(SportsNetwork.com) - Peyton Manning is well on his way to his fifth MVP award and even if the Denver Broncos' signal caller falters down the stretch, Drew Brees will be waiting to pick up the pieces.
Second-year Seattle star Russell Wilson would be an admirable choice for MVP as well, as would Dallas' Tony Romo or even San Diego's Philip Rivers, but awards are just a snapshot in time.
If you are truly selecting the most valuable individual to his particular team's success, the answer was plainly obvious on Thanksgiving Day and he was watching helplessly from the sidelines (while impersonating a 1970s adult film star I might add) as his Green Bay Packers were embarrassed by the Detroit Lions 40-10.
With Aaron Rodgers, the Packers are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Without him they are 0-4-1 and the Grey Cup is out of reach in Titletown.
With A-Rod, Mike McCarthy looks like an offensive genius and one of the best coaches of his generation. Without him, McCarthy is lost, ping-ponging from Seneca Wallace to Scott Tolzien to Matt Flynn while wondering why no one can execute his unassailable schemes.
With No. 12 in the Green and Gold, it doesn't matter if Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley are hurt, the Packers' system takes players like Jarrett Boykin and Myles White and makes them impactful. Without him, Jordy Nelson and James Jones are No. 3 receivers.
With the mustachioed one, Packers GM Ted Thompson is regarded as a genius around draft time while pointing to lead-footed tackles like David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay as "hits" in the selection process. Without him, Thompson's offensive line prodigies look like they are playing in sand against the NFL's lightning-quick edge rushers.
Rodgers' absence has only magnified just how important he is to the Packers on every level, and having him at the controls for so long has masked a boatload of deficiencies on this team over the past few years.
Even the Green Bay defense, which had been allowing 79 yards rushing a game with Rodgers rolling up leads or controlling the clock has collapsed and given up an average of 188.7 on the ground over the last four contests. And its best player, Clay Matthews, looks an awful lot like a one-trick pony without Rodgers taking all the pressure off of him and his mates.
Apologists will say anyone who loses a starting QB -- especially one of Rodgers' caliber -- will fall off a cliff but if you look around the rest of he league, that's nonsense.
In the Pack's own division, Chicago has kept its head above water with veteran Josh McCown in for the injured Jay Cutler. Philadelphia actually has seen an up-tick under second-year man Nick Foles, who wrestled that job away from the oft-injured Mike Vick.
Meanwhile, St. Louis and Tennessee haven't missed a beat by going with Kellen Clemens and Ryan Fitzpatrick after their starters went down with injuries.
Lions signal caller Matthew Stafford had never beaten the Packers before Thanksgiving Day and he would have fallen to 0-7 against Green Bay, despite having far more ammunition at his disposal, if Rodgers was on the field Thursday.
As talented as they are in certain positions, Detroit could be the dumbest and most undisciplined team in football. The Lions tried to give the game away by committing four turnovers, including two early. But, with no Rodgers to take advantage of the miscues, Green Bay was impotent and allowed the Motor City Kitties to win on the holiday for the first time in 10 years.
"Obviously, a very disappointing and embarrassing loss for us," McCarthy said. "Going through the game, starting offensively, they pretty much lined up and dared us to throw the football, particularly on first and second down throughout the game and we did not accomplish that."
You think anyone comes in with the game plan of daring Rodgers to throw the football?
Understand, however, there are no Calvin Johnsons on the Pack. No difference- makers like Reggie Bush or Ndamukong Suh. There are no physical freaks like Ziggy Ansah or Nick Fairley, except for Rodgers himself of course.
In fact, the only thing left in Green Bay these days is reputation and swagger, passed along from Brett Favre to Rodgers -- two signal callers who will forever be enshrined in Canton.
It took less than four calendar weeks to expose this organization as Rodgers continues to convalesce from his broken collarbone.
The Lions' victory on Thanksgiving was even more emphatic than the 40-10 final score indicated. The total yardage differential in the contest of 435 yards was the most in any NFL game for the last eight years.
In addition to posting seven sacks, a safety, an interception and two fumble recoveries, Detroit limited the Packers to just 126 total yards and no offensive touchdowns.
"I knew this organization isn't used to games like this," rookie running back Eddie Lacy understated. "The players aren't used to games like this."
They are sure getting used to it quickly, though.
It's still conceivable that Green Bay can run the table, making things as difficult as possible for both Detroit and Chicago in the NFC North especially if Rodgers returns on Dec. 8 against Atlanta.
That said, stop this nonsensical narrative surrounding McCarthy, Thompson, Lambeau Field and the supposed Packers "talent."
All of that is just the pilot fish feeding when the shark strikes.
"I think Rodgers is huge to the team," Lions receiver and ex-Packer Jeremy Ross said. "He gets them going. Flynn has been doing an okay job for them. He's more familiar with the system, but them not having Rodgers hurts a lot."
Sharks never stop swimming from the time they are born and for 22 years the Packers have had a pair of them preying on the rest of the NFL. Back on Nov. 4 the great white finally stopped moving and the pilot fish became harmless.
"It's embarrassing," Packers guard Josh Sitton said. "We got our ass beat, plain and simple. They smacked us today. There's no doubt about it. I've been playing this game a long time and this is one of the worst beatings I've ever been a part of."
The worst. And it's not getting any better until Rodgers returns.