Picks for Wild Card Weekend

This weekend is one of the best times of the year. It’s a new year. It’s almost my birthday. And the NFL Playoffs have officially arrived. The pizza and wings taste better. The beer is more refreshing. And your bank account will be full if you follow my advice betting this weekend’s games. Normally, I’d be throwing out some advanced stats and research to wow you with my football knowledge. Luckily for me, these games are all slam dunks, so I don’t need to this week. The latent prognosticating powers that fill the Brian’s Den won’t need to be summoned just yet. Or will they? On to the games

Oakland Raiders vs Houston Texans (-4.5)

Dear God, why? What the Atlanta Hawks are to NBATV playoff games, the Texans are to the afternoon wildcard Saturday kickoff. Make no bones about it. This will be the worst game of all time. Connor Cook vs. Brock Osweiler. A clash of titans. I’d say it’s the worst quarterback matchup in playoff history but it’s an insult to quarterbacking to call Brock a quarterback. I’ll say this loud and clear: the Texans STINK. S.T.I.N.K. They’re horrible. The fact that they went 7-1 at home is a minor miracle. Everything in this game favors the Raiders. Raiders can’t stop the pass. Well, the Texans have the worst passing game since the 1930s. Raiders are good against the run. Texans can’t really run it, either. Texans can’t rush the passer without J.J. Watt. Raiders have the best offensive line in the league (yeah, I said it. I know it’s sacrilege to imply the mighty Cowboys don’t have the best group of five people ever assembled in the history of Western Civilization, but someone has to do it). Raiders will score, at most, 17 points. That’s 16 more than it will take to win this abomination of a game.

PICK: Raiders +4.5

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Detroit Lions vs. Seattle Seahawks (-8)

The Lions predictably blew it at the end of the regular season, so now instead of a home game and possible first round bye, they get to travel to Seattle for a night game where they have to deal with all the “12s”. (Side note: If you identify yourself as a “12” I hope you die a painful death. They’re so annoying and have such a persecution complex (Hey, aren’t you a Patriots fan? Yes, but we’re not talking about me). They’re more a fan of being a fan than the actual team, who the majority of the “12s” probably didn’t know existed before 2010. They’re always the people who throw out the word classy, even though it’s such a lame, wet blanket argument and their beloved coach is a confirmed 9/11 truther. And these stupid noise competitions they have with other stadiums are just so vomit inducing. Hey, 12s, you know 90% of stadium noise is artificial right? God, I hate them. Go sip your artisanal IPA and tell me about how no one respects Bobby Wagner you loser. But I digress.) Despite the Seahawks penchant for randomly blowing seemingly easy games, this game is pretty simple to predict. Matt Stafford hasn’t been the same since his finger injury and this Seahawks team will eat him alive.

PICK: Seahawks -8

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Miami Dolphins vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (-10.5)

It’s easy to point to the game back in week 6 and say that it won’t go the same way now that Matt Moore is quarterback instead of the immortal Ryan Tannehill. But people keep forgetting that Ryan Tannehill sucks. Matt Moore has done okay as the fill-in starter, and this Dolphins team is just as hot as the perennially dangerous Steelers. Most likely due to their rich history and standings as two of the three most popular teams in the NFL, the Steelers and Packers are always talked about like one win makes them terrifying. The Steelers could be 0-15 but win their last game and people would be like “Watch out, here come the Steelers! Don’t let Big Ben and the boys get hot!” The Packers get the same treatment, and neither team has done much of anything since they met in Super Bowl XLV. The Steelers have so many crazy playmakers on offense, but their defense isn’t good and they never win big games. Jay Ajayi completely shredded this team earlier, and the Steelers haven’t exactly become the 2000 Ravens since. I’m not sure if the Steelers even win. They sure aren’t covering.

PICK: Dolphins +10.5

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New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers (-4.5)

The easiest game on the board. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers couldn’t be hotter, going against a Giants team that finished the season decently, but hardly hot. 15 touchdown passes during this 6-game winning streak. The defense is playing less bad, which is all you need against this sputtering Giants offense. Eli couldn’t look worse. The game is in hallowed Lambeau Field, where opposing teams never win playoff games. Except when they do. Which, lately, is all the time. This is the most perfect Giants playoff scenario of all time. Giants are winning this game. If you don’t think they are, you don’t pay attention and I hate you for adding to the Giants mythos. If you think this is a ploy to try and jinx them, you’re wrong. My mush powers have nothing on the Giants playoff juju.

