GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers waited three years to win his second NFL Most Valuable Player award. The wait for his third should be much shorter.
More with less: Rodgers lost his most explosive receiver for the season when Jordy Nelson blew out his right knee in the preseason. The next-best deep target, second-year pro Davante Adams, has played a total of three snaps in the past three games because of an ankle injury. Yet Rodgers has been as efficient and accurate as ever. He has completed 70.6 percent of his passes, which is on pace to surpass his best season, in 2011 (when he won his first MVP). Yes, Rodgers still has Randall Cobb, but he has yet to play at 100 percent because of the shoulder injury he suffered in the preseason. Rodgers' other two primary targets are a rookie (Ty Montgomery) and a veteran who has been cut by two teams since the end of last season (James Jones).
Making Jones a star: Speaking of Jones, Rodgers has turned the 31-year-old journeyman into a star after both the Oakland Raiders and New York Giants cast him aside. Only one NFL receiver, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, has more touchdown catches than Jones, who caught his fifth in five games during Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Rams. It didn’t take Rodgers long at all to reconnect with Jones, who caught a pair of touchdowns in the opener against Chicago just a week after he was re-signed. Jones played his first seven seasons in Green Bay before leaving in free agency in 2014. He's on pace for his first 1,000-yard season.
Ball security: Yes, Rodgers threw a pair of interceptions against the Rams, but one of them was tipped at the line of scrimmage. That ended his streak of 586 straight passes at Lambeau Field without an interception. The MVP isn’t a lifetime achievement award, so only this season should be considered. But even then, Rodgers’ touchdown-to-interception ratio is among the best with 11 touchdowns and only the two interceptions. Brady is the only regular starter who has played in every game so far without an interception, but since the Patriots had their bye, he has played in only four games to Rodgers’ five. Rodgers, like Brady, was interception-free through four games.
More responsibility, mobility: It started when the Packers went almost exclusively to a no-huddle system a couple of years ago, but Rodgers has more freedom within the structure of the offense than ever before. And it shows up in different ways. He has become a master at getting defenses to jump offside or catching them with 12 men on the field and then burning them on free plays. Now that he’s over the calf injury that made him a pocket passer late last season, opposing defenses fear him just as much when he’s on the move. A prime example of that was the touchdown pass to tight end Richard Rodgers against the 49ers, when the quarterback held the ball for nearly eight seconds, spinning and dodging defenders, before he threw.
Beating the NFC West: You could argue some of the best defensive teams play in the NFC West, and Rodgers has already beaten three of the four teams in that division -- the Seahawks (who had the NFL’s No. 1 defense last season), the 49ers (No. 5) and the Rams (No. 17).