There is a half season of football remaining, but right now the 2016 NFL MVP should be a guy who only has four games under his belt. Tom Brady doesn't yet have the same voluminous statistics of his quarterback counterparts, but on a per-game basis he has been better than anyone else in the NFL during the first four games of his Revenge Tour Against All Who Harmed Him.
Unfortunately Roger Goodell, Ryan Grigson and Ted Wells don't get to actually play football, so Brady is settling for any and all defenses he lines up against.
After cratering Rex Ryan's squad Sunday, Brady is now four games into the season. And his stat line is crisp.
|Player||Comp/Att (%)||Yards||Yards/Att||TD/INT||QB Rating|
No, those are not typos. Brady is 0.2 yards away from averaging a first down every time he throws the ball.
The construct that he might be getting too old to play at a high level is laughable, and there's nothing he's not doing well right now.
Brady has the highest passer rating in the NFL on deep balls (20-plus yards down the field) according to Pro Football Focus, connecting on nine of 15 attempts for 383 yards and four touchdowns.
He's also the highest-rated passer at PFF for quarterbacks under pressure, going 17 of 36 for 300 yards and two touchdowns in 46 dropbacks where he was pressured.
Brady is just dialed in. Watch the pocket presence on this touchdown pass to Danny Amendola. Just utterly unflappable.
Brady is even using his legs to pick up first downs, looking like a spry gazelle (gisele?) out there.
Where things get really interesting is when you start to extrapolate the statistics out across a longer time span. The Pats have their bye in Week 9, so Brady has eight games remaining this season. If he plays the way he has played in these four games over the next eight, here's how Brady will end the season.
|Brady's 12-game pace ||73.1||3,957||9.8||36||0|
Those are pretty great numbers ... for a 16-game season.
Brady won't keep playing like this the rest of the year. Um, right? There's no reason to think he's going to slow down, really. The Patriots are 4-0 since he returned and 4-0 against the spread. Things get a little tougher after the bye -- New England has the Seahawks in Week 10 and gets the Broncos in Week 15. But the 49ers are on the docket and so are the Jets twice.
If you stretched those numbers out to 16 games, he would have 5,276 yards and 48 touchdowns. Those would be better numbers yardage-wise than the Patriots' undefeated regular season in 2007. A decade later and he's still destroying the world.
There have been some very nice players in football this season. Matt Ryan has been great. Matthew Stafford is a different quarterback. Ezekiel Elliott has kept the Cowboys afloat. But no one has taken a good team and turned it into the best team in football -- in a way that isn't even close -- like Brady.
Absence does a lot of things, and in this case it absolutely reminded everyone just how dominant Tom Brady really is. There's no reason for him to be anywhere other than the top of the MVP list as we head into midseason.
Here are more headlines from around Week 8 in the NFL.
1. The Cowboys' conundrum
Even after Dak Prescott marched the Cowboys down the field and threw a tying touchdown to Dez Bryant, I was still firmly in the corner with Dallas starting Tony Romo when he's healthy. I still think it's the play. But Prescott did an incredible job fighting back from a tough night to lead the Cowboys into the end zone for a win in overtime.
His composure in the extra period after a night where he was largely ineffective was beyond impressive. During regulation, Prescott threw a horrible interception in the red zone, with the score tied 10-10 and the Cowboys threatening to get six before the half.
When the Cowboys got in the same spot in the second half, Prescott showed some of his flaws again. He horribly underthrew Bryant when the receiver was wide open in the end zone and Dak simply needed to loft the ball. On the next play he scrambled to his right, tried to buy time and nearly threw a back-breaking interception. If Terrance Williams hadn't wisely committed offensive pass interference, the Eagles get an easy pick.
Later in the game he had Bryant wide open for an easy throw and completely missed him. For three quarters Prescott wasn't very good. Jim Schwartz and the Eagles brought pressure and it made him look like a rookie. He only completed 48 percent of his passes.
But in that overtime period, Prescott stepped up when the pressure got real intense. It was impressive. I still maintain Romo is the extra gear for Dallas -- the Cowboys are a good football team. Not a great one, but a good one. That offensive line plus Ezekiel Elliott makes them dangerous. The defense, which is playing above its head, makes them one of the more consistent teams out there. But they need that extra gear to ramp things up and beat elite defenses and/or score with elite offenses. That's what Romo gives them when he's healthy.
It's hard to imagine Jerry Jones making the move before Week 9 at this stage. It's a perfect spot, with the Browns on tap and whoever plays likely to put up some pretty big numbers. That looked like it could be Romo as we headed into the fourth quarter. But that overtime touchdown pass to Jason Witten probably was probably a little bittersweet for Romo.
The NFL is a week-to-week proposition. The Cowboys are still in a great position because they can allow Romo to get healthy while letting Dak continue to grow as a player.
Sunday was fascinating because for three quarters and change it was so obvious the Cowboys had to go back to Romo. And then it was all yanked away because of Prescott's ability to rise above the pressure and pull a stunning win out at home against a hated division rival.
This storyline isn't going anywhere.
2. Cardinals get hosed
Is it worth your time (or mine) to point out ridiculous examples where referees botched a call in real time and replay? Sure why not. A great example happened to Arizona during the first quarter against Carolina on Sunday afternoon.
The attempted pass was ruled a fumble, Thomas Davis scooped it up and he went sprinting into the end zone because there were no whistles.
