Tuesday, October 11, 2011

MVPs and LVPs: Week 5


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Adrian Peterson (RB, Minnesota Vikings):

For the first time all season, the Vikings made a good choice - when your passing game isn't working, take a chance and lean on your star running back to get you through the game. Peterson had 29 carries for 122 yards, and had 3 TDs that all came in the first quarter. Donovan McNabb still looks lost in the quarterback role, going 10 for 21 for 169 yards with 0 passing TDs and 1 rushing TD, but Adrian Peterson proved that he can still keep this team in games all by himself, as he carried this team to it's first win of the season. Minnesota is now 1-4 in the extraordinarily tough NFC North, and it doesn't look like they'll be heading to the playoffs this year (or anytime soon, with the way they're playing), but Peterson once again showed us the talent he has that means you can almost never count the Vikings out of a game.

Matt Cassel (QB, Kansas City Chiefs):

After the first four weeks of the season, I didn't think that a member of the Chiefs would make it on to my MVP list for the rest of the year. But surprisingly, Cassel played a great game on Sunday, and the Chiefs are now 2-3. Cassel went 21 of 29 for 257 yards, 4 TDs, and 0 INTs. The Chiefs were down by a significant margin against the Colts, who looked like they were finally going to get their first victory of the season behind the arm of Curtis Painter (who also had a great game). But Cassel helped the Chiefs to score 21 unanswered points and mount an impressive comeback. Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston made some great catches, and the Chiefs' two wins may have more to do with the fact that they were against the Vikings and Colts than anything else, but the Chiefs are at least no longer last in the AFC West, and if Cassel keeps playing this way, Kansas City might finally have something going for them.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis (RB, New England Patriots):

Against a tough Jets run defense, most people (myself included) expected the Patriots to throw the ball often and press the Jets' secondary (which, with Revis, is also particularly nasty). Green-Ellis hasn't looked great so far this season, but he worked the Jets front seven, carrying the ball 27 times for a career-high 136 yards and 2 TDs. The final drive in which Green-Ellis helped the Pats control the clock and work down the field for the game clinching field goal was particularly impressive. It almost seemed as though every time the commentators said that the Jets defense was built to stop the run, Green-Ellis would break off a big one. The Patriots O-Line helped a lot, but this game showed that, when necessary, the Patriots can run the ball and their offense can avoid being one-dimensional with their pass attack.

Buffalo Bills (special distinctions go to Fred Jackson and the defense, especially Nick Barnett):

What a game against the Eagles. The main story of this game was the Eagles meltdown under pressure and their sub-par 1-4 start. But give credit where credit is due: Vick may have thrown four interceptions (a career high) and lost a fumble, but it takes a special defense to pick off both Vick AND Tom Brady four times each - Nick Barnett picked off two Vick passes himself, and ran one back in for a touchdown. Offensively, Jackson was a beast once again, running the ball 26 times for 111 yards and 1 TD, and catching the ball for 85 yards. He was the best player in that game, hands down. It was an all-around impressive performance by the Bills, who improved to 4-1 and are still ahead of the Patriots (also 4-1) and Jets (2-3) in the AFC East.


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Josh Freeman (QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers):

The Bucs game against Tampa was just a massacre. Completely awful on the Bucs' part. Honestly, against a weak 49ers secondary, I expected a lot more out of Freeman (especially because he's on my fantasy team - thankfully I didn't start him). But instead of picking them apart like most people thought he would, Freeman went 17 of 33 for 187 yards, 0 TDs, and 2 INTs. So far this year, Freeman has 3 passing TDs, 2 rushing TDs, and 6 INTs. That's a pretty poor start for a team that people thought would be a playoff-caliber team. Somehow the Bucs are still 3-2 despite Freeman's poor play, but if Freeman keeps this up, I'd be concerned for the Bucs continuing success.

Michael Vick (QB, Philadelphia Eagles):

I know that Vick did something impressive on Sunday when he became the NFL's all-time leading QB rusher and also threw for 315 yards, but there's no way you're going to win a game if you throw 4 INTs, even against a Bills defense that was playing superbly. The Eagles needed to win this game desperately, and Vick made way too many mistakes for them to even consider winning. That loss to the Bills put Philly at 1-4 - last in the NFC East, and trailing the Redskins, Cowboys, and Giants. They're gonna have to do something special to even get to 10-6 at this point, but to even have a chance, Vick and the Eagles need to right this ship and figure out how to fix their numerous issues.

