It's preseason predictions time. The Around The NFL 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: Aaron Rodgers
The weapons around Rodgers remain outrageous. A vastly improved backfield will only help the Packers stay on the field and give Rodgers more red zone opportunities. The offensive line has some concerns, but it appears to be in better shape than any time in five seasons. Rodgers has sounded like a man this offseason that has thought about his football mortality. He turns 31 in December and fully understands how hard it is to get back to the Super Bowl or win an MVP. I see Rodgers as a transcendent, all-time great talent. He's due for another all-time great kind of season.
Marc Sessler's pick: Aaron Rodgers
A comeback story and tour de force wrapped into one: Aaron Rodgers saw last season wiped away by a fractured left collarbone, but he's healthy and coming off his "best" offseason, per coach Mike McCarthy. Around The NFL correctly ranked him as the world's finest quarterback, and I'm expecting nothing less than a fever dream under center come September.
Yes. It's a boring pick, but sometimes greatness is predictable, and that's Rodgers. Teams tied to middling quarterbacks live in fear from pass to pass, but not so with Aa-Rod. With an NFL-best 104.9 career passer rating, Rodgers stands out as the game's most surgical signal-caller. He'll be aided this season by the game's most underrated pass-catcher in Jordy Nelson and a wideout in Randall Cobb whom I expect to lead the NFC in receptions. Matched by a strong ground game and spicy defense, Rodgers -- in the prime of his outrageous career -- is a safer pick than even Peyton Manning. Nothing can go wrong here -- right?
Chris Wesseling's pick: Drew Brees
As discussed on a recent edition of the Around The League Podcast, the Saints are the top candidate to overthrow the Broncos as the NFL's most prolific offense. Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are the only quarterbacks in NFL history with seasons featuring at least 4,500 passing yards, 45 touchdowns and a QB rating over 115.0. This is Brees' year to reach those outlier numbers.
The Saints' offense had grown stale down the stretch last year. An aging wide receiver corps, a hobbled Jimmy Graham and predictable backfield usage patterns contributed to a five-game stretch in which Brees' offense topped 17 points just once. Rookie Brandin Cooks adds instantplaymakingability, joining Nick Toon and deep threats Kenny Stills and Joe Morgan to add young legs and speed element that was missing too often last season. Now over his plantar fascia injury, Graham is once again as unguardable as early last season when he was averaging 120 yards per game on an MVP pace. Khiry Robinson is a "serial run-finisher" and tackle-breaker, Mark Ingram is running as well as any back in the league and Pierre Thomas is Brees' choice as the NFL's best all-purpose back.
Now that his tailbacks have some overlap in skill sets and his wide receivers can get vertical, Sean Payton will once again tie defensive coordinators in knots with his play calling. It was clear last summer that Denver would challenge New England's 2007 offense. Now all of the signs are pointing to Brees challenging Manning's epic 2013 season in a pick-your-poison attack.
Kevin Patra's pick: Aaron Rodgers
The Packers' faster-paced offense will allow Rodgers to restamp his name on the "NFL's Best QB" plaque. Green Bay is focused on running a quicker, no-huddle offense this year, which will allow Rodgers to carve up defenses. The early returns have looked glorious. With Eddie Lacy primed to make defenses take notice, no longer will teams be able to pin their ears back and go after Rodgers.
Jordy Nelson, another year of Randall Cobb and a bevy of secondary targets gives Rogers the pass-catchers to put up numbers at the rate of any signal-caller. Going against several shaky secondary units in the NFC North twice this season will also aid the stats element needed to win the award. After missing most of last season with an injury, Rodgers bounces back by adding an MVP trophy to his mantel.