PICK: Giants +4.5

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NBA says Giannis Antetokounmpo committed a five second violation on his buzzer beater

I just had to go on a mini rant here. The NBA came out today and said there should have been a five second violation called on this play. Yeah, no shit. He was backing down for like 10 seconds. But the point of this is the NBA pulls this move all the time. The day after a questionable call they say that it should have gone the other way. Well, if it should have gone the other way why wasn’t it called? The last two minutes report is always saying more things should have been called, so why do refs always swallow the whistle? Adam Silver has come out and said he wouldn’t mind eliminating the hack-a-player to improve the viewing experience. Well, if you want that, don’t then tell me about all these fouls that weren’t called in the last few minutes. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have the exciting finish that’s decided by the players then release a report saying the refs were wrong about everything. Make up your mind. My thoughts have always been a foul is a foul no matter when it happens. A travel is a travel no matter when it happens. A five second violation is a five second violation no matter when it happens. So either train these refs, who do a good job for the most part, to actually call the game in the last two minutes or stop with this last two minute report charade. Have some respect for the intelligence of your fans. Rant over.

My Birthday wishlist

With the all-important date less than a week away, not a second goes by where my birthday doesn’t cross my mind. Though January 10th isn’t yet a national holiday, that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate with me. The best way to celebrate this most blessed day, of course, is to lavish me with gifts. Here’s a few things I wouldn’t mind seeing come my way.

Guy Fieri’s friendship

fieriA few years ago, some dude paid like $100,000 to be Guy’s friend for a day. I need this like I need air to breathe or water to drink. This might be an unpopular opinion, but I genuinely love Guy Fieri. I’ve spent at least 25% of my life watching Triple D. Guy can clearly be bought, so someone get me a one-way ticket to Flavortown.

A bed that has a toilet built in so that I don’t have to get out of bed in the middle of the night

This may be a stretch since I don’t think it’s been invented yet, but work with me here. How annoying is it to be peacefully sleeping, only to have an overactive bladder disturb your slumber? You have to get out of bed, walk to the bathroom, relieve yourself, then walk back. By the time you get back in bed, it’s practically morning already. A toilet in the bed eliminates the whole production. Just hook the plumbing up to it and it’s a perfect idea.

A car seat that’s also a toilet

Kind of piggybacking off the last wish. I have the worst bladder of anyone under the age of 70 of all time. If I drink anything I have to pee like 10 seconds later. It makes driving long distances really annoying because I have to stop all the time and go to the bathroom. Put a toilet where the driver’s seat is and I’ll be sitting pretty. A mobile throne eliminates all my problems and opens the door for my truck driving career. Replace the carpool lane with a tank emptying lane and everyone’s happy. You know what, the more I think about these last two ideas the more I realize how much money they can make. Forget you ever read about them.

A roster spot in this year’s NBA Celebrity All-Star Game

as17_new_orleansAll I’ve ever wanted in my life is to someday be famous enough to play in this game. Considering some of the names they’ve been throwing out there recently, I may be there already. If I played, you’d better believe I’d go all out. I’d be boxing out, keeping my hands up on d, and diving for loose balls. More than anything, though, I’d get my shots up. I’ll take it hard to the rack calling for and-ones like I’m Carlos Boozer. I don’t know how many points I’d finish with, but I know for a fact I’d set the shot attempts record by halftime. I’m ready to pick up where Michael Rapaport, Tom Cavanagh, and Kevin Hart left off. I’m ready to be the Celebrity All-Star Game MVP.

Tickets to this new Jamie Foxx movie

mv5bnjewmdayotm4ov5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzc4mjmymdi-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_Although the movie I’m looking forward to the most in January is clearly the new Yu-Gi-Oh! movie, you and I both know I’ve already got my ticket. But I just saw the trailer for this Sleepless movie and it looks awesome. Like some combination of Taken and The Equalizer. That’s the definition of must-see. Get me in the door opening night and I may forget the fact that you didn’t buy me Guy Fieri’s friendship.

