Honest MVPs: NFC Playoff Edition

Congratulations, NFL fan! Your team is one of the lucky 12 that has outplayed, outwitted, and outlasted all of the other competitors (and the Browns) to make the NFL playoffs! As you look back over the season, there are many things contributed to your team’s success. That big 3rd down sack that your defensive end made in that critical game, your cornerback’s game-sealing interception in that other game, that long run when your running back broke a lot of tackles, and a myriad of other plays.

Through it all though, we can all agree that there has been one person that has led your team to success. A guiding beacon through the tumultuous NFL season. Your team’s MVP. Not just any MVP though. The honest MVP. The MVP that national talking heads don’t recognize, because they aren’t hyper focused on the team. The MVP that bandwagon fans have never heard of because the honest MVP isn’t featured during every commercial break. Every team has one. Let’s take a look…

Carolina Panthers (15-1)

Ted Ginn Jr. Dropping the pass

Carolina fans? Your team was nearly unstoppable this year. You finished with the best record in the regular season and didn’t lose a game until Week 16’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Your quarterback, Cam Newton, has played phenomenally well throughout the year and should be named MVP of the entire league. Surprisingly though, he is not your team’s honest MVP. That distinguished honor goes to:

Curt Mueller.

One of the most surprising things about the Panthers this season has been Newton’s ability to get so much out of his skilled players. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise this season has been the play of “THE” Ted Ginn Jr. (from THE Ohio State University). “The” Ginn  has 10 receiving touchdowns this season. He’s only had 11 receiving touchdowns in his entire career – Ginn entered the league in 2007 – prior to this season. His ten TDs currently place him tenth amongst all receivers for touchdowns caught in 2015; a feat that he’s obviously never accomplished previously. This is even more surprising because the knock on Ginn throughout his career is his propensity to drop passes. How bad is it? There are YouTube clips dedicated to Ginn’s drops

Which brings us back to Curt Mueller. Mueller was a basketball player for the University of Wisconsin in the late 50’s, who went to work at the family drug store – he was also a registered pharmacist – after graduation. Recognizing that athletes were in dire need of better products to protect them from injury, he created a line of protective braces and other gear and subsequently become known as the founding father of “sports medicine”. His company, Mueller Sports Medicine is also known for creating one other famous product… Stickum.

Stickum is an adhesive that many NFL players used to help them grip or catch the ball, until it was banned by the league in 1981. Although illegal, Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice admitted to utilizing the substance during his playing career. While Ginn has certainly never endorsed any use of Stickum, he has 10 TDs this season. TEN! He can’t catch! Positing that he must be using Stickum is exactly the kind of blind, misguided assertion bloggers make all the time. Therefore, it must be true. Anyway, if it was good enough for Jerry Rice, certainly it is good enough for Ginn.

Dress for the career you want, right?

Washington Redskins (9-7)

Washington! Somehow you managed to shrug off the usage of a racist team name for yet another season and show the world that if you can play Kirk Cousins as your QB and your pinnacle is slightly above mediocrity! You, too, can win the NFC East! Speaking of Cousins, after a rough start to the first half of the season, he hit his stride in Week 7’s come-from-behind game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Cousins’ TD:INT ratio since that game is 23:3). He also coined arguably the most popular and over-used phrase of the season after the victory,

It seems pretty apparent that Cousins has been able to channel those critical of his play into a positive outcome for his team on the field. That being said, the honest MVP of the team can be no one other than… (drum roll, please?)

Robert Griffin III.

After losing his starting job to Cousins after sustaining a concussion in the second preseason game of the season, RG3 has been relegated to clip board duty. Of course, being on the bench certainly doesn’t preclude RG3 from helping out his team. Apparently, he recognized long before everyone else that doubting Cousins’ ability as a starting QB was the key to success. To that end? RG3 has always had a pocket full of shade at the ready:

RGIII throws a pocket full of shade at Kirk Cousins
RGIII has a pocket full of shade

That innate ability to shade your teammates can’t be taught. It is one of those God-given intangibles that led Washington to draft RG3 with the #2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Seattle Seahawks (10-6)Russell Wilson

Seahawks! What a crazy season it has been. After starting 4-5 – with one of those victories being gifted to you due to poor officiating – and blowing five 4th quarter leads, the Seahawks have rebounded nicely, going 5-1 in their last six games. Quarterback Russell Wilson has been on point during that six game stretch with an incredible 21:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Add to that mix the emergence of wide receiver Doug Baldwin and improved play by the defense and you have a Seahawks team that is primed to make a long run in the playoffs. Of course, the season’s turnaround is only possible with the assistance of the team’s honest MVP:

The power of prayer.

The game of football requires a lot of time, energy and focus, especially when playing the quarterback position. Not knowing those intricacies and nuances that you learn through practice and film study can easily be the difference between a win or a loss. Unfortunately for Wilson, his thoughts sometimes wander back to his girlfriend and his vow to stay celibate until marriage,

“I ain’t gonna lie – I need ya’ll to pray for us. Because I know you have seen her on the screen now. If there’s a 10, she’s a 15,” he joked. “Pray for me, keep my mind clear, keep my heart clear.” — Russell Wilson

It sounds like the struggle is real.

All of those emojis? The struggle is definitely real.

Everyone knows that a late 90’s Usher song only leads to one thing. I know that. You know that. Wilson knows that. The fact that it apparently hasn’t lead to that one thing, and Russell Wilson has been able to still focus and play football at a supremely high level?

Prayer is real y’all.

