Peyton Manning is the MVP of the 2013 season. He’s the “real-life” MVP, the fantasy MVP. If you can name it, he’s the MVP of it. No matter how badly some people want this to be a debate, it isn’t.
As you may have heard, Manning set the single-season touchdown record on Sunday, throwing for scores 48, 49, 50 and 51. The four-touchdown effort was his eighth of the season. Manning’s 5,211 yards are already third most in NFL history. With 265 yards against the Raiders this week, he can break Drew Brees’ two-year old all-time record. That’s a number Manning has been held below only once all season. A 37-year-old, 16-year pro, Manning is averaging 347 yards per game. They’re star wars numbers, the kind that are usually only possible if you turn down the game difficulty and stack your roster with created players.
But they’re also nothing new for Manning. Remember, this is not a player setting the single-season touchdown record, but reclaiming it. Manning’s 49 scores from 2004 are the third-most all time, and were the record for three seasons. Manning’s 2013 numbers are high defintion, but he’s been rewriting the record book since before you bought your first HD TV. The not-so-subtle implication? Manning’s latest batch of history making will go down as another footnote if he can’t lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl title.
That’s not fair, of course. Manning’s legacy should be defined by his awe-inspiring body of overall work — and not five or six rough games in January — but it is the reality. The judgments on Manning’s postseason failures are particularly curious since, you know, he’s won a title. But they will be rendered if he loses again, and likely most harshly of all by Manning himself.
Whatever happens next month, Manning has already had one of the greatest seasons of all time. But if he can cap it off with a Super Bowl trophy? He’ll have had arguably the greatest season of all time. What would be missing? Certainly not records and trophies. Manning’s made yet another great movie. Now let’s see him write a better ending than a Divisional Round loss or victory over Rex Grossman.
Five Players Who Upped Their Dynasty Stock Down The Stretch of 2013
1. Nick Foles
Maybe Foles is a .com bubble waiting to burst. He’s definitely locked into a 2014 starting job for an offense that’s put a new spin on the wheel, after all.
2. Cordarrelle Patterson
Patterson has lived up to the game-changing playmaker hype. Now he just needs a quarterback. He’s a bigger Percy Harvin.
3. Joique Bell
The league’s No. 31 rusher as a backup, Bell has shown power up the middle and play-making ability around the edge. His 522 receiving yards are sixth amongst running backs, while his eight rushing scores are tied for eighth. Bell is the exact kind of well-rounded back owners should be drooling over in long-term formats.
4. Chris Ivory
Ivory hasn’t exactly shed his injury-prone label, but he’s managed 4.59 yards per carry while playing in one of the league’s most dysfunctional offenses, and rushed for more yards than all but seven players in the month of December. Ivory is a strong hold, and a candidate to finally knock down the door of stardom in 2014.
5. Stedman Bailey
Bailey essentially didn’t have Dynasty-league stock heading into 2013. Now he has the looks of a future playmaker for an offense that’s positively starved for them. Bailey is still a speculative investment, but one that could pay off on the cheap.
1. Wait, you actually thought there was a chance Dallas’ season wouldn’t come down to a winner-take-all primetime game in Week 17?
2. If Ted Ginn is your leading receiver, does it make a sound?
3. Why even bother, Miami?
Five Players Who Hurt Their Dynasty Stock Down The Stretch of 2013
1. Trent Richardson
T-Rich didn’t hurt his Dynasty-league stock — he dropped seven nuclear warheads on it. It’s far too early to write off Richardson’s career. Just ask Cedric Benson or, hell, LeGarrette Blount. But a player who was easily a top-ten keeper coming into 2013 is now a top-one question mark.
2. Bernard Pierce
One of the league’s most impressive rookies in 2012, Pierce averaged 4.9 yards per carry. That number has plummeted to 2.77 this season, while Pierce has 124 fewer yards rushing on 39 more carries than he did in 2012. Pierce’s struggles are partly attributable to the Ravens’ run-blocking woes, but he’ll enter 2014 with much to prove, namely whether he’s a future starter or career backup.
3. Hakeem Nicks
Nicks is younger than Demaryius Thomas, but he looked older than Monte Kiffin this season, struggling to separate and displaying shockingly little open-field explosion. A free agent on his way out of New York, Nicks’ value will be further damaged if he chases money over fit. A one-year, “prove it” deal is the way to go for a player who won’t turn 26 until next month.