The Brooklyn Nets to lose every game then not have the league rig the lottery for the Lakers to win

largeThis might be tough to get, but it should be easy enough to ensure the Nets finish with the NBA’s worst record. Someone just needs to take out Brook Lopez. Even then, he’ll probably just get hurt on his own. So, thinking about it, the Nets will probably finish with the worst record in the league on their own, giving the Celtics the best chance for the top pick. However, the Celtics always get screwed in the lottery. They should have Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, and a bunch of other guys that they would have had if they had gotten one or two spots higher. They’ll be battling against the Lakers, whose pick is top-3 protected. If you think they’re losing their pick, I have some African princes to introduce you to. The Sixers are apparently liked by the league again now that they foolishly abandoned The Process, so they’re always lurking for the top pick. And it’s been three years since the Cavs won the lottery, which is far too long for the league’s taste. So, all I’m really asking for is for someone to infiltrate the cabal in charge of the draft lottery and make sure the Celtics get their fair shake. Now getting involved with conspiracies such as this usually result in torture and death, but know that your sacrifice will be appreciated.

A pet seahorse

rainbow-colored-seahorseJust think it’d be kind of awesome.

A trip to Japan to see the Cherry Blossoms in bloom

cherry-blossoms-japan-international-tefl-academyA true picture of natural beauty. An experience so spiritual and magical that it has to be seen to be believed. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say I would start weeping if I was finally able to witness to petals falling to the ground in person. Make fun of me all you want, but I’d die knowing I saw the most majestic sight known to man. Plus, I need to restock my supply of tentacle porn DVDs.

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A nice cake

ss13_cakeplanner_lion_p_new_0Everyone should have some cake on their birthday. I’m not picky about it, any flavor will do. The only requirement is that the frosting to cake ratio is right. Too much or too little frosting ruins a cake. If you’re curious about correct ratios, I’d be more than happy to try any samples you send my way.

Just a few ideas for everyone out there. This list isn’t exhaustive, so I can always come up with something else should you be unable to fulfill any of the requirements for the above gifts. I’ve got the Thank You cards ready to send out already.

Burning Questions

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Busting out a new segment today called Burning Questions. Sometimes when I’m lying awake at night, important questions pop into my head. Left unanswered, they escape my mind and drift into the ether, never to be considered again. Well, no longer. Now, I’ll just dump them here. Let’s get right into it with some tough questions:

Who was the first person to make macarons?

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For the less gastronomically sophisticated, macarons are distinctive looking cookies that are quite difficult to make. There’s about 10,000 steps in the recipe. They’re literally impossible to make unless you know exactly what you’re doing. So, like, how did these get discovered? This question can really be a stand in for any complex recipe. I know you can find the “history” of macarons pretty easily, but it still doesn’t say what inspired it. You can’t make this by accident. To get the top perfectly smooth and the feet to show up takes decades of training and study. Using only the egg white doesn’t seem like a natural inclination when experimenting. I just don’t get how someone invented this. I literally can’t wrap my mind around how stuff like this gets discovered. For me, the greatest mysteries of the world are Stonehenge, the Nazca Lines, and the invention of the macaron recipe.

How do companies get into the industrial machinery manufacturing business?

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I realize this seems like a foolish question. They simply realized they could exploit a market deficiency by producing the tools of manufacturing. But some of these machines are so specific there couldn’t possibly have been a gap in the market before they made it. Most of these things can only be used by the one company producing whatever it is that’s being made. But some of the companies that produce the machinery are older than the ones making the products. Is it a huge ring of shell corporations? Do huge monopolies control our manufacturing sector? Did the founders of these companies originally set out to do something different and accidentally invent a hydraulic press? There’s a chance I might be overthinking this.

If every currency is down, how can any currency really be down?

