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Week 13's best statistics

Posted Dec 7, 2015

I am well aware that the New Orleans Saints are currently fielding a terrible defense and one of the leakiest secondaries in the entire history of this great game – but that should not detract from another very special performance by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

Cam had to be at his best on Sunday night as he helped the Panthers overcome a 14-0 deficit before eventually recording a 41-38 victory over the Saints that kept Carolina undefeated on the season at 12-0.

Newton may not be everyone’s cup of tea and the Saints certainly wanted to punch him in the face after he danced around on their side of the field during warm-ups, caught passes intended for Saints receivers during the pre-game and stood at the end of the tunnel as the home team were announced onto the field.

But Newton is playing with a swagger and a sense of fun that is hard to ignore. But much more than that, he is playing with a fierce desire to win and a considerable amount of poise. I would definitely say that the stage is not proving to be too big for Newton. In fact, I would say that a showman of his stature would most definitely grace the 50th Super Bowl, which will be played in California in February.

I think Newton’s pure passing numbers are never going to blow you away – although there is not a lot wrong with the 331 yards and 5 touchdowns he produced on Sunday night. But he brings so much more to the table because he is also the most devastating running quarterback in the game today.

But if you go back to his passing and his leadership at quarterback, Newton is ticking every box in terms of what you look for from an NFL Most Valuable Player.

Newton has been at his best when the Panthers have been trailing in games and he has shoved them back in front time and again through outstanding skills and the sheer force of his will. Newton has also excelled in the most critical area of the field – the red zone. And he has produced literally dozens of plays this season that make you sit up and take notice. That will help when it comes to the MVP voting.

I think being the league’s Most Valuable Player should be about more than mere statistics alone – you need to look at the complete body of work and see what that player has been doing to help his team in multiple ways.

Newton has helped the Panthers in every single way asked of him and, perhaps most importantly, he has this team leading from the front in the race to reach the Super Bowl… which never hurts when you’re being considered for league MVP.

Newton has a ‘can’t take your eyes off him’ kind of quality about him in 2015 and that’s why I think he is leading the race to be this season’s Most Valuable Player.

Now onto this week’s numbers…

66-86-879-11-0… That’s a lot of numbers to digest but what it basically amounts to is arguably the best three-game stretch of Russell Wilson’s career. That is certainly the case from a statistical point of view for the Seattle Seahawks quarterback, who has guided his team back into the playoff hunt with wins over San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Minnesota. Wilson is developing as a pocket passer and has now completed 66 of 86 passes for 879 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions over the past three games. Seattle romped to a 38-7 win over the Vikings on Sunday evening and Wilson was the star of the show from an offensive point of view. With Marshawn Lynch out through injury and possibly gone after this season anyway, this is now very much Wilson’s team and he appears to be thriving in that leadership role. And would anyone really want to face the Seahawks in the playoffs on their recent form?

90 and 62… Those are a couple of important numbers to remember when considering the unpredictable nature of the NFL. On Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles went into Foxboro to take on the 10-1 New England Patriots. The 4-7 Eagles were in disarray after shipping 90 points in back-to-back losses to Tampa Bay (45-17) and Detroit (45-14). So of course they went to New England and beat the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady, who had won 62 of his last 66 home contests! The Eagles were even kind enough to give New England a 14-point head start before scoring 35 unanswered points en route to a 35-28 win that has to go down as one of the shocks of the season. No one gave Chip Kelly’s men a shot at winning at Gillette Stadium but they produced several big plays, especially on special teams, to stun a New England team struggling to deal with their mounting injuries. The Patriots have now lost back to back games for the first time since Weeks 2 and 3 of the 2012 campaign.

1,000 and 4… I watched Brandon Marshall on the practice field in New York this past summer and was so impressed with how fluidly he moved for a man entering his 10th NFL season with his fourth different team. And after sitting down and chatting with Brandon, I felt convinced he would have a big campaign in the Big Apple. That has certainly proven to be the case and he was influential in the Jets’ 23-20 overtime win against the cross-town Giants. Marshall made NFL history on Sunday evening by becoming the first player in the league to record 1,000-yard receiving campaigns with four different teams – Denver, Miami, Chicago and now the Jets. Of course, to do that you have to wear out some welcomes along the way and Marshall certainly did that in Denver and Miami. But he appears to be content in New York – his favourite city in the world – and is certainly on the same page with in-form quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. And what is most impressive is how consistent Marshall has been throughout this season and how dangerous that New York passing attack has been for much of 2015.

