Who’s feeling the pressure of Wild Card weekend?

Today kicks off the Wild Card weekend. Eight teams looking to keep their hopes alive and better their chances of winning a Super Bowl. This weekend has delivered us some incredible memories over the years. How can we forget the Music City Miracle, where the Titans stunned the Buffalo Bills on a kickoff return to end the game? Or the greatest comeback in NFL history, when the Bills came back to beat the Houston Oilers after being down 35-3 at halftime?

Deshaun Watson” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Some of the greatest moments the NFL has provided us have happened in the first round of the playoffs.

This one feels strangely different though. For the first time in recent memory, the playoffs are completely wide open. No team, maybe besides the Saints, has a distinct advantage over the others. While previous years we have seen teams go on epic runs before the playoffs start to propel themselves deep into the playoffs, this year many teams limped in.

All this uncertainty on who is going to win and who is not has created a certain buzz around this year’s playoffs, and it’s exhilarating!

The Super Bowl is ripe for the taking. This weekend, one team could build the foundation for a run at that title. Looking at the eight teams playing this weekend, Seahawks vs. Cowboys, Bears vs. Eagles, Texans vs. Colts and Chargers vs. Ravens, all of them have a common thing, a great quarterback who has either proven themselves or is on the cusp of proving himself.

You have two quarterbacks who have already won a title, three young guns who are looking to cement their name atop the elites in the league and two veterans where one is just happy to be back in the moment and the other possibly looking at his final run. Finally, there is the lone rookie, who if you had to name the one you thought was going to be starting in the playoffs, this one would have been at the bottom of many lists.

With that, there has to be a couple feeling the pressure of the moment. Some know just how hard it is to get back to this spot, where others are dreaming of many more years just like this one. So my question then is, who is feeling it the most?

Who is feeling that pressure of win now? The pressure of a whole team and city on their shoulders. That need to exercise some demons or to make your name known around the league.

Who is not feeling the pressure:

First off, it is definitely not Nick Foles from the Eagles or Seattle’s quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson is a proven quarterback in the league already. If it wasn’t for the dismal team around him, he would probably be a perennial MVP candidate. Nick Foles on the other hand, is doing something that is just not seen. Not only did he fill Carson Wentz’ shoes perfectly last year, but he has also done it again this year and brought Philadelphia back to life and into the playoffs. Just three weeks ago, the Eagles were all but out of the playoffs. With a little help from the Vikings and some more magic by Foles, they find them back in it and as dangerous as ever. Win, lose or draw, this weekend both of those guys will still go home with the respect they deserve.

Secondly, Lamar Jackson is having the time of his life right now and is probably immune to any kind of pressure that is involved with the game. He has fun performing at this level. You can tell through his play that no matter what the situation is, he is going to play loose and have a good time doing it. He is a rookie who in my opinion, is the reason why the Ravens have exceeded my expectations by making it this far.

Pressure is rising:

Unlike the above mentioned, Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Andrew Luck are probably feeling a little uncomfortable right about now. For Trubisky, he knows he is not the main guy. Unlike Drew Brees or Patrick Mahomes, the Bears’ success is not necessarily based on his performance. It would certainly help the situation, but the Bears will win with defense and managing the ball. Something he does well and that comes naturally to the second year quarterback. It is natural to feel some kind of pressure when it comes to your first playoff appearance, but I do not think it’s overwhelming for the young man just yet. He will be back.

Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson are both coming off devastating injuries and both are probably just happy to be in this situation. For Luck, this is not his first rodeo when it comes to playing in the playoffs. He has brought a team all the way to the AFC Championship before. Unlike Trubisky, Luck is the offense. The Colts win or lose based off how Andrew Luck plays. For a quarterback who is coming off of shoulder surgery that made him miss an entire season, to finally be back in the playoffs, he has to be feeling some kind of pressure to get past the first round. To show this regular season was not a fluke and that he can still play. Watson is pretty much in the same situation as Luck, only this will be his first time playing in the playoffs. It is a home game, which always helps calm the nerves just a bit, but you know he has to be wanting to win a game in front of the fans in Houston.

Just might crack under the pressure: 

This leaves us with just two quarterbacks left. Dak Prescott and Phillip Rivers.

Prescott plays for the Dallas Cowboys. Being the quarterback for “America’s Team” always delivers some kind of pressure to win. Winning a playoff game is a whole different type of pressure though. It is a well-known fact the Cowboys are absolutely dismal in the playoffs in recent years. After this season full of hype and lofty predictions of them being a Super Bowl contender by some experts, the pressure is on for him to lead them past the first round and probably further. You also have to think Prescott is considered the weak spot on this team right now. A loss this weekend will only make that chatter worse. It could also cost Jason Garrett his job, and do not forget Jerry Jones is his boss. There is no one more unpredictable than Jones. He could just go out and find a quarterback this off-season who will get the job done.