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I may be biting off more than I care to chew with this one, but how can every currency be either up or down at the same time? Along with things like GDP, isn’t each currency’s value based on its relation to every other currency? Or its relationship to gold? Well how can they all be doing the same thing at once? If everything is down, then shouldn’t the value remain the same? I don’t actually want an answer to this, because I think knowing the true economics of it would confuse me more than not knowing.

Pokemon Sun and Moon finish as top selling games in 2016

I’d like to congratulate the human race on a job well done. Here I was, thinking that this year’s Call of Duty would top the charts yet again, proving the world to be full of mindless sheep. But the forces of good won out. Call of Duty didn’t even finish top five. It finished 8th for PS4 and 14th for Xbox. And I couldn’t be happier. Call of Duty sucks. It stinks. Like what even was Infinite Warfare? It was trying so hard to be some kind of combination of Destiny and Halo. Actually, that’s generous. It was actively stealing from Destiny and Halo. Game looks so stupid. I will say, though, that part of the reason I hate Call of Duty so much is that I’m horrible at it. I might be bottom 5% of all people on Earth in terms of Call of Duty aptitude. I know I’m not mature enough to appreciate something I’m not good at, but Call of Duty still stinks.

I also wanted to address the most glaring omissions from my top five video games portion of my year end countdown, the first being Pokemon Moon. I kind of forgot about it, but it’s easy to spin. First off, when I say video games, in my mind I’m talking console games you play on TV. Second, I don’t even consider Pokemon a game anymore, it’s a way of life. I love Pokemon. I’m the biggest Pokemon guy you’ll ever find. It’s one of a few things that gives me happiness in this dreary world we live in. I’ve played every game, most of them multiple times. My Pokemon acumen is second to none. And I loved Moon. I thought the new things they added were clever and worked perfectly with the old reliable gameplay that has stood the test of time. In other words, it should have been in the top five.

The second one, and, the more I think about it the more egregious error was not mentioning Uncharted 4. It had been so long since I played it that I completely forgot about it. But it was the best 2016 release I played all year. The Uncharted games are all so awesome, and Thief’s End was no exception. I’m a huge pirate guy. I wish old school pirates were still around today, not the depressing African pirates we have now. Pirates make my nether regions flutter. If pirates are involved, I’m there and I’m excited. The second half of the game was satisfyingly beautiful porn that I never wanted to end. So, yeah. Kind of dropped the ball on that.

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I miss mid-2000s college football

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The start of a New Year always brings a lot of things with it. Resolutions, big time football games, and, of course, my birthday. I’m typically steadfast in my resolutions, usually keeping to them for at least a week and half. The football games, be it NFL playoffs or the big name bowl games, rarely disappoint, except when they do. And lately, the bowl games in particular have disappointed me more and more. As we get closer (one week!) to my *gulp* 25th birthday, I’m forced to reflect on all the bowl seasons I’ve been through and figure out why a time, and sport, that used to be sacred to me no longer is so.

The clear answer is that I don’t really care as much anymore, but why? I still love football and follow it religiously, but the college game doesn’t stoke my fire as intensely as it once did. I used to be able to name countless players on every team and be able to essentially predict the entire draft. Now, I only know the first round guys, and even then I don’t really learn about them until late. Like I know there’s a great Ohio State cornerback, but only because I assume there’s always one and couldn’t tell you his name. I assume there’s a great defensive lineman from Florida, only because for at least ten years in a row one has been taken in the top 10, and most of them are all the same. I legit had no idea who Artie Burns was this time last year, and he was the best athlete on Miami. The best athlete on Miami is someone who I should know about for years, and I had no idea who he was.

The players are still good. In fact, at least athletically, they’re undeniably better than when I was in middle and high school, the peak of my college football fandom. So why does it feel like there’s so much less name recognition? Am I ignorant or is there less star power? Does anyone else feel the same way? Does anyone else care? Well, the last question doesn’t matter because I’m going to write this anyway.

I think a major reason is the demise of the NCAA Football video game. I used to spend hours upon days upon weeks upon months playing those games, and, after downloading the roster that had all the players names, would pretty much have it all memorized after a while. Now, I don’t begrudge the people who brought the lawsuit. Lord knows I’d want some of that EA money if they used my likeness (pick up your copy of Blogging ’18 this July!) and I do think big time college athletes deserve to be paid. But, come on. I care more about my enjoyment than your bank account. Let me play as Texas A&M QB #2 again.

