Judgements V: Why we should be talking about McCaffrey as MVP candidate
Cam Newton isn’t Superman. Christian McCaffrey is.
All the Carolina running back has done through five games is produce an NFL-best 866 yards from scrimmage, rush for 587 yards, average 5.6 yards a carry and score seven times – including three in Sunday’s 34-27 defeat of Jacksonville. So how come he’s not on anyone’s short list as a league MVP?
He should be. And he will.
He’s not only one of the best players anywhere; he’s the definition of a Most Valuable Player. He leads the Panthers in carries. He leads them in catches. He leads them in touchdowns. He has two of the three longest runs in franchise history – both this season. And his 866 yards comprise a whopping 46.8 percent of Carolina's offensive output.
Wanna know how the Panthers survived the loss of Cam Newton? Now you do. They’re 3-0 sans Cam, and it’s not because of backup Kyle Allen. It’s because of Run CMC.
So where’s the MVP buzz, people? Most of it so far centers on Patrick Mahomes, with occasional mentions of Russell Wilson, and I get it. They’re quarterbacks, they’re special and quarterbacks won the award 11 of the past 12 years, including the past six.
But it’s high time McCaffrey joins the party, and don’t take it from me. Listen to the Jaguars. McCaffrey shredded them for 237 yards Sunday, becoming the first player since Hall-of-Famer Jim Brown in 1963 to pile up 175 yards or more in four of his first five games of the season.
But that’s not all. His 866 yards from scrimmage are second all-time through the first five games, behind Brown’s 988 in 1963 and ahead of O.J. Simpson’s 861 in 1973 – the year Simpson ran for an career-best 2,003 yards.
That should get someone’s attention. And it’s about time.
SUNDAY SCHOOL: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. There will be no Kirk Cousins apology this week to Adam Thielen.
2. Denver can still play defense. The Broncos had zero takeaways prior to Sunday. Then they produced three vs. the Chargers … and should’ve had a fourth. Result: They finally won, and no surprise. Denver + Defense = Success.
3. Buffalo is legit. Two reasons: 1) Defense and 2) the road. You already know about the defense, with the Bills’ last four opponents converting 15 of 55 third downs (27.2 percent). But how about this: Buffalo is 3-0 on the road, and three of its remaining five road games vs. opponents that are a combined 3-10 (Cleveland, Miami and Pittsburgh).
4. Never fly your football team to London late in the week. Oakland’s Jon Gruden tried it last year and lost. So he said he wouldn’t make that mistake again. And he didn’t. Chicago did.
5. Patrick Mahomes is mortal. He can get hurt. He can miss passes. He can lose. And this just in, Al and Cris: He's not always "magical."
A FAMILIAR SCRIPT TOPPLES CHIEFS
Kansas City lost the 2018 AFC championship game because the Chiefs couldn't stop the run. They lost their first game of this season Sunday night for the same reason, and that's not an upset. It's a problem.
If it kept them from reaching the Super Bowl then, it could keep them from reaching the Super Bowl now.
Rewind the clock to Jan. 20, 2019, and you find the Patriots hammering the middle of Kansas City's defense with three backs, running 48 times for 176 yards and four TDs. The idea, of course, was to attack the Chiefs' weakness, move the chains, stretch the clock and keep Mahomes off the field.
And it worked.
Now, fast-forward to Sunday night, and you find the Colts following the New England game plan -- running 45 times for 180 yards and a stunning victory that not only beat Kansas City but stopped the Chiefs' NFL-record of 25 straight games with 25 or more points.
Granted, Mahomes wasn't himself, hobbled much of the night by an injury to his left foot, but he was barely visible the second half ... and you can look it up. The Colts had the ball 23:33; the Chiefs had it 6:27.
Indy defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus can stand up and be counted for holding together a defense crippled by injuries and devising a game plan that frazzled Mahomes. But much of the credit belongs to coach Frank Reich for remembering how the Chiefs lost their last game.
And then following the script.
1. Jerry Jones is wrong. Dak Prescott is not “more like Tom Brady.” He’s less.
2. I guess the Big D in Dallas doesn’t stand for defense.
3. Maybe it’s time to pay attention to the Raiders. The last nine teams to win international games qualified for the playoffs later that season.