Though Prescott is feeling the pressure in “Big D”, there is no one right now who is dealing with what Phillip Rivers has to be dealing with. Not only is he making a great run in a new city, Los Angeles, but he is also still the figurehead of this offense and team. Putting up great numbers all season, Rivers has pushed back father time, at least for this season. He made a run with one of the most talented Chargers teams he has been a part of. We have seen this story before though. Talent busting out the seams, but never really able to put it together when it comes playoff time. Rivers knows his time is limited in this sport. This may be his last shot to quiet the nay-sayers who say he doesn’t deserve the golden jacket of the Hall of Fame by hoisting the Lombardi trophy and go out on top.

Breaking down the NFL MVP race after Week 16

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been giving you my top three NFL MVP candidates. This week is different. With just one week left to play in the regular season, another QB has inserted himself into the MVP conversation. This week’s rankings have some movement based on how my top MVP candidates played in Week 16. Even though there’s only one week left in the season, I believe there are four candidates who have a legit shot at winning the award. Find my breakdown of where each player is ranked below.

Russell Wilson” by Keith Allison is licensed CC BY-SA 2.0
1. QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Here’s the main reason Patrick Mahomes remains number one, even after the Chiefs have lost two straight games. Even when Patrick Mahomes can’t get the Chiefs a win, he still has a good game. In three out of the four losses the Chiefs have, Mahomes has thrown three or more TDs. In the one game he didn’t throw three or more TDs, he threw two. He just hasn’t had a game you could really consider bad.

Patrick Mahomes has been exciting to watch in every game this season. In their loss to the Seahawks, Mahomes only completed 57.5% of his passes, but he threw three TD passes and had a passer rating of 103.4. Even though Mahomes isn’t always great in every category, his ability to make huge plays and put up big numbers in other categories makes up for it.

2. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

I knocked Drew Brees down to third in last week’s rankings. The reason why was because he had a string of subpar games. Although Brees didn’t have a spectacular game against the Steelers this past week, Brees moved back up to number two. He has Philip Rivers to thank for that. We’ll get to him in a minute.

Brees only threw one TD pass against the Steelers, but he did throw for 326 yards and completed 69.2% of his passes. That led him to a passer rating of 103.2. After three straight games of having a passer rating below 100, Brees finally made it back up there. Even though his numbers weren’t huge for the fourth straight week, Brees looked like the MVP Brees we saw earlier in the season.

3. QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

By beating the Kansas City Chiefs and securing the Seahawks a playoff spot, Russell Wilson put himself into the MVP mix after Week 16. This was a must win game for the Seahawks after losing to the 49ers the week before. Boy oh boy did they deliver, especially Russell Wilson. His completion percentage of 62.1% was a little down, but he threw for 271 yards and three TDs. Wilson was able to earn himself a passer rating of 127.2.

In addition to passing for 271 yards, Wilson added 57 yards on the ground. Wilson had a great game, but perhaps what’s most important to Wilson moving into third place is the fact that he out dueled the MVP leader in Patrick Mahomes. Russell Wilson was clutch when his team needed him. Wilson can’t be ignored in the MVP conversation.

4. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

After being ranked second in last week’s NFL MVP rankings, Philip Rivers moved back down the list, this time to fourth. The reason why Rivers moved down two spots is because he had a bad game against the Ravens. I’ll cut him a little slack because the Ravens have one of, if not the best defense in the NFL this season, but that kind of game from Rivers was unacceptable. It was even more unacceptable because the Chargers needed to win for playoff purposes. If they would have won, they would now be the number one seed in the AFC, probably getting a first-round bye.

Instead of stepping up his play in a huge game, Philip Rivers completed 62.2% of his passes for just 181 yards, zero TDs and two INTs. His passer rating was 51.7, which is his worst of the season by far. His worst passer rating before that was 89.0. It’s possible the Chargers could still get a first-round bye and home field advantage in the AFC, but Philip Rivers may have blown their shot by having his worst game of the season.

Buy or Sell Six-Pack: Murray, Patriots, Bears, Ariza, Big Ten Basketball, Doncic

In the last Buy or Sell of 2018 (yep, we’re taking off next week), RahimAli, Joel and I are taking an expanded look at the sports landscape.

We’re discussing the future of Kyler Murray. Then we’re taking a look toward the NFL playoffs: do the Patriots have any cache left? Will the Bears manage to snag a first-round bye?

Finally, we end with some questions to be determined on the hardwood: did the Lakers make a mistake by standing pat? Will a Big Ten team rise up in March? And is the NBA Rookie of the Year already determined?