Another reason is that I don’t really have a team. I always liked Oregon growing up, but it’s harder to claim allegiance to teams that become good out of nowhere without being called a bandwagon jumper. I’d rather die. Plus, they stink now. And, as a UConn graduate, there’s not much to cheer for on the football field. The closest thing I have to a team I legitimately root for is Wyoming because I like their jerseys (I know you’re wondering, so here’s the top five college football jerseys: 1. Wyoming 2. USC 3. Oklahoma 4. Oregon 5. Auburn). Other than that, it’s a year to year thing. I love high flying offense, but that’s not all that unique anymore (we’ll get to that). I always like the “mid-major” that goes undefeated a la Western Michigan, but if they keep winning it becomes less fun. So I wind up rooting for a bunch of good games which doesn’t always pay off.

I think, for me, though, the primary reason is that everyone, for the most part, plays the same way. I’m a diehard spread guy. More specifically, I’m a diehard run n’ shoot guy. There’s a reason I consider Colt Brennan my favorite athlete of all time. Those Hawaii teams were amazing. My man June Jones dialing up 10,000 quick slants and five yard hooks a game. I’ve jerked off to less. When Graham Harrell showed up at Texas Tech and picked up Colt’s baton, I was happy. Then, as I got older, Chip Kelly’s spread grabbed my attention. But now, everyone plays that way. Everyone goes uptempo, everyone has pieces of the Air Raid, everyone uses the spread. It’s hard to pick teams out. There used to be so many distinctive styles. Hawaii and Texas Tech were the only teams that passed every play. There were teams like Arkansas with Darren McFadden who ran the Wildcat exclusively. It seemed like a novelty to see mobile quarterbacks dominating teams running spread option, which is what made guys like Vince Young and Pat White so exciting. Now, the teams bordering on curiosities are teams that run slow, boring, pro-style offenses. Pure pocket passers are rare on the best college teams. And again, I love the spread. If you know me, then you know I love the passing game. But it loses some luster when Joe Flacco throws for 4,000 yards, just like the spread loses something when teams like Alabama, the oldest and stodgiest of the old and stodgy blue bloods is running read option 50 times a game.

And, obviously, the playoff has killed the other bowl games. Which I’m fine with. I’d rather have a playoff than not. But it’s just harder to commit 3 hours to a mid December game between two random teams than it used to be. All these talking heads haven’t really put that together yet. Players are more comfortable sitting these games out because they’re totally meaningless now. Sure it’s another game with the team, but the games are more of a marketing ploy for the two schools and the bowl sponsors and an outlet for gambling than a meaningful, legitimate football game. I guarantee all but the most try-hard, coach’s son-iest of players would say they don’t want to play. Most just don’t have the luxury of an NFL future to get them out of them.

I think that’s it. If you made it this far, congratulations. You’ve made it though an awful lot of kvetching. I hope you agree with some of what I’ve said. I hope you disagree with some. Either way, don’t get it twisted. I still love football and I still love college football. Staring my own mortality in the face has just stirred up some nostalgia. Give me a summer with no football and I’ll be ready to commit every second of fall Saturdays to college football once again.

2016 NFL Awards

With the NFL regular season wrapping up last night, it’s time to hand out the end of season awards. Now, I don’t have an official vote, per se (yet), but I think I’ve got as good a handle on this season as anybody. As an unbiased, objective viewer of football, my judgement is clear and my decisions logical. For example, no Ravens won any awards because their team stinks, not because I hate them. It’s not easy being so noble.

Comeback Player of the Year: Jordy Nelson

jordynelsonAs always, there are plenty of good options for this award since, as always, a million people are coming off career threatening injuries. It’s becoming less impressive, honestly. Torn ACLs used to mean career over. Achilles injuries used to mean never walking again. Now they mean a nice vacation. So Comeback Player of the Year essentially becomes deciding which huge season by a player superhumanly recovering from devastating injury was best. This year it was between Nelson (ACL), Jimmy Graham (patella) and DeMarco Murray, who is coming off a crippling injury to his ego and reputation as being something other than a product of the Cowboys heavily (too heavily?) praised offensive line, perhaps the worst injury of all. They were all good, so I kind of flipped a coin. Leading the league in touchdown catches is good enough to win.

