Matthews: Who's The NFL MVP?

MAHOMES, GOFF, GURLEY TO CONTINUE THEIR MVP BATTLE ON MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, arguably the frontrunner for 2018 NFL Most Valuable Player, gets center stage on Monday Night Football at the Los Angeles Rams. It is the latest NFL “Game of the Season.” Both teams are 9-1.

Two other MVP candidates, quarterback Jared Goff and running back Todd Gurley II, will be playing for the Rams.

Their performance lines entering this game:

Mahomes – 231 of 345 (.670) for 3,150 yards passing; 9.13 yards per attempt; 31 TD passes; 7 INTs; sacked 17 times; 117.4 passer rating.

Goff – 227 of 332 (.684) for 3,134 yards passing; 9.44 yards per attempt; 22 TD passes; 6 INTs; sacked 19 times; 113.0 passer rating.

Gurley – 198 carries for an NFL-most 988 yards; 5.0 yards per carry; 13 TD runs; 0 fumbles; 40 catches for 402 yards; 4 TD catches; NFL-most 1,390 yards from scrimmage (2nd-Ezekiel Elliott 1,294; 3rd-Saquon Barkley 1,268).

My MVP frontrunner played Sunday – quarterback Drew Brees of the 9-1 New Orleans Saints: 257 vof 334 (NFL-best .768 completion percentage) for 2,964 yards passing; 6.87 yards per attempt; 25 TD passes; only 1 INT; sacked 9 times; NFL-best 126.9 passer rating.

Brees turns 40 on January 15, 2019. There have been nine 5,000-yard passing seasons in NFL history and Brees did it five times. Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford each did it once.

Since the Associated Press NFL MVP award began in 1957, quarterbacks have won it 38 times Surprisingly, Brees is not among them.

Brees probably won’t reach 5,000 yards passing this season, but he never has been more accurate or more efficient. That 25/1 TD pass/INT ratio is crazy good.

A NOT SO FUN TRIP TO NEW YORK CITY FOR SYRACUSE...BUT ALL IS NOT LOST

It could’ve been a great trip to The Big Apple late last week for the Syracuse University basketball and football teams. Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium. Tough to top that pair of sporting venues.

Jim Boeheim’s 15h-ranked basketball squad was expected to beat the Connecticut Huskies Thursday night to advance to the championship game against the Oregon Ducks. Coach Dino Babers’ 12th-ranked football team hoped to upset third-ranked Notre Dame Saturday afternoon.

Oops. The basketball team lost to UConn 83-76 and then lost to Oregon 80-65 in the consolation game.

The football team lost 36-3 to the clearly superior Fighting Irish. It was no fluke. Notre Dame was bigger, stronger and appeared to be faster. SU is a program on the rise. Notre Dame already has reached the upper echelon.

Of course, SU has nothing to be embarrassed about. The basketball team clearly misses injured senior point guard Frank Howard and is shooting poorly (field-goal percentage .389; 3-point field-goal percentage .205; free-throw percentage .710). Howard is expected to return soon and the shooting will improve.

A much bigger problem and concern – in my opinion – is lack of skill and physicality at center. Paschal Chukwu, Bourama Sidibe and Mark Dolezaj all lack strength and have been outplayed down low.

The Orange are 2-2 and all but certain to be 3-2 after Wednesday night’s home game against Colgate. Beating Colgate is as simple for SU as brushing teeth.  Syracuse has won the last 52 meetings since Colgate last won February 24, 1962.

After beating Colgate, SU will play at Ohio State November 28. The next seven games – the entire month of December – will be played at the Carrier Dome: Cornell Dec. 1, Northeastern Dec. 4, Georgetown Dec. 8, Old Dominion Dec. 15, Buffalo Dec. 18 (which team will be higher in the AP rankings?), Arkansas State Dec. 22 and St. Bonaventure Dec. 29. How’s that for scheduling?

The football team is 8-3 and headed for a bowl game. A win Saturday at Boston College – no sure thing – could mean a spot in the Camping World Bowl versus a decent Big 12 opponent Friday, Dec. 28, 1:30 p.m., in Orlando.

SOME ENCOURAGING HISTORICAL NOTES FOR THE MUCH-IMPROVED SABRES

The Buffalo Sabres were the NHL’s worst team last season. They were 25-42-12 and had 62 points in the standings. The last of the eight playoff qualifiers in Buffalo’s Eastern Conference had 97 points.

