NFL 2021 Awards

Before I submit my PFWA ballot for this year’s NFL award winners, I thought I would share the thought process behind each pick on here. With a reminder that these are all regular-season awards, I want to make sure I get my picks in before any postseason game influences my choices.

Most Valuable Player: Aaron Rodgers, Packers

Let me start by saying that I think this was the weakest MVP race with the worst field in the salary cap era. If there was ever a year where a non-quarterback could have earned it, it should have been this one. But even that did not materialize as no defender was outstanding enough (or played enough of his team’s snaps to justify it), and the two skill players (Jonathan Taylor and Cooper Kupp) came up short of a 2,000-yard milestone (rushing or receiving).

I strongly believe MVP is a quarterback award, but it was not a good year for standout quarterback play. The rookies were weak, Dak Prescott’s season was too mistake-filled despite the Cowboys scoring the most points, and Russell Wilson ensured he’d still never get an MVP vote after having the first major injury of his career.

The top three quarterbacks in 2020 (Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen) all regressed in 2021.

I watched Allen against the Steelers in Week 1 and could see right away that something was off. He hit some big passes against the Chiefs in Week 5 when Kansas City was still playing horrific defense and Cris Collinsworth was ready to give him the MVP that night. The oddsmakers were even agreeing around that time, but I never bought it. After Allen imploded with three turnovers in a 9-6 loss to Jacksonville, I eliminated him in my mind.

Mahomes had the worst season of his career and still finished fifth in QBR and perhaps one fewer CEH fumble or blown lead in Cincinnati away from the top seed and best record in the NFL. High standard to be judged by. The Chiefs still finished No. 1 in yards and points per drive too, and Mahomes had several of the best games by any quarterback this year. However, there was an eight-game stretch where he threw 11 touchdowns to eight interceptions and averaged 6.43 YPA. Throw in the defensive turnaround during that time helping the Chiefs go on a winning streak, and there was just no way Mahomes was the MVP this season.

If we gave an MVP for the first half of the season, then Matthew Stafford should have run away with it. However, the Tennessee game happened and that kickstarted a slide into the Detroit Stafford we’re very familiar with.

Kyler Murray was another quarterback who I thought had a chance at MVP this season, but it was dicey when the Cardinals still managed to go 2-1 with Colt McCoy starting. Then Murray had some rough games and that was a no-go.

Justin Herbert was my MVP pick after Week 5, then he hit a slump. After the Pittsburgh win in Week 11 and the incredible long touchdown throw against the Giants in Week 14, I was back to thinking he had an argument. But then the Chiefs took over the division with that epic overtime win despite a decent game from Herbert, and that seemed to follow them to a bad loss against Houston. By that time, he had no realistic chance, and now after missing the playoffs despite another epic performance on Sunday night in Vegas, we know he’s not getting a vote this year. But his day should come.

So, I’ve just eliminated Allen, Mahomes, Stafford, Murray, and Herbert. I’ll quickly mention that Joe Burrow absolutely had a shot at this had he been able to close out those games against the Bears, Packers, Jets, and 49ers. Even just two of them might have done the trick, but he threw some bad interceptions in a couple of those games or couldn’t get the game-winning drive in the others. But he was a matter of a couple drives from deservedly pulling this off, so I think his day too may come for this award.

Who does that leave? Oh yeah, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. By default, I ended up taking the 2020 standout who regressed the least and that was Rodgers. This is a default MVP choice in my eyes, just as Peyton Manning was the default pick in 2008 and Brady was the default pick in 2010 and 2017.

The last thing we need is Brady getting a third default MVP. Also, I had 2400 reasons to want it to happen based on my preseason bets as a $200 bet on Brady at +1200 was my top MVP bet.

Going into Week 15, Brady looked like he was going to be handed another MVP by default. My bet to win $2,400 had a cash out option of $1,300 at the time. It didn’t seem likely that the Bucs would lose another game after getting past Buffalo in overtime. It also didn’t seem likely that voters would vote for Rodgers after his numbers were down from 2020 and all the COVID nonsense he brought on himself.

Then 9-0 against New Orleans happened in front of a national audience. Brady had a chance to show his MVP worth on a night where the Bucs had a lot of injuries, and he couldn’t even put up a single point. He got swept by the Saints with Trevor Siemian and Taysom Hill at quarterback. In between he lost to a bad Washington team with Taylor Heinicke. But 9-0 was the death knell for his MVP case.

Of course, at no point this season did I think Brady was deserving of MVP despite my profitable bet if he won the award. He spent the year throwing to the best receiving corps in the league, which was accurate before Antonio Brown compounded the loss of Chris Godwin, behind an elite pass protection line. He was feasting on short fields for touchdowns. He threw the second-most passes in NFL history and had just the 13th-highest YPA of his career. He was completely outshined by Stafford in the showdown in Los Angeles. He wasn’t even more impressive than Allen in that head-to-head game in Week 14, a game largely decided by what was called pass interference at the end. The aforementioned ugly trio of losses, including the pick-six in New Orleans when he had a chance to win the game. Let’s not also forget that he only managed one touchdown drive in New England against Bill Belichick in one of the most overhyped regular-season games of all time.

Brady was the MVP this year only if MVP means Mass Volume Player. So, when Bruce Arians calls it a travesty if he doesn’t win it, I’m calling it a travesty if Brady gets a vote. And you know he will.

By the way, I cashed out my Brady MVP bet at $244 before Week 17, so I made $44 in the process. Something is rigged if Brady wins it when Rodgers is listed at -400 (or higher) at many sportsbooks right now.

Here is how Rodgers and Brady stack up to past MVP winners at quarterback in the stats I have tracked for MVP worthiness for years.

You can see the 2021 seasons are not up to par. Rodgers is the first season to lead in QBR without being at least 75.0. Maybe there was a formula change this year, but it doesn’t make any sense why they would not apply that to older seasons too. Rodgers’ DVOA is also the lowest to lead the league since Dan Marino in 1996, so it’s not just QBR. This will also be the first time in over a decade where the QB on the No. 1 points per drive offense isn’t the MVP.

So, what is the case for Rodgers? While not as good as his 2011, 2014, and 2020 seasons, Rodgers still led all quarterbacks in QBR, DVOA, TD%, lowest INT%, passer rating, and ANY/A. The Packers beat the odds and won 13 games for the third year in a row, the first team in NFL history to do so. The 17th game was not necessary for that too as the Packers already had the No. 1 seed locked up despite ranking 21st in points per drive allowed. He also lost his tight end (Robert Tonyan) and played without his stud left tackle (David Bakhtiari). The great throws for the highlight reel were still there for Rodgers this year. He had a memorable game-winning drive in San Francisco. He won in Cincinnati despite Mason Crosby having other ideas. He gutted out the win in Arizona against a 7-0 team despite his receivers missing with COVID. Despite the toe injury, he finished red hot with 20 touchdowns and no picks over the last seven games.

Are there arguments against him? Sure, he had a horrible Week 1 against the Saints, but it’s not like a horrible game in Tampa Bay last year prevented him from that MVP. It’s just one game and clearly an outlier for the season. The only other loss he finished was in Minnesota in a game where he threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns and didn’t get the ball last. That was an MVP-worthy day despite the final score.

Of course, you have the COVID situation where he misled about his situation and missed the big Kansas City game as an unvaccinated player. The Packers lost and his absence was huge, but it also weirdly added to his value as the team scored just one touchdown with Jordan Love making his first start.