140095_7247” by Disney | ABC Television Group is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Cullen: Kyler Murray Will Be on an NFL Roster in 2019

Joel: I really want to buy Murray being on an NFL roster in 2019, but I think I have to sell. Murray has said for a long time he’s going to pursue MLB over the NFL. I thought that may change after the incredible season he’s had at Oklahoma and winning the Heisman, but his plans are still MLB. Until some sort of news comes out that’s good enough to convince me Murray is changing his mind, I’m going to believe he’s pursuing MLB.

Do I think he should choose the NFL over MLB? Yes. That’s not for me to decide, though. If Murray did pursue the NFL, he’d have no trouble at all getting on a roster. He’s an electric player who could not only help a team win, but bring in sales because people want to watch him play. I think Murray could do great things in the NFL, but I just don’t know if he’ll change his mind.

RahimAli: I would love for this to be a buy, but it’s an easy sell! Though Murray has won the 2018 Heisman Trophy, his decision was already made. Nothing will be able to change that, but maybe his dad!

I say that because this question has been on my mind since I first found out about who he is. Ironically, I had the honor of having a conversation with a former teammate of Kyler’s dad, Kevin Murray. As this conversation went on, he was telling me how Kevin also had the same plans. That was until he had a gruesome ankle injury that forced him to retire. You see, Kevin played in NFL and got hurt. He now spends his time as a high school football coach.

But the difference between Kyler and his father is the athleticism Kyler has. We have been able to see what kind of athlete he is on the football field, but I’m really interested in seeing what he will do on a baseball diamond.

Why Murray made the decision to play baseball over football, I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to seeing the kind of explosive plays he’ll make as an athletic player with incredible skills. Whether he sticks with MLB or does have a career in the NFL, Murray is going to become a household name.

 

RahimAli: The Five-Loss Patriots Are No Longer the Team to Beat in the AFC

Cullen: With Tom Brady still at the helm and Bill Belichick still on the sidelines, the Patriots will be the AFC team to beat until someone beats them in the playoffs. So I’m selling this.

They looked bad Sunday against the Steelers. This offense is not at all explosive. Rob Gronkowski looks like a shell of his former self, and Josh Gordon’s usage has been perplexing, at best. Brady, who won the MVP as a 40-year-old, definitely looks his age in 2018.

But that may be an advantage in the AFC playoffs. There will be some young quarterbacks in the playoffs for the first time in the AFC, from the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes II to the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson to the Texans’ Deshaun Watson. I’d feel more comfortable with Brady’s playoff experience than those young gunslingers’ potential. With the Chargers and Philip Rivers–they have had minimal, if any, success in the playoffs. The Patriots’ biggest threat may very well be the team that just beat them. But even the Steelers are playing incredibly inconsistently.

All this is to say, don’t count the Patriots out of the playoffs just yet.

Joel: I’m going to sell on the Patriots not being the team to beat anymore. New England may not be the best team in the AFC this season, but they’re still the team nobody except Patriots fans wants in the Super Bowl. Until the Patriots have been beaten in the playoffs and aren’t going to the Super Bowl again, they’re going to be the team to beat.

I agree with what Cullen said about the young QBs some of the AFC teams have. We haven’t seen too many young QBs have a lot of playoff success. Most of the time it’s the experienced QBs who come out on top. Tom Brady has a proven resume of winning in the playoffs, as evidenced by his eight Super Bowl appearances and five Super Bowl wins.

If the Patriots are in the playoffs, they’ll have a target on their back regardless of how bad they’re playing right now. Their bad play recently will go out the door come playoff time. It’s a new start for every team. It’s a new game. The Patriots have consistently won that game, making them the team to beat.

 

Joel: The Chicago Bears Will Grab a First-Round Bye

Cullen: Selling on the Bears getting a first-round bye. For that to happen, Chicago needs to win out, defeating both a suddenly decent-looking 49ers team in San Francisco and defeating a Vikings team that’s vying for a playoff spot. Meanwhile, the Rams, with whom the Bears hold a head-to-head tiebreaker, travel to the pitiful Arizona Cardinals and host the 49ers. The Rams are a game up on the Bears, and I think they’ll keep it that way.

Now, about how each of these teams fare in the playoffs, that may be a different story…

RahimAli: I will sell the Bears clinching a first round bye despite their victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 14. I sell it because it’s just too late in the season. I do expect to see the Bears finish the season strong and have a nice 12-4 record with wins over the Niners this week and divisional foe Minnesota Vikings in the season finale. But because of injury to QB Mitchell Trubisky earlier in the season, the Bears lost some ground on the Rams and NFC’s No. 1 team, the New Orleans Saints.

For the Rams (11-3), it’s coming down to two of their divisional opponents, the Arizona Cardinals, and the same Niners that will face the Bears. The Cardinals are looking to get one of the top three picks in the 2019 draft (currently no. 1), and the Niners are just looking forward for their key offensive players (QB Jimmy Garrapolo and RB Jerrick McKinnon) to return next season. But the real thing is that this will give Rams QB Jared Goff a few more games to get his act together and bounce back nicely after having several interceptions and a fumble in the last two weeks.