Monday Musings…

  • Blaine Gabbert is beginning to look a lot like a proper NFL quarterback and he has clearly grown from his days in Jacksonville. On Sunday, Gabbert tied San Francisco’s game against Chicago with a 44-yard sprint that Colin Kaepernick would have been proud of and then won the contest in overtime with a 71-yard strike to Torrey Smith. He might just prove to be the future in San Francisco.
  • Marcus Mariota dug deep and willed his Tennessee Titans to a 42-39 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13. The rookie quarterback completed 20 of 29 throws for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns but I think his best work came in the final period as Tennessee, who had led for so long, fell behind 32-28. Mariota then exploded through the Jags’ beleaguered defense for an 87-yard scoring run. The Titans never looked back after that game-breaker.
  • Another week in the NFL and another ridiculous catch by Odell Beckham Jr. He scored on a 72-yard catch and run on Sunday night but his best grab was a 22-yard one-handed effort. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… speshtacular!
  • Those Cardinals have one powerful offense. I never really saw them do too many overly-incredible things during Sunday’s 27-3 win over St. Louis but they ended the day with 524 yards of total offense – that’s some serious production. Defensively, they shone against the Rams and they have the look of a complete and confident team as the playoffs approach.
  • Let’s go back to the Jags-Titans game for one more moment – Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson must be wondering where the defense has gone in Jacksonville and how they are receiving very little in the way of consistent support. Bortles threw for 322 yards and 5 touchdowns on Sunday and Robinson had 10 catches for 153 yards and 3 scores but each week they are let down by another area of this frustrating team.
  • I’m pausing for a moment to pat myself on the back because I said in June that Robinson was going to be a stud receiver for the Jags this season. I watched him in practice and felt he had Dez Bryant-like skills. He has backed it up during the regular season and has become Jacksonville’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Jimmy Smith in 2005.
  • It was great to see British running back Jay Ajayi find the end zone during the Miami Dolphins’ 15-13 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Our London-born and raised running back scored on a two-point conversion run that proved to be the difference between the teams. Good on you, Jay.
  • If Brandon Browner spent more time working on his cornerback skills and less time on getting in players’ faces and committing stupid penalties, he might be a better player. Actually, no he wouldn’t! The veteran corner is an absolute liability in the New Orleans Saints’ secondary.
  • Antonio Brown will be checking on his boys this morning after that nut-cracking and somewhat unique touchdown celebration during Sunday night’s 45-10 thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts. And when I say checking on his boys, I don’t mean that Brown will be calling up Pittsburgh Steelers team-mates Ben Roethlisberger, DeAngelo Williams and Martavis Bryant!
  • We’ll leave Antonio Brown singing like The Bee Gees and move on to another touchdown celebration. Help me out here, folks. Why on God’s green earth was Cordarrelle Patterson high-stepping his way to the end zone at the end of his 101-yard kick-off return touchdown when his Minnesota Vikings trailed Seattle 35-0? That will get you a starting spot for the NFL’s newest franchise – the MeTown Me Me’s. As a wise man once told me, you can’t do anything for a damn fool but pray for them!

Final Thought

In what has been a promising season to date, Minnesota suffered their most damaging loss of the year on Sunday as they fell to Seattle 38-7 in front of their own fans. Firstly, star rusher Adrian Peterson was held to 18 yards on 8 carries and claimed that the Vikings were “outcoached” which should be a worry moving forward. Also, the Vikings were either without or lost key defenders to injury in Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith – how they bounce back down the stretch will be key to this team’s playoff chances because it is clear second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater cannot carry this club at this time. Seahawks pass rusher Bruce Irvin claimed Bridgewater was “scared” on Sunday. I don’t know about that, but I know his game is not at the level where he can take over if Peterson is nullified as he was when Seattle got off to such a fast start. The Vikings have now lost two recent high-profile games at home to Green Bay and Seattle and you have to wonder if that means they are incapable of mounting a serious Super Bowl challenge in the NFC.

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