NFL: Week Fifteen, 2008

Debating those MVP QB's

by Rick Rockwell

Some folks love the intricacies of football because it is such a team sport. Unlike basketball or hockey, one superstar player cannot raise a team to the playoff level. But if there is one position that’s more important than any other, it’s quarterback. Teams rise or fall at this position.

Just look at the lowly Detroit Lions as an example. They haven’t won a game all year, and part of the reason is inconsistency at quarterback where the Lions have used at least four different quarterbacks. Currently, Daunte Culpepper, who didn’t even begin the year with the Lions but has been starting, looks to be out with a shoulder injury. And that could mean the Lions are headed to the first 0-16 season ever.

Or look at the difference between last year’s New England Patriots and this year’s group. Tom Brady healthy: the team wins every game except the Super Bowl. Tom Brady injured: the team is fighting with the Dolphins and Jets for a division title and now everyone wants to talk about how old and creaky the Patriots have become. (Note: nary a mention of this last year. Could the team have aged so much in just a year?)

A team can win a Super Bowl with a good quarterback, someone who is not a Hall of Famer. See Trent Dilfer, for an example, when he led the Baltimore Ravens to the championship in 2001. A great quarterback like Brady can raise the level of play of everyone around him.

Which brings us to the discussion of this year’s group of top flight quarterbacks. Much of that attention is centered in the National Football Conference (NFC), where both Kurt Warner (Arizona Cardinals) and Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints) can’t seem to be mentioned by announcers or pundits without the acronym MVP attached. Part of the reason both are so highly regarded is they are both within striking distance of passing for 5,000 yards and possibly surpassing Dan Marino’s record of passing yards in a season. It doesn’t hurt that both are also ranked among the top five quarterbacks in the league when it comes to their efficiency rating. (Philip Rivers of the Chargers, Tony Romo of the Cowboys, and Jeff Garcia of the Buccaneers round out that group.)

Will either Warner or Brees beat Marino? Well, ESPN which likes to track not only statistics but also project statistics says it's more likely for Brees, but he’ll probably fall short. Marino’s record is 5,084 passing yards, and Brees has 4,100 yards with three games left in the season.

Really, the more important statistic is which quarterback can get his team into the post-season and then win there. Warner has the better track record as a quarterback who won his Super Bowl ring when he played for the Rams. (Ironically, the Cardinals locked up a playoff berth last weekend by beating Warner’s old team. Even the usually bland Warner found that amusing.) The Saints and Brees have been all the way to the NFC championship game two years ago, something that gets a 2008 reprise tomorrow (Dec. 11) in Chicago. But this season, the Saints will be very lucky if they earn their way to the big dance.

Even with Warner at the helm, the Cardinals are not a great team: good enough to get into the playoffs but not likely to get past powerhouses like the New York Giants or one of those blitzing defensive teams from the NFC South like the Carolina Panthers or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Still Warner and the Cardinals are in the playoffs, the first time that has happened since the 1990s, and the first time the team will host a playoff game since 1947. Now, that’s something to cheer about.

Week 15 Office Pool Predictions

Game of the Week: Steelers at Ravens (Steelers)
Upset Special:
Buccaneers at Falcons (Buccaneers)

Giants at Cowboys (Cowboys)
49ers at Dolphins (Dolphins)
Seahawks at Rams (Rams)
Packers at Jaguars (Jaguars)
Patriots at Raiders (Patriots)
Chargers at Chiefs (Chargers)
Washington at Bengals (Washington)
Saints at Bears (Bears)
Bills at Jets (Jets)
Vikings at Cardinals (Cardinals)
Titans at Texans (Titans)
Broncos at Panthers (Panthers)
Browns at Eagles (Eagles)
Lions at Colts (Colts)

Last Week: .625
2008 Season: .633

For other blogs calling NFL games, please see:

  • The D.C. Universe,
  • Gun Toting Liberal, and
  • The Liberal Journal.

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