NFL Postseason Awards

In this article, there is an evaluation of the candidates for each major NFL postseason award (MVP, Comeback Player of the Year, Offensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Rookie of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and Coach of the Year), evaluating the legitimacy of each candidate’s resume. In these evaluations, we will be looking at both who should win the award and who will win the award, which is quite different in some, or even most, cases. Let’s take a look at each award below:

 

Who Should Win MVP: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Who Will Win MVP: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

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The MVP award is given out to the most valuable player, not necessarily the best player, but the one who adds the most value to his team. However, in Aaron Rodgers’s case, he happens to be both. Unfortunately, Rodgers will likely not win the award due to a stellar season on Matt Ryan’s part, but more importantly, a disappointing playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship this past weekend, which will likely sway voters towards voting for “Matty Ice”.

Rodgers has been fueling the Packers’ recent tear, in which they won 8 straight games before losing this past weekend in Atlanta. Over this win streak, Rodgers has posted a 12:1 touchdown to interception ratio (24 to 2), 2,671 passing yards, and an average QBR of 82.3, all of which are league bests over the past 9 games. Rodgers’ phenomenal play has been instrumental to the Packers’ success, as his stats have improved significantly from the first 9 games; his QBR and touchdown to interception ratio are severely inflated on the back half of the season (3.14 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio and 77.8 QBR through the first 9 games). Rodgers led the league this year with 40 passing touchdowns, and was actually so phenomenal over the last 9 games of the season that he threw 24 touchdowns, which is more than all but 13 quarterbacks did over the course of the entire regular season (16 games).

Although Rodgers is much more deserving of the MVP award, Ryan will likely come away with the award next Saturday night because of his phenomenal play throughout the season as well as their huge win over the Packers that earned them a trip to Houston for Super Bowl LI. With that being said, Ryan was incredible this season, and many advanced metrics point towards that he should win the award, not Rodgers. Ryan was 2nd in passing yards and passing touchdowns this season, behind only Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in those respective categories. Additionally, Ryan led the league in QBR (83.3), as well as in DYAR, (Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement), which shows that Ryan excelled against stronger defenses, more so than his stats would suggest. Ryan also led the league in DVOA (Defense-Adjustive Value Over Average) with 40.2%, suggesting that he is 40.2% better than the average QB against an average defense, which is more than 6% better than his next closest competitor, Aaron Rodgers. However, I believe that Rodgers is more deserving of the award even though Ryan might have been better offensively, as Rodgers was much more influential and crucial to the Packers’ success than Ryan was to the Falcons’, as Rodgers had to deal with injury upon injury as well as a bad defense, while the Falcons were generally in good health and had a great defense.

Tom Brady should also be in the MVP conversation as he has posted a 13-1 record since returning from his 4-game suspension because of Deflategate. Additionally, Brady had a touchdown to interception ratio 12 to 1 over the course of the entire season, which is an NFL record. Brady also has a QBR of 83.0, which is second in the league, only behind that of Matt Ryan.

 

Who Should Win Comeback Player of the Year: Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

Who Will Win Comeback Player of the Year: Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers

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In recent years, the Comeback Player of the Year award has become one of the most coveted, especially since Eric Berry won last year after missing the entire 2014 season due to his (successful) battle with Leukemia. The Comeback Player of the Year award has always been very difficult to predict, due to the great diversity in the candidates for the award; the two stereotypes for this award are typically someone who is coming off of a catastrophic injury (usual ACL tear) and returning back to their stellar play (example: Adrian Peterson in 2012) or someone who is coming off of a very poor year of play only to return to their normal form (example: Philip Rivers in 2013).

After missing the entire 2015 due to a torn ACL, Jordy Nelson was absolutely spectacular during the 2016 season, which has made him the front-runner and nearly shoe-in candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year award. Despite being neutralized in a couple of games this season (he had 5 games with under 45 receiving yards), likely due to undisclosed injuries, Nelson absolutely tore up opposing defenses this season, forcing defenses, most notably Minnesota and Chicago, to change their game plans mid-game to hamper his production. Nelson often drew double-coverage and extra attention from the secondary, which allowed other members of the receiving corps, usually Randall Cobb or Davante Adams, to get open and terrorize opposing defenses. In fact, in the 5 games in which he had less than 45 receiving yards, either Cobb or Adams had at least 80 receiving yards, and in most cases, more than 100 (the lone exception being against Jacksonville all the way back in Week 1). Nelson was absolutely crucial in Rodgers’ path to having a MVP-caliber season, as demonstrated by the stats above, as well as the huge increases in Rodgers’ production compared to the prior season; in 2016, Rodgers threw for 600 more passing yards and 9 more passing touchdowns, and had a QBR 14 points higher than he had in 2015. With all of this being said, Nelson looks to be the sure favorite to win Comeback Player of the Year, as his production, 1,257 receiving yards and 14 receiving touchdowns, was amongst the best in the league.

DeMarco Murray also has a convincing, yet unconventional case to win the Comeback Player of the Year award. After rushing for over 1,800 yards, recording 13 total touchdowns, and tallying more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage in his 2013 campaign in Dallas, Murray decided to test free agency, and eventually ended up in Philly. It’s safe to say his campaign in Philly was disastrous; after being an MVP candidate in 2014, Murray barely recorded 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 2015, and only scored 7 total touchdowns. However, after getting traded to Tennessee for a swap of 4th-round picks, Murray completely revived his career, returning to near original form. In 2016, Murray recorded over 1,600 yards from scrimmage as well as 12 total touchdowns, both of which were the second best marks in his career, only falling short of his numbers during his 2014 campaign. Murray did not score so well on advanced metrics such as DVOA and DYAR, overall had quite a solid season. This dramatic revitalization of Murray’s career makes him a very deserving, but not the most deserving, candidate for the Comeback Player of the Year award.

 

Who Should Win Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas Cowboys

Who Will Win Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas Cowboys

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Ezekiel Elliot was an absolute stud this season, compiling one of the best rookie campaigns in NFL history. The only recent rookie campaign that even pales in comparison is that of Odell Beckham, Jr. back in 2015, and even so, that one was nowhere near as impressive as Elliot’s this past season. Elliot was so dominant that he only failed to rush for 80 yards in a game once this season, and that was against the Giants in his first career game. Additionally, Elliot averaged 3.9 yards per rush in every single game this season, except for that same game against the Giants, which is a highly impressive feat. Over the course of this season, Elliot compiled nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage, which is easily the most by a rookie in recent history, as well as an incredible 16 total touchdowns (15 rushing, 1 receiving). Elliot nearly broke Eric Dickerson’s long-time rookie rushing record, but fell a bit short, likely due to rest he had at the end of the season after the Cowboys clinched home field advantage. Elliot provided much needed help to his fellow rookie Dak Prescott, and was instrumental to the Cowboys’ success and 13-3 regular season record.

