Judgements Nine: Time to start pushing Drew Brees for MVP
Most midseason All-Pro teams have one of two players as league MVPs -- Patrick Mahomes and Todd Gurley -- and that makes sense. One has more touchdown passes than anyone, the other has more touchdowns, period, than anyone … and both play on teams that lost just once.
But where's Drew Brees?
You heard me. Drew. Brees. All the guy's done is complete an NFL-best 76 percent of his passes, lead the league in passer rating, throw one interception all year, win seven straight games, put the Saints on top of the NFC South and ... drum roll, please … just knock off the only unbeaten team out there -- Gurley's Los Angeles Rams.
Yet Brees is almost never mentioned, and I don't get it. The guy's never been a regular-season MVP, despite putting the Saints on the map, leading them to their only Super Bowl (and Super Bowl victory) and setting a zillion career records.
But now, maybe, just maybe, that four-touchdown performance in Sunday's 45-35 beatdown of the Rams wakes up voters to Brees and what the Saints are doing. Because imagine what New Orleans would be without him. On second thought, don't. We already know.
They were the Aints.
Now they're the best team in the NFC, and, yes, it all begins where it's always begun -- with Drew Brees. So next time someone asks you about a league MVP, do yourself a favor: Don't go to sleep on Brees. Because he deserves more.
CLOCK TICKING ON RAVENS, HARBAUGH
There are signature wins, and now we may have a signature loss. Because there is no way of overstating the significance of Baltimore's latest defeat.
Not only did it all but end the Ravens' chances of winning a division they led last month; but it put the futures of coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco in jeopardy. Both are on the clock, and don't take it from me. Listen to the boos that followed them into the locker room following their third straight loss and fourth in five weeks.
Baltimore is 4-5 and third in the AFC North. Worse, they're 1-3 in the division, and, yeah, I know Harbaugh signed a one-year extension through 2019. But he's 44-45 since winning Super Bowl XLVIII, missing the playoffs four of the past five seasons, and in enough trouble that part of Sunday's post-game news conference was devoted to his job security.
"I've never been somebody that worried about a job," Harbaugh said.
Maybe he should start. Because this isn't good.
And Flacco? Management was sufficiently concerned about him that it exercised a first-round draft pick on another quarterback -- Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson -- and he's the guy Flacco missed with a third-down pass when he was wide open in the end zone Sunday. The Ravens are using Jackson more and more … in a variety of roles … and if the season continues to go south, they'll use him at quarterback.
And once he goes in, he's not coming out.
- The Saints are the best team in the NFC, but I'll be honest: I'm not sure they wind up the best team in their division. That's because Carolina quietly is piling up victories, and the Panthers play defense better … much better … than New Orleans.
- Steelers' safety Sean Davis was right. The Steelers aren't "the same guys" who lost to Baltimore in Week Four. So how much better are they? I'm not sure, but I know when we find out: Thursday, when the Steelers play Carolina.
- The Chargers' five-game winning streak is their first since 2014, but get ready for more. Their next three games are, in order, vs. Oakland (1-7), Denver (3-6) and Arizona (2-6).
- So much for that retooled Rams' defense. The Saints put up more points in the first half (35) on L.A. than any of its eight previous opponents did, period.
- Say goodnight to Denver and coach Vance Joseph. When you're 8-17 as a head coach, you can't make gaffes like the one Joseph committed at the end of the first half and expect to survive. Rewind the videotape, and it's fourth-and-9 from the Houston 44 … WITH 22 SECONDS LEFT … when The Vance decides to try a 62-yard field goal. But Brandon McManus misses, the Texans get the ball … and next thing you know it's the Texans hitting a last-second field goal from 46 yards -- a six-point swing that, in a game decided by two points, is hard to overlook. But The Vance wasn't finished. Denver still could've won had the Broncos not fiddled around at the end of the game to set up a 51-yarder … that, of course, McManus missed. Afterward, Joseph took the blame for a crushing loss. And he should have. The Broncos aren't going anywhere, but Joseph will be … after the season.
- One thing I don't understand about that Jermaine Whitehead ejection. If you're called for throwing a punch, don't you have to actually … you know … throw a punch?
- You gotta feel for the Seahawks' Russell Wilson. For the second straight year, he's a one-man band … but now there's no Legion of Boom. So the Seahawks lose where they almost never did -- at home -- and Wilson's heroics go unrecognized.
