With all due respect to Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady or whomever, Aaron Rodgers is probably the best quarterback in the NFL. Is this the year he wins the passing yardage crown? Rodgers is +500 on 5Dimes to do so. Not a smart bet.
Rodgers Doesn't Pile Up Huge Yards
Rodgers won his second NFL MVP Award last season but, believe it or not, he has never won the passing title. In fact, his highest yardage total was 4,643 in 2011, the year of his first MVP Award. That yardage is just 33rd in league history all-time. I mean, guys like Eli Manning, Matt Schaub, Daunte Culpepper and Rich Gannon have all had higher single-season totals and they can't hold Rodgers' jock strap. Eight times a quarterback has thrown for at least 5,000 yards, and I don't believe Rodgers will ever get to that total.
Last year, Rodgers had his second-best season overall (2011 the best). He completed 65.6 percent of his throws for 4,381 yards, 38 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Rodgers' 112.2 rating was second in the NFL to the Cowboys' Tony Romo. Rodgers rarely throws interceptions, reaching double digits only twice in his career and not since 2010. His five last year were the fewest of any full-time starter. In winning his second league MVP, Rodgers joined two other Packers who won the award multiple times – Don Hutson (1941-42) and Brett Favre (1995-97). I think it's fair to say Rodgers has completely gotten out of Favre's shadow now.
I also wonder whether Rodgers might have led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl if not for a serious calf injury suffered in a Week 17 NFC North winner-take-all game against Detroit. He missed a few series in that game but led the Packers to a win. There was no way Rodgers was going to miss any playoff time. He was spectacular in the divisional-round comeback win over Dallas, going 24-for-35 for 316 yards, three touchdowns and no picks for a rating of 125.4. He struggled a bit against that great Seattle defense in the NFC title game, but the Packers were in position for the upset and, frankly, should have won that game.
Let's Go Deep!
So what does Rodgers do better than the other NFL quarterbacks? Decision-making certainly would be one. But from a statistical standpoint, there's no better QB throwing the deep ball. According to ESPN, since 2011 Rodgers has thrown 211 passes of 20 yards or more. Nearly half of those have been completed, and of those, nearly 35 percent have gone for touchdowns. Rodgers also has thrown 7.2 deep-ball TDs for every pick, a rate twice that of the next quarterback on the list, Romo.
Since Rodgers became the Packers' starter in 2008, he has 21 touchdown passes on deep balls that traveled 35 yards or more in the air. That's tied with the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees. Rodgers' completion percentage of 39.2 percent on such passes is the best in the league in that span. Rodgers finished last season with a league-best seven touchdowns on passes that went 30 or more yards in the air. He was 10-for-19 for 561 yards without an interception on those throws.
On passes of at least 20 yards downfield, Rodgers' completion percentage of 47 was no. 2 in the NFL as were his 10 touchdowns. A whopping 49 percent of those throws at least 20 yards downfield went to Jordy Nelson, who had a league-best seven TD catches on passes thrown at least that far.
Rodgers certainly has one of the best receiving duos in the NFL in Nelson and Randall Cobb, whom the team was able to re-sign this offseason. Nelson caught 98 passes for 1,519 yards (15.5 average) and 13 touchdowns last year with 19 catches of at least 20 yards. Cobb caught 91 balls for 1,287 yards (14.1 average) and 12 touchdowns with 24 catches of at least 20 yards. I think Green Bay is going to have a third very good receiver this year too in Davante Adams, who showed some signs last year as a rookie.
So why don't I like Rodgers on this prop? The Packers are still going to run the ball plenty behind Eddie Lacy. Green Bay's 536 pass attempts were just 20th in the NFL last year, while its 435 rush attempts were 14th. Also, you have that NFC North unpredictable late-season weather. We all know what it's like in Green Bay starting in about November. On the bright side, the Pack have three late-season games that won't have weather issues: Week 13 at Detroit, Week 15 at Oakland, Week 16 at Arizona.