While his campaign was not nearly as impressive as his fellow teammate Ezekiel Elliot’s, Dak Prescott put up a phenomenal rookie campaign that should be lauded. Prescott led the Cowboys to a 13-3 regular season record, which is tied for the best season by a rookie in NFL history (Ben Roethlisbeger is the other). 13 wins is extremely impressive for an established, elite quarterback, such as Rodgers or Brady, but for a rookie quarterback, this is practically unheard of. Prescott posted an average QBR of 82.6, which was lightyears ahead of his fellow rookie quarterbacks (Wentz and Goff), and was good enough for 3rd in the NFL. Additionally, Prescott recorded almost 4,000 yards from scrimmage, as well as 30 total touchdowns, both of which are impressive feats for a rookie.

Although he’s no Elliot or Prescott in terms of his value to his team, Tyreek Hill is a rising young star, who had a stellar rookie campaign, which definitely should at least bring his name up in the conversation for Offensive Rookie of the Year. After a fairly slow start through the first 5 or so weeks of the season, Hill went full beast mode for the rest of the season. Hill compiled nearly 1,000 return yards and 3 return touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns, where he quickly established himself as one of the best returners in the league. Additionally, Hill also racked up more than 900 yards from scrimmage and 9 offensive touchdowns. By the end of the season, Hill established himself as a game-changing playmaker with elite speed, as well as one of the most promising young prospects in the NFL.

 

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Joey Bosa, San Diego Chargers

Who Will Win Defensive Rookie of the Year: Joey Bosa, San Diego Chargers

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While some of the other races for postseason awards might be hotly contested, the MVP race for example, the Defensive Rookie of the Year award should not even be close. Joey Bosa has demonstrated that he is by far the best defensive rookie in the 2015 draft class, and possibly one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. After a contract dispute that left him sidelined for the first 4 weeks of the regular season and deeply angered the Chargers organization, Bosa ended negotiations in late August and turned out to be well worth it once he got onto the field. Despite missing the first 4 games of the season as well as being a rookie who need to learn the Chargers’ playbook, Bosa finished the season with 10.5 sacks, which easily led all rookies. Bosa finished tied for 13th in the NFL with his 10.5 sacks, which gave him the same number of sacks as Brian Orakpo, and just 0.5 sacks behind feared, veteran pass rushers, such as Khalil Mack, Ryan Kerrigan, and Chandler Jones. What’s even more incredible is that Bosa might not have even been playing his very best for the entire year; Bosa recorded at least one sack in the final 5 games of the regular season, tallying 6 over that 5 game span. He played so well over that span that his name has already come up in conversation for most feared pass rusher for the 2017 NFL season.

Although a couple of other defensive players had good rookie campaigns this past season, no one came even close to what Joey Bosa did. Jalen Ramsey also lived up to expectations in Jacksonville, embracing his role as the #1, lockdown cornerback for the horrific Jaguars defense. Ramsey’s stats don’t tell the full story, as quarterbacks often avoided his side of the field in the passing game due to his late season dominance. Ramsey forced 3 turnovers (2 interceptions and 1 forced fumble) in the last 3 games of the season, just a glimpse at his immense potential. Although Jacksonville’s defense was downright horrific for the majority of the season, Ramsey actually led a stout passive defense for Jacksonville that surprisingly finished 5th in the NFL in passing yards per game.

Leonard Floyd also had a stellar rookie campaign out in Chicago, putting together an impressive resume as an pass rusher. Chicago wanted Floyd so badly that they traded up in the draft to get the pick before the New York Giants, who likely would have picked him due to their need for a pass rusher, and their bet appears to have worked out for them. Since being drafted by Chicago, Floyd has made his presence as an edge rusher felt, and although he is not as feared as Bosa, he definitely provides quite a bit of trouble for opposing defenses. Floyd recorded 7 sacks this season, which is second to only Bosa, but his stats don’t necessarily tell the whole story, as his presence was felt much more greatly than the 7 sacks would suggest. Keanu Neal, Eli Apple, DeForest Buckner, and Vonn Bell all had respectable seasons as well, but were not quite on the same level as Ramsey and Floyd, not to mention even in the same universe as Bosa.

 

 

 

Who Should Win Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

Who Will Win Coach of the Year: Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

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I know that you are all probably thinking that I am crazy right now, as I am picking Bill Belichick as the most deserving candidate to win Coach of the Year. But before you start, I want to establish that I agree that Jason Garrett likely will win the award, as he is a very deserving candidate and completed a wild transformation down in Dallas. Let’s just establish something first: Coach of the Year is given to the best coach in the NFL, the one who makes the most happen with what he has on his roster, not necessarily the coach of the team that is most improved. With keeping that in mind, let’s look at the cases for both Belichick and Garrett, but more specifically, how Belichick was able to make the most out of his limited personnel.

Not that the Coach of the Year award should be always be awarded to the coach of the team with the best record, but I think it is well worth mentioning that Belichick’s Patriots had a league-best regular season record of 14-2. As I mentioned earlier, Coach of the Year should be awarded to the coach who makes the most happen with what he has on his roster, and I think Belichick truly embraced that on his path to his 7th super bowl in the Brady era. It is quite important to note that the Patriots were far from healthy this season, which made Belichick’s job much more difficult. Rob Gronkowski, undoubtedly the best tight end in football and a premiere red-zone target for the Patriots, only appeared in 8 games this season due to various injuries, and forced Tom Brady to look elsewhere besides his favorite target. Dion Lewis, a crafty back with elite playmaking skill both on offense and special teams, missed 9 games as well due to complications with his ACL tear in the prior season. On top of that, Tom Brady, quite possibly the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, missed 4 games due to suspension (Deflategate), forcing the Patriots to start 3 different quarterbacks over the first 5 games. In fact, Belichick is the first coach ever to have 3 different starting quarterbacks (Garoppolo – filling in for Brady during suspension, Brissett – filling in for Garoppolo while he was hurt during Brady’s suspension, and Brady – the starter) and finish with a record of 14-2 or better. During the middle of the season, the Patriots also traded Jamie Collins to the Browns for future draft picks, which did not make his job any easier as well. However, what I think truly speaks volumes about how great of a coach Belichick is that the Patriots still managed to go 3-1 and be extremely dominant without Tom Brady, the undoubted leader of their offense.

