Since 14 teams have played eight games and the 49ers are off, it seemed like a good time to pick our midseason Offensive and Defensive MVPs.
Bay Area Sports Guy (Peyton Manning) The Broncos may only be 4-3, but that isn’t Manning’s fault. He leads the league in standard QB rating and ESPN’s QBR. After throwing three picks in a Week 2 loss to the Falcons, Manning has outplayed every QB in the league over his last five games — 15 TD, 1 INT and 300+ yards in every contest. The Broncos’ losses were at Atlanta and New England, and a 6-point loss at home to Houston. The remaining nine opponents on Denver’s schedule are currently a combined 23-44, and only one of those teams (Baltimore) has a winning record. With Manning absolutely on fire with no signs of cooling off, look out for the Broncos.
East Bay Sports Guy (Tom Brady) This was a toss up between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Ultimately, Brady won because the Manning has yet to content with a quality opponent yet. Brady, on the other hand, has. Though the Patriots did lose to the Ravens and the Seahawks, Brady threw for a combined 707 yards in those contests. Which is to say, he is not to blame for those losses. He leads the league in passing yards and is in the top ten of all other major statistical categories, despite having receivers that dropped 24 passes thus far.
Bay Area Stats Guy (Peyton Manning) I have to say I didn’t see this season coming at all. When Manning said that he was not coming to San Francisco I let out a sigh of relief, I thought he was a mistake waiting to happen (it may still happen down the road) but this season he has been just about the best quarterback in the NFL. He is putting up a really good season even with diminished skills. I didn’t see it coming and this is my little way of saying I am a dumb-dumb.
Ruthless Sports Guy (Matt Ryan) I’m not a part of the group that believes the Falcons are overrated. They’re undefeated and trudged through adversity, including tough road wins and a trap game versus Oakland. That’s more than the 49ers can say. All the while, Ryan has been spectacular, getting all of his receivers involved and playing nearly perfect through a half of a season. I can’t think of a player whose contributions have meant more to his team’s success than Ryan.
Bay Area Duck Guy (Matt Ryan) I really contemplated going with Adrian Peterson here due to his return atop the rushing yards category, but I couldn’t turn away from Matty Ice. He may not have the stats of reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning (what a race it will be for comeback player of the year between him and the aforementioned Peterson), but he is efficiently quarterbacking the best team in the league right now with a cool 103.0 QB rating and 17 touchdowns.
Bay Area Sports Guy (J.J. Watt) I’d like to order off the menu here, but Watt has been too good. He leads the league in sacks, batts down passes like Anthony Davis blocks shots (unibrow Anthony Davis who plays for the Hornets, not the 49ers’ right tackle) and still ranks as the second-best DE against the run in the league according to PFF. I’d still like to give a shout-out to Patrick Willis, who has developed into the best coverage guy of any inside backer in the NFL — a big reason why the 49ers allow the lowest yards per passing attempt (5.8) of any team through eight weeks.
East Bay Sports Guy (J.J. Watt) This one’s obvious. Watt currently leads the league in sacks with 9.5. And, he’s a 3-4 defensive end. The next closest 3-4 end is fellow Texan Antonio Smith, who has four. His 10 passes defended rank him sixth. Oh! and he’s a defensive end.
Bay Area Stats Guy (J.J. Watt) The Texans have the second best defense in football. They lost one of their best players from last season to free agency and another to a horrible injury. The reason they are still among the best is the guy right here. Watt has been an absolute beast, leading the NFL in sacks while still putting up respectable tackle numbers outside of his gaudy sack numbers.
Ruthless Sports Guy (NaVorro Bowman) Remember when the 49ers let Takeo Spikes walk and went forward with Bowman? That was a Walshian move if I’ve ever seen one. Spikes was fantastic for the 49ers but past his prime; Bowman was ready to step in and rival Patrick Willis as the best linebacker in the NFL. At the midway point, Bowman has 68 tackles, two sacks and an integral interception in the Week 1 win over the Packers. He is a huge reason that no team can run on the 49ers, as well as an important reason for why Patrick Willis is free to dominate offenses. His value to the 49ers’ defense is simply immeasurable.
