What's My Name?
I am a rookie quarterback with 21 touchdown passes (the third-most ever by a rookie, with two weeks left), I am completing 62.9 percent of my passes (second-highest among rookie quarterbacks), I have only nine interceptions (second-fewest amongst qualified rookies), my quarterback rating is 95.5 (ninth-highest among all quarterbacks) and I'm averaging 7.6 yards per attempt (the same number as Aaron Rodgers).
I am 3-1 against current playoff teams, and I have nine wins. Who am I? I am Russell Wilson and you are not considering me for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
OK, I'm not Russell Wilson, but there's still a good chance you're ignoring him as a possible winner for ROY honors based solely on the fact that you've been informed it's a two-horse race between Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.
They're both very good, but Wilson deserves consideration for the award and if he leads the Seahawks to 11 wins this year, he damn well might be the guy who should win.
The knocks on Wilson are the following: he has a good defense, he has a good running game, the Seahawks don't ask him to do all that much, and he's too short. Whoops, sorry. Left that last one on there out of habit.
But the other complaints about Wilson aren't even legit. He's penalized because he has a good defense? Everyone should realize that having a good defense equates to lower statistical output. I love Andrew Luck, but the reason why he's fourth in the NFL in passing attempts per game at 40.3 is because the Colts stink at running the ball and frequently find themselves in big holes or late-game deficits. That isn't Wilson's fault.
Marshawn Lynch is a monster, but someone should probably, at some point, note that RG3 is getting a little help from Alfred Morris, who's less than 100 yards back of Lynch in total rushing yards. Why is Wilson's running attack a negative thing for him while Griffin's is unmentioned?
The "game manager" theory is bogus too -- Griffin isn't penalized because he throws an unholy amount of horizontal passes, and putting a guy in position to maximize his accuracy and capitalize on big gains off short passes from his receivers isn't any different than limiting what you do on offense.
Another thing people ignore with respect to the Wilson/Luck/Griffin discussion is weapons. Wilson's throwing to Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin. Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne would be immediate and tremendous upgrades for the Seahawks. So would T.Y. Hilton and Donnie Avery.
And while the word "value" gets tossed around with "MVP," it's really only fair to attach it to the ROY award too, right? Right. Wilson was fifth -- in the entire NFL -- in Defense Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) at Football Outsiders prior to Week 15. His three rushing scores (oh my gawd did the Seahawks just bust out the read-option offense now?) and passing touchdown should boost him up a little bit.
What of Kirk Cousins stepping in for RG3 and winning a crunch-time game for the Redskins? If the whole idea is "let's replace Quarterback X with Average Bro of the Street," Cousins kind of shot RG3's candidacy in the foot. No one will talk about this, because you can't just "replace Robert Griffin," but it's kind of true.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks are peaking at the same time that Wilson is starting to hit his stride and these two things are not a coincidence. Please do not be blinded by the predetermined narrative involving Rookie of the Year. Any and all of the three quarterbacks are worthy choices. But I believe Russell Wilson's been the most complete rookie in the NFL this season. And you shouldn't have to hide a similar opinion just because no one wants to talk about it.
All Freaking Day
We don't often get to see an otherworldly performance from an athlete over the course of the season. We are seeing one now with Adrian Peterson though, as AP is playing the running back equivalent on a Michael Jordan level. The Vikings have no passing attack, teams are gearing up to stop AP and there is nothing they can do. He is obliterating them and there is no one close to his abilities at his position right now.
After piling up Peterson has 1,812, the fourth-highest rushing total in NFL history through 14 games. You might assume that Eric Dickerson, who rushed for an NFL-record 2,105 yards in 1984, is on the list. You would be wrong: Dickerson had 1,792 rushing yards in his first 14 games that year and exploded for 215 in Week 15 before finishing with 98 in the season finale.
Peterson is ahead of Dickerson and is doing it much more efficiently -- AP averages 6.3 yards a carry and has his 1,812 yards on just 289 carries. Dickerson hit 1,792 on 326 carries and finished the season with 379.
But more importantly, the Vikings have eight wins now. They face two (more) superior teams down the stretch, going against Houston and Green Bay. If they finish with nine or 10 wins this year, it will be because of Peterson, who is averaging 172.8 yards over his last six games.
I went on and on about the inherent nature of "value" for a football player on Friday (you can read it here) and talked to John Elway about the inherent nature of quarterbacks value outweighing other players. It's true. Quarterbacks are more valuable than anyone else; it's been this way for a while and it will probably be this way forever.
