FILE - In this Oct. 15, 2018, file photo, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, in Green Bay, Wis. To get ready for Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the Packers turned to rookie defensive lineman James Looney. The seventh-round pick failed to make the roster and has been toiling on the practice squad. But he's been tasked with helping the Packers prepare for Donald, the reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year who already has eight sacks this season and will get a shot at Aaron Rodgers on Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke, File)

NFL MVP Race: Go with what you know, Aaron Rodgers

In what has been an incredibly odd year and NFL season, the race for the league’s MVP is off, too.

Usually, through 13 weeks, one player — or at least a crop of players — has established himself as the frontrunner. It was Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson last year. The Louisville product dazzled his way to the league’s highest individual honor, just three years after winning the Heisman Trophy with Louisville in 2016. The year before, in 2018, Patrick Mahomes exploded onto the scene and ran away with the MVP.

The year 2020 has been void of a consistent frontrunner. First Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was on pace for historical numbers, but he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in October. Then it was Russell Wilson. The Seahawks quarterback and the coaching staff leaned into the “Let Russ Cook” movement that allowed him to start the season hot. But Wilson and Seattle have slowed down significantly. Bills quarterback Josh Allen, Titans running back Derrick Henry and Vikings running back Dalvin Cook have all gotten some buzz. But the MVP is largely a quarterback award — former Vikings running back Adrian Peterson won it in 2012 and no running back has since — and Allen isn’t quite there yet.

The 2020 NFL MVP should go to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The case for Rodgers

Rodgers has been here before. He won MVP in 2011 and again in 2016. He deserves it again in 2020.

The stats speak for themselves. Rodgers has thrown 36 touchdowns to four interceptions in 12 games this season. He’s also quarterbacking the 9-3 Packers who lead the NFC North. Rodgers’ three dozen touchdown passes are the most of any quarterback in the NFL and his four interceptions are among the fewest for the top passers in the league.

Rodgers also leads the league in quarterback rating. His 118.5 rating is the second-best mark of his career, trailing only his 2011 MVP season when he posted a rating of 122.5. In that season, Rodgers threw 45 touchdowns, a number he is very close to passing which would mark a new career high. The Packers have four remaining games and if Rodgers’ average of three touchdowns per game holds, he could set a career high with 48 in Week 17.

To put Rodgers’ 2020 season into perspective, he has already far surpassed his 2019 passing touchdown total. Rodgers was named a Pro Bowler that season. He’s also already matched Jackson’s 2019 passing touchdown total from his MVP season. Granted, Jackson added value with his rushing ability and seven scores on the ground, but 75% of Rodgers’ 2020 season matched Jackson’s entire 2019 campaign. Rodgers is on another level this season.

What makes this campaign even more impressive is the weapons that Rodgers has at his disposal. Well, weapon. Davante Adams is all he’s got. The seventh-year wide receiver is incredible and is having a career year. Still, he could have used someone in the draft to take some of the opposing defenses’ attention away from him. And Rodgers would’ve loved a new toy to throw to. But instead, Rodgers has made do with just Adams. And in the two games that his top target missed with injury, the Packers beat the Saints, who hold the best record in the NFL, and the Falcons, a lesser accomplishment.

In those two games, Jackson threw for a combined 610 yards and seven touchdowns. He didn’t throw an interception in either game. In Adams’ absence, Rodgers went to receiver Allen Lazard and tight end Robert Tonyan and his production did not waver.

The Packers drafted Rodgers’ replacement in the spring in Jordan Love. A team that won 13 games and went to the NFC Championship game drafted a quarterback in the first round to back up their Pro Bowl quarterback. The decision was questionable at best. Rodgers was not thrilled, according to multiple reports.

This whole MVP-caliber play may be Rodgers showing management in Green Bay that he’s still got it. Or maybe Rodgers just wants another championship and playing like this is the only route for the Packers to return to the Super Bowl. Whatever the motivation, Rodgers should be the 2020 NFL MVP. Give him his third trophy in 10 years.

Honorable mention

A big part of the MVP case is narrative. Rodgers has the Love pick (possibly) motivating him and a revenge season after coming up just short of the Super Bowl. For Mahomes, who was mentioned earlier as having run away with the award in 2018, the story isn’t there. But the wins and numbers are.

Mahomes is quarterbacking the 11-1 Chiefs and making it look incredibly easy. For him, it is. He leads the league in passing yards with 3,815 and his two top targets, tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, are both in the top five in the league in receiving yards. Mahomes is also surgical. He’s thrown five fewer touchdowns than Rodgers but half as many interceptions.

If Mahomes wins the MVP, no one should say he’s undeserving. The Chiefs and Mahomes will likely win their second straight Super Bowl. But that doesn’t factor into the MVP race.

Without Mahomes, the Chiefs would still have some of the best offensive weapons in football and a stellar coach in Andy Reid. In Green Bay, Rodgers is all they got and he’s carrying them. It’s a regular-season award and it should be Rodgers’. He is the most valuable player, he’s putting up gaudy stats and the story is there.

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