Let’s just establish something first: Jason Garrett had an absolutely phenomenal year, coaching the Dallas Cowboys to one of their best finishes in recent history. Just as Belichick had to do with his Patriots, Garrett had to overcome tragedy quite early in the season, also in the form of injury. Tony Romo went down with a back injury during a preseason game in Seattle that turned out to be devastating, ruling him out for at least 6-8 weeks. Little did the Cowboys know that this was a blessing in disguise … In stepped Dak Prescott, a rookie out of Mississippi State, now the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did Garrett have a starting rookie running back (Elliot), but also a starting rookie quarterback (Prescott), which is quite a handful. And what did Garrett do with it? Absolutely amazing things. The Cowboys were super dominant this year, finishing with a regular season record of 13-3, which was second in the NFL only to the New England Patriots, before losing in a thriller versus the Packers in the divisional round. The only, and I mean only, reason that Garrett should not win Coach of the Year is that the Cowboys had a lot more talent to work with than the Patriots did. Arguably, the only two “stars” on the Patriots team are Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, who missed 4 and 8 games respectively. On the other hand, the Dallas Cowboys have the best offensive line in football to work with, as Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, and Zack Martin all made both the Pro Bowl and All-Pro rosters, as well as 2 huge playmakers in Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliot.

 

Who Should Win Offensive Player of the Year: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Who Will Win Offensive Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

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Although the terms MVP and Offensive Player of the Year have become synonymous in recent years, these awards are quite different and should be awarded accordingly. While MVP refers to the player who was most crucial to the their team’s success, Offensive Player of the Year refers to the best offensive player, not necessarily the most valuable. This might be a tad bit confusing, as in most recent years, the most valuable player has happened to also be the most valuable one (despite the trend to not give both awards to the same player), as you might have seen through the play of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, LaDanian Tomlinson, etc.

As mentioned in the MVP award section, many advanced metrics would point towards that Matt Ryan was the best quarterback in the NFL this season, and probably the best player in the NFL as well. Both DYAR, defense-adjusted yards above replacement, and DVOA, defense-adjusted value over average, show that Matt Ryan was far and away the best quarterback in the NFL, as he is significantly in first place in both stats. These metrics adjust the quarterbacks’ stats to account for better or worse competition, and show that Matt Ryan would have a leg up on everyone against an average NFL defense. If you’re not convinced that these two stats accurately represent his performance, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees are (or were) consistently in the top 7 for these two stats every single year.

It is hard to argue that Matt Ryan is not the best offensive player in the NFL due to his array of amazing stats (see MVP section), but it is much more difficult to defend his case for MVP. Don’t get me wrong, Ryan had an absolutely phenomenal year, but received great help on both sides of the ball, which would hamper his case for MVP, but not Offensive Player of the Year. The Falcons were the only team in the NFL to have all 80 starts for their offensive line, meaning that each of their 5 lineman started each of their 16 games, which is quite an impressive feat. Ryan enjoyed this luxury, which likely played into his success, but nonetheless can’t really be used against him for his case for Offensive Player of the Year. The Falcons also enjoyed a stellar defense led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Vic Beasley, as well as an arsenal of playmakers on the offense, in Julio Jones, Taylor Gabriel, Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman, which certainly made his job easier.Fortunately for Ryan, this award is given to the best offensive player (regardless of the help around him; MVP is for the opposite), and in my opinion, should certainly be given to Matt Ryan.

Except for a couple of exceptions in recent years, historically, the MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards have gone to separate players, pointing towards that the winner will either be Matt Ryan or Aaron Rodgers, depending on which one does not win MVP. However, there has been 3 exceptions in the past 4 years, as Cam Newton (2015), Peyton Manning (2013), and Adrian Peterson (2012) all won both the MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards, so we might be in for a surprise this year.

 

Who Should Win Defensive Player of the Year: Vic Beasley Jr., Atlanta Falcons

Who Will Win Defensive Player of the Year: Von Miller, Denver Broncos

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Out of all of the awards given out, this one has certainly given me the most trouble on deciding both who will win and who should win. Although there were many amazing defensive performances by a variety of different players with different styles at different positions, there was just an overall lack of star power and an obvious candidate for the award. Many of the front runners for the award, including Patrick Peterson, JJ Watt, Khalil Mack, Tyrann Mathieu, and Aaron Donald, either got injured or played at or below their expected levels, not what is expected from the Defensive Player of the Year. In my mind, 3 guys in particular stood out: Vic Beasley Jr., Von Miller, and Landon Collins.

Vic Beasley Jr. was absolutely phenomenal this season, improving leaps and bounds from his disappointing rookie campaign, and in my opinion, is the most deserving candidate for this year’s Defensive Player of the Year award. Beasley led the league this year in sacks with 15.5, leading his next closest competitor (Von Miller) by 2.0 sacks. What’s even more incredible is that Beasley only had 1 sack through the first 4 games of the season, meaning that he recording an astounding 13.5 sacks over the last 12 games of the season. In fact, the only player to match his incredible sack streak was Von Miller, who achieved the exact same feat, but over the first 12 games of the season. Additionally, Beasley was tied with Bruce Irvin for the league lead with 6 forced fumbles, yet another stat that represents his dominance as a perimeter.

Von Miller also had quite a stellar season, as I briefly described above, but was not quite as good as Beasley in most aspects of his game. Unlike Beasley, Miller started off the season red-hot, recording 13.5 sacks in the first 12 games of the season. However, once again unlike Beasley, Miller’s production dropped off the cliff late in the season, as Miller failed to record a sack in his final 4 games of the season. While Miller also recorded 3 forced fumbles, they were pale in comparison to Beasley’s 6.

Landon Collins also put together an impressive season, building on a solid rookie campaign from the season before. Collins had 125 tackles this season, which was the second most for a non-linebacker, only behind Johnathan Cyprien, who was on the field a ridiculous amount of the time because of Jacksonville’s disaster of an offense. Collins went on a midseason tear, recording 5 interceptions over a 4 game span, which started to draw attention to him. Collins really came onto everyone’s radar after winning the NFC Defensive Player of the Week in consecutive weeks, a feat that puts him in elite company. He is the first New York Giant to ever do this, and the first since Charles Tillman did it back in 2012.

 

 

Extras:

Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year – Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas Cowboys

Walter Payton Man of the Year – Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals

Bridgestone Performance Play of the Year – Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs (punt return TD versus Denver Broncos)

Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017 – Brian Dawkins, Jason Taylor, LaDainian Tomlinson, Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, Isaiah Bruce, Terrell Owens, and Ty Law

 

Data courtesy of ESPN, NFL.com, CBS Sports, Football Outsiders, and Yahoo Sports!. Thanks for reading!

Written by Jason Platkin

Cover Photo Credits: AP Photo

Home Sweet Home

Oh how sweet is to be at home … in every playoff matchup this week, the home team won quite comfortably.