But if Peterson rips off 294 rushing yards over the next two games, how can we give the MVP to anyone else? Peterson would have produced the greatest rushing season in NFL history despite the fact that a) he's coming off a surgically repaired leg which he injured less than a year ago, and b) the NFL is so pass heavy these days that it's borderline impossible to pull off this kind of year.
Peterson's doing it anyway, he's putting the Vikings on his back and if he takes them to the playoffs, he deserves to be MVP.
Speaking of Records ...
How crazy would it be if the single-season rushing record and the single-season receiving-yards record fell in the same season? Calvin Johnson, who needs to average just over 90 yards a game in the final two games to beat Jerry Rice's landmark after picking up another 121 receiving yards on Sunday, has a much better shot of making history than Peterson.
So will it be awkward when Megatron breaks that record after Matthew Stafford destroys the single-season record for passing attempts?
Because Stafford is on pace to do just that. After attempting 663 in 2011, Stafford already has the third-most passing attempts in a season locked down. And through 14 games, he's got 629, putting him on pace for 718.86 over the course of the year.
Drew Bledsoe currently holds the record with 691; there's almost no chance that Stafford attempts less than 62 passes the rest of the season, especially with the Lions openly trying to get Johnson the record.
It's not Johnson's fault his team stinks, can't stop anyone and ends up slinging the ball from behind late every game. It's just a little weird that he's going to break a historical record when his quarterback attempts more than 700 passes. Steve Young, for the record, attempted 447 passes in 1995 when Rice set his receiving record.
Mea Culpa on Kirk Cousins
The rumors about what the Redskins could get for Kirk Cousins is crazy -- he's suddenly worth a high second-round pick? Get out of here. If someone gives up a second-round pick for Cousins this offseason instead of actually using a third-round pick for him LAST offseason, well, that team doesn't deserve to be deciding on who's at charge for them in terms of quarterbacking.
But I digress. The point here is to note that when the Redskins took Cousins, I killed the pick. And it's looking like I was wrong. I still think investing two picks in one draft on quarterbacks is silly. But the Redskins were able to get Cousins ready enough to play as a rookie, and he won a monster game for them on Sunday.
Could Rex Grossman have won that game? Maybe. I dunno -- Cousins was pretty good against Cleveland. And winning that game wasn't some random
Appreciating Wes Welker
The Patriots didn't win on Sunday night, but Wes Welker, the most perennially underrated wideout in the NFL, accomplished something no one has ever done before: five consecutive seasons of 100 catches or more.
People dismiss Welker because a) he plays with Tom Brady, b) the Patriots are always getting railed on for the "system," and c) he's short.
But NO ONE HAS EVER DONE WHAT HE DID. It's not like he has got 100 catches for 100 yards each season either; Welker puts up monster numbers every single year. He's a stud.
And it's a shame that what he does gets lost in the mythos that is the New England Patriots. Appreciate the dude of his skills. People can wax on about Danny Amendola all they want and it's much easier to replicate Welker than it is Calvin Johnson, but it's not like there's a tree full of Welkers growing somewhere.
Guy is a beast.
Falcons Statement Game
Because a week of NFL action takes place in roughly seven hours and because there about 70 hours to examine what happen, we put a ton of emphasis on week-to-week results. This is dumb, but it happens anyway.
Atlanta reminded us why it's dumb on Sunday, when they throttle-jobbed the Giants at the Georgia Dome 34-0. The Falcons were written off as a playoff contender despite being 11-2, primarily because they hadn't beaten anyone that convincingly.
Well, scratch that. We talk about teams getting hot at the right time, and this is why you don't want to write off the Falcons: they can get hot. They have Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White to generate an incredibly dynamic passing attack. Michael Turner's a bit run down, but he and Jacquizz Rodgers can still run the ball. John Abraham gets after opposing quarterbacks.
They're not some plodding offense that fails to stop impressive offenses. "Getting hot" isn't about getting to 11-2 and having people question you. It's about coming on strong late, burying teams you're not supposed to beat (according to the "experts") and using that momentum to keep it going in the playoffs.
Atlanta is starting to do that and they made a monster statement on Sunday by paddling the Giants.
Joe Flacco/Cam Cameron/Jim Caldwell
If you're going to fire your offensive coordinator when your team is 9-4, you should probably make sure whoever's taking over doesn't plan on doing the exact same things the guy you fired did.
Because as far as I can tell, Jim Caldwell's not that big an improvement over Cam Cameron. Caldwell's never called plays for an NFL team and he has a history of handling an offense that was dynamic ... when Peyton Manning was under center.