Would that kind of stuff be enough to make him lose the award to Mahomes last year? I think so, but then again Mahomes was my MVP pick in 2020. But is it enough in a 2021 MVP field that was so weak to not give him the award? Hell no.

As a nod to Rodgers, you’d have to be a bum to vote for a different quarterback for MVP this year.

Offensive Player of the Year: Cooper Kupp, Rams

I jumped the gun on this one in December, claiming that Jonathan Taylor was a lock for it. Unfortunately, Taylor is stuck with Carson Wentz as his quarterback, so he was a bit at the mercy of that for the season’s first three games and the last two. Still, it was a sensational year for Taylor.

But Cooper Kupp is…god damn. Kupp had at least 92 receiving yards in every game this season except for the first Arizona meeting when he had 64 yards. Kupp’s active streak of 13 games with 90-plus receiving yards is already the NFL record.

If there was ever a modern season where a receiver could win MVP, we saw the elements for it this year with Kupp. He helped Matthew Stafford to a career year while making history of his own with the 90-yard streak. Kupp led the NFL with 145 catches, 1,947 yards, and 16 touchdowns. It also helped that it was a down year for quarterbacks, giving Kupp a shot at MVP.

But Kupp ended up being at the mercy of his coach, quarterback, and defense on Sunday. After a brilliant drive that he ended with a go-ahead touchdown, Kupp never got another catch. Imagine if he would have gone for a 62-yard touchdown in overtime to win the game and go over 2,000 receiving yards. That should have been able to get him at least a couple MVP votes, right? Alas, Stafford threw an interception and the chance at history was over.

Defensive Player of the Year: T.J. Watt, Steelers

Look, Aaron Donald is awesome, but it gets boring to pick him every year. Let’s honor someone who had a historic year. Watt led the league in sacks and tackles for loss for the second year in a row, but he chased history in stunning fashion. While playing a 17th game helped him tie Michael Strahan’s sack record at 22.5 sacks, the fact is Watt only played 15 games, and even that is misleading.

Seemingly getting injured every third drive, Watt missed two full games and had four other games where he played no more than 55% of the snaps. In the 11 games where Watt played at least 50 snaps, he had 20.5 of his 22.5 sacks, so I don’t want to hear a thing about him getting the record cheaply. Strahan is the one who had Favre take a dive for sack #22.5.

The Steelers were also 9-2 in the 11 games he played the most snaps. Watt played a huge role in wins over the Bills, Seahawks, Bears, Ravens, and Browns. In addition to the sacks, he forced five fumbles and got just enough pressure on Lamar Jackson to make a game-deciding two-point conversion fall incomplete in Week 13.

Was it frustrating to see Watt on the sidelines so often? Sure, but he gave it his all when he was on the field. If Watt could ever stay healthy for a 17-game season, I wouldn’t be surprised if he could get to 25 sacks. But he should be able to settle for a share of the record and the award for Defensive Player of the Year.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals

I’ll admit I was falling off the Chase bandwagon and starting to come around to the idea of Mac Jones for this award. It was when Chase followed his 201-yard game against the Ravens with a seven-game stretch where he averaged 3.7 catches for 40.6 yards. But then he lit up the Ravens again before having the best game by any receiver this year against the Chiefs. Jones also had a rough finish to the season in New England.

Chase against Kansas City was actually one of the best receiving games in NFL history. Chase caught 11-of-12 targets for 266 yards and three touchdowns. He converted a third-and-27. He drew two DPI flags on third downs as well. His touchdowns were long and mostly all him with his YAC. He was absolutely incredible.

Justin Jefferson just had one of the all-time great rookie wide receiver seasons in 2020, but Chase was right there with him this season with 81 catches for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns. It was ballsy to pass on offensive line and pair Joe Burrow with his college teammate, but I cannot see the Bengals in the position they are in right now if the team took Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater instead of Chase.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Micah Parsons, Cowboys

The Cowboys nailed that 12th pick of the draft with Parsons, who finished with 13 sacks, three forced fumbles, and 30 QB hits. He helped the defense lead the NFL in takeaways (34) this year. He’s also personally a trip to watch.

Comeback Player of the Year: Joe Burrow, Bengals

It feels like Dak Prescott was predestined for this one, but I think Burrow, after his own serious knee injury, pulled away with those two monster performances against the Ravens and Chiefs. In the end, he led the NFL this season with 70.4% completions and 8.9 YPA. Prescott’s injury was gruesome and I’m definitely a fan, but I have to give it up for Burrow leading a culture change in Cincinnati and getting this team to a division title in his second year.

Most Improved Player of the Year: Joe Burrow, Bengals

Double-dipping on awards is usually not my style, but not only did Burrow return from a significant injury to lead the Bengals to a great season, but he had a breakout year after giving off some Sam Bradford vibes in 2020. No more concerns there after leading the league in YPA and averaging 12.6 YPC too.

James Conner in Arizona would have been a good pick too, though he only averaged a career-low 3.7 YPC. But he was money as a receiver, catching 37-of-39 targets, and he scored 18 touchdowns.

Coach of the Year: Mike Vrabel, Titans

Remember when this was going to be Brandon Staley, then Kliff Kingsbury, then a little Bill Belichick run too? In the end, Mike Vrabel is the choice after guiding the Titans to the AFC’s top seed despite so many games missed from Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown, and Julio Jones. The Titans had a couple embarrassing losses (Jets and Texans), but they also beat the Bills, Chiefs, Rams, Saints, and 49ers. They also swept the Colts to help win the division.

Tennessee is 8-3 against winning teams this year, the best record in the league. Destroying the Chiefs 27-3 is the main reason this team does not have to worry about travel this postseason.

Assistant Coach of the Year: Rich Bisaccia, Raiders

Did some thinking outside the box on this one. Bisaccia was just a special teams coach before taking over as the interim coach following the Jon Gruden fallout. This team had every reason to fall apart this year with the Gruden scandal and Henry Ruggs’ disaster, but the Raiders hung in there and caught some breaks down the stretch. They won a memorable game against the Chargers to get their 10th win and make the playoffs. Bisaccia could end up getting promoted to the real head coach for next year. I am generally against that move, but let’s see what they can do in this playoff run.

Executive of the Year: Les Snead, Rams

I struggled with this one because I felt like every contender from last year that remained on top this year didn’t do anything special to improve their teams. The New England roster, while improved, is still pretty basic. The Bengals made a great move to draft Chase, but I didn’t want to pick them again here. Dallas’ improvement was largely about getting Prescott back healthy.

So, why not the team that went all in and acquired Matthew Stafford, Von Miller, and Odell Beckham Jr.? So far, it has led to a 12-5 record and the NFC West crown. Things may not end well here at home, but the Rams are in better position to go farther than they did last year, and that was ultimately the goal behind these moves.

NFL Stat Oddity: Week 13

Wait, was that actually more of a normal week in the NFL? What does a return to “normalcy” in the NFL in 2021 even look like? It still means a week where the Lions win a game against the Vikings on the final play, the No. 1 seed Ravens lose to their bitter rival, the Dolphins stepped over Mike Glennon’s neck to continue one of the most irrelevant five-game winning streaks you’ll ever see, and the Chiefs beat Denver for the 12th time in a row.