Bay Area Duck Guy (J.J. Watt) I don’t think this is really up for discussion. Watt is the most dominant player in football right now with a league-leading 9.5 sacks and 34 tackles to boot. It doesn’t hurt that he’s on the 6-1 Texans, either.
Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers (-7)
**Chargers won 31-13**
Bay Area Sports Guy: Chargers
East Bay Sports Guy:
Bay Area Stats Guy: Chargers
Ruthless Sports Guy: Chargers
Bay Area Duck Guy: Chargers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Oakland Raiders (PK)
Bay Area Sports Guy: Tampa is actually a pretty decent team. Their 3-4 record doesn’t look great, but their point differential (+31) is ninth in the NFL. They also got a little extra rest after destroying Minnesota last Thursday night, which should negate the disadvantage caused by traveling across the country. Also, I don’t trust the Raiders. Not yet. Pick: Buccaneers
East Bay Sports Guy: The Raiders have been stellar since the bye week. But, aside from Atlanta, they really haven’t faced a formidable offense. This week will be different. The Bucs average 7.7 yards per pass attempt, which ranks them second in the league. The Raiders have allowed 6.8, good for 21st. But those are just the universal truths prescribed by the so-called “statisticians.” I don’t believe in stats—unless they support my opinion. I’ll take the Raiders in 4 (quarters). Pick: Raiders
Bay Area Stats Guy: Even with the Raiders having the benefit of home field advantage they still come out as the underdogs in my system. I have the Buccaneers by 4 points as the most common margin and the average margin gives Tampa Bay a 3 point advantage. Seems like a pretty easy pick. Pick: Buccaneers
Ruthless Sports Guy: Is it just me or have half of the Raiders’ games this season been pick ‘ems? It makes my job easier – I have zero confidence in the Raiders and expect them to lose every week, so it’s the point spreads that make these picks so difficult. With this game having no line, at least I don’t have to figure out how much the Raiders are going to lose by. Pick: Buccaneers
Bay Area Duck Guy: It’s a pick ’em game, and the Raiders are at home. Oakland showed me something at Kansas City last week, and looked solid against the Falcons on the road. The Raiders seem to be improving, so I have a hard time betting against them now that they’re back at home against a below average Bucs squad. Pick: Raiders
GAME OF THE WEEK:
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New York Giants (-3.5)
Bay Area Sports Guy: Pittsburgh needs to prove they can win on the road (where they’re 1-3 this season) before I pick them to cover a spread like this in New York. Pick: Giants
East Bay Sports Guy: Just days after the greater New York area stood down a hurricane that is in no way indicative of the imminence of a CO2-induced global warming, the New York Giants will stand up against one of the greatest polluters of our time: the Steelers. Could there be a more perfect epitome of man’s struggles against himself? Man vs his pollutants. Ben Roethlisberger against his genetic pre-disposition to be a real life Kenny Powers. Eli Manning against frown lines. Riveting. Pick: Giants
Bay Area Stats Guy: The Giants are a hard team to figure out but for some reason I am going to go with them again. With the line at Giants -3.5, I feel pretty good from a model prospective because it says that the Giants should win by 5. However it all depends on which Giants show up, I hope it’s the good ones and not the ones that nearly gave last weeks game away. Pick: Giants
Ruthless Sports Guy: May the team with the more obnoxious fan base win this one. I would know: I was at both the Steelers’ MNF game and the NFC Championship game last year. Both games brought in ridiculous numbers of the opposing teams’ fans, and they were equally smug and boisterous. I found the “CRUUUUUZ” chants more offensive than the “HEEEEAAATHHH” chants, so I’m giving the edge to the Giants. Pick: Giants
Bay Area Duck Guy: The Giants are at home, and the Steelers defense will not be able to stop the attack through the air from Eli Manning. Plus, it sounds like the Steelers will be flying in hours before game time due to Sandy’s winds. New York will win it. Pick: Giants