For the Saints, they could lose one of their next two games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers. I think they will lose to the Steelers as a pick in this week’s picks. Read my explanation there. But still one more loss will still leave the Bears a game back of the Saints. It’s okay though, because I really believe this Bears team could be the team to beat, and I’m a Rams fan.

 

Cullen: The Lakers Made a Mistake in Passing up Trading for Trevor Ariza

Joel: I buy it was a mistake passing on Ariza. Ariza may not be the player he once was, but he’s still a very effective player who could significantly help the Lakers. Just his presence as a veteran could help them. Look at what Tyson Chandler has done for the Lakers. He’s helped their defense and gives them valuable experience. I think Ariza would have done the same for the Lakers. Ariza is a very good defender, who is also capable of scoring. He’s shooting 36% from three this season and has been a pretty consistent three-point shooter throughout his career. With a guy like LeBron James demanding all the attention, Ariza wouldn’t have had to do much but move around and take open shots LeBron gave him. I think that would have worked out nicely.

When playoff time comes around, Ariza would have been very effective. The Lakers are going to need as many defenders as they can get if they want to beat the Warriors, Nuggets, Thunder, etc. in the playoffs. Ariza could have been one of the defenders the Lakers needed. They’ll be fine without him, but I believe they would have been better with him on their team.

RahimAli: As a Lakers fans since 1998, I’m buying this as a huge mistake.

When Ariza was first a Laker from 2007-2009, he wasn’t like what he is now, but I’ve always wished there was a way to get him back to the Lakers. I understand the reason for moving on the first time, but passing on him this late in his career, I don’t like it.

Looking at what was given up in the trade to get Ariza, you can’t tell me the Lakers don’t have pieces to move. I mean, they could’ve moved one of their veteran players like Lance Stephenson, Micheal Beasley or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and paired them with a rookie and a pick. I mean, the Suns are the worst team in the NBA and anything is better than what they have. They just waived Austin Rivers, too, as he was a part of the deal.

But for Lakers, it’s about getting the veteran presence around the young guys like Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. That’s why the Lakers have made the moves they did signing all these veterans to one-year deals. Like Joel said, the addition of Tyson Chandler has already made a huge impact on the Lakers defensively, and Ariza would have been another great piece. Ariza not only is a good defender like he has been his entire career, but he’s become better and better every year. That’s what the Lakers need to do. Having the presence of a player with Ariza’s caliber to help Ingram, Kuzma and even Josh Hart defensively would’ve helped make the Lakers a better team and an instant top three team in the West. Although being fourth isn’t bad right now, how long will they be able to stay there with other teams like the Thunder and Warriors looking like tough opponents?

But I hope the Lakers do address the concern of more defense before the trade deadline comes around.

 

RahimAli: A Big Ten Team Will Win the National Championship in Basketball This Season, Ending an 18-Year Drought

Joel: It’s still too early in the season for me to really buy a Big Ten team winning the National Championship. There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played and you just never know what will happen in College Basketball. However, as the top 25 sits right now, the Big Ten has the most teams out of any conference to be ranked. Seven teams, to be exact. Those seven teams are Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska. It’s because of these seven teams being ranked in the top 25 that I’ll buy the Big Ten being home to the champs, but I’m going to leave that buy subject to change as the season goes on. The numbers are in favor of this happening right now, but again, you never know what can happen in College Basketball.

Cullen: Selling on a Big Ten team winning it all. It’s still too early to make that kind of prediction. So I’ll take the field. I expect the Big Ten teams to beat up on each other all through conference play and the Big Ten Tournament. That could do one of two things: make the eventual champion that much stronger, or weaken every team to the point that none go the distance in the NCAA Tournament. Right now, my guess is the latter situation playing out.

 

Joel: Luka Dončić is Already a Lock to Win Rookie of the Year

RahimAli: I will buy this! Out of all the players drafted in the top five, Dončić was put in the best situation. That situation was the Dallas Mavericks, who have always been known to make the playoffs. However, the past two seasons have been rough for the Mavericks.

With them losing so many games, it landed them into the draft lottery. It’s interesting though, because the Atlanta Hawks had drafted him third overall, but traded him to the Dallas Mavericks for PG Trae Young. Young is probably the only player right now who has a chance to catch Dončić. But Dončić has used the team around him to better himself and get the Mavericks into playoff position. Now I know it’s still early in the season, but I have told you previously in my “NBA Review” articles to watch out for the Mavericks. They might have had a few bad seasons, but this season will end with a playoff spot and the rookie of the year. There is no question about it! Dončić is the best player from the 2018 draft class and he will continue to show it as the season goes on. Playing alongside veterans like Dirk Nowitzki, Deandre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and Harrison Barnes will only help him in his progression this season. Let’s not forget about the 2017 Slam Dunk champion winner, Dennis Smith Jr. He and Dončić are the future of the Mavericks team. Boy does that look like a great future!