But it was also easy wins for Tampa Bay, Arizona, and the Rams as Rob Gronkowski, DeAndre Hopkins, and Cooper Kupp all got reacquainted with the end zone, territory unbeknownst to the Falcons, Bears, and Jaguars. Jonathan Taylor vacations there every week and he scored two more times to help the Colts beat the Texans 31-0, a rout worse than the first one this season. Thanks for shitting up the product, Deshaun. But at least it was nice to see Kyler Murray and Hopkins return to action for an Arizona team that continues to win in impressive fashion, now 10-2.

Overall, we had just five close games in the fourth quarter this week. Monday night between the Bills and Patriots could be the game of the week, but I am going to start with (probably) the last time Ben Roethlisberger faces the Baltimore defense at Heinz Field. I also have a personal story to share in Broncos-Chiefs.

This season in Stat Oddity:

Ravens at Steelers: Tomlin 16, Harbaugh 14

The Ravens-Steelers rivalry may be an acquired taste, but there are no two teams I’d rather watch play a low-scoring game than these two. The 30th meeting between the Ravens and Steelers since 2008 was another memorable finish with Mike Tomlin taking a 16-14 edge against John Harbaugh with a coaching decision at the end very much being the headline.

But it is also the 21st meeting out of 30 where both coaches had their desired starting quarterback available. Tomlin is now 14-7 in those matchups compared to 2-7 with the quarterback disadvantage.

Ben Roethlisberger, 7-1 against the Ravens since Christmas 2016, may have played his final home game against his main division rival. He delivered one of his best performances of the last three years, completing 21-of-31 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns. Diontae Johnson even dropped a 35-yard touchdown before halftime, and Ray-Ray McCloud had a 32-yard completion taken away after a suspect review. The numbers could have been even nicer for Roethlisberger, who led the Steelers to three straight scores in the fourth quarter. He now has 11 game-winning drives against the Ravens in his career.

Baltimore hogged the ball early but did not finish enough drives for points. The Pittsburgh defense fluctuated between incredible and terrible as only this 2021 unit can. The pressure was at times unbelievable, and Lamar Jackson did not handle it well, taking seven sacks and throwing a pick in the end zone on the opening drive. But there were plenty of other times where the Steelers displayed shoddy tackling and left receivers wide open.

On Pittsburgh’s game-winning drive, the Steelers had a 2nd-and-2 at the Baltimore 13 at the two-minute warning with the Ravens still having all their timeouts. I’m positive Harbaugh had the Ravens do something smart that I’ve seen them exploit before. The Ravens were blatantly offsides, giving the Steelers a first down without running clock. Had the Steelers taken a few plays to get the first down, they may have been able to run out the clock and kick a field goal on the last snap. This made it easier for the Ravens to use their timeouts and really encouraged the Steelers to convert a third down for a touchdown. They did with Roethlisberger’s pass to Johnson, who stepped up big after his drop earlier. The critical two-point conversion to Pat Freiermuth was also completed with 1:48 left.

Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell looked like he might be the scapegoat for this one after badly missing a game-tying extra point in the fourth quarter and bouncing his late kick-off out of bounds to put the Ravens at the 40 with a chance to tie. Again, the defense fluctuated between great and terrible as the Ravens marched for a touchdown with 12 seconds left. Instead of playing for overtime, Harbaugh had his team go for the win.

I liked the decision. Harbaugh mentioned the injuries at corner and was worried the Steelers would continue to march on their defense with ease. Beyond that, I just think the Ravens had a good shot of converting and winning the game on that one play. However, I would have preferred something that used Lamar’s mobility like a QB draw or run-pass option. T.J. Watt, who had a monster game with 3.5 sacks, was able to get just enough pressure on Jackson to make his two-point pass inaccurate for Mark Andrews, who was open to win the game.

The Steelers dodged a bullet, but this season has seen both teams win a lot of close games like this one. Pittsburgh keeps its playoff hopes alive and this could lead to a very interesting rematch in Baltimore in Week 18.

I said I enjoy the low-scoring games between those two. I’m not sure I will feel that way when Roethlisberger moves on and the Steelers are trying to win with the likes of Mason Rudolph and the latest Kordell Maddo’Donnell. But Sunday felt important for this team. You wish they showed some of this intensity in Cincinnati last week, but nothing seems to get this team going quite like a Baltimore game.

If this is the last big one for this era, then at least it ended the way it deserves to.

Broncos at Chiefs: I Should Name My Son Javonte

Do I have to talk about Kansas City’s ho-hum 22-9 win we all watched together on Sunday night, or do I jump straight to my biggest gambling win of the season?

Let’s get the game over with. The defensive turnaround for the Chiefs continues. Barring what the Patriots do on Monday night, this could be the top scoring defense in points per game since Week 6 after being the worst in the first five weeks. Remarkable stuff.

Were the Broncos lighting the league up this year? Of course not, but the nine points are only the second time Denver was held under 13 this year. Meanwhile, the Broncos held Patrick Mahomes’ offense to 16 points, Mahomes under 200 yards passing, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill under 50 yards combined, and the Broncos still couldn’t cover a 9.5-point spread. I felt that dropped passes, including another tipped pick, contributed largely to Kansas City’s offense being ineffective in this one. But as I have pointed out before, Denver defends Mahomes better than most. This game will be another data point in favor of that for sure.

Teddy Bridgewater played a terrible game and had his second multi-interception game of the season, including a pick-six to Dan Sorensen in the fourth quarter to put the exclamation point on this one.

Well, one exclamation point. That pick-six helped give the Broncos the ball back in a 22-3 game. Perhaps that took away some of the intensity from the defense, knowing the win was all but in the bag at this point. The Broncos finally marched down the field, and instead of taking 11 minutes to come away with zero points like they did in the second quarter, Bridgewater found rookie back Javonte Williams in the flat on fourth-and-7 for a 13-yard touchdown with 5:12 left.

A meaningless touchdown in the grand scheme of things? Sure, but an extremely important one for me. It was the final leg to five parlays for me, including my biggest win of the season at +15381

The reason there was no Stat Oddity in Week 12 is because I was at home nervously waiting to hear what was going on with my mom in the emergency room. Her blood pressure was out of control, and I wasn’t allowed in the ambulance with her because of the protocol during COVID, the same virus that had just taken my only aunt from me on Thanksgiving Day. The stress of that is what caused my mom’s blood pressure to spike. She does not have COVID.

Trying to watch the Ravens and Browns finish that ugly game was a tough 90 minutes before I started to get updates that my mom was alright. She is doing better this week and will be fine. I got my booster on Wednesday, and it was no big deal. Just a sore shoulder for about 72 hours.

From dark thoughts a week ago to screams of joy at Javonte’s touchdown, these last few weeks really encapsulate the extreme ups and downs that life can bring. Sunday was that kind of day all around, from the Steelers’ nail-biting win over Baltimore to the agony and glory of watching Williams pull off a golden score for me.

It’s the type of successful betting day I feel I should have had three or four times during this crazy season. But I’m happy with this one. I thought for sure I blew it on the final leg again, and I would have blown it either way as I probably would have picked Hill or Kelce or CEH to score for the Chiefs had I not gone for Javonte. Alas, I picked the right guy who scored Denver’s only touchdown of the night in what was a golden opportunity with Melvin Gordon out. Williams shined with 178 yards from scrimmage, but that touchdown will always stick with me as a happy memory during what have been some very unhappy times during this pandemic.