Minnesota Vikings (11-5)

What can anyone say that hasn’t already been said about Adrian Peterson? He is other-worldy. He continues to perform at a high level even at the age of 30; a senior citizen, in running back years. He’s run for over 1,400 yards this season, and added another rushing crown to his mantle, literally putting the Vikings – and their opponents – on his shoulders, setting the team up for a playoff run.

Adrian Peterson runs with Giants (via AP)
Adrian Peterson runs with Giants (via AP)

While there are many other worthy candidates – the improved play of Teddy Bridgewater, the defensive line play of Everson Griffen, among others – Peterson is seemingly the most worthy of any Vikings MVP honors.

That being said, the team’s honest MVP? Shellfish.

Prior to the Vikings’ Week 7 game against the Lions, Peterson became sick to his stomach…because he was unable to overcome his love of shrimp. The incident was more than just a bad experience with food; Peterson is actually allergic to shellfish. Yet, he chose to purposely put himself in harm’s way, and eat the shrimp anyway,

I’m not going to lie; I had my EpiPens with me,” he said Sunday.

“I had shrimp. That might have had something to do with my stomach.

I didn’t have any kind of (violent) reaction, but I’m sure how it contributed to how my stomach was feeling.

Never before a game,” he promised. “It won’t happen again.”

Adrian Peterson

Without medical attention, allergic reactions can lead to anaphylaxis which can potentially be deadly. In theory, Peterson put the his career and the Vikings season in jeopardy because…”shrimp are delicious”. His logic notwithstanding, Peterson not only subsequently overcame his tummy troubles, “losing the dead weight” apparently provided him with a renewed sense of purpose. Since the incident, Peterson and the Vikings have been one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Peterson has seen his yards per game increase (86.4 to 95.7) while rushing for 8 of his 11 TD’s in the same time frame. The Vikings finished the season on an 8-3 run while also managing to accomplish the seemingly impossible; beating the Packers at Lambeau field to capture the NFC North championship.

And its all thanks to delicious shrimp.

Arizona Cardinals (13-3)

The Arizona Cardinals had quite the impressive season in 2015. The offense saw the resurgence of Larry Fitzgerald (100+ receptions, 1200+ yards, 9 TDs), a second 1000-yard receiver in John Brown, the very productive return of Chris Johnson, and Carson Palmer (4,600+ passing yards) stayed healthy to have legitimate league MVP consideration. Did I mention that they also had a top-5 defense?

Of course, it wasn’t Palmer or Fitzgerald or any of the defensive stalwarts like Patrick Peterson or Tyrann Mathieu that are the honest MVP of the 2015 Arizona Cardinals. Who is it?

Backup Quarterbacks.

Backup quarterbacks have many roles with the typical NFL team. They serve as the sounding board for the starting QB, work with the second team offense, break down game film and they have to be ready to step in at a moment’s notice if the starting QB is underperforming or injured. The Cardinals found out about the importance of backup QBs last year, as Ryan Lindley led the team down the stretch and into their playoff run last year. Guess what Lindley was doing until he was signed by the injured-plagued Indianapolis Colts in Week 17?

Ryan Lindley, Realtor

Ryan Lindley, LinkedIn

This year? The Cardinals back-ups weren’t worried about potentially having to worry about open house times or explaining the benefits of short selling. Instead, backups Matt Barkley and Drew Stanton could spend the entire year focusing on the things that really matter; outlandish acts that intentionally, or unintentionally amuse Carson Palmer,

Or, who could forget this?

Everyone knows that Carson Palmer plays better when he’s loose! What’s going to get you more relaxed that a Drew Stanton air guitar?

The courageous play of those two backup QB’s…they are the real honest MVPs.

Green Bay Packers (10-6)Aaron Rodgers

The Green Bay Packers have had an up and down season. After starting off the season 6-0 and looking nearly untouchable, the Pack fell apart during the second half of the season, going 4-6 over their remaining ten games to finish with a 10-6 record. The topsy turvy season ended on a sour note, as the Packers lost the last game of the season – and the NFC North title – to the rival Minnesota Vikings, at Lambeau Field. That being said, the Packers typically dominating offense has had to battle through an injury-plagued season including games missed by starting running back Eddie Lacy, wide receiver Devante Adams, wide receiver Jordy Nelson and starting tackle Bryan Bulaga, among others. With quarterback Aaron Rodgers missing various offensive weapons throughout the season, it had to be hard for him to stay positive and lead his team. Fortunately, there was one person that kept Rodgers from going to the ‘dark side’ and kept the Packers season together; their honest MVP. That person?

JJ Abrams, director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is on pace to being the highest grossing movie in history. Star Wars-mania is sweeping the world, with long-time fans excited that the series returned after a ten-year hiatus and new fans excited for the new adventure. Released on December 18th, 2015, the film has already surpassed the $1.5B mark, making it the sixth-highest grossing movie of all time. Some small piece of that $1.5B in revenue came from the pocket of a certain Green Bay quarterback. Rodgers is more than the average fan – he is very much caught up in the Star Wars hype, as evidenced by this picture:

Who’s the bigger #StarWars fan…The one who bought this awesome shirt at @oldnavy or the one who already owned his own Obi-Wan Kenobi robe? 🙈

A photo posted by Olivia Munn (@oliviamunn) on Dec 11, 2015 at 9:59am PST

With so many injured Packers, Rodgers could have easily been swayed to the dark side of the force, just like Kylo Ren. Fortunately, JJ Abrams was able to keep the Packers and their quarterback, following in the ways of the Jedi.

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