The Raiders get smoked in Houston: Oakland Raiders 14, Houston Texans 27

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The Houston Texans were not kind to Connor Cook in his first NFL start. Photo Credits: Bleacher Report

Before I start, my condolences go out to all Oakland Raiders fans. After not making the playoffs for 14 straight years, the Raiders finally clinched their playoff birth late in the 2016 NFL season. As luck would have it, Derek Carr, the Raiders’ quarterback who was a MVP candidate for the majority of the season, broke his leg in Week 16, leaving Matt McGloin to be the Raiders quarterback. If being a Raiders fan wasn’t hard enough already, Matt McGloin got injured late in the season as well, leaving Connor Cook, a rookie, to be the Raiders’ starter.

As you can imagine, this situation was obviously not ideal for the Raiders. In fact, Connor Cook, a rookie out of Michigan State, became the first rookie ever to start his first NFL game in the playoffs. And boy did it show … Connor Cook finished the game with just 161 passing yards, a cringeworthy 3 interceptions, and a downright pathetic quarterback rating of 5.5. Houston’s offense was quite stagnant as well, only finishing with 291 yards of total offense. The decisive statistic in the game that really showed why Oakland lost had to have been turnovers, as they had 3 (all Connor Cook interceptions) compared to Houston’s 0.

 

Seattle routs in another home win: Detroit Lions 6, Seattle Seahawks 26

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Seattle dominated this game, just as they usually do during their home games. Photo Credits: AP Photo

To all the haters who believe that the 12th man does not influence the game, you are just flat out wrong. Since 2012 (the year Russell Wilson was drafted), the Seahawks have had a league-best record of 39-6 at home, compared to their slightly above average record of 24-19-1 on the road. After beating the Lions at home this past weekend, the Seahawks won their 10th game in a row at home, which is quite an impressive feat. The 12th man is simply a force of nature, recording 137.6 decibels back in 2014, which broke the world record at the time. All I’m saying is that Seattle’s success at home is not coincidental, and was a major force in this rout.

Detroit was looking to come into the game to shed its 26-year playoff winless streak, but unfortunately they didn’t come anywhere even close. Based on the statline, it should come as no surprise that Seahawks completely controlled this game; Seattle had 150 more yards of total offense, 13 more minutes on offense, and 15 more first downs. All of these point to that Seattle dominated this game, and if you watched this game, you could see that they mostly definitely did.

 

 

The ‘Fins come up short yet again: Miami Dolphins 12, Pittsburgh Steelers 30

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Bud Dupree absolutely crushed Matt Moore on this hit during their Wildcard Playoff Game. Photo Credits: AP Photo

Although their playoff winless streak is not quite as long as the Lions, the Miami Dolphins’ fanbase has experienced their fairshare of torture as well, since the Lions have not won a playoff game in 16 years. And today was no exception, as the Steelers absolutely steamed-rolled the Dolphins in a blowout. Antonio Brown and Leveon Bell led the way for the Steelers today, racking up 167 yards and 124 yards, as well as 2 touchdowns each. On the stat-sheet, the Steelers’ win didn’t seem that dominant, as they only slightly edged out the Dolphins in most of the important categories, such as 3rd-down efficiency, total offense, the turnover battle, etc. However, if you watched in person, this was hardly the case, as the Steelers completely controlled the game in this blowout.

On a side note, Roethlisberger injured his ankle late in the 4th quarter and is currently in a walking boot. However, in a press conference after the game, he said he should be fine to play next week.

 

Pack Attack: New York Giants 13, Green Bay Packers 38

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Rodgers completely decimated the Giants’ defense earlier this evening. Photo Credits: Bleacher Report

Well, we discovered 3 important things in this game. The most obvious one has to be that the Giants’ defense is not elite, they are above average at best. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense absolutely tore up the Giants’ defense this week, not a trait that I would usually describe as “elite”. And by consequence, the Cowboys’ offense is not elite either, as they were shut down multiple times by the Giants’ defense. Lastly, but certainly the most important, Aaron Rodgers, with the exception of Tom Brady, is the GOAT (greatest of all time), as he has thrown 22 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in the past 8 games.

Rodgers and the Packers’ offense was just too much too handle, despite having a slow start in the first half. After that, the Giants’ defense was history, as Rodgers had his way with them, as Adams, Cobb, and Cook were open on virtually every single route. Late in the 4th quarter, Packers fans starting chanting “M-V-P, M-V-P”after Rodgers threw a touchdown pass to Randall Cobb, which basically sealed the Packers win. In conclusion, Aaron Rodgers has been completely unstoppable over the past 8 weeks, and any team that is facing him should be downright scared.

 

Data courtesy of ESPN, CBS Sports, Football Reference, and Football Data. Thank you for reading!

Written by Jason Platkin

Cover Photo Credits: AP Photo

Heisman Trophy Analysis

Let’s take a look at this year’s Heisman finalists, and analyze how deserving the candidates were of their respective positions.

 

Lamar Jackson, QB – Louisville Cardinals (1st place – 2,144 votes)

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Lamar Jackson, the clear front-runner to win the Heisman for the majority of the season, capped off a spectacular season with the highest award. Photo Credits: Bleacher Report

This past Saturday, Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded to college football’s most outstanding player. Jackson, only 19 years and 337 days old, not only became the youngest winner of the Heisman Trophy, but also won by 620 votes, which was the sixth largest margin of victory in the history of the trophy. Jackson compiled a number of very impressive achievements this season, and was certainly a very deserving recipient of the ticket into college football’s most elite club.

Jackson epitome of a dual-threat quarterback, racking up 3,390 yards and 30 touchdowns through the air, as well as 1,538 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground. Jackson was the 2nd player in FBS history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,500 yards, and was the first player in a Power 5 conference to do so. Jackson also became the 3rd player in FBS history to pass for 30 touchdowns and rush for 20 touchdowns, and the previous two, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow, won the Heisman in landslides as well. Jackson also broke Deshaun Watson’s ACC single-season touchdown record with 51 total touchdowns this season. With all of that being said, Jackson greatly deserves the Heisman.

 

Deshaun Watson, QB – Clemson Tigers (2nd place – 1,524 votes)

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Deshaun Watson, a pre-season Heisman favorite, came up just short in this year’s Heisman Trophy voting. Photo Credits: Getty Images

While most people might lump Watson and Jackson into the same group, as both are quarterbacks who can pass the ball well with elite running talent, they are by no means the same player. While Jackson is accurately regarded as a dual-threat quarterback, Watson is much more of a pocket passer, despite possessing great athleticism and speed. Watson finished 2nd in the Heisman voting this year, a mild improvement over his 3rd place finish last season, which are the 2 highest finishes in Clemson football history.