4. Too bad Aaron Jones doesn’t play the Cowboys more often. He had his first 100-yard game in Dallas (2017). Now this.
5. The Twins should pitch Kirk Cousins Monday. He may be the only guy in Minnesota who can beat New York.
6. Drew Brees? Who dat?
7. If I coached the Redskins I might reach for a smoke, too.
8. Don’t be too hard on Jets’ quarterback Luke Falk. He didn’t get the first-team reps last week. Sam Darnold did. So don’t blame Falk for that mess Sunday. Blame the head coach. Gase: Doesn’t rhyme with Lombardi.
9. Dan Quinn, call your local realtor.
10. There’s more to like about Philadelphia than Carson Wentz, South Street and Todd Rundgren. There’s the league’s top run defense, and the envelope, please: The Eagles haven’t surrendered more than 43 yards rushing to any lead back in the first five games. Better yet, they held three of them to 22 and under.
11. Best player you never hear about: Arizona’s Chandler Jones. The guy has 45 sacks since joining the Cards – the most by anyone in that time (2016-present) – yet he gets less air time than Rickie Lee Jones.
12. Someone put out an APB on Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans. Didn’t see him in New Orleans.
13. Adios, Cairo Santos.
14. The Chargers aren’t a threat to Kansas City. Not now they’re not. They can’t win at home (they’re 1-2 there), trailed Miami and just lost to Denver. “If we play like that,” coach Anthony Lynn said after the Broncos’ loss, “we won’t beat anybody.” Bingo.
15. After the Jets started 0-3, Le’Veon Bell told critics his new team would embrace “the hate” and wear it “as a badge of honor.” Can’t wait to hear what they’re wearing now.
16. I don’t know how good New England is, either. Yeah, the Pats are 5-0, but three of those victories are vs. winless teams (Miami, N.Y. Jets and Washington) and a fourth vs. 1-4 Pittsburgh. That’s a combined 1-17 and one reason critics aren’t sold.
17. Khalil Mack had a lot to say before Sunday, then stiffed reporters afterward. Thought he was bigger than that, but look at it this way: He stayed in character, doing what he did all afternoon … which was zippity-do-dah.
18. The Pats are 11-0 when Sony Michel has a rushing TD. Just sayin.’
19. After Teddy Bridgewater takes a bow, give it up for the Saints’ O-line. All those guys did was blank Shaq Barrett, the league leader in sacks (9), holding him to no QB hits and two tackles.
20. Lamar Jackson isn’t Baltimore’s most lethal weapon. Justin Tucker is. The guy never misses.
MY TOP FIVE
1. New England … Yeah, sure, Tom Brady is fading. The earth is flat, too.
2. New Orleans … No Brees, no problem.
3. Kansas City … What happened to St. Patrick's Day?
4. Seattle … Rams have someone to chase.
5. Green Bay … Aaron Rodgers latest hit: “Me and Mr. Jones.”
MY BOTTOM FIVE
1. Al Riveron ... Enough is enough. Give the game back to the players.
2. Miami … Call it “processing.” It’s still tanking.
3. N.Y. Jets … Pure and simple, they stink.
4. Washington … Next loss: Jay Gruden.
5. Cincinnati … Marvin Lewis never looked so good.
ONE STAT THAT MAY INTEREST ONLY ME
The New York Jets are 0-11 lifetime vs. Philadelphia, the most losses without a win against a single opponent in NFL history.
AND ANOTHER THAT MAY INTEREST YOU
The Patriots allow 6.8 points per game. So how good is that? The 1985 Bears allowed an average of 17.6 through the first five starts, and the 2000 Ravens surrendered 11.0.
GOLD JACKET QUOTE
“If the key works Monday, I’ll keep working.” – Washington coach Jay Gruden on his job security.
GOLD JACKET QUOTE II
“You can beat anybody … anywhere … in any f—ing time zone.” – Oakland coach Jon Gruden on the moral of Sunday’s win in London.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET
HOUSTON QB DESHAUN WATSON. So this is what happens when he’s not treated like a piñata. He throws for a career-high 426 yards and five touchdowns. He puts up his first perfect passer rating (158.3). And he wins. There is no better quarterback in the AFC South, and, so long as the Texans keep him clean (and he wasn’t sacked Sunday), they’re the team to beat in the AFC South … again.
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