Monday, December 29, 2008

Other Thoughts on this NFL season

Some other thoughts on this just completed NFL season.

# I can't think of a season that had as many compelling week 17 matchups. Nor can I think of a season that had as few compelling first round playoff matchups. It's made for some interesting football, but as a whole, I think it's all related to how the quality of play was significantly down this year. As I mentioned mid-season, the classes of the AFC and NFC, Tennessee and the Giants, aren't all that intimidating and don't match up particularly well with the elite teams of years past. I'd even find it hard to argue that the Giants, the favorite to repeat, are better this year than last minus Plaxico, Strahan, and Osi Umenyiora. But to judge the league this year, most telling are not the league's elite, but the league's doormats. The Lions, losers of all 16 games, were only blown out 6 times in any meaningful sense of the word. In those other 10 losses they were within a touchdown at a meanigful point in the second half. The blowouts included games againast the 6-10 Packers, the 5-11 Jaguars, the 9-7 Bears, the 7-9 49ers, and the 8-8 Saints, all teams that failed to make the playoffs, while the Lions played close games againast the playoff Vikings (twice), Colts, and Panthers.

Just look through the schedules of the league's other doormats this year- Kansas City, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Oakland- and you'll see more close games and wins againast good teams and more bad losses to mediocre teams and teams with loosing records. Ordinarily, you'd call this parity, but unlike the years where there are gluts of teams at 7-9, 8-8, and 9-7, this season there were teams with records all over the spectrum. This is about inconsistency, from every team in the league, from top to bottom.

# Who's the league's MVP? We had an interesting discussion amongst my friends yesterday about this question and I'd like to throw out five names for consideration.

1- Peyton Manning, 4,002 yards, 27 TD's, led team to 9 straight wins and a 12-4 record

2- Adrian Peterson, 1,760 yards rushing, 10 TD's

3- Phillip Rivers, 4,009 yards passing, 34 TD's, somehow got that Charger team to the playoffs

4- Michael Turner, 1,699 yards, 17 TD's

5- D'Angelo Williams, 1,515 yards, 20 total TD's

6- Drew Brees, 5,069 yards passing, 34 TD's, despite losing some of his best offensive weapons

I have trouble finding the case for any of these guys to be convincing. I like Peyton, continuing to win, despite the drop off in talent around him, but statistically, this was his lowest passer rating and the fewest touchdowns he's thrown since 2002. Peterson, the league's rushing leader, also seems like a good pick, but he had only 10 TD's and looking back on his schedule, there are only one or two games where he really carried the Vikings to victory. I threw Rivers into the discussion because of his stats, but I'm not sure anyone thinks of him as MVP material. Turner is worthy of consideration, but we probably wouldn't be talking about him if it weren't for Matt Ryan. Williams is a guy who'll probably get overlooked, but he had some huge games this year. And finally, there's Brees, who's Saints failed to score under twenty points only once this season. I actually like Brees as a dark horse candidate, if only because I can both look at his numbers and say that they really do look like MVP numbers and look at his team and say where would they be without him.


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