Watson was an elite pocket passer this year, recording 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns in the air, but also 529 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground. Although other teams have made it to the playoff multiple times, Watson is the only quarterback in FBS history to lead his team to 2 College Football Playoffs. This past Thursday, Watson won the Davey O’Brien award for the second time, only the fourth player in FBS history to do so, and each of the previous 3 eventually went on to win the Heisman. As we know now, Watson was not quite as lucky, but this alone makes him deserving of his 2nd place finish.

 

Baker Mayfield, QB (3rd place – 361 votes) and Dede Westbrook, WR (4th place – 209 votes)

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Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook finished 3rd and 4th in this year’s Heisman voting despite low expectations after a slow start. Photo Credits: AP Photo

Let’s get something straight: both Baker Mayfield and Dede Westbrook were absolutely fabulous this season, however, they unfairly did not get the national media coverage they deserved. A combination of the excellence of Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, and Alabama, as well as 2 early losses to Houston and Ohio State drew media coverage away from Mayfield and Westbrook, which severely hurt their Heisman campaigns. Additionally, many people did what I did in this article, which hurt their campaigns as well: clump Mayfield and Westbrook together because they both played for the Oklahoma Sooners.

Mayfield was an extremely efficient passer this season, throwing for 3,669 yards and 38 touchdowns. Entering the bowl season, Mayfield leads the FBS in Total QBR (91.6), yards per attempt (11.1), and completion percentage (71.2%), the first player to do so since Russell Wilson achieved this feat back in 2011. Mayfield finished 4th in Heisman voting last year, and substantially increased his products in all facets of his game, which would justify his 3rd place finish. Despite being a fabulous player, Jackson and Watson were simply in another class, something that Mayfield maybe can achieve next year, as he stated that he was interested in returning to Norman for his senior year.

Westbrook was fantastic this past season, most likely being the best receiver in all of college football. Westbrook and Mayfield really fed off each other’s success, and some of Mayfield’s improvement from last year to this year can definitely be attributed to Westbrook’s brilliance. Westbrook was possibly the most dynamic player in college football, tallying 16 receiving touchdowns as well as leading Power 5 receivers in 20-yard receptions with 26 and in 100-yard receiving games with 8.This past week, Westbrook deservingly won the Biletnikoff Award, awarded to college football’s best receiver, and finished 4th in Heisman voting for his dynamic play.

 

Jabrill Peppers, Athlete – Michigan Wolverines (5th place – 208 votes)

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Jabrill Peppers lived up to the hype this season, putting together an impressive campaign, in which he finished 5th in Heisman voting this season. Photo Credits: AP Photo

An argument can be made that Jabrill Peppers was the best all-around player in the FBS this season. While I agree with this statement, unfortunately for Peppers, the Heisman historically has not been given to the best all-around player, it’s been given to the best offensive player. It is quite impressive that Peppers managed to stay in the Heisman race despite having such a minimal offensive role, and I think that this really speaks volumes about the impact he makes on all sides of the ball.

Peppers was easily the most versatile player in the country, being an impact player at a number of different positions on defense (linebacker, safety, defensive back), offense (running back, wide receiver, wildcat quarterback), and special teams (punt returner, kick returner). Peppers racked up 72 tackles and 4 touchdowns this year, a fairly impressive stat-line for a player who splits his stats among a number of positions. Peppers is the first non-offensive player to be invited to the Heisman cermony since Manti Te’o, and was more than deserving of his 5th place finish.

 

Data courtesy of ESPN, Football Reference, CBS Sports, and NCAA.com. Thanks for reading!

Written by Jason Platkin

Cover Photo Credits: AP Photo

Contract Year Phenomenon: Myth Or Truth?

The Contract Year Phenomenon refers to the statistical inconsistency in which players perform at much higher level than they usually do during the final year of their contract, but return to original form once they sign their new (and usually larger) contract. Some studies have shown that performance during the final year of a contract can increase, on average, by 5%, while others have shown that the Contract Year Phenomenon is a complete myth (negligible increase or decrease in performance).

There are 3 leading theories for why the Contract Year Phenomenon may (or may not) exist, which we will analyze below:

The most commonly accepted theory, despite its lack of statistical merit, is that players simply play better because of the extra incentive. Quality performance in the final year of a contract usually has a direct correlation to receiving a larger contract, which some would argue causes players to “try harder”. Since players are “trying harder”, this supposedly would lead to better performance, thus explaining this statistical anomaly. While this theory makes sense, it has one gaping hole that makes me question the validity of this theory: why wouldn’t players always be trying their hardest? This theory is assuming that players are not always trying their hardest, which I don’t necessarily believe is true, undermining this potential theory.

Another popular theory, but is not even remotely as widely accepted as the first, is that players are simply less skilled after they sign their contract than they were before. One of the most popular times to sign contracts, for all sports, is in the 27-29 age range, which is when most players are finishing up their first real contract (excluding rookie contracts). Unfortunately, this signing happens at a very similar time to when most players exit their prime and begin their demise (usually happens around age 28). This odd occurrence would certainly explain why the Contract Year Phenomenon exists.

The final, and least likely, of the 3 theories is that the Contract Year Phenomenon exists purely because of luck. Considering that studies only found a 5% increase, while others found no increase at all, it appears that we shouldn’t rule out luck as a possibility.

Let’s explore the 2 types of contract year phenomenon players, as well as the 2 types of reverse contract year phenomenon players to see if it will help give us a better understanding of whether the contract year phenomenon actually exists.

 

Prototypical Contract Year Phenomenon Player:

The player performs significantly better than he usual does in the final year of his contract, leading to him receiving a huge contract. In the year following the signing of this contract, the player returns to his original, or even potentially worse.

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DeMarco Murray, a talented, but volatile running back, is the figurative poster boy for the “contract year phenomenon” after his disaster in Philadelphia. Photo Credits: Getty Images

Prime Example: DeMarco Murray, RB (Cowboys, Eagles, Titans)

2014: 2,195 yards from scrimmage, 14 total touchdowns

2015: 1,024 yards from scrimmage, 7 total touchdowns

2016 (through 7 games): 825 yards from scrimmage, 7 total touchdowns

As discussed earlier, DeMarco Murray is the poster boy for the Contract Year Phenomenon, as he played spectacularly in the final year of his contract, but followed it up with a year that was downright terrible (he signed his contract at the end of the 2014 season). However, in 2016, he returned to his original form, which perfectly matches the mold for a prototypical Contract Year Phenomenon player.

 

Extreme Fallout Post-Contract:

The player performs significantly better than he usual does in the final year of his contract, leading to him receiving a huge contract (same as above). In the following years, the player’s performance drops substantially below his usual, instead of returning to original form.