But tonight, I can choose happiness.

Chargers at Bengals: What in Tarnation…

This conference is f’n weird this year. The Bengals annihilated the Steelers a week ago. The Chargers had an ugly loss in Denver. I thought this would be the closest finish in the 1 p.m. slate. So, of course the Chargers jumped out to a 24-0 lead.

However, while the Bengals did not try 8+8+8, they were a two-point conversion away from tying this one late in the third quarter as the Chargers were looking to blow another huge lead in a game with so many ugly, fluky turnovers from both sides. Austin Ekeler especially was trying to create his own Chargers BINGO square with two lost fumbles.

But Joe Mixon outdid him. The Bengals failed on their game-tying two, but they got the ball back down 24-22 going into the fourth quarter. They were in field-goal range too when Mixon just lost the ball, and it was returned 61 yards for a crushing touchdown. The Chargers led 31-22, sacked an ailing Joe Burrow (pinky), and added a knockout score in a game that eventually ended 41-22.

So, it was a blowout, then a huge comeback attempt that made it the tightest game going around 3 p.m., then a blowout again. Just a weird game where both quarterbacks were absolutely under siege at times by the defenses (10 sacks between them). But the Chargers made fewer mistakes and got the big win to move to 7-5.

49ers at Seahawks: Don’t Call it a Comeback

This was my most confident upset pick of the week. As I said on Saturday, Russell Wilson/Pete Carroll/D.K. Metcalf were due a good showing at home after such a poor run of things lately, including that Monday night loss to Washington. Wilson owns the 49ers in his career (17-4 now). Kyle Shanahan is an overrated coach. George Kittle was amazing in this game (181 yards and two touchdowns), but I think Deebo Samuel is a big security blanket for Jimmy Garoppolo, and he’s been a huge part of the running game recently. If Samuel wasn’t out injured for this game, I don’t think I would have been confident enough to pick Seattle. Certainly not enough to put $50 on them in my big parlay that hit above.

Still, it wasn’t the prettiest game. The Seahawks needed a 73-yard touchdown run on a fake punt to get things going. Wilson was an uncharacteristic 30-of-37 for 231 yards, the fewest passing yards he’s ever had in a game with at least 25 completions. He also lost 50 yards on four sacks. Tight end Gerald Everett nearly choked the game away with two lost fumbles, including one at the 2-yard line when the Seahawks could have gone up two scores in the final four minutes.

I always question Shanahan’s late-and-close decision making. The 49ers looked like they wanted to score at the last possible second and either go to overtime or win on a two-point conversion. That’s nice but things rarely work out that way. The Elijah Mitchell runs were not effective on the day, and the 49ers used two downs on them inside the Seattle 7. After one incompletion, the 49ers were already facing fourth-and-ballgame. Garoppolo’s pass was tipped at the line and that was enough for the Seahawks to hold on for the 30-23 win.

I don’t think Seattle is “back” by any means, but at least we know this team can still sweep the 49ers.

Vikings at Lions: 1-15-1 Still Possible

Bust out the Faygo for the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns. These Lions will not be going 0-16-1. I warned in Saturday’s preview that the Vikings already came dangerously close to losing to this team this year. They had to set up a 54-yard field goal in 37 seconds to win that one.

Dalvin Cook missed both Detroit games for Minnesota, but I don’t think you can fault the way Alexander Mattison played in his place for why the Vikings struggled. Mattison had 124 yards and a touchdown in this one. Adam Thielen left injured, but Kirk Cousins still threw for 340 yards and Justin Jefferson had 182 yards. The offense came back to deliver another late lead at 27-23, but the defense was a huge letdown against Jared Goff and the league’s worst receiving corps. Goff threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns in this one, which Detroit led most of the way.

I want to quickly highlight something stupid Jay Feely said late in the game. I know that’s his brand, but the strategy is worth talking about. He criticized Dan Campbell’s aggressive move to go for a 4th-and-1 at his own 28 with a 23-21 lead and 4:08 left. It was incredibly aggressive as the Vikings had four clock stoppages, would have been in go-ahead field goal range with a stop, and the Lions were down to one timeout. In fact, I probably would have punted there.

But Feely’s reasoning just made me like the decision more. Feely tried to say that the Lions should punt because like on Thanksgiving against Chicago, the Bears ran out the final eight minutes and Detroit never got the ball back. He added that Cleveland ran out the clock on Detroit in Week 11 too. It could happen again.

Well guess what? IT’S MORE LIKELY TO HAPPEN HERE IF YOU GIVE THEM FOUR MINUTES TO SET UP A FIELD GOAL. While converting and running out the clock is the ideal outcome, by Goff getting strip-sacked and putting the Vikings in the red zone, he actually helped facilitate a quicker go-ahead score and saved his offense time for their game-winning drive. The Vikings had to score on a third down with 1:50 left, saving Goff almost two minutes to answer the 27-23 deficit.

He needed every second of it on the 14-play, 75-yard drive. The Vikings used their timeouts late in the red zone, and Mike Zimmer’s defense was shameful in allowing such a large cushion on the last play of the game when you know they have to go for the end zone. How are you going to give someone like Aroma St. Brown a cushion to score the game-winning touchdown with no time left? His name is actually Amon-Ra, but he must have had a strong aroma if you weren’t attaching someone to his hip as the only receiver to run towards the left side of the end zone. Just a ridiculous ending.

But somehow perfectly fitting for the Minnesota franchise. A lead of at least six points in every game this season and the Vikings are 5-7. I knew the Lions would win one this year. Campbell’s had them too close too many times not to.

Hurry-Up Finish

Some quick thoughts as I race to complete more tasks before getting to sleep.

Tampa Bay at Atlanta: Tom Brady for MVP (Mass Volume Player)

Leave it up to Tom Brady to throw 51 passes in a game his team never trailed, where his defense only allowed 10 points on nine drives, and it only looked semi-close because he threw an embarrassing pick-six before halftime to a defensive lineman.

Has the standard at the position fallen off so much this year that we have to seriously consider this as the front-runner for MVP? Oh, and he’ll be getting the Bills on Sunday, fresh off their huge clash with the Patriots in shitty weather and after losing Tre’Davious White to a torn ACL. You see how the stars are aligning, right? While Antonio Brown’s buffoonery leading to a suspension may have been a problem in this past, this offense is simply too loaded when Rob Gronkowski is playing this well to go along with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette, and that offensive line. Brown will be back for the playoffs too…

Washington at Raiders: No Flag, No Win

Tell me you weren’t expecting a flag when Derek Carr threw a bomb, down 17-15, with 31 seconds left to start his final drive. I cannot knock him for the smart, aggressive play to try to immediately get into range for a game-winning field goal. But something tells me he specifically threw that one with the intent to get a flag instead of a completion. The refs did not oblige, and the Raiders lost another low-scoring game to a Washington team that’s suddenly won four in a row.

Washington (6-6) has all five of its games left against the NFC East in a real scheduling quirk. The Chiefs can deliver a potential knockout blow to these Raiders (6-6) in Week 14 – that’s if they didn’t already do it in Week 10. Since their bye week, the Raiders are 1-4 and have been held under 17 points in each loss. Only the flag fest on Turkey Day in Dallas was a high-scoring win.

