‘Tis the season for year-end awards in the NFL. This year, there are more players deserving of recognition than trophies to hand out. These are the select few Athlon Sports believes to be award-worthy:
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers likely tied a bow on this year’s MVP award during a 35–21 victory over the Chicago Bears on Christmas night in the 184th meeting of the NFL’s oldest rivals.</p>
Somewhere, the most annoying former champs in sports, the 1972 Dolphins, are planning their annual toast to their own perfection, their status as the NFL's lone unbeaten champions secure for another year. The latest threat to Mercury Morris' only claim to relevance was derailed by a guy who was chased out of Denver with a 1–4 record.
Three years ago, the Giants tested the undefeated Patriots and the unstoppable Tom Brady before falling 38–35, then went on to upset the P-men in the Super Bowl. Yesterday, the Giants tested the undefeated Packers and the unstoppable Aaron Rodgers before falling 38–35, but at the risk of an outbreak of Manning Face, I have to break it to Eli Manning that yesterday was more of a last gasp than a springboard for his team.
There is a long, long way to go for the Green Bay Packers – probably longer than they even realize. That’s a lesson that was learned the hard way by so many previously unbeaten teams. Even the teams that look unbeatable, the way the Packers do right now, can be beaten when they least expect it.
Just ask the 2007 New England Patriots, who were once 2 ½ minutes away from finishing 19-0.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots
Tom Brady’s favorite target hauled in four catches for 96 yards and two memorable trips to the end zone — a 52-yard sprint down the sideline that put the 6'6", 265-pounder’s speed on display and a 19-yard dive over the goal line that flipped Gronkowski onto his neck before the second-year star staggered to his feet and spiked the ball. Gronkowski now has 20 TDs in his first 26 games, breaking Bears Hall of Famer Mike Ditka’s record (31) for fewest games by a tight end to score 20 TDs.
The San Francisco 49ers are the best all-around team in the NFL. Yes, the Packers are undefeated. Yes, Aaron Rodgers could be the best passer we have ever seen. But teams without the Greek God of Quarterbacks have to have a balanced attack and consistency in all aspects of the game. If we are determining a team with the best offense/defense combination, I have to pick the Niners.
Halfway through the NFL season, nobody is surprised about who is sitting atop the NFL standings, but the Green Bay Packers may be the only thing not surprising about the NFL this season. Teams like the 49ers and Bengals are on top, the Patriots are fading, and the “Dream Team” Eagles are a mess.
And even without Peyton Manning, who would’ve guessed the Indianapolis Colts would be running away with the race for the first overall draft pick and the rights to Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck?
A look at every NFL game for Week 10 — including Steelers at Bengals, Saints at Falcons, Lions at Bears, Giants at 49ers and Patriots at Jets — along with the consensus pick of Athlon Sports' editors.</p>