Cullen: I’ll sell that he’s already a lock for Rookie of the Year, but he is the favorite, for sure. I think he’ll win it. But it’s still so early. I wouldn’t completely count out Collin Sexton or Trae Young. One thing that could surely derail Dončić’s shot at Rookie of the Year is injury. Overall, I sell, yet if he stays healthy and, at the minimum, keeps doing what he’s been doing, he’ll get that hardware.

**********************************************************************************

There you have it! Our last thoughts of 2018. What does everyone else think?

  • What’s Kyler Murray going to ultimately do?
  • Will the Patriots show up for the playoffs?
  • Can the Bears get to help and snag a first-round bye?
  • Will missing out on Trevor Ariza hurt the Lakers?
  • Can a Big Ten basketball squad finally win it all this season?
  • Who can overcome Luka Dončić for NBA Rookie of the Year?

As always, thanks for reading. Hit us up in the comments with your thoughts on these six matters. See you all in 2019!

Top three NFL MVP rankings after Week 15

Only two more weeks to go in the NFL season! That means we’re one step closer to crowning the NFL MVP. Last week I cut my list from five to three candidates. This week remains at three, but there is some movement among the top three NFL MVP candidates. Let’s find out who’s leading the MVP race after Week 15!

Philip Rivers - Top three NFL MVP rankings
– Chargers Philip Rivers Jets Shaun Ellis” by Jack Kurzenknabe is licensed under Public Domain
1. QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Last week’s game against the Chargers wasn’t the typical game we’ve seen from Patrick Mahomes. He had his lowest passing yardage of the season (243) and only threw two TDs. His team also lost the game to the Chargers 29-28. Despite those negatives, Patrick Mahomes did have some positives against the Chargers.

For starters, he helped the Chiefs build a 14 point lead in the fourth quarter. On his way to leading the Chiefs to 28 points, Mahomes had some incredible throws! It was like the Chargers weren’t able to bring him down. The pressure of having a guy about to wreck him didn’t seem to impact his throws. I was amazed by some of the throws I saw him make. Mahomes also had a passer rating of 110.3 against the Chargers.

Despite losing and dropping to 11-3, Mahomes still has the Chiefs as the best team in the AFC and in position to have home field advantage in the playoffs. He also leads the NFL in passing yards and TD passes. Even if the Chiefs don’t get the number one seed in the AFC, Mahomes will still be the favorite for MVP. He’s number one in my top three NFL MVP rankings again this week, and he’ll likely stay here.

 

2. QB Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

Philip Rivers was already in my top three NFL MVP rankings last week, but this week he’s making his highest appearance in my rankings. I’ve had Rivers on my MVP radar for most of the season, but he’s had a very quiet MVP campaign. That is until he helped lead the Chargers to an incredible comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs. Rivers and the Chargers were down by 14 with about five minutes left in the game. Rivers drove them down the field for a TD, the defense got a stop, and then Rivers drove down the field again to help the Chargers score a TD.

What I loved most about this last drive from Rivers, is the fact that he immediately held up two fingers after they scored a TD to signal they were going for two. Not sure if it was his idea, but I loved it regardless. There was not going to be OT in this game. It was win or lose.

Rivers didn’t have the best overall game against the Chiefs, as he threw two INTs and had a passer rating of 89.0. Believe it or not, that was actually his worst passer rating of the season, but he played at an elite level when the game was on the line. This win put the Chargers at 11-3, which is now tied for the best record in the AFC with the Chiefs. The Chiefs are still leading the AFC West, but Rivers is doing everything he can to get the Chargers that AFC West crown and a first-round bye.

 

3. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints 

Drew Brees ranked second last week, but now ranks third in my top three NFL MVP rankings after another dull performance. Ever since that loss to the Cowboys, Drew Brees hasn’t been putting up MVP numbers. The Saints are still winning, but Drew Brees has created a lot of separation between himself and Patrick Mahomes. That’s not in a good way for Brees.

Just four weeks ago, Brees had only thrown one INT all season long. Four weeks later, Brees has five INTs on the season. That’s still not a ton of INTs, but he’s thrown an INT in four straight games. Over the last three games, Brees has thrown two TDs to three INTs. His passer rating over those three games has been an average of 77.2. It’s like Drew Brees hit a wall all of a sudden and hasn’t been able to recover yet.

Despite his lack of MVP level play over the last three weeks, Brees did enough earlier in the season to not be passed up by anyone else. I don’t see anyone really being in MVP consideration other than the three guys I have on this list. Brees will still be in consideration for MVP this season, but I think the last few weeks may have made the MVP decision a lot easier. Brees has to find that MVP level play again before the Saints hit the playoffs.

