GREEN BAY—The campaign for the NFL MVP award swept through the Midwest on Sunday, and if a gap existed between Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning, and most would probably say it did, Rodgers closed that gap: Rodgers threw three touchdowns in a 53-20 win; Manning threw two interceptions in a 22-7 loss in St. Louis.
Rodgers? Manning? Tom Brady? Oh, this is going to get real good, especially in a couple of weeks, when the Packers host Brady and the Patriots in a game TV will no doubt hype for the MVP race that'll be in full swing.
"I'm not really thinking about that," Rodgers said following an almost embarrassingly easy win over the Eagles. "We're tied with the Lions for the division lead. We want to be playing the right way at this time of the year. We have to be playing this way as we continue on. Statistics and awards take care of themselves."
Rodgers and the Packers are the talk of the league for the way they are dismissing opponents. In four of the Packers' seven wins, the outcome was decided in the first quarter.
All of that is good for not only the Packers, but also for the man who is the engine that drives this team. He's already claimed one MVP. He's on his way to another.
"I have to find new ways to compliment Aaron," Packers Coach Mike McCarthy said, after he was informed that no less an authority on quarterback play than Eagles Coach Chip Kelly gushed at the mere mention of Rodgers' name.
"He was as advertised. I think he is playing as good as anybody in the league. You look at some of the balls he throws: extremely accurate, on target. If you blitzed him, he got it out quick. If you didn't, he held it until guys got open. He got it to everybody. Everybody contributed for him, but that all starts with the trigger man and he put on a show today. He is as good as they get," Kelly said.
"We wanted to be aggressive. We put the ball in Aaron's hand and he had a big day," McCarthy said.
True to their identity, the Packers came out firing. They won the coin toss, elected to receive – "I've always been a defer guy," Rodgers said – and three passes later Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson for 64 yards and the Packers' first trip into the red zone.
Poor Mark Sanchez never stood a chance. Nike Foles probably stood along the sideline glad he didn't have to match throws with Rodgers.
Rodgers made it look so easy.
"It's not easy," he said. "It's a tough job. It takes 11 guys."
Rodgers is on "the short list to win the MVP," FOX-TV analyst Troy Aikman said, and it's because Rodgers does what Manning and Brady have been doing for all of their career: Putting their teams on their backs and carrying them to the postseason.
"We hold guys to really high expectations around here," Rodgers said.
He should know. COMPLETE GAME COVERAGE