Eagles at Jets: Minshew Mania Returns

Will Zach Wilson ever have a game in the NFL as good as Gardner Minshew’s first surprise start for the Eagles on Sunday? It’s a legitimate question. Minshew was 20-of-25 for 242 yards and two touchdowns. This was tight end Dallas Goedert’s 57th NFL game and it was the first time he had two touchdowns to go along with a career-high 105 receiving yards. Not bad.

This was actually a shootout at first with the Jets scoring three touchdowns on their first three drives. But they soon remembered they were the Jets and scored nothing on their last five drives. The Eagles scored three touchdowns, four field goals, then punted on their eighth and final possession.

In a game between the Jets and Eagles with Wilson and Minshew getting the starts, a 33-18 finish with only one ugly Wilson interception is about the best experience you could have asked for.

Next week: Depending on how the Bills look against the Patriots on Monday night, this could be two weeks in a row where MNF draws the best game. Next week has Arizona-Rams, an important one in the NFC. While Bills-Buccaneers looked like the great one on paper from April through recently, I’m not sure these teams are delivering on expectations so far. But that won’t stop Tony Romo from salivating over it as a Super Bowl preview.  

NFL Week 12 Predictions: Sunday’s Best Edition

The good news this week: I don’t have to rant and complain about injuries and the caliber of games on this week’s schedule. Week 12 might actually be the best schedule of games this season, and that’s with the Chiefs and the team with the best record in the league (Arizona) on a bye week.

My full previews at BMR: Browns-Ravens and Seahawks-WFT.

The Sunday slate looks like the best we’ll get the rest of the regular season thanks to LAR-GB, TEN-NE, MIN-SF, TB-IND, PIT-CIN, LAC-DEN, and CLE-BAL.

Have some of these games lost some luster from a month ago? Sure. The Rams and Packers have been slumping, the Titans are falling apart with injuries, and all of the AFC North teams have their share of flaws and bad performances.

But some of these games look a lot better than they did a month ago. I sure can’t wait for Jonathan Taylor to rush for 125 yards against a tough Tampa Bay run defense and still lose because Carson Wentz gets outplayed by the LOAT, which somehow means to the MSM that Brady is the MVP in this hellscape season. But maybe the Colts can surprise again like they did in Buffalo last week.

The 49ers-Vikings is also an interesting one with these teams on the rise as the sixth and seventh seeds in the NFC. The winner of this one could really get a push towards that sixth seed, but it wouldn’t be surprising if both still made the playoffs with the way the Saints, Falcons, Panthers, and Seahawks are floundering. Philadelphia is another team on the upswing in the conference with a head-to-head loss to the 49ers. So I would say it’s a slightly more important game for the Vikings than San Francisco.

But the big one is still Rams-Packers where the line has moved to Rams -2 despite the game being in Green Bay. Head coach Matt LaFleur has been at least a 3-point favorite in all 23 of his home games since 2019 where he is 16-7 ATS (.696) and 20-3 SU (.870).

Not that homefield is what it used to be, but no team has a better home record (SU or ATS) in the NFL since 2019 than LaFleur’s Packers. I have my issues with how good this team really is under him, but the fact is they still win a lot. Aaron Rodgers has the toe injury but he had it last week when he threw four touchdowns. The defense was a big letdown in Minnesota.

This is the kind of game the Rams brought Matthew Stafford in for. This is the kind of game he has to show he can win after going 8-68 against winning teams in his career coming into this season. He got the home win over Tampa Bay this year, which was great, but as it turns out the Cardinals with Kyler Murray might be the best team in the NFC this year. He lost that one big. He lost another big one in prime time to the Titans largely on the back of his two interceptions. He played better against the 49ers but it was another uneven performance and another bad one for the team in a big loss. We haven’t seen them since with the bye, so this is a huge road test.

Not to mention that whole 32-18 playoff game won by Green Bay in January where Jared Goff was not horrific. But the Rams’ so-called No. 1 defense was shredded by Rodgers and dominated on the ground as well. We’ll see if they put in a better effort this time.

I’m looking forward to this one. It’s a clash of Stafford’s horrific history against teams this good and Green Bay’s awful history in the Rodgers era against these quality NFC teams outside the division. I’m going with Green Bay as I just do not like what I’ve seen from the Rams lately. Was Green Bay’s offense off when Rodgers returned against Seattle? Yeah, but the defense still pitched a shutout. Was Green Bay’s defense legitimately terrible last week? Yeah, but they dropped some Kirk Cousins interceptions and the offense put up a fight in a game decided on a last-second field goal. That still beats getting blown out 28-16 and 31-10 like the Rams.

NFL Week 14 Predictions: Try To Write It Down Into a Perfect Sonnet or One Foolish Line

I am feeling better this week and have some random thoughts to share on a few Week 14 games.

Colts at Browns

This is a bad game for Vontae Davis to miss with Josh Gordon getting his share of targets. He only needs a little space to break a huge play. Brian Hoyer has to know he’s on a short leash and must play better before he loses his job to Johnny Manziel. I think he’ll play a good game and the Cleveland offense will have to score a decent amount to get the win. The Colts haven’t played a road game since November 3 and this is statistically one of the best pass defenses Andrew Luck will face this year. I doubt he’ll fear Joe Haden on T.Y. Hilton and the Colts have a bunch of other weapons to go to anyway. I just hope this isn’t viewed as a week to get T-Rich going because of that dreadful trade. The best backs on the field will probably be the undrafted ones (Isaiah Crowell and Dan Herron).

The Colts surprisingly haven’t had a 4QC/GWD this year, so I think this could be the one in a 27-24 type of finish.

Texans at Jaguars

Houston should win this game, but I just wanted to reiterate a point about the ludicrous thought of J.J. Watt for MVP in 2014.

Not only is Houston just a 6-6 team, but the Texans’ strength of victory is 22-50 (.306).

Furthermore, look at the quarterbacks Watt and the Texans have feasted on in those wins:

  • RGIII (benched)
  • Derek Carr (rookie’s second start)
  • EJ Manuel (benched)
  • Zach Mettenberger (rookie in his 1st and 5th starts)
  • Brian Hoyer (slumping and may be benched too)

Now here comes rookie Blake Bortles with his league-worst 15 interceptions and poor 9.1% sack rate.

A guy scoring five touchdowns, including a 1-yard catch while already up 24 in the fourth quarter, is an asinine argument for someone to be named the Most Valuable Player in the league, yet that’s what Watt’s teammates and some fans are selling now because there’s really nothing else going on with Houston’s season. You’re 6-6? Cheers. That’s good for 12th place in the AFC.

It also helps Watt that defensive end is one of the most blameless positions in football. You don’t hear someone bash Watt or any pass-rusher for not getting to Tony Romo when he evaded him and threw a touchdown. Keep in mind the Texans lost that game in overtime. Where’s the criticism? Yet if you play defensive back and get burned for a touchdown, you can guarantee someone will point that out. Hell, Richard Sherman allowed a few first downs to Keenan Allen and people acted like he was exposed. A star defensive end can get locked down on 85-90% of the snaps in a game, but if he gets one sack some people will think he had a good game. People bash quarterbacks for not putting up enough points. Why don’t we bash a DE for not generating enough stops and pressure? Some of them are making close to QB money after all.

We’ve seen the Texans lose 14 games in a row with Watt playing at a high level. We’ve seen them allow 40+ points in games he shined. He’s a great player. He’s running away with DPOY.  Maybe he should get more red-zone snaps at tight end. He’s just not MVP material when his impact on the game is so minimal compared to the quarterback position where several great players are having incredible seasons.

