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Question: Why is Eli Manning being overlooked as an MVP candidate? All he does is win the big games and keeps his mouth shut. He doesn't go around telling everyone how great he is. The Giants play all the so-called MVP quarterbacks (Favre, Warner, Brady etc.) and Manning and Co. send them home losers. Of course, if you don't blow your own horn nobody else will. He is so much more classy than the rest it is not funny. --Bob S., Kingsport Tenn.
If the league's MVP award recognized a player for classiness, then I suppose Eli Manning would be the obvious choice.
But it doesn't.
It recognizes an exceptionally high level of performance -- the kind that accounts for the lion's share of a team's success. It's mostly about impressive statistics, and it's fair to say that Drew Brees, Kurt Warner, and Brett Favre have so far put up better numbers than Manning. It's also fair to say that among the presumptive candidates, Brees and Warner probably have meant more to the Saints and Cardinals, respectively, than Favre and Manning have meant to the Jets and Giants, respectively.
That doesn't mean that Manning isn't a viable MVP candidate. He has made a significant contribution to the Giants' 10-1 record. However, it could be argued that the league's top-ranked rushing offense and fifth-ranked defense have been equally, if not more, important to the team's success.
Right now, my vote goes to Brees, but I have a sense it could change in the next five weeks.
Question: The Patriots are now 7-4 with proficient play from first-time starting quarterback Matt Cassel. But will the plague of injuries keep them out of the playoffs for the first time in five years? With Adalius Thomas out for the season and the Jets and Colts on long winning streaks, should Patriot fans like me start to get worried? At the moment the Ravens and Colts hold the wild-card spots and two of the Patriots' five remaining games come against division leaders (Pittsburgh and Arizona), not exactly easy. What's your opinion on the situation? -- Evan C.
Although I have been very impressed with Cassel's play of late -- and with how Randy Moss and Wes Welker have elevated their performances to help get the best out of their inexperienced quarterback -- it's hard to overlook those injuries on defense. The Pats' 20-point victory at Miami made a strong statement, but there were multiple times during that game when they looked particularly vulnerable against the same sort of spread passing attack that Cassel operated so effectively.
The schedule does present some enormous challenges. Meanwhile, the Colts' schedule seems to give them a fairly clear path to at least a wild-card berth.
Question:Joe Flacco is playing as well as Matt Ryan, but you mostly hear about Ryan. When the Ravens embarrassed the Eagles, all that you heard was how bad Donovan McNabb was, not how good the Ravens were. I just feel like credit needs to be given because the Ravens will be in the playoffs, in my opinion. What's your opinion of them? -- Josh M.
I'm very impressed with Flacco, but you're probably right about Ryan getting more attention. I think that's a function of the fact the Falcons have made such an incredible comeback from the problems of a year ago that made them such a tainted franchise.
The Ravens have made an impressive turnaround as well, and the fact their rookie quarterback came from a small school is a great story. But it doesn't pack quite as much drama as you have in Atlanta.
As for McNabb and his struggles garnering more attention than what the Ravens did to beat the Eagles, you're probably right about that, too. However, speaking as a writer, I'd argue that when a franchise quarterback struggles as badly as McNabb did and ends up being benched for the first time in his career, that's going to rank as the biggest story from the game.
If it makes you feel any better, I thought the Ravens showed tremendous fortitude in the way they rebounded from their embarrassing loss to the Giants. I don't know if they're a lock to make the playoffs, but the victory over Philadelphia could prove pivotal in their stretch run. Cincinnati gives the Ravens a good opportunity to make it two in a row, but three of their final four opponents (Washington, Pittsburgh, and Dallas) look daunting.
Question: Let's not give up on the Panthers just yet. I just realized that the past four weeks our running game has been rushing for over 100-plus yards; it has become consistent. The passing game is beginning to show up now. Jake Delhomme is no longer struggling. Good sign. Now all we need is for that defense to return back to the nastiness that we had before going into the bye week where we were shutting teams out. Should this happen and everything comes together just right, look out! The Panthers would be back. In fact, in some ways I think the 2003 season is repeating itself again. -- Bryon R.