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Albert Pujols, an all-time great nearing 600 career HR’s, was one of many to fall victim to an extreme case of the “contract year phenomenon” after cashing in on a massive contract. Photo Credits: Pablo Martinez / AP Photo

Prime Example: Albert Pujols, 1B/DH (Cardinals, Angels)

2011: .299 BA, .366 OBP, 0.25 HR/9, 5.1 WAR

2012: .285 BA, .343 OBP, 0.19 HR/9, 4.6 WAR

2013: .258 BA, .330 OBP, 0.17 HR/9, 1.5 WAR

After signing one of the biggest contracts in sports history back in 2012 (10 years, $240 million guaranteed), the quality of Pujols’ play declined sharply, making him an example of an extreme fallout contract year phenomenon. While Pujols regressed, but not too significantly, in 2012, 2013 was a completely different story, as Pujols now reestablished himself as an average hitter, not a world-class one.

 

Sustained Contract Year Performance:

The player performs at a very high level in the final year of his contract leading to a big payday, but he is then able to sustain this level of performance in years following the signing of the contract.

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Daniel Murphy, quite possibly the most clutch postseason performer in recent MLB history, is one of few athletes who have sustained their “contract year performance”. Photo Credits: Brad Mills – USA TODAY Sports

Prime Example: Daniel Murphy, 2B (Mets, Nationals)

2015 (including postseason): .285 BA, 21 HR, 84 RBI

2016 (including postseason): .349 BA, 25 HR, 110 RBI

After a postseason for the ages back in 2015, Murphy signed a huge contract this past year with the Nationals. Unlike most other players who are unable to sustain their stellar postseason performances, Matthew Dellavedova for example, Murphy sustained, and even increased his incredible quality of play, especially his power hitting, which is quite remarkable for a second baseman.

 

Reverse Contract Year Phenomenon Player:

The player performs at a consistent level in years leading up to and including contract year and signs a reasonable contract (for his production). However, after signing the contact, unlike the 3 others, his performance substantially increases from what it used to be.

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Steph Curry, the first unanimously-voted MVP in the history of the NBA, is among the many athletes who have experienced a “reverse contract year phenomenon”. Photo Credits: Stephen Dunn / Getty Images

Prime Example: Steph Curry, PG (Warriors)

2010-11: 18.6 PPG, 2.0 3PM/game, 1.91 Assists/TO

2011-12: 14.7 PPG, 2.1 3PM/game, 2.12 Assists/TO  *26 games*

2012-13: 22.9 PPG, 3.5 3PM/game, 2.25 Assists/TO

2013-14: 24.0 PPG, 3.3 3PM/game, 2.27 Assists/TO

Curry was an above average guard for his first 3 years in the league, and signed a fairly large contract extension back in 2012, essentially making him the “face” of the franchise. However, it was what he did after his contract extension that has made him the best player in the world. Instead of regressing, Curry did simply the opposite; he became better. In nearly every important statistic, most notably points per game and 3 pointers made per game, Curry greatly improved, which has made him an elite player.

 

Now that we have evaluated the possible evidence that would suggest the Contract Year Phenomenon exists as well as the different types of Contract Year and Reverse Contract Year Phenomenon players, it has become much more apparent whether this phenomenon actually exists. And the evidence overwhelming suggests that the Contract Year Phenomenon is much more of a myth than truth. As discussed earlier, studies regarding this phenomenon have been wildly inconsistent, as no two studies have confirmed the same results even though they have looked at fairly similar data. So far, luck seems like the most likely culprit, not extra incentive. In addition, it appears no more likely for a player to experience a Contract Year Phenomenon that to experience the reverse, thus leading me to conclude that the Contract Year Phenomenon is a myth.

 

Data courtesy of ESPN, CBS Sports, FOX Sports, Sports Reference, and Football Outsiders. Thanks for reading!

Written by Jason Platkin

Cover Photo Credits: Mitchell Leff/Getty

Heisman Watch List Update

Through the first 5 weeks, Lamar Jackson, Louisville’s electric quarterback with both serious passing and running talent, has a huge lead in mid-season Heisman voting polls. However, as we know too well, things can change quite quickly. Take Leonard Fournette, quite possibly the best running back in the country, had a lead similar to Jackson’s through the first half of the season last year. However, he wasn’t even a finalist for the Heisman Trophy after a weak showing against Alabama, and only finished 6th in Heisman voting. Below is our analysis of the front-runners to win the Heisman Trophy through the first 5 weeks of the 2016 College Football season.

 

Heisman Favorite: Lamar Jackson, Louisville Cardinals

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Lamar Jackson has easily been the best player in College Football thus far. If he keeps this pace up, he will surely win the Heisman. Photo Credits: syracuse.com

Through the first 5 weeks of the season, Lamar Jackson has blown everyone else out of the water, in possibly the most impressive campaign ever (through 5 weeks). Jackson has averaged an incredible 463 yards per game of total offense (325 passing, 138 rushing), which is second in the country only to Patrick Mahomes, who has faced noticably weaker competition thus far. Jackson also leads the country in total QBR, with a rating of 92.8, which is more than 2 points higher than the next quarterback.

In addition, Jackson has average 4.6 passing TD’s per game as well as 2.8 rushing TD’s per game, which makes him responsible for 33.6 points per game. Jackson is first in the country in points responsible per game, and is on pace to shatter Colt Brennan’s current record of 27.4 points responsible per game back in 2006.

What’s even more impressive is that Jackson has sustained his unbelievable play against 2 of the best teams in the country. Jackson played fabulously against Florida State (362 yards from scrimmage and 5 total touchdowns), who was widely regarded to have one of the best defenses in the country before Jackson humiliated them. While the Louisville Cardinals fell to the Clemson Tigers last week, Jackson still played brilliantly and kept the game close, as he recorded 475 yards of total offense as well as 3 total touchdowns.

 

Don’t sleep on him: Christian McCaffrey, Stanford Cardinals

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Even after a weak showing against Washington, McCaffrey is anything but out of the Heisman race. Photo Credits: Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports

Given that McCaffrey has established himself as a clear front-runner for the Heisman (behind Jackson obviously) and is still considered to be having a “bad” season really speaks to how amazing of a player he is.

Even in his “off” season, McCaffrey has averaged 158.5 yards from scrimmage per game, which is just 26 yards per game less than Dalvin Cook, who leads the country in this stat. In addition, McCaffrey leads the country with 214.5 all purpose yards per game, which is definitely off of his record pace from last year, but nonetheless still incredible. McCaffrey has also averaged 1 touchdown per game, which is impressive as well.

