Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 12/27/12
This season’s MVP debate has dwindled down to a two-man race in recent weeks. Peyton Manning‘s rebirth in Denver and Adrian Peterson‘s medical miracle with the Vikings have taken center stage and appear to be the only contenders remaining — at least, that’s the idea floating around the NFL. The league’s reigning MVP might have something to say about that, though. Aaron Rodgers, who won the award in 2011, has flown well under the radar for much of the 2012 season, even being criticized for poor performances early on. Rodgers threw just three touchdowns and two interceptions as the Packers got off to a 1-2 start to the season — their worst three-game start with Rodgers under center. Since that “horrific” — and I use that term sarcastically — start, Rodgers has played nothing short of stellar, though, and the Packers have gone on quite a run. Rodgers has scored 34 touchdowns (32 passing and two running) and thrown just six interceptions over the Packers’ past 12 games, leading them to a 10-2 record over that stretch. Beyond the numbers, though, Rodgers’ impact on Green Bay’s success this season has been vital. Behind Rodgers’ stewardship, Green Bay has now won four straight games, clinched the NFC North title and, with a win over Peterson’s Vikings on Sunday, will secure a first-round bye in the playoffs. Talk about leadership — all of that’s got to be worth something, if not an MVP. Now, what Peterson has accomplished (leading the NFL in rushing and chasing Eric Dickerson‘s single-season rushing record, especially coming off a surgically repaired knee injury) is phenomenal. Manning’s renaissance on a new team, coming off of a career-threatening neck injury, is just as sensational a story. But the MVP isn’t given out for the best or most inspirational story. (That’s why there’s a Comeback Player of the Year award.) Not to say that Manning or Peterson wouldn’t be valid choices for the MVP, but the fact that Rodgers is being overlooked is ludicrous. Rodgers may not be the sexy choice this year, as all the uproar has seemed to elude him for reasons still unbeknownst to me, but Rodgers is just as critical to the Packers’ success as Manning or Peterson is to the Broncos or Vikings, which makes him more than worthy of consideration for the MVP. There’s still one week to play in this NFL season, and plenty can change in a single game. Whatever the outcome of this final set of games, whether Peterson breaks the longstanding record, earning him the award, or Manning throws five touchdowns to clinch the AFC’s No. 1 seed, all but clinching his record fifth MVP, Rodgers at least belongs in the most valuable conversation. Have a question for Luke Hughes? Send it to him via Twitter at @LukeFHughes or send it here. Pick Six The six biggest trendsetters of the past week in the NFL Seattle Seahawks: Up – If there is a hotter team in the NFL right now, then I’d love to hear about them. The Seahawks have won their past three games by a combined score of 150-30. That’s absurd in itself. Add in a 42-13 romp over the division-rival 49ers a week after the San Francisco sewed up the Patriots, and boom — I’m sold. Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Down – With the season in the balance, Roethlisberger looked more like Worthlessberger. He threw two costly picks, and the Steelers are missing the playoffs for just the fourth time in 12 years. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: Up — Megatron didn’t just break Jerry Rice‘s 17-year-old receiving record, he shattered it with 11 catches and 225 yards. Soon, Chris Johnson may not be the only NFL star with the moniker “CJ2K.” New York Giants: Down – Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The Giants were outgained by the Ravens 533 to 186 on Sunday. The only thing more embarrassing might be losing five of their last seven games and slowly watching any playoff hopes fade away. Now, they need nothing short of a miracle to make it in. Good luck! Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys: Up – The man caught nine passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns and probably won nearly all of his fantasy football owners a nice, big trophy on Sunday. What’s even more impressive is that he’s doing it all with a broken finger. Dez might be growing up after all. Go figure. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons: Up — Roddy White, Julio Jones and any number of other Falcons could be in this spot, but Ryan gets it for both completing almost 80 percent of his passes and throwing four touchdowns in a 31-18 win. Oh yeah, and Atlanta gets home-field advantage through the playoffs, which is good since they’re almost unbeatable in that dome. Booyah!

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

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