Lewis is a lock first-ballot Hall of Famer, and the case could be made that he’s the best middle linebacker in NFL history. The 17-year veteran has been to 12 Pro Bowls, has been a first-team All-Pro seven times and has been voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice. He also is one of only four players in NFL history to have at least 25 sacks and 30 interceptions since the league started tracking sacks 30 seasons ago.
Lewis played only six regular-season games this year — tied for the second-fewest of his career — due to a torn right triceps that many thought would end his season. After suffering the injury in an Oct. 14 win over Dallas, Lewis sat out until the postseason opener against Indianapolis. But he has dominated since, with the Ravens reaching their second Super Bowl in franchise history. Lewis, who is wearing a huge arm brace, had 13 total tackles in a wild card win over the Colts, 17 in the divisional round upset in Denver and 14 in his final matchup against Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC title game.
The former University of Miami star can make more history in Super Bowl XLVII a week from Sunday against San Francisco at the New Orleans Superdome. Only eight defensive players all time have won the Super Bowl MVP award (including two Cowboys sharing it in SB XII), but no one on that side of the ball has won it twice or has even come close. Lewis will open around +1000 at Bovada to be the first.
In Super Bowl XXXV on Jan. 28, 2001, in Tampa, the Ravens — a No. 4 seed, as they are this season — beat the New York Giants 34-7. That Baltimore defense was one of the best in NFL history and led by Lewis, who won his first NFL Defensive Player of the Year award that year. Against the Giants, the Baltimore defense allowed no offensive touchdowns, gave up just 152 total yards, forced five turnovers and sacked New York quarterback Kerry Collins four times. Lewis was named MVP despite a relatively quiet stat line — three tackles, two assisted tackles and four passes defensed. He won the vote because he was clearly the heart and soul of that defense.
Lewis was the second linebacker to win the award — Dallas’ Chuck Howley also took home the honors in Super Bowl V. He remains the only player to win the award on a losing team. Howley’s Cowboys lost 16-13 to the Baltimore Colts in the first Super Bowl played on artificial turf (Miami’s Orange Bowl). Howley had two interceptions in the game.
Only one other defensive player has won it since Lewis, and that was Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Dexter Jackson in the Bucs’ Super Bowl XXXVII blowout of the Oakland Raiders. Considering Jackson is no longer in the league, Lewis is thus the only active NFL defensive player with a chance to win multiple Super Bowl MVP awards. A total of five players overall have won multiple MVP awards: Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana (record three), Brady and Eli Manning.
As usual, the starting quarterbacks will be the Super Bowl MVP favorites, with San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick opening at approximately +140 and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco at +200. Since the first Super Bowl of the new millennium, a quarterback has won the award eight times. The past three winners and five of the past six also have been quarterbacks. The only outlier is former Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes in Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals.
The positions to never feature a Super Bowl MVP winner are kicker, offensive line and tight end. You can even bet at Bovada who this year’s MVP thanks first in his speech. God? Teammates? Coach? Parents? Someone else?