Steelers at Bengals

I know the Steelers for some reason play Marvin Lewis’ Bengals better in Cincinnati (10-2 since 2003) than they do at Heinz Field (6-5), but I’m calling my shot on this final quarter of the season.

The Steelers will lose in Cincinnati, lose in Atlanta, beat Kansas City and beat Cincinnati to finish 9-7. Too little, too late. Shouldn’t have pissed around with Tampa Bay and the Jets.

Ravens at Dolphins

Close game last year won 26-23 by Baltimore. This is almost a “loser goes home” game right here, and I think there may be a little more pressure on Miami to get the win at home with the gift of Haloti Ngata’s suspension. Miami still has a very tough game left in New England. Baltimore is more than capable of winning its last three games, but if they drop this one and Miami only loses once more, that’s 10-6 for both with the Dolphins having the H2H win. So yeah, it’s a big one. I just think with or without Ngata, that Baltimore secondary is struggling and Ryan Tannehill has been playing solid. They’ll get a boost in the running game with Ngata out and I like the Dolphins to sneak out a close one.

Bills at Broncos

Julius Thomas is a game-time decision (ankle), but will his return make the Broncos worse on offense? All the rage the last two weeks has been Virgil Green’s blocking, a revamped OL, some 6-OL sets and C.J. Anderson’s excellent running. Peyton Manning’s never had an offense with two 200-yard rushing games in the same season, let alone back-to-back games. I think Thomas was missed in the red zone and he should have an impact there, but the Broncos may want to limit Wes Welker’s playing time and keep the 2-TE sets more with Thomas in the slot when he’s up to full health. Buffalo has a front four to get pressure on Manning, so it’s a good week to experiment with that extra protection. I think given time Manning will have a big day at home and Kyle Orton will be the one taking the majority of the game’s sacks. Something to watch for is Connor Barth’s kickoffs in the Mile High altitude. He was awful in Kansas City, routinely giving the Chiefs good starting field position. If he can’t get touchbacks at home, the Broncos may still have a major kicking dilemma.

49ers at Raiders

After an inexplicable fake punt loses the game on the final play, Jim Harbaugh races to midfield to a gang of Oakland players and rips off his shirt to reveal a “Just Win Baby” Raiders t-shirt. The screwjob is complete.

vince

That probably won’t happen, but it would be so much fun to see the NFL perfectly emulate old-school wrestling. You know, back when shit was called WWF.

Seahawks at Eagles

This is a big one with a lot of interesting layers, many of which were covered by my co-workers at Football Outsiders this weekend.

The Eagles have allowed a league-worst 14 pass plays of 40+ yards, but Seattle’s lost its vertical edge with the departure of Golden Tate and failure to do anything with Percy Harvin. It’s shocking to see Russell Wilson is the only current starter getting over 60% of his yards from YAC (60.9%) this season. His scrambling has been a bigger threat this year, but we’re still waiting to see a game where Wilson has to throw a lot. He’s never thrown more than 37 passes in any game, which is insane given how quickly (and often) most quarterbacks do that in their career (click to enlarge).

37RW

This could be the week with the Eagles ranking 8th against the run in DVOA and having just contained DeMarco Murray and that consistent Dallas running game that has tortured most of the league. Perhaps more importantly, the Eagles have the ability to score points. We know Seattle’s defense is healthy and playing at a high level again, but Chip Kelly is a whole different beast from Arizona/49ers and the game is in Philly.

The Eagles have scored at least 20 points in 21 consecutive games (16-5 record), tied for the 10th-longest streak in NFL history (including playoffs). The record is 25 games (2010-12 Saints). The fact this streak is alive is amazing considering the offense scored 0 in San Francisco, but three return touchdowns still gave them 21. Don’t discount the impact of special teams on the Eagles’ season.

We keep setting up Mark Sanchez to fail this year, but he’s doing okay so far. In the blowout loss to Green Bay, he literally threw one bad pass and took a few sacks and still trailed 30-3 for it. That loss didn’t say much about him. He never had a chance really. The Seahawks do not pose that kind of dynamic offense, but I think Wilson’s going to have to have one of his best games this season to get the win. This isn’t another 19-3 game by any means.

I hate to say it because I already see Sanchez making me eat my words, but I think he’ll struggle with the Legion of Boom and the Seahawks will keep rolling towards what could be another strong finish that puts them in prime position for a repeat.

Patriots at Chargers

Circadian rhythms, December records and Justin Bieber curses? What the heck are we talking about here? All I know is Philip Rivers is 0-5 against the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick duo, and outside of an ass-kicking in the 2007 regular season, the losses have been right out of a Greek tragedy.

Two game-tying field goals from 50+ yards away missed at the end. Eric Parker’s butterfingers. Martyball. Marlon McCree fumbling a Brady INT on fourth down with a 21-13 lead. Rivers having to play on a torn ACL for the 2007 AFC Championship. LT on the bike. Three straight fumbles recovered by NE in the 2010 meeting, the last time they played in SD. Four more turnovers in NE in 2011 by San Diego’s offense, including a Vince Wilfork pick.

Can San Diego win this game? Sure, but I just don’t see it happening. Darrelle Revis will contain Keenan Allen and the bigger Brandon Browner could limit the deep-ball threat of Malcolm Floyd. I think Eddie Royal and Antonio Gates have to play huge for Rivers in this one, as does the running game. He pulled out a great 4QC in Baltimore last week, but something just always goes wrong at the worst moment when he’s playing this team. I’m not sure San Diego has any answers for the tight ends of the Patriots.

Denver will be rooting like hell for San Diego to win and suffer a letdown in next week’s game, giving the Broncos a nice path to the No. 1 seed. However, I imagine we’ll see the opposite. After a loss to NE, the Chargers rally and drop Denver in Week 15, which I’ve been penciling in as a Denver loss since April. But the No. 1 seed in the AFC is very much going to be in control of what San Diego does these next few weeks.

Falcons at Packers

This is like Russell Stover taking on Hershey Chocolate. The only intrigue is whether the Packers dominate so much by ground or air and where it leaves Aaron Rodgers on this list of the most passing yards through 100 starts since 1960. He needs 293 yards to break the record.

100

NFL Week 14 Predictions

I had the Cowboys on TNF and the streak of 8-8 seasons is over. However, this could still be a 10-6 non-playoff team and that Romo back injury that led to losses to Washington and Arizona will be the main culprit.

Winners in bold:

  • Colts at Browns
  • Buccaneers at Lions
  • Panthers at Saints
  • Texans at Jaguars
  • Rams at Redskins
  • Ravens at Dolphins
  • Jets at Vikings
  • Steelers at Bengals
  • Giants at Titans
  • Chiefs at Cardinals
  • Bills at Broncos
  • 49ers at Raiders
  • Seahawks at Eagles
  • Patriots at Chargers
  • Falcons at Packers

Season Results

  • Week 1: 8-8
  • Week 2: 9-7
  • Week 3: 11-5
  • Week 4: 8-5
  • Week 5: 11-4
  • Week 6: 9-5-1
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-5
  • Week 9: 11-2
  • Week 10: 10-3
  • Week 11: 8-6
  • Week 12: 12-3
  • Week 13: 9-7
  • Total: 126-65-1

NFL Week 10 Predictions: 2014 Midseason Awards

Now that every team has played at least eight games, here are my picks for NFL awards at the midseason point. Unlike some ridiculous experts who decided to make their choices based on what they expected in August, I’m basing my picks on what actually happened in Weeks 1-9.

