Judgements 13: Why not Russell Wilson as league MVP?
It's time ... no, it's way past time ... that Seattle's Russell Wilson crashed the MVP conversation.
For most of this season, it's been a two-man dialogue ... with Philadelphia's Carson Wentz and New England's Tom Brady the two men. But what about Wilson?
The Seattle quarterback is one of the league's leading passers. He's either thrown or run for 29 of the Seahawks' 30 touchdowns. He leads his team in rushing. He leads the league in fourth-quarter passing. And he's responsible for 85.7 percent of the Seahawks' offensive yardage.
Yet nobody mentioned him as a legit MVP option. Well, they will now.
He not only led Seattle to a decisive upset of the Eagles Sunday night, ending their nine-game winning streak; he outplayed Wentz to keep Seattle alive in an NFC playoff race where, if truth be told, the Seahawks weren't considered a legitimate Super Bowl threat.
Reason: Too many losses, as in key players. First, it was pass rusher Cliff Avril. Then it was cornerback Richard Sherman. Then safety Kam Chancellor. It runs a weekly audition of running backs, and it's had a raft of issues/trouble with its offensive line. In short: There were holes everywhere. Yet, somehow, some way, the Seahawks are still around, and it's because Russell Wilson won't let them go away.
So let me ask you: Isn't that the definition of a league MVP? Remember, this isn't about someone who runs for the most yards .... or throws the most touchdown passes ... or scores the most TDs. This is about the guy who is the most valuable to his team ... someone that club couldn't survive without ... and, yeah, I'd say Russell Wilson qualifies.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME FOR VIKES, SAINTS
You gotta love what's going on in Minnesota and New Orleans. They're white hot, they're balanced and their Super Bowl threats. But they're Super Bowl threats with an asterisk: If either reaches the NFC championship game, it must ... absolutely must ... be home.
Otherwise, they're toast, and there's a ready explanation: They're indoor teams.
Any idea what happens to indoor teams when they go outdoors for conference championship games? They don't win, that's what. Since the merger, there have been 12 AFC and NFC conference games played outdoors involving a dome team, and guess what?
No indoor team won, that's what.
Yet when dome teams are home to outdoor opponents, it's a far different story They're 5-1, including Atlanta's defeat of Green Bay in the 2016 NFC championship game.
So for the Vikings and Saints to have a chance to make it to Super Bowl LII (and Minnesota has that hometown jinx it must conquer, too), they have to hope a) they don't lose again and b) the Eagles do. Because if Philadelphia is home where it won 12 of its last 13, including all six this season, the Eagles are going to Minneapolis in February. Simple as that.
- Time to impose a statute of limitations on those Case Keenum-Teddy Bridgewater questions. Keenum is the guy. Period. He earned it, and if you don't believe me rewind the videotape to the second half of Sunday's game. He didn't have one incompletion. Or just rewind the videotape to November. He was the NFC Offensive Player of the Month.
- Call it a reach, but Green Bay as a wildcard is not out of the realm of possibility ... and here's why: The Packers can run, they're playing defense, they draw Cleveland next week and Aaron Rodgers is starting to throw again. Repeat: Aaron Rodgers is throwing again.
- More evidence that it's not just a quarterback's league: Dallas won with Dak Prescott throwing for 102 yards, Green Bay won with Brett Hundley throwing for 84 and New England won without Tom Brady throwing a touchdown pass.
- So that's what Baltimore looks like when Joe Flacco is no ordinary Joe. Scary.
- I wish I could give you a reason to believe in the Chiefs. I can't. Their last three losses were, in order, to Eli Manning, Tyrod Taylor and Josh McCown.
- When is playing at home not an advantage? When it's the Giants at MetLife Stadium next weekend. The crowd will be so hostile -- with Giants' alumni threatening to show up in Eli Manning No. 10 jerseys -- Ben McAdoo might wish he'd been fired.
- Todd Bowles won't get Coach-of-the Year consideration, but he should. He's won five more games than he was supposed to
- Not sure if it was the Colts or those Eli rumors responsible for what we just saw from Blake Bortles ... but Jacksonville has to like it. He never looked better.
- Make this the 15th straight season New England put up 10 or more victories. Only the 1983-98 49ers are better.
- Stop if you heard this before, Bills' fans: Fork, please.
- Draft a quarterback, Denver, or acquire the last Manning standing. But make a change. Enough is enough.
- OK, so Seattle made a statement by beating the best team in the NFC ... even without key components of the Legion of Boom. Now the question: Can the Seahawks make a statement on the road, where they historically struggle? We find out next weekend. They go to Jacksonville.
- I'm putting the Saints' Alvin Kamara at the top of my ballot for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
- Make that three wins without a loss for Jimmy Garoppolo, but that's not what I like most. This is: There's a reason to start watching the 49ers again.
- That might be a pyrrhic victory for Baltimore. The loss of cornerback Jimmy Smith is huge.
- The weak link is New England is supposed to be the defense. And it was, with the key word ... was. Where New England allowed 128 points the first four games this year, or 32 per, it surrendered 95 the past eight, or 11.9 a game.
- One more reason to like the Pats: They're the only team not to lose on the road this season. In fact, they won their last 14 regular-season road games.
- Yo, Marcus Peters: Get ready to write a big check to the league office. Throwing a football into the stands is no big deal; throwing a flag into the stands is.
