Thursday - Jan 17, 2019

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What do I know? Heading into Week 15

Most Valuable Player

This award usually garners a bit of debate regarding what constitutes a most valuable player. I say it has to be someone who changes the fortunes of the team he plays for such that without him, the team would not be successful. Using that definition, I rule out guys like Drew Brees (unless the Saints make the playoffs) and DeAngelo Williams, who are both having fantastic years. But really, could the Saints miss the playoffs without Brees? Given that they might miss the playoffs
with him playing so well, that answer seems obvious. So who does that leave? Three names come to mind … Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson.

Arizona has won their division (albeit a weak one) for the first time in 33 years. I ask myself would they have that same success with Matt Leinart starting? Possibly, given that the division was so awful this year but that’s the only reason. Manning has held his team together through a rash of offensive injuries and slowly worked his way back to full strength from midsummer knee surgery. Not to mention he’s played flawlessly over the last seven weeks or so when the Colts had no room for error. I can’t imagine the Colts sniffing the playoffs with Jim Sorgi leading the team. While it’s debatable whether the Vikings would be 8-5 and leading the NFC North with Chester Taylor toting the pigskin, the NFL’s leading rusher Peterson has seemingly put this team on his back the last half dozen weeks or so highlighted by his determination (following a fumble) against the Green Bay Packers to score the winning touchdown in a crucial division game.

Rookie of the Year

This year’s rookie class will go down in NFL history as one of the best and not just at the running back position. The one guy that stands out to me as deserving of the rookie of the year award is Matt Forte. He currently is the top ranked fantasy running back in my performance-heavy scoring league but besides that, he has served as the lynchpin of the Bears offense this season. With all due respect to Matt Ryan, Steve Slaton and Chris Johnson who each have had outstanding rookie years, Forte leads all rookie running backs in total yards from scrimmage (1,476). What is most impressive though is how much the Bears count on him to contribute to their success. Both Slaton and Johnson have had other backfield teammates to balance their workload and help keep them fresh, but the Bears have relied on Forte so much so that he is not only their leading rusher but their leading receiver. In fact, he has 60 more touches than Chris Johnson and nearly 80 more than Steve Slaton. It will be interesting to see if Forte begins to show signs of hitting the rookie wall the next few weeks but one thing is for sure: he will continue to be the focal point of the Bears offense.

Game of the Week

Pittsburgh

at

Baltimore. Beyond the intense rivalry that has developed between these two teams and the bragging rights that come with winning, both teams are playing for something more meaningful: the division crown and a second seed in the AFC. This much is clear, if

Pittsburgh wins they will clinch the AFC North and also a playoff berth.

Baltimore can’t clinch anything with a victory, but they would continue to put the pressure on the Steelers to keep winning and would put themselves in position to potentially wrest away the division crown and the second seed.

Pittsburgh fought back to win their home contest with the Ravens earlier this year 23-20 in overtime, but they have not won in

Baltimore since 2002. Forget about all that for a second though; these teams simply do NOT like each other. If you enjoy watching smash-mouth football and great defense with strong pass rushes, then this is the game for you. There are other games this week that feature teams fighting for their playoff lives, but none will match the intensity of this biannual battle. This will have the look and feel of a playoff game where teams play like their season is over should they lose.

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