Most Valuable Player – Peyton Manning

By definition MVP almost has to be a quarterback, and there are some really good seasons in progress right now, but Manning has outclassed them all so far.

Manning leads the league in:

  • DVOA (35.5%) and DYAR (962) (see FO)
  • Total QBR (86.9)
  • Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (8.69)
  • Touchdown pass percentage (7.8%)
  • Win Probability Added (2.99)
  • Expected Points Added per Play (0.32)

Otherwise, not much going on here. Andrew Luck is barely beating him out in EPA and TD passes, but he’s also played one more game than Manning, which will equal out this week with the Colts on a bye.

Plain and simple, no quarterback has been more consistently valuable this season than Manning. Philip Rivers is on a three-game losing streak that has buried him in the race, which he really never led in my view. Aaron Rodgers has been great, but his three road losses certainly look worse than Manning’s two, especially the respective efforts in Seattle. Ben Roethlisberger has been white hot the last two weeks, but he scored a total of 26 points in Baltimore, Jacksonville and Cleveland this year. It’s nice of the Chiefs to light a fire under Tom Brady’s ass, but that September start leaves him well behind the lead.

Offensive Player of the Year – DeMarco Murray

While I’m really starting to warm up to Antonio Brown for this award, let’s take a chance to reward Murray’s consistency at a position that has been so neglected in recent years. Eight 100-yard rushing games to start a season is a heck of a record to set in 2014, and it’s helped to keep that Dallas defense off the field. Now if only he’d stop fumbling.

Defensive Player of the Year – J.J. Watt

Is this one already wrapped up? Who else even stands out? While WPA is a pretty flawed stat when used for defensive players, I like that it says Watt is so far and away the best DE in the NFL. His WPA in 2012 was 3.20 and 2.32 last season. He’s already at 2.22 this season with seven games to go. He impacts the game in so many ways and he’s done it this year with virtually zero help from Jadeveon Clowney, which was supposed to be the plan.

Coach of the Year – Bruce Arians

I said BA had a death grip on this award after Week 8 and some Dallas fans weren’t too pleased with that. Well, he proved it again last week with a convincing win in Dallas after Jason Garrett spent the week playing an injured Romo in OT and getting away from DeMarco Murray with Brandon Weeden in the game. Arians has been COTY material for the last three years now. He does it by being aggressive on both sides of the ball and getting the most out of his flawed teams. Imagine if the Cardinals had Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington and John Abraham on defense this year. They’ve held everyone but Denver under 21 points without those guys so far.

The Arizona Cardinals have the best record in the entire NFL at 7-1. That fact alone is worthy of the award.

Offensive Rookie of the Year – Zack Martin

I like some of the rookie WRs, but wish the best ones (Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Kelvin Benjamin) had better QB play to show off their skills more. And I guess the Steelers waited too long to get Martavis Bryant involved for him to be in the discussion, though keep catching TDs every week and we’ll see come December. So for now let’s just go with the boring choice of Martin, a guard who was like the final piece of the puzzle to Dallas’ high-resource cost OL.

Defensive Rookie of the Year – Anthony Barr

This definitely looks headed to a linebacker, whether it’s Barr, C.J. Mosley or don’t forget Oakland’s Khalil Mack. I’m going with Barr for now based on impact plays, and few were better by a defender this year than his strip, recovery and return for a game-winning touchdown in overtime against Tampa Bay. I know one of Mosley’s interceptions was caught off a deflection this year, so I’m not terribly impressed with that one, but he’s working out as expected for Baltimore.

Comeback Player of the Year – Rob Gronkowski

Always hate this award with its goofy criteria, so let’s just go with the guy who tore his ACL in December and has returned to being the best TE in football, and arguably the toughest overall skill player to defend.

NFL Week 10 Predictions

I should know better than to trust the Bengals in a prime-time game with a division lead at stake, but since when am I supposed to trust the Browns too? Crazy year in the AFC North.

Winners in bold:

  • Falcons at Buccaneers
  • Cowboys at Jaguars
  • Chiefs at Bills
  • Steelers at Jets
  • 49ers at Saints
  • Dolphins at Lions
  • Titans at Ravens
  • Broncos at Raiders
  • Giants at Seahawks
  • Rams at Cardinals
  • Bears at Packers
  • Panthers at Eagles

I sure don’t trust the Falcons, but Mike Smith might be out of a job if he takes a bad loss in Tampa Bay here. Remember Week 3? It’s the last time the Falcons looked competent for more than three quarters.

Put the Steelers on upset alert in New Jersey. That’s exactly the kind of game they should win, which is exactly why it’s the kind of game they’ll make a nail biter and possibly lose. I didn’t pick them to lose, but I know Michael Vick has started three times against Pittsburgh and every game was decided on the final snap. Injuries on defense should allow for Vick to have some favorable matchups with the weapons available to him. Ben Roethlisberger will come back to Earth eventually and the Jets have a defensive line capable of helping in that.

Season Results

  • Week 1: 8-8
  • Week 2: 9-7
  • Week 3: 11-5
  • Week 4: 8-5
  • Week 5: 11-4
  • Week 6: 9-5-1
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-5
  • Week 9: 11-2
  • Total: 87-46-1

Had Colin Kaepernick scored last week I would be forever cursing the Chargers for that 37-0 ass-whipping straight out of The Twilight Zone for costing me a perfect week. Even if it was just 13-0, I want a perfect week at least once in my life.

NFL Week 15 Predictions and Rational Manning vs. Brady Facts

Is it worth anyone’s time to do a full rant about the absurdity of Tom Brady, who spent half the season playing his worst football yet, being a top MVP candidate? No, that’s nonsense I expect to take care of itself naturally the next two weeks. Peyton Manning will get 40-plus votes while a few (mostly homer) votes may go to people like Brady, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.

A MVP should always be about the current season (all 16 games) and not a lifetime achievement award, but let’s forget about it entirely and go big picture beyond just 2013 since some on social media think I’m purposely putting down Brady’s season. Let’s file this one under “Well Allow Me to Retort.”

Since 2007, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have each lost 23 games they finished.* That includes Thursday night for Manning.

*Finished can be tricky semantics when Brian Hoyer comes in for the last drive, but it really just means games they played into the fourth quarter and didn’t leave early so Jim Sorgi or Curtis Painter could make the game unwinnable (and unwatchable).

I took each QB’s 23 losses and crunched some numbers for points per drive production for their offense and defense and what their Total QBR (credit to ESPN) was.

The results were not surprising. On average, Manning plays a little better when his team loses and his defense plays worse compared to Brady. This is why I write and say what I do about each quarterback.

Here are the 23 losses for each:

PML

TBL

Not drastically different averages, but we do see Manning’s teams almost score and allow about a FG (3 points) more per game than New England. Manning’s led his offense to at least 20 points in all seven losses as a Bronco. Brady’s longest streak of scoring 20+ in a loss is three games.

We’re only going to score 17 points?

Brady’s offense has been held to 17 or fewer points in 11 losses since his famous quote before Super Bowl XLII. Manning: seven times.

2013 results still pending, but it would appear Manning has lost to 4 teams with a losing record and 15 playoff teams. For Brady, it’s 5 losing teams, 14 playoff teams.