Offensive Rookie of the Year: Ezekiel Elliot

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This was a stacked rookie class on offense, with breakout stars at every position. As you may have heard, the Cowboys had two such rookies in Ezekiel Elliot and Dak Prescott. With apologies to Tyreek Hill, Jack Conklin, and Michael Thomas, and despite the excessive idol worship at the altar of the Cowboys offensive line, it’s hard to take away from what these two did as the best two rookies in the league. Deciding which of the two wasn’t easy, but no one was clamoring for Alfred Morris to be the starter all season. I’ll leave it to the rational, intelligent, and reasoned people of Dallas to make my decision for me.

Defensive Rookie of the Year: Joey Bosa

usatsi_9513985_153192880_lowresThis was a two horse race between Bosa and Jalen Ramsey. Bosa only played in twelve games because of a contract dispute, placing him in alongside Eli Manning as people who refused to play for the Chargers. Lucky for the Pats, the Chargers didn’t make the playoffs so the magic that comes along with shunning the fine city of San Diego can’t effect them before the Super Bowl. When he did play, Bosa was dominant, leading all rookies in sacks and quarterback hits. Ramsey was good, but gets points deducted for playing multiple games against Brock Osweiler.

Defensive Player of the Year: Khalil Mack

maxresdefaultPretty much every candidate for this award faded down the stretch. Von Miller didn’t record a sack in the last four games, while Mack only had one. Vic Beasley had a great pass rushing season, but doesn’t really do anything else. Does anyone else really want to win? Aqib Talib has been great in coverage but goes so far out of his way to show everyone how tough and crazy he is that he’s almost not worth the trouble. Richard Sherman’s weird new thing of being a high school bully who lives to embarrass people on national TV would work better if he was still the best in the league. He isn’t. The Pats’ Trey Flowers was only good for like four or five games, otherwise he’d be a shoo-in. So, in the end, I’ll go with, in my opinion, the most complete defensive player in the league outside of J.J. Watt. Mack wins.

Coach of the Year: Bill Belichick

bill-belichickListen, Jason Garrett is obviously going to win. If he won ten games with the Cowboys, Josef Stalin would win coach of the year. I’m sick of this going to the coach of a team that has a much better record than they were expected to have. Sure motivating a crappy team to exceed the sum of their parts is a facet of coaching. But, come on. Bill is the best in the game, has been the best in the game, and will remain the best in the game until they exorcize his ghost from the Hall of Fame. No Brady for four games. Injuries everywhere you look. Every other coach and owner hate his guts and conspires to keep him down, and he still wins 14 games. Again. It’s unreal. I feel privileged to have been around for his entire run at the top. You should, too. Even though I know you hate him.

Offensive Player of the Year: Tom Brady

tom-brady-ftr-twitter-061415_12r0mtmdc6qpj11a5ehe22q1uoI don’t even know what the point of this award is, honestly. It’s like the Maxwell Award in college: it just feels like a consolation prize for MVP. Which is why I’m sure you’re surprised to see Tom Brady’s name here. As I said, I am an objective observer. This award and MVP is all about the four horsemen of quarterbacking. Brady, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, and Derek Carr have been battling it out all year for the top honor. I think the top two have been Brady and Ryan. Ryan, somehow quietly, has lead one of the best offenses ever, while Brady has overcome the most egregious witch hunt since the actual witch hunts to put together arguably his best season at age 39. They finished 1-2 in quarterback rating and QBR. Ryan has fought against his reputation as just another guy to show he’s still getting better. The only thing that can possibly be held against Brady is the fact that the Pats went 3-1 without him, and would have easily been 4-0 had Jimmy Garoppolo not gotten hurt. For that reason, Ryan gets MVP. This feel unfair to Rodgers, who, despite legitimate early season questions, put up yet another crazy season.

Most Valuable Player: Matt Ryan

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