I get moving on from Cameron. He misused Ray Rice on a consistent basis and didn't spread the field enough. Two-wideout sets don't get it done in today's NFL. But what's Caldwell doing different? Are we giving him a pass based on one game?
The Ravens were in a bad spot early on with the Broncos jumping out to a 17-0 lead. But Joe Flacco fumbled on a sneak (again: Ray Rice) and attempted a horrible pass just before the half that resulted in a pick six.
It's not like the Ravens offense wasn't at fault for the score when this game got out of hand; any success they had came after Denver had, essentially, won the game. The dismissal of Cameron will probably work out in the long haul, but it's highly questionable whether the short-term upgrade will end up being an upgrade at all.
Because their offense is a weird mish-mash of players (a rookie quarterback, an underrated running back, no talent at wide receiver), no one views the Seahawks as "dangerous" offensively. But they just became the first team to hang 50 on back-to-back teams since 1950.
Yes, it was the Cardinals and Bills and those two teams stink. But in case you haven't been paying attention, the Seahawks are morphing into exactly the type of team people are supposed to fear this time of year.
They're blowing out bad teams and their five losses are by a combine 24 points; that's less than five points a game. They can run the ball as well as anyone in the NFL. They are explosive on offense now that they've taken the reins off of Russell Wilson. As long as Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are both on the field, they have one of the two best cornerback duos -- and definitely the best overall secondary -- in the NFL. And their pass rushers are destructive.
Even before Week 15's destruction of Buffalo, a game in which they scored through the air, on the ground, with the read option and with their defense, they were the second-best team in the league in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric. They might even pass the Patriots after Week 15, but they're definitely going to have a top-five point differential heading into a showdown with San Francisco in Week 16.
With two home games remaining, 10-6 looks like the basement for Seattle. The ceiling is a No. 2 seed and possibly playing all their playoff games at home. Things are shaping up for the Seahawks to make some serious noise in the postseason. Don't be foolish enough to disregard the Seahawks just because they don't fit with your idea of "elite." They are.
Eagles Matter, After All
Philadelphia's been terrible this year and their seven-minute stinkfest against the Bengals on Thursday was the stuff of legends. But here's something fun: Andy Reid and the Eagles hold the key to the NFC East.
Reid's team hasn't given up, even if they're creeping closer to the No. 1 overall pick than anyone could've ever imagined. And in the final two weeks, Nick Foles & Co. play the Redskins and Giants.
A win -- and dare we say two wins? -- would totally disrupt what goes down in that division. Washington currently leads the NFC East based on head-to-head record. The Cowboys are next, followed by the Giants, who are behind the Cowboys based on division record. So, yeah, those two games against the Eagles are going to be fairly important.
Vegas and logic would highly disagree, but I bet they find a way to sneak out one of them.
Ron Rivera's Cool Pants
Remember last week, when I pointed to the recent hot run for the Panthers? Yeah, that roll isn't slowing right now. Cam Newton was excellent again and Carolina's staring down a scenario where they beat the Raiders, beat the Saints and finish 7-9.
How did we get here? It's really hard to fathom, but it's also possible Ron Rivera could end up saving his job as a result.
I don't think he does. A new general manager, a horrible record in close games and flopping under heavy expectations in 2012 all bode very poorly for Rivera. But improving his the Panthers win total from 2 to 6 to 7 and having them end the season on a big winning streak could go a long way toward saving his job.
The Bad Side of Brandon Marshall
The awesome thing about having Brandon Marshall on the Bears is that he's the first true No. 1 receiving option in Bears history. The bad thing about having Brandon Marshall on the Bears is, well ...
See, Marshall's not calling out Lovie Smith on purpose, but he's kind of doing it anyway. Marshall's a passionate, honest dude and he's a great football player. But the Bears are in a freefall right now, and there doesn't seem to be any stability on the team to right the ship. Which is what made his tweet during the Patriots comeback (that ultimately fell short) on Sunday night particularly awkward:
Wow. The attitude this New England team especially the offensive leaders SCREAM out CHAMPIONS.— Brandon Marshall (@BMarshall) December 17, 2012
It's been a precipitous fall for Chicago, who was 7-1 a week into November. It'll be very interesting to see how the Bears, in their organizational totality, handle this if things keep going south.
GIF O' THE WEEK
Man I really hope this old guy is OK. Danny Amendola is such a jerk. But the Internet kind of was invented in order to create slow-moving, repetative shots of old guys getting footballs spiked into their faces right?
WORTH 1,000 WORDS