Kyle Orton (QB, Denver Broncos):

The fans of Denver finally got exactly what they wanted, when Orton played so poorly that Coach John Fox had no choice but to bench him in favor of Tim Tebow in the second half. Today, Tebow was named the starter for their next game against Miami. In the first half, Orton was 6 of 13 for 34 yards and 1 INT - that makes only 2.6 yards per passing attempt. Whether the benching was because of Orton's poor play, or the pressure from the fans, doesn't seem to matter it this point. Orton played himself right out of a starting job over the past few weeks as he led Denver to 1-4 (their only win was a close one against the Bengals), and even if Fox didn't want to bench him, Orton gave him no other choice.

Chicago Bears Offensive Line:

The Bears had a hard enough time against the Lions without the O-Line making things worse. Not only could they not stop the Lions front seven if their life depended on it - even though Cutler was sacked only 3 times, he was hit all over the place and never seemed to get a break - they committed 9 false-start penalties. That's inexcusable, and only making it even harder for your team to win against a tough defense. I know it was thunderously loud at Ford Field last night, but c'mon guys. Have more discipline than that.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

MEP of the Week: Week 4

Okay, okay. I know it's too early to name Aaron Rodgers my MEP of the Week again. I mean, he did break about 5 different francise and league records, and is playing pretty much the best football of his career, but we'll just hold off for now.

I'm sure he'll do it again later on.

This week, perhaps surprisingly, I'm actually focused on a QB that everyone seems surprised I don't hate: Drew Brees. I very much think that the Saints will be the Pack's greatest hurdle to the Super Bowl and definitely see them meeting again in the NFC Championship game, but even if that's so -- even if they keep us out of the Super Bowl altogether -- I could never hold that against Drew Brees. Ben Roethlisberger, sure. Matt Ryan, of course. Definitely Michael Vick. But Drew Brees has always occupied a soft spot in my heart.

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The first thing you have to respect is his dedication. About a year ago, Sports Illustrated did a spread on Brees and I remember reading that even when they're on a bye week -- even when they're not in season -- Brees will get out every Sunday and throw, just to keep himself in a rhythym. I think he takes the game seriously and I think he has a tremendous amount of respect for the game, which in turn I think earns him respect from virtually everyone. Can you think of one person who doesn't like Breesy?

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I think I, and most people, like Brees because he's just so understated. He's one of the best in the game, is the third-most accurate passer of all-time, has the tenth-best passer rating, and brought a struggling team in a devastating city to a Super Bowl victory. But he just doesn't draw attention to himself. I love Tom Brady, and I love Rodgers, but even I can admit that there are moments when I can see why they sometimes rub people the wrong way. They've both got that chip, they can both be arrogant. But Brees -- and I think I would put Peyton Manning in this category too -- is just an All-American, all-around nice guy who happens to excel at his position. And, while this may be an insignificant point, he's also a great husband and a great father. A lot of our best QBs right now are very young and very hungry -- you imagine that they just don't have time for a family. But Brees seems to excel at both, which is pretty much all a girl can ask for. And of course there's the Brees Dream Foundation, which does such great work for its communities. The guy is just firing on all cylinders, all the time. You've gotta wonder when he has time to sleep. (Though those Nyquil ads are pretty convincing).

Plus...the cherry on top? He looks great in a suit. I mean, really. There are no more words.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

MVPs and LVPs: Week 4


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Aaron Rodgers (QB, Green Bay Packers)

If you didn't see Rodgers play on Sunday, then you missed something special. He threw 29 of 38 for 408 yards, 4 TDs, and 1 INT. Not only was it an impressive air attack, but he also ran for 36 yards and 2 TDs, becoming the only QB in NFL history to throw for over 400 yards and 4 TDs AND run for 2 TDs in a single game. And when asked about it later, Rodgers shrugged it off, saying he didn't feel like it was his best performance. The headlines this year (and rightfully so) have been mostly about the pleasant surprises of the Bills and Lions, but the Packers are 4-0, only 1 of 2 teams to remain undefeated (the other: the Detroit Lions), and Rodgers is still playing in superstar mode (throwing for 1325 yards with 73% accuracy, and an average yards per attempt of 9.4 through 4 games). Even if the rest of the Packers team is struggling, Aaron looks like he capable of carrying this team all the way to another Lombardi Trophy.