Despite loss to Chargers, Chiefs still control AFC West–and the AFC

Last night, the Kansas City Chiefs blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead against the Los Angeles Chargers to lose 29-28. In a gutsy move, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn opted to go for two after his team scored a touchdown with four seconds left in the game to cut the Chiefs’ lead to one point.

Quarterback Philip Rivers, for the second consecutive play, hooked up with wide receiver Mike Williams, who was wide open in the end zone.

Ball game.

More importantly, the win improved the Chargers to 11-3, while dropping the Chiefs to 11-3. They are now tied atop the AFC West, with the division winner likely to obtain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The loser will have to play Wild Card weekend on the road, possibly at Pittsburgh or Baltimore.

So, who actually leads the AFC West? Who’s got the leg up in the final two weeks of the season? To determine that, we have to take a look at the NFL’s tiebreaker procedures for divisions.

AFC West - Chiefs
 
 

Tiebreaker procedures 

The NFL lists 12 tiebreaker procedures to determine a division winner if two teams finish with the same overall record, with the twelfth and final procedure being a coin toss. Thankfully, we only have to go two deep to determine who currently leads the AFC West. We’ll also take a look at the third tiebreaker just in case that comes into play.

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record. That’s moot here, as the Chiefs defeated the Chargers 38-28 to open the season. With last night’s thrilling victory, the Chargers knotted the season series at 1-1.

The second tiebreaker is “[b]est won-loss-tied percentage in games within the division.

Heading into last night, the Chiefs had defeated the Chargers in Week One. They’ve also swept the season series against the Broncos. In Week 13, they survived a scare in Oakland. They have remaining one game with the Raiders. After last night’s defeat, the Chiefs are now 4-1 in the AFC West.

Before last night’s win, the Chargers were 2-2 against the AFC West, with losses against the Chiefs and one against the Broncos in Week 11. Now, the Chargers stand at 3-2 in the AFC West with a final match-up in Denver to end the season.

That’s it. After looking at merely two tiebreakers, it’s clear the Chiefs still lead the AFC West.

Of course, there are still two more games to play for each team. What happens if, say, the Chiefs were to crumble against the Raiders in Week 17 and the Chargers lose next week against the Ravens? At that point, we’d have to move on to the third tiebreaker, which is “[b]est won-loss-tied percentage in common games.” At this point, that tiebreaker scenario looks like this:

  Kansas City Chiefs Los Angeles Chargers
Pittsburgh Steelers Win Win
San Francisco 49ers Win Win
Denver Broncos Win Loss
Cincinnati Bengals Win Win
Denver Broncos Win TBD
Cleveland Browns Win Win
Los Angeles Rams Loss Loss
Oakland Raiders Win Win
Baltimore Ravens Win TBD
Seattle Seahawks TBD Win
Oakland Raiders TBD Win
Total Record 8-1 7-2

The Chiefs currently lead this tiebreaker, too. If the scenario I spelled out in the preceding paragraph occurs, then both teams would finish 12-4 and 4-2 in the division.

Based on this third tiebreaker, the Chiefs’ total record in common games would be 9-2, with the Chargers finishing 8-3.

45586551031_74aced56d7_k.jpg

Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes” by Jack Kurzenknabe is licensed under Public Domain

Overall, it boils down to this: the Kansas City Chiefs, and their fans, need not worry–yet. If the Chiefs take care of business next week in Seattle and the following week hosting the Raiders, the Chiefs will not only win the AFC West, but secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

If the Chiefs slip in one of the next two games, for them to have a chance at the division (forget about home-field advantage, unless the Patriots lose again), they’ll need the Chargers to also lose at least one game.

Neither the Chiefs nor Chargers have easy roads to finish the season. But of the two schedules, the Chiefs have the advantage, with the Raiders so clearly out of things. Heck, the Raiders would be better off losing their remaining games to secure a better draft pick.

The Chargers, meanwhile, face not one, but two teams fighting for playoff spots. The Ravens are looking to take the AFC North, while the Broncos’ recent surge has them in the battle for the final AFC Wild Card spot.

So, rest easy, Chiefs fans. Last night’s loss stings, sure, but everything remains the same as it was as of Thursday afternoon: the Chiefs are the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

They still control their destiny.

Which might be the scariest thing of all.

Top three NFL MVP rankings after Week 14

Ever since the first week of the season, I’ve been ranking the top five NFL MVP candidates. This week is different. This week I’ve cut my list down to three candidates for MVP. The reason why I’ve cut down the list, is because I feel like there are only three players who really have a shot at winning this award with three weeks left in the season. So, the rest of the way we’ll be looking at the top three rather than top five NFL MVP rankings. 

Which three players are still in contention for the award? Let’s find out who makes the cut! 