A 50.0 QBR is average, and Brady (50.1) is right there while Manning is better at 55.8. Those are straight averages from the 23-game samples as I do not have the ability to get a cumulative QBR number. I would imagine it’d be close to what’s there.

Then I took the 23 games and sorted them from worst to best in terms of offensive points per drive and QBR.

MBPPD

Manning outpaces Brady every step of the way here. Manning’s worst game was 1.17 Pts/Dr, which Brady falls under four times. Manning has 13 losses with at least 2.0 Pts/Dr, including Thursday night’s game (2.22). Brady has six.

Same thing, but with QBR sorted from worst to best:

MBQBR

Here we see a closer race, especially for Games 9-15 where Brady ranks higher twice, then Manning pulls away.

Brady’s two worst games were 4.2 and 8.7 and both were playoff games. Manning’s worst was 19.9 in Atlanta last season when he threw a trio of first-quarter interceptions. His highest was 92.3 against Brady in 2012.

If we expanded this back to 2001-06, we wouldn’t have QBR for 2001-05 for starters. But in terms of point production, there’s a good chance it’d be the same trends (Manning scoring more, getting fewer drives and Brady’s defense being not as bad).

The general stats from 2001-06 in losses sure would seem to support that. Manning had 48 TD, 51 INT, 78.8 PR compared to 29 TD, 43 INT, 66.1 PR for Brady.

So what you’re saying is…

This week was a painful exercise in sports media manipulating the narrative again.

After the Cowboys lost on Monday night, allowing 45 points and getting zero stops, this was the headline I heard on TV on Tuesday morning: “TONY ROMO LOSES IN DECEMBER AGAIN…”

After the Broncos lost on Thursday night to a ball-control San Diego performance, this was the headline I heard on TV on Friday morning: “DID PEYTON BLOW HIS SUPER BOWL CHANCES?”

Yet if Brady has a dud performance in Miami — something as reasonable as the 21-0 dud he laid to a team with Joey Harrington at QB in 2006 — on Sunday, in the biggest game of Week 15 (game with the best records and the No. 1 seed on the line) you know Monday morning is going to instead start with “WHO DEY GONNA BEAT THE BENGALS?! IS ANDY DALTON MAKING A LATE MVP PUSH?”

That’s just the facts.

NFL Week 15 Predictions

I learned the hard way to trust my gut after last week’s big error.

I showed you my picks like I always do, but after noticing I had the home team finishing 15-1, I scrambled to make some changes and posted a second “official” set of picks. Those changes went 0-4 as I was right with my initial gut picks. Now every week will feature games that you can make a great argument for either team winning. Those are the hard ones, but we must trust our gut even when things look silly like picking so many home teams. Sometimes, crazy shit just happens.

Trust the gut. I knew San Diego had a good shot to win with playing ball-control offense, but I went with Denver anyway, so 0-1, and I’m okay with it.

Winners in bold:

  • Bears at Browns
  • Texans at Colts
  • Bills at Jaguars
  • 49ers at Buccaneers
  • Seahawks at Giants
  • Patriots at Dolphins
  • Redskins at Falcons
  • Eagles at Vikings
  • Chiefs at Raiders
  • Jets at Panthers
  • Cardinals at Titans
  • Saints at Rams
  • Packers at Cowboys
  • Bengals at Steelers
  • Ravens at Lions

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 9-6
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 11-4
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-3
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 8-6
  • Week 11: 9-6
  • Week 12: 7-6-1
  • Week 13: 11-5
  • Week 14: 10-6
  • Season: 133-74-1

I really do love the Cowboys this week against GB. The “ebb and flow” pick of the week. After such a bad performance on Monday, I expect a much stronger game on both sides of the ball. It won’t be as bad as Thanksgiving for Green Bay, but I think Dallas wins big.

I also really want to pick Washington to have a good game and win with Kirk Cousins so Mike Shanahan can look smart, but since when do I still think Shanahan’s a good coach? Put him out to pasture already.

And if Cousins does have a good game, no, we don’t have to start putting him in the damn MVP conversation.

NFL Wild Card Predictions, MVP Voting and Writing Recap

Playoffs. I have already been feeling some postseason pressure to get things done, but it was a successful week and am looking forward to more significant research to put out there before we head into the offseason. This intro would sound much better read by Don Cheadle.

Last year I recapped every 4QC/GWD in playoff history for each round (can be found under Captain Comeback 2011 archives). The Wild Card round is home to the all-time NFL comeback, Houston’s 32-point collapse in Buffalo 20 years ago this week. It also has the only two playoff games ever ending on a defensive score in overtime, and both games involved the Packers. Finally, the only two playoff games to have two lead changes in the final minute are also on Wild Card weekend.

The best game last season ended up being the Steelers in Denver, with the longest game-winning TD pass in NFL playoff history from Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas. I have a feeling Sunday’s games could live up to that one again.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Week 17: 2012 NFL Regular Season Review – Cold, Hard Football Facts

It’s the year-end review of the regular season, with a ranking of all 32 offenses in the clutch. Go figure the Colts and Broncos were among the best, while San Diego was the only team in the league without a single comeback or GWD in 2012.

The Biggest Flaw for Each NFL Playoff Team – Bleacher Report

It may be a  slideshow, but you are getting 12 articles in one here. A look at each playoff team’s fatal flaw, whether it be something tangible or a perception they must overcome. Framing each team the proper way before the postseason starts.

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 17 vs. Houston Texans – Colts Authority

Houston blitzed Andrew Luck on 75.9 percent of his drop backs this week, but the battered offensive line actually held up enough for one of the most efficient offensive performances of the year for the Colts. Luck threw perhaps his pass of the season with a 70-yard touchdown strike to T.Y. Hilton in the fourth quarter on a 3rd and 23 to ice the game and the Colts’ 11th win.

The Thinking Man’s Guide: NFL Wild Card Predictions – Bleacher Report

The four-game preview format of TMG works best here, looking at each Wild Card matchup. Also included is a review of some postseason studies I did in the last year on home-field advantage, quality wins in the regular season, and marquee blowouts in 2012.

Best Rookie QB Class Ever Makes Postseason Debut – NBC Sports

Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson will be the 12th-14th rookie quarterbacks to start a playoff game. A look at their record-breaking success, and whether or not one of them can make more history by reaching the Super Bowl.

Voting History: Why Peyton Manning Should Run Away with NFL MVP Award – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Not only was this the argument for Peyton Manning clearly being the MVP over Adrian Peterson in 2012, but you also get a chance to view all the MVP voting results (AP award) for 1986-2011. A great resource given this information is nowhere to be found elsewhere in one place. Find out who the only TE to receive a MVP vote is, or the only cornerback.

 NFL Wild Card Predictions

I’m not a fan of picking the final score, but here’s a shot at it.

  • Texans over Bengals, 19-16
  • Packers over Vikings, 24-13
  • Colts over Ravens, 20-17
  • Seahawks over Redskins, 24-20

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 4-12
  • Week 4: 10-5
  • Week 5: 10-4
  • Week 6: 5-9
  • Week 7: 12-1
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 11-3
  • Week 10: 9-4-1
  • Week 11: 11-3
  • Week 12: 10-6
  • Week 13: 8-8
  • Week 14: 11-5
  • Week 15: 11-5
  • Week 16: 12-4
  • Week 17: 11-5
  • Season: 168-87-1 (.658)