved running game led by Ahmad Bradshaw.
Best of all, Luck has The Look. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady had The Look early in their careers. Aaron Rodgers had it, too ... once Brett Favre got out of his way. Success is preordained with The Look on your side.
Marc Sessler's pick: Tom Brady
I'm going with my gut on this one. No current player has been more important to his team over the past decade than Brady. He'll pound that point home this autumn, going into battle with a crop of newbie pass-catchers. It was popular to wonder, just months ago, if the Patriots had reached the end of their dominant run. Rubbish.
Brady will calmly guide New England to its 11th consecutive winning season and right back into the playoffs. He's been overlooked in days past when the awards are dished out, the same way Bill Belichick is for Coach of the Year honors. Success in New England -- and dominant play from its quarterback -- has become commonplace. This time around, that won't be an option. It's time to acknowledge No. 12 for who he is: The greatest passer of all time.
Kevin Patra's pick: Tom Brady
The MVP award at its base is a popularity contest. Voters love a great story. When a 36-year-old Brady lugs a ragtag receiving group and middling defense to an easy division championship and the best record in the AFC, the stories will write themselves. Can't you picture the headline? "Golden Boy wins Golden Age MVP." Brady still is the most consistent player at the most important position on the football field. The Patriots lost most of his old toys, but, as he's done in the past, he will make the new ones just as productive.
Chris Wesseling's pick: Aaron Rodgers
I was tempted to go with Peyton Manning because the additions of Wes Welker and Julius Thomas will allow him to exploit mismatches all season. But Rodgers is simply the NFL's best player. Although passer rating isn't a perfect metric, his dominance in that category is staggering.
Rodgers stands alone at the top with a 104.9 career rating; the next dozen quarterbacks are between 90.0 and 97.0. His last two years with a rating over 106.0 are the only two back-to-back in NFL history. Throw in an improved defense and the potential of Eddie Lacy to force an extra safety into the box, and Rodgers should own the NFL this season.
We'll discuss our MVP picks on Wednesday's "Around The League Podcast." Click here to listen and subscribe.