We're inside the final 20 of the Top 100 Players of 2017, which is where things really start to get fun. And my, how a year can change everything.
That was the prevailing sentiment as the Oakland Raiders sprinted to a Wild Card berth and looked like a legitimate Super Bowl contender until Derek Carr was cut down by a broken leg. Oakland washed away the sins of a decade of putrid football in returning to the playoffs for the first time since the 2002 season, with much of the credit due to Carr. It's no surprise, then, that the quarterback is in this Top 100 ranking, just as he was the year prior.
But No. 11??
Before you don your eye patches and spiked shoulder pads and charge the NFL Media offices to prove that Carr deserves his ranking, you should know I don't disagree with it. Carr and the Raiders were wildly entertaining in 2016, especially when they played at home, where they went 6-2. That comeback against Buffalo in Week 13 was magical. No ill will intended here at all.
But when compared with last season's ranking of 100, the 89-position leap left me slack-jawed. It's the greatest difference in ranking in the Top 100 this season, and if you're a numbers person, it's pretty intriguing. Consider this:
Carr in 2015 (16 games played): 350-573 (61.1 percent), 3,987 yards, 32-13 TD-INT, 91.1 passer rating, 31 sacks taken
Carr in 2016 (15 games played): 357-560 (63.8 percent), 3,937, 28-6 TD-INT, 96.7 passer rating, 16 sacks taken
There are minimal differences there, yet Carr enjoyed a massive leap upward in rankings. It further proves that only one number matters: wins.
2015 Oakland Raiders: 7-9
2016 Oakland Raiders: 12-4, Wild Card appearance, exorcism of the ghost of still-living Bill Callahan