What’s most impressive about McCaffrey’s campaign thus far is that he has completely carried Stanford through this season. McCaffrey has carried the team, touching the ball on 46.8% of Stanford’s plays. While McCaffrey might have been ineffective last week, that was largely the rest of the offense’s fault; his offensive line had trouble blocking Washington’s defensive line and due to Burns’ inexperience, Washington could afford to jam the box with defenders. Stanford’s offensive line, which is weaker than in year’s past, as well as Ryan Burns, Stanford’s inexperienced and ineffective quarterback, are the only things holding McCaffrey back from being as good as he was last season.

 

Do not forget about him: JT Barrett, Ohio State Buckeyes

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JT Barrett has torched opposing defenses so far this year, both in the air and on the ground. Photo Credits: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

While most of the Heisman attention has been focused on Lamar Jackson, for quarterbacks at least, JT Barrett has been quietly putting together an impressive campaign as well. Barrett has averaged 222 passing yards per game and 51 rushing yards per game through the Buckeyes’ first 4 games, which is above average, but not amazing. However, Barrett has averaged 4.25 TD’s per game so far, which means he is responsible for 25.5 points per game. Barrett is 4th in the country in points responsible for per game, behind Jackson, Mahomes, and Webb, and just is a tiny bit off of the record pace Colt Brennan set back in 2006.

Even though Barrett’s stats, especially touchdowns per game, are impressive, they certainly aren’t Heisman worthy. However, what makes Barrett so appealing has been the Buckeyes’ dominance so far. Barrett, Ohio State’s quarterback and captain of the Buckeyes’ offense, has led them to victories of 67 points (Bowling Green), 45 points (Tulsa), 21 points (Oklahoma), and 58 points (Rutgers). Oklahoma, once considered the overwhelming favorite to win the Big 12, was absolutely destroyed by Barrett and the Buckeyes at home, only adding onto Barrett’s impressive resume.

 

Dark Horse: Jake Browning, Washington Huskies

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Jake Browning has exceeded everyone’s expectations this year, especially in Washington’s rout of Stanford last week. Photo Credits: ASSOCIATED PRESS/(AP PHOTO/TED)

While Jake Browning’s stats don’t jump off of the page, he is certainly a major contender to win the Heisman this year. Browning is 5th in the country in Total QBR and 6th in the country in completion percentage, and has only thrown 2 interceptions so far, all suggesting that Browning is completely in control as he is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the country. Browning’s 3.6 TD’s per game and 223 passing yards per game are certainly above average, but are nothing super special either.

What’s easily the most impressive part of Browning’s resume is that he has commanded one of the most powerful offenses in the country. Washington was ranked 5th in last week’s AP Rankings, and has continued to trend upward, fueled by Browning’s stellar performance. The Huskies racked up easily the most impressive win of the season last week, when they absolutely obliterated the Stanford Cardinals, 44-6, which proves that Browning and the Huskies can beat up on stronger teams as well.

 

Other Heisman front-runners:

Jabrill Peppers, Michigan Wolverines

He’s a super talented player and has shown tremendous potential and big play ability on offense, defense, and special teams.

Deshaun Watson, Clemson Tigers

He’s quite possibly the best quarterback in the country, and just took down the Louisville Cardinals and outplayed Lamar Jackson, the current Heisman favorite.

Greg Ward, Jr., Houston Cougars

He doesn’t quite have the stats the other contenders do, but he sure knows how to win. Houston’s only loss in the past 2 seasons came when Ward was hurt against UConn.

Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina Tar Heels

He leads the country in touchdown to interception ratio (13:0) and completion percentage (76%), and is 6th in passing yards as well as 7th in yards per attempt.

 

Data courtesy of ESPN, FOX Sports, CBS Sports, NCAA.com, Wikipedia, and Football Reference. Thanks for reading!

Written by Jason Platkin

Cover Photo Credits: Getty Images

 

Utter Chaos: The NFL Season (So Far) In Review

Major Headlines:

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Adrian Peterson stiff-arms Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in a Vikings win this past Sunday night. Photo Credits: AP Photo/ Andy Clayton-King

Are the Seahawks still the powerhouse they once were?

While it is too early to tell, things are certainly not looking up for Seattle after Week 2. Through the first 2 weeks, Seattle has only mustered a mere 15 points, despite facing two of the weakest defensive units in the league, the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Rams. The Seahawks were stunned in LA by the Rams, who were throttled the week before by the San Francisco 49ers, only making matters worse for Seattle. While it is early in the season, Seattle has shown some major red flags so far.

What’s the problem in Indianapolis?

Unlike the Seahawks, the Indianapolis Colts have had issues across the field. In Week 1, their defense was absolutely horrific, allowing the Lions to score 39 points and record over 400 yards of total offense. In Week 2, the Colts’ defense actually played quite well (allowing 20 points while on defense), however, their offense was quite problematic. Although they played the defending Super Bowl champions, Indianapolis played pathetically, only recording 253 yards of offense and 20 points.

Are the Minnesota Vikings a serious contender?

In simple terms, maybe. Despite a stagnant offense that has featured a relatively subdued Adrian Peterson so far, the Vikings have played fabulously against their opponents thus far. Without Teddy Bridgewater to lead their offense, the Vikings’ defense has played marvelously by only allowing 16 points and 316 yards against the renewed Titans’ offense, and 14 points and 263 yards against the potent Packers’ offense. Adrian Peterson was ruled out for the season today, but the Vikings’ terrific defense continues to give them a chance to be a contender.

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Danny Woodhead is carted off the field after tearing his ACL this past Sunday. Photo Credits: AP Photo/Gary Wiepert

Key Injuries:

The San Diego Chargers suffered devastating losses in both Weeks 1 and 2, losing both Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead to torn ACL injuries. Woodhead had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and 9 TD’s last season, while Allen averaged nearly 100 receiving yards per game.

The Cleveland Browns hit rock bottom in Week 2, as their 2 top quarterbacks, Josh McCown and Robert Griffin III, were injured and will be out for extended periods of time. While neither one is statistically “amazing”, the Browns will be forced to start rookie Cody Kessler this week, who does not appear NFL-ready.

Other notable injuries: Delvin Breaux, DeMarcus Ware, Doug Martin, Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson

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Todd Gurley hurdles a Bears defender en route to becoming Rookie of the Year last season. Photo Credits: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Poor Performances:

Will the poor production continue for Todd Gurley?

