The journey to find the 2011 NFL Playoffs MVP began without several big names, including Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Troy Polamalu. A few surprise candidates emerged during Wild Card Weekend, although it’s very likely their names will not be listed one week from today. As with my regular season MVP series, the intention of these pieces is to narrow the list down each week until Super Bowl Sunday, where I will (hopefully) then be able to name the overall playoffs MVP.
2011 NFL Playoffs MVPs after Wild Card Weekend: RB Marshawn Lynch
Can one play propel an individual to an MVP month? We’re about to see. Lynch’s 67-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter did more than just put the game away for Seattle. It was the type of play that had me and other fellow neutral football fans on our feet in appreciation and wonder. That play inflated Lynch’s stats for the game, as he finished with a total of 131 yards on 19 carries. Still, it was the type of performance that changes the way a team plays for more than one game.
2011 NFL Playoffs MVP after Wild Card Weekend: QB Matt Hasselbeck
The less-than-100 percent Seattle QB was nearly flawless against the Saints, throwing for 272 yards and four touchdowns in a winning effort. His QB rating of 113 was third-highest over Wild Card Weekend and he is currently the 2011 NFL Postseason leader in touchdown passes. Hasselbeck is hurting once more and is questionable for this weekend’s game in Chicago.
2011 NFL Playoffs MVP after Wild Card Weekend: RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Beating the Indianapolis Colts in the playoffs is nothing new for the former San Diego running back, who rushed for 82 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and two touchdowns as the Jets defeated the Colts 17-16. Tomlinson, who was “finished” in the eyes of many football experts and fans just six months ago, has now rushed for over 1,000 total yards in 16 contests during this football season (he did not play in the regular season finale).
2011 NFL Playoffs MVP after Wild Card Weekend: TE Todd Heap
Heap, Joe Flacco’s favorite target in a Sunday afternoon victory, had a weekend-high ten receptions for the Ravens as they defeated the Chiefs 30-7. Heap was also only one of two players to have at least 100 receiving yards during Wild Card Weekend (Pierre Garcon was the other).
2011 NFL Playoffs MVP after Wild Card Weekend: QB Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers has quietly been the NFC’s best quarterback over the past month. He was again on Sunday night, finishing the game with a QB rating of 122.5, the best of the weekend. Rodgers completed 18 of 27 attempts and had three touchdowns as the Packers went into Philadelphia and defeated the Eagles. Of any player mentioned in this piece, Rodgers is the one I would pick to finish as the overall MVP of the 2011 NFL Playoffs.