It isn’t easy to improve by 35 points in the standings in one year– if that’s what Buffalo would need to do to reach this season’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

The additions of No. 1 overall draft pick Rasmus Dahlin and left wing Jeff Skinner via trade from Carolina have sparked a quick start—12-6-2 (26 of 40 possible points) and stirred thoughts of making the playoffs for the first time since after the 2010-11 season.

Can these Sabres do it? Recent history says yes.

Since Buffalo joined the NHL for the 1970-71 season, teams finishing with the fewest points in the regular season went on to make the playoffs the following season 11 times.  Of course, it didn’t hurt to have 16 teams qualify out of a starting field of between 14 and 30.

The most recent worst-to-playoff berths in a 30-team NHL:

The 2006-07 last-place Philadelphia Flyers went from 22-45-12 (56 points) to 42-29-11 (95 points) in the 2007-08 season (+39).

The 2015-16 last-place Toronto Maple Leafs went from 29-42-11 (59 points) to 40-27-15 (95 points) in the 2016-17 season (+36).

SHORT SHOTS

Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman had his first post-Bills workout last week with the Detroit Lions. After Washington QB Alex Smith suffered a broken leg Sunday, Peterman was included on one rather long media list of possible signees by the Redskins. I’ll believe it when I see it.

The Las Vegas Westgate Super Book now lists the New Orleans Saints as the +180 favorite (bet $100 to win $180) to win Super Bowl 53. The game will be played in Atlanta and it looks like the disappointing Falcons won’t be the first Super Bowl participant to host the event.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Monday, November 19

O. J. Howard 24...Joey Gallo. 25..Alex Mack 33...25...Marquise Goodwin 28...Kenneth Faried 29...Patrick Kane 30...DeAngelo Hall 35..Ryan Howard 39....NFL RB Larry Johnson 39...Kerri Strug 41...Petr Sekora 42...Jamil Miller 45...Dean Melanson 45...Matt Darby 50..Gail Devers 52....Grant Ledyard 57...Michael Wilbon 60....Otis Anderson 61...Ahmad Rashad 69...Mike Phipps 71...Bob Boone 71...Rick Monday 73..Dennis Hull 74...Ted Turner 80. Jodie Foster 56, Meg Ryan 57, Calvin Klein 76 and Larry King 85 are invited to the birthday party.

Tuesday, November 20

Max Pacioretty 30...Greg Holland 33...Carlos Boozer 37...Dominique Dawes 42...J.D. Drew 43...Tra Thomas 44...Joey Galloway 47...Dabo Swinney 49...John MacLean 54...Mark Gastineau 62...John Van Boxmeer 66...Greg Cook 72. Bo Derek 62 and Joe Biden 76 are invited to the birthday party.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

November 19

67 year ago (1951), Brooklyn Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella won National League MVP on his 30th birthday...43 years ago (1975), Cincinnati Reds second baseman Joe Morgan was named National League MVP...39 years ago (1979), the Edmonton Oilers beat the New Jersey Devils 13-4 and Oilers star Wayne Gretzky called the Devils “a Mickey Mouse organization.”...29 years ago (1989), the U.S. men’s national soccer team beat Trinidad to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1950...28 years ago (1990), Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Barry Bonds was named National League MVP...27 years ago (1991), Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr., was named American League MVP for the second time...22 years ago (1996), Albert Belle signed a record five-year, $55 million contract with the Chicago White Sox.

November 20

90 years ago (1928), Boston Gardens opened; the NHL Bruins lost 1-0 to the Montreal Canadiens...76 years ago (1942), the NHL abolished regular-season overtime until World War II ended...56 years ago (1962), Mickey Mantle won named American League MVP for the third time...49 years ago (1969), Brazilian soccer star Pele scored his 1,000th career goal...San Francisco slugger Willie McCovey edged Mets pitcher Tom Seaver for National League MVP...47 years ago (1971), Richard Petty won the 21st NASCAR Sprint Cup...41 years ago (1977), Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears ran for an NFL-record 275 yards...33 years ago (1985), Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly won American League MVP...30 years ago (1988), Boston College beat Army 38-24 in Dublin in the first NCAA football game played in Europe...13 years ago (2005), Tony Stewart won the 57th NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Bob Matthews' Column

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