Absolutely not. Todd Gurley’s performance will surely regress in the future, despite his struggles through the first 2 weeks. His meager 2.7 yards per carry will surely return to his career average of 4.5 yards per carry, as he is a versatile young back who is both tough and fast. In all fairness, Gurley has faced stellar defenses in both of his performances. While no one anticipated the 49ers playing well this season, they have defied all odds by destroying the Rams on Monday Night and narrowly losing to the Panthers last Sunday. In addition, the Seahawks are widely regarded for having the best running defense in the NFL, which explains his subpar performance last week. With that being said, I certainly expect Todd Gurley to play better in the next couple of weeks and to meet his preseason expectations.

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Will Fuller catches a pass at midfield and has played spectacularly thus far. Photo Credits: AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith

Breakout Performances:

Will Will Fuller be able to sustain his performance?

In simple terms, yes. Will Fuller has performed spectacularly thus far, but has not done anything out of the ordinary. Fuller has averaged 23.4 yards per catch this season, but we can attribute this to his speed, as he maintained a similar line in college. Additionally, Fuller has only scored one TD on 18 targets, which is actually a low rate, and is quite maintainable.

Is CJ Anderson back?

Even though CJ Anderson has played really well for fantasy owners so far, his stats actually haven’t been that amazing and are extremely maintainable. Anderson has averaged 4.2 yards per carry, which is above average, but not unreasonable, especially for someone his size. Anderson has scored 3 touchdowns so far, but that has been on 40 carries and 7 receptions, which is actually a fairly low rate.

Is Kelvin Benjamin really this good?

While Kelvin Benjamin is a very talented football player, he simply will not be able to maintain the pace he has set. Thus far, Benjamin is on pace for 1,600 receiving yards and 24 receiving TD’s, which would easily be the best single-season receiving performance in NFL history. However, Benjamin is possibly the best red-zone threat in the league, so we can definitely expect him to post double-digits in TD’s and at least 1,000 receiving yards this season.

 

Data courtesy of ESPN, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, Football Outsiders, and NFL.com. Thanks for reading!

Written by Jason Platkin

Cover Photo Credits: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Upsets Galore: Week 1 In Review (College Football)

Dubbed the “greatest opening weekend in history”, Week 1 of the college football season certainly lived up to its hype. Despite Week 1’s reputation for being a relatively low-action weekend, this year’s Week 1 was anything but that, as 5 out of the top 16 teams in the AP Poll suffered devastating losses.

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Tyrone Swoops, aka “the 18-wheeler”, dives into the end-zone to score the game-winning touchdown in Austin. Photo Credits: Eric Gay/Associated Press

Major upsets this week:

The #3 ranked Oklahoma Sooners fell victim to the #15 ranked Houston Cougars in a thrilling neutral site game in Houston, 33-23. Houston’s defense performed spectacularly, only allowing 17 first downs and 24:54 time of possession, while Houston’s special teams came up clutch with a game-changing 109-yard touchdown return on a missed field goal.

The #5 ranked LSU Tigers were outdueled by the Wisconsin Badgers in the first ever college football game at Lambeau Field, 16-14. Wisconsin’s defense shut down the Tigers’ offense, holding them to 257 yards of total offense, 23:03 time of possession, and a meager 20% conversion on 3rd-down plays.

The #10 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish were stunned by the Texas Longhorns in a double-overtime thriller in Austin, 50-47. Although Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer was responsible for 6 TD’s (5 passing, 1 rushing), Texas’s two quarterback system worked brilliantly as both Shane Buechele and Tyrone Swoopes were responsible for 3 TD’s each.

The #16 ranked UCLA Bruins fell just short in overtime, losing to the Texas A&M Aggies in a nail-biter at College Station, 31-24. Despite allowing 468 yards of total offense, Texas A&M’s defense played phenomenally, as they picked off Josh Rosen 3 times and held UCLA to a 27.8% conversion rate on 3rd-down plays.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs suffered an embarrassing defeat to the South Alabama Jaguars in Starkville, 21-20. South Alabama’s defense was stellar, holding Damian Williams to 143 passing yards, as well as limiting the Bulldogs’ offense to a 22.2% conversion rate on 3rd-down plays and 23:19 time of possession.

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Joshua Dobbs (pictured with the ball) dives into the end-zone on the last play of the game, and eventually fumbles, allowing Jalen Hurd to score the game-winning touchdown in OT. Photo Credits: AP Photo/Wade Payne

Too-close-for-comfort finishes this week:

The Tennessee Volunteers avoided disaster in Knoxville after edging out the Appalachian State Mountaineers in overtime, 20-13. Appalachian State’s defense was impressive, as they only allowed 3.0 yards per rush against star running back Jalen Hurd; however, Tennessee’s defense was better, only allowing a 23.1% conversion rate on 3rd-down.

The #4 ranked Florida State Seminoles squeezed out a close one against the #11 ranked Ole Miss Rebels, after scoring 39 out of the final 45 points in a clutch win in Orlando, 45-34. It was a surprise that this one was even close; Florida State’s offense had 200 more yards, 4 less turnovers, 25 more minutes on offense, and 11 more first downs than Ole Miss’s offense.

The #2 ranked Clemson Tigers stopped a last second effort from the Auburn Tigers, narrowly coming out on top, 19-13. Clemson’s inability to score was the only thing that made this game close, as Clemson’s offense severely outperformed Auburn’s in terms of yards per pass attempt, yards per rush attempt, and 3rd-down efficiency.

The #13 ranked TCU Horned Frogs had a late surge, pushing them over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in a close one in Fort Worth, 59-41. Just like the Clemson vs Auburn game, this one shouldn’t have been close as TCU’s offense recorded 662 total yards as well as an impressive 73.3% 3rd-down conversion rate.

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Karan Higdon and Michigan ran all over Hawaii, racking up 306 rushing yards. Photo Credits: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America

Surprising blowouts:

The #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide cruised to an easy victory over the #20 ranked USC Trojans in an uneventful neutral site game in Dallas, 52-6. Alabama was lights out on both sides of the ball, as they recorded 465 yards of total offense, while only allowing 194 yards of total offense and a 22.2% conversion rate on 3rd-down.

The #6 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes blew out the Bowling Green Falcons in a record-breaking game in Columbus, 77-10. Ohio State’s offense was unreal, as they recorded a school-record 776 yards of total offense (417 passing, 359 rushing), while also scoring 10 offensive touchdowns and converting on 84.6% of their 3rd-down plays.

The #7 ranked Michigan Wolverines annihilated the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in a rout in the “Big House”, 63-3. Michigan’s offense was brilliant, as they averaged 10.3 yards per pass attempt and 7.8 yards per rush attempt, while also converting 100% of their 3rd-down plays.

 

Data courtesy of ESPN, CBS Sports, Pro Football Reference, Fan Sided, and For The Win. Thanks for reading!

Written by Jason Platkin

Cover Photo Credits: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports