Before we get to the games, a follow-up to last week’s point. Magary:
I know Matt Ryan had his best season as a pro, but anyone voting him for MVP over Brady or Rodgers is doing it just because they’re bored of Brady and Rodgers. It’s like when Derrick Rose won it in the NBA. I’ve seen Matt Ryan when Julio Jones isn’t around. JULIO IS DA REAL MVP. Anyone voting for Ryan will immediately regret it when the Falcons pull a Falcons next week.
The phenomenon Magary describes here — great players getting screwed out of MVP awards because reporters wan to vote for a shiny new toy — is real enough (cf. also Mantle and Mays.) But the application here is completely wrong. Indeed, the anti-Ryan backlash is basically the opposite. It’s an argument that QBs having worse seasons than Ryan should be rewarded with the 2016 MVP because of their superior body of work, like Paul Newman winning best actor for The Color of Money.
Look, it’s not complicated. Pick your metric — NFL Rating, DVOA, QBR — Ryan is #1. Did he do this against a weak schedule? Nope. He beat Denver, he was an egregious missed DPI call away from beating Seattle at CenturyLink from behind, he put up 38 points against Arizona (still an excellent pass defense despite the off year), and he put up 48 points against a still above-average Carolina defense. Brady was much less effective against Denver — although they won anyway, was good against Baltimore, and that concludes Tom Brady wins against good teams in 2016. If Rodgers had played all year the way he did in his 7 games he’d be the MVP, but he didn’t. As for the Jones argument, it’s silly, starting with the fact that he put up 83 points in the 2 games Jones didn’t play. Sure, Jones is a great receiver. So is A.J. Green, and I don’t notice Andy Dalton winning any MVP awards. Mike Evans is a great receiver and Winston ditto. Odell Beckham is a tremendous receiver and Eli was below average. DeAndre Hopkins is an excellent receiver and Brock Osweiler had a season Tim Tebow wouldn’t sign for. (And if Jones is the reason Ryan was this great, why isn’t Ryan this great every year?) And it’s not like Brady and Rodgers don’t have weapons. Jordy Nelson, in particular, is massively underrated, possibly as a backlash against the tendency to overrate Scrappy White Guys. I also not sure why we should assume that Ryan won’t win the playoffs — we’ll get to this, but if you want to bet on Seattle against Atlanta next week should it happen, I’ll happily book your action — or for that matter why we should assume noted playoff mortal lock Rodgers will. If the Giants win tomorrow — certainly possible! — is Eli the MVP then? Brady is better than Ryan because we’re pretty confident the Patriots will beat Conor Cook or Brock Osweiler? Although at least Magary didn’t give the credit for Ryan’s performance to Kyle Shanahan, the extraordinary offensive SUPERGENIUS guaranteed to get an MVP performance out of any QB behind the 2014 Cleveland Browns and 2013 Washington Redskins, which amazingly is also an argument I’ve seen.
Brady and Rodgers are immortal players, and Ryan is not. But Ryan was the best player in the NFL regular season in 2016. He had a great year and he deserves the award. On to the games:
HOUSTON (-4) over Oakland People attending the NYC meetup can at lest rest assured they’re not missing anything. It’s sad that we won’t see Carr in the playoffs, and instead are stuck with the worst regular QB in the NFL against a first-time starter who completed 56% of his passes against Big 10 competition last year. (I guess shattering any previous standard for bad QB matchups is its own kind of history.) What we’re left with is that the Texans have a significantly better defense and they’re at home. But let’s forget this game ever existed.
SEATTLE (-8 1/2) over Detroit If I asked the big fans here who had the worst DVOA among playoff teams I’m guessing most of you would say “Houston,” is correct but barely — they check in at 29 while the Lions are at 27. Of course, this doesn’t account for the finger injury which has made Stafford demonstrably worse. Combine that with a defense substantially worse than Cleveland’s, and…yikes. I think Seattle’s already slim chances of a second Super Bowl this year when Thomas got hurt, and between that and Tom Cable’s spiciest offensive line meatball yet I think Seattle will get clobbered as soon as they go on the road this postseason. But they got the right matchup in round 1.
PITTSBURGH (-10 1/2) over Miami I was a skeptic of the Adam Gase hire before the year, and…not wanting to be stubborn, but let’s remember that Todd Bowles looked like a really good hire after year 1 too. The Dolphins are a mediocre team with a negative point differential that one enough close games against a weak schedule to get into the playoffs, but we’ll see what happens next year. Plus his selling point was as a QB guru, but Tannehill was his usual below-average self. Admittedly, there’s a silver lining for Miami fans — while normally losing your starting QB is a disaster, Moore might well be an improvement. But I still have a hard time seeing them being competitive against the Steelers, who have an outstanding offense, and underrated defense, and are one of the 3 actual potential Super Bowl teams in the conference.
GIANTS (+5 1/2) over Green Bay Finally, a decent game! One thing I definitely did miss the boat on was…well, pretty much everything about the NFL East, but especially Steve Spagnolo. Given some talent to work with for the first time in a while, whaddya know he put the second-best defense on the league on the field. Reese deserves a lot of credit too, of course, but I certainly wouldn’t have expected Veron, Snacks et al. to lead to this magnitude of improvement. On the other hand, Eli was pretty bad given the weapons he had to work with, and Rodgers had been great after an uneven first half. Still, the Giants defense is for real, and I like their chances of containing Green Bay enough to at least cover. Plus, while McAdoo is unproven as a big game coach, that’s an improvement over McCarthy, who is.