By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Matt Stafford for league MVP? You better believe it. Because that’s what happens when you author eight game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or OT.
That hasn’t happened since the 1970 merger. But it happened this year, with Stafford making all the right moves, and when you're looking for reasons why the Detroit Lions have a two-game lead in the NFC North with three to play … start here.
His completion percentage this close to a career high. His passer rating is at a career high. He's thrown fewer interceptions than at any time of his career, and he should produce his sixth straight 4,000-yard season.
And all this without Calvin Johnson.
That’s why Matt Stafford is a serious MVP candidate … along with Matt Ryan, Derek Carr and your back of choice with Dallas. But, remember, this is the MOST valuable player; not the MORE valuable player, which is why I believe the Cowboys' Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott cancel each other out.
I mean, how can you push either for MOST valuable player when you push both? Answer: You can't. This isn't a vote on the best player; it's the most valuable one.
So that leaves Stafford, Ryan and Carr, and it's hard to ignore what Stafford has done in crunch time. Again. Again. And again.
(Matt Stafford photos courtesy of Detroit Lions)
200 MILLION REASONS TO BELIEVE IN GIANTS
He took a lot of heat for the gazillions he spent on to improve his defense (approximately $200 million), but Giants' GM Jerry Reese spent money in the right places -- with the New York defense not only shutting down Dallas again but putting Big Blue squarely in the playoff picture for the first time in five seasons.
And that could be trouble for Dallas come January.
Reason: The Giants are the only team to beat Big D this season and seem to have Dak Prescott figured out. For the first time since ... well, since opening this year against the Giants ... Prescott on Sunday looked as confused as he was ineffective. Nothing seemed to work, with the Giants overcoming three Eli Manning turnovers and the loss of Jason Pierre-Paul, and file that away.
In 2007 the Giants were a wild-card entry with a solid defense and went on the road to beat the NFC's top seed. That team? It was Dallas, which won the NFC East with a 13-3 record. Trust me, the Cowboys don't want to see the Giants again.
DON’T SLEEP ON GREEN BAY
It's not just that the Packers won their third straight. It's that it was a blowout … of Seattle.
Now that doesn’t happen. In fact, the 28-point loss was the team's worst in five years. But that’s another story. Our concern here is the Packers, and, granted, they have to win out to keep their playoff hopes and have two of their remaining three games on the road.
But that beatdown of Seattle was a statement, and the statement goes something like this: Don’t forget about us. Aaron Rodgers looks like Aaron Rodgers again. In fact, he has 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last four games and passer ratings of 100 or better in all.
He had one before then.
More important, the Packers' defense has come around, with five interceptions of Russell Wilson on Sunday and no more than 13 points allowed in any of their last three starts. An improved defense + an improved Rodgers = A dangerous team.
And Seattle? It has this to worry about: 2-4-1 on the road and two stinkers in its last three games. The good news: It has a cake schedule left, will make the playoffs, and it will probably go deep . But it better clean up its act -- on both sides of the ball. "Everybody needs to get a wake-up call," said Richard Sherman. Bingo.
(Aaron Rodgers photo courtesy of Green Bay Packers)
- There is no overstating the importance of Ryan Tannehill's loss to Miami. The Dolphins finish the season against Buffalo – in Buffalo – and home vs. New England, and, sorry, but I don’t see Matt Moore winning either.
- He wasn’t flagged, but, guaranteed, Calais Campbell gets fined for that low blow on Tannehill. Remember, this is the guy who was docked $18,000 earlier this season for going low on Cam Newton -- a hit that also was not flagged.
- Now comes the hard part for Detroit. Two of its last three games are on the road (at the Giants and at Dallas) before they wind up vs. Green Bay. That's why the NFC North isn't over.
- Not often I agree with Denver's Aqib Talib, but he's right. Harry Douglas is a "sorry player." That was a cheap shot he took at cornerback Chris Harris and one that could have, as Harris pointed out, ended his career.
- Well, we found out what the "Legion of Boom" looks like without Earl Thomas, and it isn't pretty. But he's not the only reason the Seahawks' defense stunk. The team has one sack in its last three starts, and, yeah, that's a problem when you subtract Thomas.
- Any chance L.A. can return the Rams to St. Louis? They’ve scored more than 14 points in just one of their last six games. It's one thing to be bad; it's another to be downright unwatchable.
- Fourth-and-1, and that’s what Indianapolis calls? Rob Chudzinski, report to the principals office.
- The AFC South won't be decided until New Year's Day when Houston meets Tennessee … at Tennessee. Advantage: Titans.
- I don't know if Bryce Petty is the answer for the Jets, but, unlike Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith, I know I want to find out.
- Chuck Pagano, contact your realtor.
- That was a huge obstacle the Steelers just overcame. The division won't be decided until Christmas Day when Pittsburgh meets Baltimore … in Pittsburgh. Advantage: Steelers.
- Washington can thank its lucky stars that Darren Sproles wasn’t in the lineup for Philadelphia's last-gasp drive. Just sayin.'
- Instead of trying to find the snitch in the front office, Rams' coach Jeff Fisher should try to find a pulse for his offense.
- The least just got shorter for Dak Prescott. If he is as ineffective vs. Tampa Bay next weekend as he was against the G-Men Sunday night, Tony Romo will be summoned ... and, just an opinion, but that's a mistake. You want to teach a rookie about overcoming adversity? Believe in him.
- Imagine if the Vikings had someone who could gain a yard at the goal line.
- The only thing certain in life are death, taxes and Mike Nugent missing extra points.
- Not sure what runs out first … the season or the Chargers' roster of available players.
- Maybe Denver should try Riley Dixon at quarterback.
- I swear, I think the Bears stumbled on something in Matt Barkley. The more I see him, the more I see him as the team's starter in 2017.
- Yes, Tampa Bay is for real. The Bucs held Seattle to five points two weeks ago and just stuffed Drew Brees -- his second straight game without a touchdown pass (and with six interceptions). Moreover, Jameis Winston just bested Alex Smith, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers and Brees the past four games. But now comes the litmus test: Next weekend in Dallas.
WHAT WE LEARNED …
The gap between Dallas and the rest of the NFC is closing.
Adios, Melvin Gordon.
You, too, Ryan Tannehill.
The Chargers don’t need a new home. They need a new coach.
The Colts are toast.
Stick a fork in the Saints.
Vic Beasley needs work on his end-zone celebrations.
… AND WHAT WE DIDN’T
How Cameron Brate got away from New Orleans.
What the future holds for Tyrod Taylor.
Why Todd Bowles waited so late to kick the tires on Bryce Petty.
How long Jerry Jones is committed to Dak Prescott.
Why the entertainment capital of the world has no NFL entertainment.
What the Browns didn’t see in Taylor Gabriel.
SUNDAY'S HALL OF FAMER
PITTSBURGH RB LE' VEON BELL. He not only gained a season-high 298 yards rushing and receiving while scoring three times; he outgained the entire Buffalo team (275). Honest. Moreover, he kept the Steelers pushing forward despite three Ben Roethlisberger interceptions. Bell does more than protect Roethlisberger with a productive running game; he protects a defense that, until lately, was porous.
SUNDAY'S HALL OF SHAMER
(Russell Wilson photo courtesy of Seattle Seahawks)
SEATTLE QB RUSSELL WILSON. He never threw five interceptions in his pro career … that is, until Sunday. OK, so it wasn’t all his fault, but he seldom looked worse than in the Seahawks' 38-10 collapse in Green Bay. And, for once, his offensive line wasn't to blame. Nope, Wilson just plain stunk … and its been a long time since we heard that.