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Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes” by Jack Kurzenknabe is licensed under Public Domain

1. QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes had another spectacular performance against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Mahomes completed 66% of his passes for 377 yards, two TDs and one INT. That performance came against the number one ranked defense in points per game, the Baltimore Ravens.

While Mahomes put up good numbers, his numbers weren’t the most impressive part about this performance. Mahomes was able to lead a comeback victory over the Ravens, tying the game with less than a minute left and then putting his team in position for a FG in OT. Then there was the insane no look pass Mahomes threw! If you didn’t see that one, go watch the replay. I don’t know how this guy does it. With only three weeks left in the season, Mahomes seems to have a choke hold on the MVP award.

 

2. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Brees was able to bounce back nicely against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a terrible game against the Dallas Cowboys the week before. Brees completed 77.4 of his passes for 201 yards, one TD and one INT. While Brees was able to get his team the win and put up decent numbers, I feel like he’s losing more and more ground every week in the MVP race.

After throwing just one INT through 11 weeks of the season, Brees has now thrown an INT in three straight games. That, combined with a lack of big numbers, has him losing ground with little time left.

 

3. QB Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

Philip Rivers was able to lead the Chargers to a 26-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. With how much the Bengals are banged up right now, I thought the Chargers would have put up more points, but they got the win and that’s what really matters.

In that win, Rivers threw for 220 yards and one TD on 65.5% completions. Not incredible numbers, but not bad. Rivers may not have done anything last week to help his MVP case, but he also didn’t do anything to hurt it. That’s why he remains third in my MVP rankings.

 

Who’s off the list?

QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson was ranked fourth on the list last week, but I couldn’t put him in the top three after his bad performance last night against the Vikings. His team got the win, but he only completed 50% of his passes for 72 yards and one INT. That one INT may have been the worst INT I’ve ever seen. It was that bad.

 

QB Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Jared Goff was ranked fifth on my list last week. With a terrible performance against the Chicago Bears, there was no way I could put him in the top three. Goff completed just 45.5% of his passes for 180 yards and no TDs. He also threw four INTs. How bad was Goff really? His passer rating was 19.1. 19.1! That’s just embarrassing. If there was any chance  for Goff to be the NFL MVP this season, it’s gone now.

NFL MVP rankings after Week 13

Top five NFL MVP rankings after Week 13

NFL MVP rankings after Week 13
Russell Wilson” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The top five NFL MVP rankings after Week 13 make another shift. We’ve got movement throughout the entire top five, with MVP candidates moving at the top, middle and bottom of the rankings. We’ve also got another new name on the list this week! Let’s see how the MVP race is shaping up after Week 13.

 

1. QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Patrick Mahomes claims the number one spot in my NFL MVP rankings after Week 13. He’s back on top! Mahomes continues to stuff the stat sheet every game. This week against the Oakland Raiders, Mahomes threw for 295 yards and four TDs. The best part for Mahomes, is the fact that he didn’t throw any INTs this past week. His 10 INTs on the season are one reason why I’ve continually kept him at number two.

After Week 13, Mahomes is still the leader in TD passes (41), leading that race by nine. He’s also second in passing yards and passer rating. Mahomes did get some help from the Dallas Cowboys’ defense this week to move him back into first, but he also had another impressive performance.

 

2. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees looked average at best against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday. The Dallas defense held Brees to 127 yards passing and one TD on 64.3% completions. That completion percentage was his second worst of the season. In addition to the low numbers, Brees also threw an INT. However, this was no regular INT. Brees had the ball with an opportunity to put the Saints up on that drive, but he threw the INT early in the drive, which ended up giving Dallas the win.

Overall, Brees is still having a great season. He still leads the NFL in completion percentage and passer rating. The reason I moved him down in the NFL MVP rankings after Week 13, is because there’s not much room for bad performances as the MVP race begins to wind down. With Mahomes lighting it up every week, this bad performance may have cost Brees.

 

3. QB Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

With a comeback win over the Steelers and another great performance, Philip Rivers makes his highest appearance in the NFL MVP rankings after Week 13. In the Chargers’ 33-30 win, Rivers threw for 299 yards and two TDs on 72.2% completions. The comeback was the most impressive thing about this game for Rivers. With the Chargers down 23-7, it looked like things were over.

But then Philip Rivers and the entire team turned things around. Not all the credit can be given to Rivers for this comeback win, but he does deserve a lot of it. On the season, Rivers is third in passer rating, behind only Brees and Mahomes. Rivers may not be getting the attention Mahomes and Brees are for MVP, but I think he should be. He deserves it.

 

4. QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson makes his first appearance on the NFL MVP rankings after Week 13. Wilson has played well all season long, but his MVP case hasn’t picked up until recently when the Seahawks have been winning games. Now sitting 7-5, Russell Wilson’s MVP case is getting better and better. Against the 49ers, Wilson threw four TD passes, helping the Seahawks earn a 43-16 win.

