With 57% of the season in the rear view mirror, here are a few thoughts…
A few weeks ago, I went on the Numbers Game Podcast with Matthew Freedman and Kevin Cole. When asked about mid-season MVPs, I named Tom Brady, Andy Dalton, Carson Palmer, and Aaron Rodgers as prime candidates (with a hat tip to Ben Roethlisberger, who has played incredibly when healthy-ish). Well, just a few short weeks later and it is now a two man contest. Sure, Cam Newton manufactures some incredible plays, but Brady and Palmer are the only serious contenders at this point in the season.
Currently, Brady and Palmer are neck and neck in marginal total adjusted yards, with Brady at 950 and Palmer at 936. The next highest rated quarterback, Andy Dalton, has just 492 and is closer to the 21st ranked passer than to Palmer. Making your pick between the two quarterbacks depends on what flavor you prefer: Brady leads the most efficient and productive offense in the league, systematically and methodically dissecting defenses in the mold of the Montana Niners. Palmer makes much more difficult throws and takes more risks, leading drives in a manner reminiscent of Dan Marino.
Because Bruce Arians’s playcalling style has much greater variance, Palmer is more likely to have a disastrous game than is Brady in Bill Belichick’s precision offense. However, Palmer has yet to have such a game and is my personal pick for MVP thus far.
Peyton Manning is, statistically, the greatest quarterback ever to play. After breaking Brett Favre‘s career record for passing touchdowns last year, he broke Favre’s record for passing yards on Sunday. Unfortunately, after it became apparent that Manning was gunning for the interceptions record too, the legend was yanked in favor of his understudy (Brock Osweiler).
Manning’s 2015 season has the feel of Johnny Unitas‘s 1973 or Joe Namath‘s 1977.1 Denver GM John Elway brought Manning in to end his career in the footsteps of the Broncos legend. Unfortunately, like most legends of the game, Manning’s swan song has become a cacophony.
Statistically, Osweiler’s ascendance may not be an improvement. While this is easily Manning’s worst season, his statistical output has been only marginally worse than Osweiler’s career average (4.45 ANY/A versus 4.61 ANY/A). The towering young quarterback es have one thing going for him, though: he already ranks second in NFL history in passing yards for a player 6’7″ or taller.2
If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a record falls in the NFL, and no one publicizes it, does anyone really care? With just three first down catches against the Bengals, DeAndre Hopkins now on pace for only 101 first downs this season. The previous record is 92, shared by Marvin Harrison (2002) and Calvin Johnson (2012). This record is arguably far more important than Harrison’s receptions record (also 2002), but few people outside of me and Adam Harstad seem to care too much about it.
With the sixth 200 yard rushing game of his career, future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson tied legendary ball carrier and model citizen O.J. Simpson for the most such games in NFL history. Peterson also scored the 91st rushing touchdown of his career, tying him with Steelers greats Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis.
By now (thanks to Scott Kacsmar), many fans know that Aaron Rodgers has a historically bad record when the Packers trail by more than one score at any point in the second half. With another failed comeback against the Lions, Rodgers (and by “Rodgers” I mean “the Packers with Rodgers at QB”) is now 0-26 in such games. There are several factors that go into this dubious record (which I will address in a later article), but it is worth noting that this is the first time in his career Rodgers has dropped three such games in a row.
Rumor has it that Tony Romo is coming back next week. After seeing their team lose every game in his absence, Dallas fans may finally appreciate just how much the quarterback has meant to what little success they’ve seen since 2006.3 Romo’s return means he’ll be on the field in time to play a few meaningless games in an unsalvageable season.
Darren Sproles had 5 receiving yards and 77 return yards against the Dolphins this week, giving him 82 all purpose yards. He needs just three more to pass Giants great Tiki Barber for thirteenth most in history. In fact, with 292 yards, Sproles will pass Barber and Hall of Fame backs Curtis Martin and Marcus Allen, moving into eleventh place. He won’t crack the top ten this year, but leapfrogging three players of this caliber is a remarkable feat.
Finally, today marks the 47th anniversary of the famous Heidi Bowl between the Raiders and Jets. The game was closely contested, with the lead changing eight times before the final minute of the game. With 1:05 to play, the Jets were up 32-29, and NBC cut away from the game to air Heidi, a made for TV movie about a young Alpine lass. In those 65 seconds off air, the Raiders scored two touchdowns to win the game 43-32. Fans were outraged over missing the climactic ending to a heated rivalry game, and the backlash NBC received sent a clear message to the company: previously scheduled programming is not more important than NFL football.
Thanks to Heidi, and the ensuing hellraising, the league updated television contracts to include stipulations that all contests be broadcast to their consummation in their home markets. If you’ve ever tuned in to watch 60 Minutes and, instead, been vexed by the sight of several large men running around in colorful outfits, you have Heidi to thank for that.4
- After a legendary career with the Colts, Unitas ended his career starting four games for a bad Chargers team. Namath, for his part, also ended his career starting four games for a bad California team – the Rams. ↩
- He trails only the gargantuan Seahawk Dan McGwire. Mike Glennon, listed at 6’7″ in some databases, has thrown for more yards than either, but his official height in the NFL database is 6’6.” ↩
- The 2-7 Cowboys have dropped seven games in a row and would very likely be 7-2 or 8-1 with Romo starting. Let’s be serious, though; they weren’t beating New England with or without Romo. ↩
- You can also thank the citizens of New York, who saw it as their duty to besiege NBC, NYT, and even NYPD phone lines with calls in such alarming volume that the television network’s switchboard stopped working and the city’s emergency services were encumbered for several hours. ↩