Arian Foster (RB, Houston Texans)

After coming back from injury and sitting out the majority of the first three games of the season, the Texans said that they wanted to limit Foster's carries in his first game back - maybe he would only touch the ball 20-25 times against the run-stuffing Pittsburgh D. Couple that with Ben Tate and the rest of the Texans' running backs doing a good job of running the ball while Foster was out, and you can see why almost everyone assumed that Foster wouldn't turn in one of his best days. But Foster proved them wrong, getting the ball 30 times for 155 yards - not only did he produce, but he looked untouchable, and made the Pittsburgh defense look silly in the process. It seemed like he hadn't been gone at all.

Detroit Lions (The entire team, special distinctions go to the defense and Calvin Johnson)

Once again, the Lions find themselves on my MVP list - and definitely because they deserve it. Last week they came back from a 20 point deficit against the Vikings to win. This week, they overcame a 24 point deficit against the Cowboys with some terrific defensive plays and some fantastic catches by Johnson, who became the first player in NFL history to catch 2 TD passes in each of the first four games of the season, and tied an NFL record by catching 2 TD passes in four straight games. The defense intercepted 3 Tony Romo passes, 2 of which were taken to house. It was one of the most exciting games to watch this weekend, and with the Lions tied with the Packers as the only remaining 4-0 teams left in the NFL, they have certainly gone from an up-and-coming team to a real contender.

Alex Smith/Frank Gore (QB/RB, San Francisco 49ers)

It's a rare treat that anyone from the NFC West ends up on the MVP list, let alone the 49ers, but they played a great game on Sunday, coming from behind to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 24-23. Gore (with the help of some great tackling) ran for 127 yards on 15 carries, and Smith went 21 of 33 for 291 yards for 2 TDs and 0 INTs against the Eagles secondary. They may not be astronomically stellar numbers for Smith, but he kept control of the ball late in the game, and did exactly what the 49ers needed to do to win. Both players had great games, and even though the Eagles imploded on themselves when it mattered most, the 49ers stepped up and handled the Eagles D when they needed to.


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Ronnie Brown (RB, Philadelphia Eagles)

A lot of blame could be placed in several different areas for the Eagles' dramatic loss to the 49ers. But I think Brown's ridiculous mistake not only takes the trophy for boneheaded moves, but also epitomizes the struggles that the Eagles have faced early on in the season. With 7:13 left in the second quarter, Brown was called in when the Eagles were at the 49ers 1-yard line. The goal was simple: run the ball 1 YARD and into the endzone. But when faced with pressure, Brown decided to do the opposite of every other RB in the history of football and would not simply go down with the ball to try another play later. No, on his way down to the ground, Ronnie decided to try to PASS the ball backwards to see if someone else could pick it up and run it in. Only problem was, no one else knew he was planning to do that; the play was a fumble, and the 49ers recovered it on the 4 yard line.

Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie. Seriously? That is literally the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you do in that scenario. Brown said after the game that the play was meant to be a run/pass option, but once you start to run the ball, I don't think anyone is looking for you to pass it anymore, especially to pass it backwards to no one. The Eagles had a lot of other things to worry about after that game, but the one thing they shouldn't have to worry about is stupid mistakes like that on their best team that money can buy.

Tony Romo (QB, Dallas Cowboys)

It's certainly been an up-and-down season for Romo so far, especially with regard to my MVP/LVP list. An LVP in Week 1, Romo followed that with an MVP worthy performance in Week 2, and a good game in Week 3. Now, Romo finds himself on my LVP list after helping the Lions overcome the 27-3 lead that his Cowboys had in that game. My criticism remains roughly the same as Week 1: he needs to make better decisions when the Cowboys are in the lead. He threw 3 INTs, two of which were taken back for TDs, to help the Lions win that game and suck all of the confidence out of the Cowboys. Romo needs to find a groove and stick with it, because if he keeps being this erratic, he'll never be able to get his team to the Super Bowl.

Joe Flacco/Mark Sanchez (QBs, Baltimore Ravens/New York Jets)

This was an interesting game to watch defensively. Offensively...not so much. It seemed like there was a turnover on every other play. Both QBs played terribly (Flacco only had a 32% completion rate and threw 0 TDs and 1 INT, while Sanchez had a 31% completion rate and also threw 0 TDs and 1 INT), and both were the leading point producers for the opposing team. Not much else needs to be said. This game should have been better than that. I couldn't decide which one to put, so I thought they both deserved to be on here.

Marion Barber (RB, Chicago Bears)

His inclusion on this list is not because of how he played on Sunday. In fact, kudos to Barber for scoring his first TD as a member of the Bears. But if you're gonna celebrate a TD, make sure you can do the celebration before you try. Or a least don't forget to stretch first.