On the season, Wilson ranks fourth in passer rating and fourth in TD passes. It seems like  if Russell Wilson doesn’t have a good game, the Seahawks won’t win. On their three game win streak, Wilson has been playing great football. Look for him and the Seahawks to finish the season strong as they fight for a playoff spot.

 

5. QB Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Goff had a bad performance against the Lions on Sunday, which is why he’s been moved down two spots in the NFL MVP rankings after Week 13. He helped the Rams get a 30-16 win, but I think that win was more on Gurley than Goff. Goff was held to 51.5% completions for 207 yards, one TD and one INT. His passer rating was 68.6, which was his second worst of the season.

Despite the bad game, Goff is still fifth in passer rating, sixth in TD passes and fourth in passing yards. Those numbers make the fifth spot in the rankings look like the perfect place for the QB leading the league’s best team.

 

Who’s off the list?

QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

After being on fire over the last five weeks and earning himself a spot in the top five, Andrew has fallen back out after the Jaguars shut down the Colts. Luck threw for 248 yards, but he didn’t throw any TDs and threw one INT. The Colts scored zero points. An MVP candidate can’t let his team not score at all. Overall, Luck is having a pretty good season, but it’s hard to elevate his status as an MVP candidate when the Colts are 6-6 and he’s coming off a bad game.

Drew Brees - NFL MVP Week 12

Top five NFL MVP rankings after Week 12

Drew Brees - NFL MVP Week 12
IMG_4477” by Tom Pumphret is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Two QBs on my top five NFL MVP rankings list had a bye this past week, meaning there wasn’t a lot of movement after Week 12. However, there is one new name on the list. That means someone got kicked off. Who is this new name? I’ll give you a hint. He hasn’t been on this list before.

Need another hint? Okay, I’ll give you one. He’s a QB. Think you might know who it is? Let’s find out if you guessed it right!

 

1. QB Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Another dominating performance by Drew Brees and the Saints continues to earn Brees the number one spot on my NFL MVP rankings. Brees didn’t have big numbers in this one, throwing for only 171 yards. He also threw an INT, but it was just his second of the season.

However, Brees threw four TD passes in a 31-17 win over the Falcons. That was his third game in the last four weeks throwing four TD passes. Brees continues to have the best completion percentage and best passer rating, all while leading the NFL’s best team.

 

2. QB Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

I couldn’t move Patrick Mahomes up or down this week because he had a bye. I can’t say anything about his performance this week, so I’ll have to restate what he’s done over the course of the season. Mahomes has his team as the best in the AFC at 9-2. He leads the NFL in passing TDs, is third in passing yards and is second in passer rating. Pretty dang good stats if you ask me.

 

3. QB Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Like Mahomes, Goff had a bye this week, so I couldn’t knock him or move him up. He’s the QB of a team tied for the best record in the NFL. He’s got the fourth best passer rating, fourth most yards and fourth most TDs. He’s having a great year, having come through in the clutch multiple times.

 

4. QB Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

After a subpar performance and loss against the Denver Broncos, Philip Rivers bounced back in a huge way against the Arizona Cardinals! Rivers completed 28 of his 29 passes, completing his first 25. That tied the most consecutive completions ever. He also set the record for most completions to start a game. Rivers also set the record for best completion rate, completing 96.55% of his passes.

Talk about an MVP performance. That alone looks great, and I hadn’t even mentioned he threw for 259 yards and three TDs! Congrats to Rivers on his record setting day, getting the victory and keeping himself very much alive in the MVP conversation.

 

5. QB Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

A first timer on my NFL MVP rankings this season, Andrew Luck has been on fire over the last five games. After the Colts started 1-5, Luck has led them to five straight wins and a 6-5 record, very much so keeping them alive in the playoff conversation.

Though Luck did throw two INTs against the Dolphins, he completed 81.1% of his passes for 343 yards and three TDs. What’s most impressive about that, is the fact that Luck led the Colts to a victory after being down 10 points in the fourth quarter. Luck played his best when his team needed him most, earning him the number five spot on my NFL MVP rankings.

 

Who’s off the list?

RB Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams

Although I didn’t knock Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff for having a bye, I did knock Todd Gurley. It wasn’t so much because he had a bye, but rather because he’s a RB. I don’t doubt Todd Gurley will win offensive player of the year, but MVP has become a QB award. There are too many QBs playing at a high level right now for a RB to be named MVP.

Too add to that, Gurley is no longer the NFL’s rushing leader. Ezekiel Elliott has been running wild lately and has taken over that title for now. There’s a good chance Zeke will finish the season as the rushing leader, because he’s the guy Dallas goes through every game. For Gurley to win MVP, he’d have to put up ridiculous rushing numbers. His TDs are great, but the rushing yards aren’t something we’ve never seen before.