4. Lamar Miller
Miller’s usage and blocking have been maddening this season, but as Adam Levitan points out, this is a player who’s been held to fewer than 20 yards rushing seven times in 15 games. Miller needed to force the coaching staff’s hand to bury Daniel Thomas once and for all, but couldn’t do it. That’s a troubling sign.
5. Eli Manning
Two years ago, Manning threw for 4,933 yards — the ninth most of all time — and won his second Super Bowl title. Now he’s had his assets frozen and is being investigated by the feds. Perhaps it was all a ponzi scheme for The Wombat of Wall Street.
Coach On The Hottest Seat: Jim Schwartz. The leader of the most undisciplined team since Al Davis moved on to the great track meet in the sky, Schwartz has overseen more mind-numbing losses than Jerry Jones at an Eli Manning convention. Schwartz doesn’t have what it takes, and should be getting summarily dismissed this time next week.
Coach On The Second Hottest Seat: Mike Shanahan. Does it count if you set your own seat on fire? Just ask this two-point conversion attempt. Shanny hired Jim Haslett to coach his defense. Nothing more needs to be said.
Down-Low Candidate To Be Fired: Mike Tomlin. The Steelers have always preached continuity, but mired in their second straight mediocre season, it would be far from stunning if an increasingly meddlesome ownership group canned a coach it’s gradually undermined going back to the firing of Bruce Arians. Tomlin’s sideline gaffe certainly didn’t help matters.
Shouldn’t Be Fired But Probably Will Be: Rex Ryan. If only the Jets had ever gotten Ryan a quarterback. A brilliant defensive game-planner with a canny understanding of how to lead men in the year 2013, Ryan deserves to be immediately scooped if he’s let go.
On The Hot Seat For Absolutely No Reason: Dennis Allen. Have the Raiders fallen apart down the stretch? Yes. Does it have everything to do with their talent limitations and shockingly-barren roster? Absolutely. It’s a miracle this team has as many wins as it does. Owner Mark Davis will break from Raiders tradition and give Allen another year if he has any clue what he’s doing. The indications are that he does not.
Injuries To Monitor For Week 17
Shane Vereen (groin). Although the No. 1 seed is still in play for New England, Vereen is probably less than 50-50 to play. The Pats have more to lose than gain by pushing him.
Ryan Tannehill (knee). Unless Monday testing reveals a more serious than expected ailment, Tannehill will be under center as the Dolphins continue their Quixotic quest for a Wild Card spot.
Eddie Lacy (ankle). Lacy never returned to Sunday’s must-win game after departing midway through the third quarter. His status is as clear as mud as the Pack gear up for a winner-take-all tilt with the Bears. Which brings us to…
Aaron Rodgers (collarbone). We’d like to think this will finally be the week that Rodgers returns, but ESPN’s Sunday report that he remains at "extraordinary risk" of re-injury casts major doubt on if he’d even be ready for a theoretical playoff game.
Calvin Johnson (knee)/Adrian Peterson (foot/groin). Football’s best receiver and running back both seem likely to sit for Week 17 as their teams close the book on disappointing seasons.
For the rest of the injury landscape, check out Chet Gresham’s Injury Roundup.
Stats of the Week
Josh McCown has thrown one interception in 224 pass attempts. Jay Cutler has thrown 11 in 331.
Eli Manning has a lower quarterback rating than Brandon Weeden.
Joe Flacco has a lower quarterback rating than Chad Henne.
The Jets’ -110 point differential is the fifth in football, but Gang Green is somehow 7-8.
The longest pass all year was thrown by Brandon Weeden.
Week 16 Fantasy All Pro Team: QB Peyton Manning, RB LeSean McCoy, RB Joique Bell, WR Pierre Garcon, WR Eric Decker, WR A.J. Green, TE Jimmy Graham, TE Julius Thomas
Most Absurd Moment of Week 16: This should probably suffice.
Tweet of the Week: @ChrisBurke_SI, with a perfectly-placed “Simpsons” quote during Bears/Eagles: “Sweet merciful crap.”
It’s not a lie if you believe it, Jim Schwartz.