You should be able to see that Palmer is pretty clearly making a throw in the direction of Johnson. It won't be a very good throw, but he's just trying to dump the ball off and pick up the first down with a little luck.
Here's an even better angle.
You can, clearly, make an argument that he fumbled the ball. The refs did just that. But Palmer was absolutely, 100 percent attempting to dump the ball off quickly to Johnson.
The announcers on Fox, Sam Rosen and Daryl Johnston, clearly were stunned by what was happening.
Here was Rosen's call of the play:
Palmer being pressured ... and he he shoveled it ahead. And it's picked up ... play is continuing! And it's carried into the end zone! Thomas Davis carries it in, I think the Cardinals thought it was an incomplete pass. Davis picked up the ball and ran it into the end zone.
And here's Johnston explaining the obvious:
Star Lotulelei gets the hit on Carson Palmer. Is that going to be considered a forward pass and incomplete or a fumble? Davis scoops and scores -- it sure looks like Carson Palmer kind of directed that ball out and it didn't come free on its own.
Maybe the refs couldn't find any conclusive evidence to overturn the call. Bruce Arians wasn't pleased regardless of how it shook out.
Arians says he won't comment on the "forward pass that was a touchdown"— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) October 30, 2016
The bottom line is Arizona got badly hosed and put behind the eight ball immediately out of the gate against Carolina.
Football is never going to be perfect, but week in and week out we see situations like this where there's some issue that should be obviously solved and somehow gets botched in the opposite direction.
3. Speaking of officials ...
There are a lot of players getting pretty sick about what has been going down in various games this year. Week 8 should be remembered as the NFL's "get right" week -- there were a ton of good games throughout the entire day. The Redskins-Bengals tie in London was fun, both afternoon games were outstanding, and the Eagles-Cowboys game was a roller coaster.
But the underlying theme to the day was people complaining about the officials. They weren't great in the first place (see: above), but it wasn't just the Cardinals who were upset.
Josh Norman just getting warmed up: "Who is Official 88? He sucked. He should be reprimanded." That would be field judge Brad Freeman.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) October 30, 2016
When she wasn't busy shattering the life of a local Kansas City weatherman, Elizabeth Smith (wife of Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith) was also miffed at the officials.
How many hits does he have to take before a flag is thrown. Funny when some QB's gets tapped flags go flying.— Elizabeth Smith (@lizbsmith11) October 30, 2016
These past two weeks have opened my eyes.— Elizabeth Smith (@lizbsmith11) October 30, 2016
She believes her hubs took too many shots in the early going of the Chiefs-Colts game and has been getting unfairly treated over the past two weeks. Part of that could be Smith's ability to run as a quarterback. Officials are struggling with how to handle some of these guys right now.
Just ask Cam Newton. Or don't ask him -- he'll flat-out tell you he's sick and tired of the treatment he has been getting from officials. Following the win over Arizona, which featured Newton taking a low hit that went unflagged, Cam said he was going to hit up the commish and let him know he doesn't feel safe on the field.
Mike Florio reported on NBC on Sunday night that the number of hits missed on Newton is actually lower than a lot of quarterbacks, per the league's calculations. It's hard to believe considering how many obvious hits officials missed in the first week of the season, but maybe it's just a case of wholesale issues across the league.
They don't seem to have trouble finding people who celebrate after touchdowns, though, so at least we're really focusing on the important things.
4. The return of Rodgers
Turns out the best quarterback in football isn't quite dead yet. The Packers didn't win Sunday against the Falcons in Atlanta, but they did provide a highly entertaining game that came down to the wire. And, more important, they appeared to find some life in their struggling quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
Every week has been a referendum on Rodgers' season and career, but this week should provide hope for Green Bay getting the offense going.
He and Matt Ryan were swapping laser beams all afternoon.
Part of the strong day is on the Falcons defense. They sacked Rodgers three times but weren't stopping the Packers from matriculating the ball through the air.
There's also one more concerning factor here: Rodgers was the top runner on his team Sunday, rushing six times for 60 yards. Aaron Ripowski was second with six carries for 34 yards. The running game in Green Bay doesn't exist, and it might not come back this year.
Green Bay's going to go spread-offense heavy all year barring Eddie Lacy being able to return or Don Jackson/Knile Davis emerging as a viable option.
5. Cleveland's becoming Title Town but the Browns are still Brownsing
GPODAWUND! God bless you, Cleveland sports fans, for the deal you signed with Satan. You got an NBA title, you might get an MLB championship and your football team is going to go winless. The Cavs and Indians might win more titles than the Browns win games this year.
6. Raiders celebrate Flag Day in Tampa
The Raiders set a record for most penalties in a single game in NFL history. Someone needs to put a supercut together of all 23 penalties and 200 yards total for the Raiders.
Full breakdown of the Raiders' record 23 penalties (they also had 3 declined and 1 offset) pic.twitter.com/BahyvQIJI6— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) October 30, 2016
And they still managed to win, thanks to old BlackJack Del Rio going for it on fourth down late, having Derek Carr throw an OT touchdown pass (and topping the 500-yard marker). They're the most exciting team in football right now. Not the best, just the most exciting.
7. Throw it to the big guy
Gerald McCoy texted Donald Penn last night, "You better not be trying to score no touchdown."— Jimmy Durkin (@Jimmy_Durkin) October 30, 2016
Penn, a former Buccaneers offensive lineman, got revenge on the team that cut him by catching his fourth touchdown pass.
The man has some soft hands.