- Did Greg Gumbel call Philip Rivers "a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback?" We need to talk, Greg.
- At 6-6, Oakland is in a three-way tie for first in the AFC West, but the Raiders are the long shot. Reason: The schedule. Three of their last four games are on the road, and all four are vs. opponents with playoff hopes.
NEW ENGLAND QB TOM BRADY. That's the 15th time in his career he's won 10 or more games in a season, the most by any NFL quarterback.
CHICAGO RB TARIK COHEN. He's the first rookie since Gale Sayers (1965) to score a touchdown on a punt return.
SAN FRANCISCO PK ROBBIE GOULD. He hits five field goals, including the last-second game winner, to beat ... yep, the team that cut him: Chicago, where, it just so happens, he's the franchise's all-time leading scorer.
JACKSONVILLE DE CALAIS CAMPBELL. He just set the Jags' single-season record with his 12-1/2th sack.
INDIANAPOLIS RB FRANK GORE. He's now the NFL's fifth all-time leading rusher, jumping LaDainian Tomlinson and Jerome Bettis. But is he a Hall-of-Famer? You make the call.
BUFFALO QB TYROD TAYLOR. He says his knee is OK, but that's not the issue. This is: Buffalo can't go anywhere with him, and the Bills know it.
KANSAS CITY CB DARRELLE REVIS. Playing for the first time this season, he played poorly in the first half and didn't appear in the second ... because, as coach Andy Reid said, he didn't want to push him. I wouldn't, either, based on what I saw.
CLEVELAND COACH HUE JACKSON. He becomes the first coach in NFL history to lose 27 of his first 28 games with the same team.
PHILADELPHIA COACH DOUG PEDERSON. There was absolutely no reason NOT to appeal that fourth-quarter Russell Wilson lateral.
HOUSTON TEXANS. Bad enough to lose another game. They lost four guys to concussions, too.
DETROIT. The Lions lose. The Silverdome won't go down. Matt Stafford is hurt. What next?
ATLANTA QB MATT RYAN. His streak of 30 games with a touchdown pass just ended. So did a three-game win streak.
SUNDAY'S REPORT CARD
BALTIMORE QB JOE FLACCO. That's the best he ... and the Ravens ... have looked all season. Hard to believe, but it's the first time Flacco has thrown two or more TDs without an inteception since December, 2014.
SEATTLE DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR KRIS RICHARD. No Cliff Avril. No Richard Sherman. No Kam Chancellor. No Legion of Boom. Yet, somehow, he managed to put together a game plan that held the Eagles to a season-low 10 points. Their previous low was 20.
GREEN BAY DE DEAN LOWRY. He sacks the quarterback. He scores a touchdown. He makes a Lambeau Leap.
MINNESOTA'S THIRD-DOWN DEFENSE. Atlanta converted only one of 11 thirds. Looking for a reason to believe in the Vikings? Start here.
CHARGERS WR KEENAN ALLEN. In his last three games, he has 33 receptions for 436 yards and four touchdowns.
CHARGERS' QB PHILIP RIVERS. No, it wasn't his best game of the year. The Thanksgiving defeat of Dallas was. But it was his third consecutive start without an interception and his third consecutive game with a rating of 100 or better.
OAKLAND QB DEREK CARR. He didn't do much, but he did do enough (translation: Not screw up) to win without his best receivers.
GIANTS QB GENO SMITH. As the guy who ended Eli Manning's consecutive start streak, he was in a no-win situation. And that's what he did: Not win. Nevertheless, all things considered, it wasn't a bad game. I know, I know, he lost a fumble in the red zone. But he brought a glimmer of life to a moribund offense that hadn't crossed the goal line in two games.
ATLANTA WR JULIO JONES. One week after he puts up monster numbers (12 catches for 253 yards and two TDs), he does this: Two catches for 24 yards and no scores.
HOUSTON PK KA'IMI FAIRBAIRN. He misses a 48-yard field goal that would've put the Texans up by 6 at the half. Then he shanks a 28-yarder that would've broken a 10-10 tie. Houston, you have another problem.
KANSAS CITY DEFENSE. Not only couldn't it protect a lead vs the Jets; it allowed the most points by a Jets team since 2015 and committed so many stupid penalties on New York's game-winning drive the Jets had seven snaps inside the 5 before cashing in.
HOUSTON LT JEFF ALLEN. Congratulations on the rarest of hat tricks: Illegal-procedure penalties on three successive snaps.
SUNDAY'S HALL OF FAMER
KANSAS CITY QB ALEX SMITH. I know he lost, but so what? It wasn't his fault. He threw for four touchdowns -- or as many as he had the previous four games -- and kept hitting big plays downfield, with seven completions of 20 or more yards. Furthermore, he led the Chiefs in rushing with one carry -- a 70-yard run. In the end, he wound up with 366 yards, a 135.9 passer rating, 70 yards rushing and .... another loss.
SUNDAY'S HALL OF SHAMER
CHIEFS' DEFENSE. Bad enough to surrender 38 to the Jets. But on the game-winning drive it committed four brutal penalties, including a holding call that gave the Jets a first down instead of a field goal. That allowed the Jets to remain on the field until the Chiefs screwed up some more ... and some more ... until they eventually surrendered eight points. Discipline is an issue with these guys, and it has been much of this season. Maybe Andy Reid should start doing the play calling on this side of the ball.