Mark Craig's Sunday Insider: NFL MVP? Calvin Johnson leads list

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 6, 2011 - 12:25 AM

The Lions wide receiver is the NFL's most difficult player to defend, anywhere on the field.

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Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson gets the nod as midseason NFL MVP over Aaron Rodgers.

Photo: Joe Mahoney, Associated Press

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One of the "bold predictions" on this page in Week 1 said the Colts would go 5-11 without Peyton Manning.

Turns out that was giving way too much credit to Peyton's lifeless teammates. The winless Colts would have to go 5-3 the rest of the way to make that prediction come true.

That's both unfortunate for Indianapolis and satisfying for those of us who have had to defend voting for Manning as NFL Most Valuable Player multiple times in recent years.

One is tempted to vote for him again this year. After all, never in the history of the league has a team proven its utter reliance on -- and the value of -- a single player the way the Colts have without Manning this season.

But voting for Manning wouldn't be right. So he wasn't considered for this particular list of midseason award winners:

Most Valuable Player: Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions.

Only one receiver has ever won the award: Jerry Rice in 1987. Rice averaged 90.6 yards, 5.4 catches and 1.8 touchdowns per game that year. Johnson is averaging 100.5 yards, 5.9 catches and 1.4 touchdowns per game through the Lions' 6-2 start.

So why not Megatron?

He's often double- and triple-teamed because the Lions have no running game and no other wide receiver threat. Yet the 6-5, 240-pounder with the 4.3 speed remains the league's most difficult player to defend anywhere on the field. Of his 47 catches, 40 have gone for a first down (85.1 percent) while 17 have gone for gains of 20 yards or longer (36.1 percent), including five of 40 yards or longer.

Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers.

No, we didn't forget about the likely MVP. He's completing 71.5 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns, three interceptions and an average of 9.92 yards per attempt.

In other words, he's basically averaging a first down every time he throws the ball. And he's doing it with an anti-Favreian plus-17 ratio in TDs to interceptions.

His passer rating of 125.7 also is 21.3 points higher than the next best rating, which belongs to Tom Brady.

Perfection is impossible in the NFL. But Rodgers is about as close as one will ever get.

Defensive Player of the Year: Jared Allen, DE, Vikings.

Allen leads Dallas' DeMarcus Ware in sacks, 12 1/2-12; forced fumbles, 3-2; fumbles recovered, 3-0; passes defensed, 4-1; interceptions, 1-0; and tackles, 34-31. Granted, Ware has played one fewer game.

If Allen maintains this pace, his team's record won't matter. Five players have won NFL Defensive Player of the Year on losing teams. The last to do it was Miami's Jason Taylor in 2006.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals.

On a team that won four games with Carson Palmer last season, Dalton already has won five games with a higher completion percentage (62.4-60.6) and fewer turnovers (11-7) than Cam Newton, who has proven a lot of people wrong about his own ability to play at a high level.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Aldon Smith, LB, 49ers.

He leads all rookies with 6 1/2 sacks. He also has a safety and a forced fumble. With him at linebacker next to Patrick Willis, it's no wonder the 49ers have the best run defense and a 6-1 record.

Coach of the Year: Jim Harbaugh, 49ers.

It took him just seven games to match San Francisco's six-win total from last season. The 6-1 record includes a 3-0 road record against teams in the Eastern time zone. Not bad for a rookie NFL coach whose debut season followed a 4 1/2-month lockout.

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Texas - WP: N. Martinez 5 FINAL
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 4
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 3 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 4
Toronto 7 Top 7th Inning
Milwaukee 5
NY Mets 5 Bottom 3rd Inning
Oakland 0
Atlanta - A. Wood 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - G. Cole
Houston - S. Feldman 6:05 PM
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Arizona - T. Cahill 6:05 PM
Washington - T. Roark
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Cincinnati - J. Cueto 6:15 PM
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San Francisco - J. Peavy 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - E. Jackson
Baltimore - W. Chen 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - H. Noesi
Cleveland - T. House 7:10 PM
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