- No surprise that it's Bill Belichick who found the running back in wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. After all, he's the guy who tried wide receiver Troy Brown at defensive back … and linebacker Mike Vrabel at tight end … and wide receiver Julian Edelman at cornerback … and defensive back Kyle Arrington at defensive end and ...
- Anyone who spots Miami safety Reshad Jones, please contact Adam Gase. Jones reportedly pulled himself out of Sunday's game and wasn't in the locker room afterward. "If he doesn't want to play for us, (bleep) it," a Dolphins' source told Hall-of-Fame voter Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Or just send him to Buffalo.
- Chicago sat Khalil Mack the past two weeks, and not only went 2-0 but had a +46-point differential.
- The Chargers just missed another kick. Drink.
- I just saw a graphic that's hard to fathom: Chargers' kicker Caleb Sturgis is 9 of 15 on extra points. Ooops, drink.
- Dirk Koetter, call me. I know a realtor in Tampa who can help you.
- NBC's Rodney Harrison says he thinks the Chargers are a better team than Kansas City, but I don't … and here's why: Because the Chiefs have their number. Kansas City won the last nine times -- including this year's season opener in L.A.
- Look at it this way, Bills' fans: That's the first time in four career starts Nathan Peterman made it to the fourth quarter. Consider that progress.
- Derek Carr says he's in it for "the long haul" in Oakland, and that's great. Except there is no long haul in Oakland.
- Nobody needed the week off more than Eli Manning. The poor guy's been sacked 31 times in eight games … more than his entire total a year ago and more than 11 of his 13 seasons as a full-time starter.
- ICYMI, the Patriots are 2-0 in games without Rob Gronkowski this season, scoring a total of 69 points … or 34.5 per … and put up more points Sunday (31) than the rest of the AFC East combined (28).
- Did the Jets' Kelvin Beachum really say "the playoffs are not out of reach?" You just lost to Miami for the second time, Kelvin.
- James Conner is the first Steelers' player ever to produce 10 TDs through the first eight games … and those 10 scores are one less than Le'Veon Bell had in any of his five NFL seasons. Just sayin.'Maybe that's why Mike Tomlin said, "We need volunteers, not hostages" after beating Baltimore. Wow.
- There are learning curves, and then there's this: Rookie Sam Darnold's passer rating over his last three games is 43.3.
- I don't care who comes out of the NFC East in January. It doesn't matter.
- Let's hear it for the New Orleans offensive line. Brees not only wasn't sacked Sunday; he was hit only four times ... and this against a pass rush anchored by the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
- Biggest difference in Cam Newton: Offensive coordinator Norv Turner. He swore Newton's completion percentage would improve, and it has. It's nearly ten points higher this season than it was last.
- Can only imagine the job offers Gregg Williams gets this week.
FIVE THINGS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED
1. Frank Gore just passed Barry Sanders as the sixth all-time leader in scrimmage yards, and he's close enough to fifth-place finisher LaDainian Tomlinson (18,456) that he may catch him by season's end.
2. The Buffalo Bills have three offensive touchdowns over their last six games.
3. Houston just joined the New York Giants as the only teams since 1970 to start 0-3, then run off six straight wins.
4. James Conner is only the second player in Steelers' history to eclipse 1,000 yards from scrimmage through the first eight games. The other is Le'Veon Bell in 2014.
5. Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes is the only player in league history with 3,000-plus passing yards in his first 10 career starts.
THE SUNDAY OMG
The Baltimore Ravens have gone 19 straight quarters and an overtime without forcing a turnover.
SUNDAY'S GOLD JACKET QUOTE
"We will determine our own fate." -- Baltimore coach John Harbaugh.
With this the first runner-up ...
"I'm very frustrated. Our fans deserve better, and I understand their level of frustration." -- Buffalo coach Sean McDermott.
SUNDAY'S BIGGEST WINNER
NEW ORLEANS. The Saints knocked off the previously unbeaten Rams and gained the early … and I mean EARLY … inside track on the Rams for homefield advantage in the playoffs. I know, I know, it's way too early to start talking about the postseason … except it's not, not with these two. The Rams will circle the bases in the NFC West, and the Saints … well, the road to the top of the NFC South is more treacherous, with speed bumps in Carolina and Atlanta. Nevertheless, the Saints just demonstrated they're as good as … or better than … anyone out there, and that's huge -- especially when you consider the importance of dome teams playing at home in January.
SUNDAY'S BIGGEST LOSER
SEATTLE FANS. Their Seahawks lose to the Chargers … at home no less … and the MLS Sounders lose to Portland, 2-1, in the first of two playoff games.