Here are three story lines on the table as the National Football League hits the most important regular season month of the year — December.
Tom Brady is MVP
Answer me this: If Brady completed, let’s say 80 of 140 passes (57.1 percent) with 1 TD and 6 interceptions over a four game stretch against teams that are currently a combined 22-22, what would America be saying about him?
Millions of people would be saying, “Brady is washed up.”
The guy with those unimpressive stats is (or was) Eli Manning, before Sunday night’s rout of the Green Bay Packers. Yet, his “issues” are more related to “dead arm” than his dying career.
The real point is that Brady, while hailed as one of the all-time greats, is taken for granted ... and this season in particular.
Brady has had two spotty performances -— Arizona and the second half of the Ravens game — but has bordered on prolific the rest of the season. I venture to guess that the Patriots’ desire to have more balance (i.e. running game) has opened holes in the intermediate passing game that haven’t been opened in a long time.
Peyton Manning will get the “Sugar Ray Leonard” votes — his TDs seem to have more pizzazz — and will be rewarded for his incredible comeback.
But Brady, I believe, as we will definitely see this January and February, is better. He can score 40 points on anybody, including the 49ers (OK, maybe it will be 30). Whatever the case, the stats don’t matter to him anymore. The winning does.
Isn’t it remarkable that nearly 10 years after Brady and Manning started going head-to-head at an elite level that these two are still the best?
Right decision made
in San Francisco
Congratulations to San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. He is making a risky decision for the long-term well-being of his team by making the change at quarterback by making Colin Kaepernick the starter over Alex Smith.
This move has been compared to Bill Belichick replacing Drew Bledsoe with Tom Brady just 12 days after the Sept. 11 disaster in 2001. And it’s a great correlation.
Harbaugh had two trends coexisting. Smith was average and Kaepernick was impressive. And I’m not talking about the games. I’m talking about dozens of hours of practices.
The same thing happened with Bledsoe and Brady. Bledsoe had one of the worst preseasons of his career in 2001, before having two of his worst regular season games to open the regular season. Brady, on the other hand, was deemed the best player in mini-camp in June of 2001 and easily outplayed Bledsoe in preseason.
The only question would be was Brady ready to handle the whole load, as in three-plus months of football?
It was a gamble, yes. But it was a gamble worth taking.
The difference between the 49ers move and the Patriots move was that Bledsoe was a son to owner Bob Kraft and beloved by the vast majority of Patriots fans, and the Pats were horrible. The 49ers are a Super Bowl contender and Smith is beloved by the minority of fans.
Both coaches saw much, much more action of their quarterbacks and their decisions were based on that.
While Harbaugh hasn’t announced it yet, he will not take “the kid” out. It won’t happen. His teammates would call for a mutiny.
That doesn’t mean Kaepernick won’t make some mistakes. But you can see, as we saw in Brady’s first start against the Colts in 2001, that he has abilities the other guy doesn’t have.
Great move by Harbaugh.
Texans, Ravens QBs
just aren’t good enough
There are two reasons why the Texans and Ravens shouldn’t scare the heck out of anybody with repute in the AFC — Matt Schaub and Joe Flacco.
The way it looks now, there would have to be a mini-miracle for those two teams not to finish in the top two spots in the AFC when the playoffs start, hence byes for each team.
Even if the Patriots beat the Texans here, which I believe will happen, it’s hard to make up two games at this point in the season against “good” teams, which both of these teams are.
But Schaub and Flacco will not beat Brady and Peyton Manning in a playoff game. It won’t happen.
These two need a stellar defense to win and neither QB has one of those helping out. Brady, for one, will drop 30-plus points on each, maybe even 40. And Manning has a defense that will allow Denver to win in the 20s, which will be a piece of cake.
The window for the Texans and Ravens is semi-closing. The league is getting better. The quarterbacks are getting better.
Flacco and Schaub have not improved to the extent the needed to improve to beat a “very good” if not “great” Patriots team.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.