Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Mike Sando's MVP Watch
By Mike Sando
San Francisco's Frank Gore has rushed for at least 125 yards in back-to-back games.
The best running backs are patient when they need to be, waiting for openings to develop before running into the clear.
Frank Gore waited three weeks for his opening with the San Francisco 49ers this season. He's rushed for 252 yards over his past two games, a leading reason the 49ers have improved to 4-1 with victories over Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. The recent surge has landed Gore in the No. 10 spot on the weekly MVP Watch.
"He had his burst back," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said after Gore gashed the Bucs for 125 yards on 20 carries. "He looked like Frank. He’s having fun out there. That’s the thing I see in Frank most of all right now, is that he’s enjoying football."
Rank 'Em: NFL MVP Candidates
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Gore did it all against the Eagles as well. He broke a 40-yard run on his first carry. He added a 25-yarder during the drive to his winning 12-yard scoring run. And when the 49ers needed to run out the clock on their final possession, Gore carried five times in a row, getting at least 4 yards every time, as the Eagles burned through their timeouts.
For the season, Gore's 400 yards and three touchdowns put him on pace for 1,280 and 10, respectively. But if the last two games provide a more meaningful representation of Gore's projected production, the two-time Pro Bowl choice would be on his way to nearly 1,800 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Welker's omission a week ago produced quite a few complaints, and justifiably so. He's on pace to finish with 144 receptions for 2,368 yards and 16 touchdowns. I'd left him off previously under the assumption no one but Tom Brady would win the award for New England, but if Welker keeps up this pace, he's going to get more votes than some of the other listed players.
Quarterback | New England Patriots ... Next Game: 10/16 vs. DAL ... Last Poll: 2
Brady is leading the league in passing yards, YPA and TD passes. He's facing a Dallas defense that is coming off a bye week and hasn't allowed a 300-yard passer since Week 1. The Cowboys' defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, worked for the Patriots from 2000-03 and coordinated a Cleveland Browns defense that limited Brady to 224 yards passing in a game last season.
Quarterback | Detroit Lions ... Next Game: 10/16 vs. SF ... Last Poll: 3
The Lions' spread passing attack puts considerable pressure on Stafford to carry the offense without a conventional running game. Stafford leads the NFL in pass attempts from the shotgun formation. He has 164. Brady and Cam Newton are next at 131. Notably, though, Stafford leads the NFL in Total QBR (97.5) and NFL passer rating (150.4) on play-action passes. He has completed 24 of 30 attempts for 363 yards with three TDs and no INTs on these throws.
Quarterback | New Orleans Saints ... Next Game: 10/16 at TB ... Last Poll: 4
Brees has thrown for at least 350 yards in four of the Saints' first five games. He has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in each of the Saints' last four. Brees has five INTs in his last three games, but with the game on the line against Carolina in Week 5, he completed 7 of 8 passes on the Saints' final drive, including one for the winning TD. The Saints are navigating a stretch of their schedule featuring four road trips in a five-game period.
Wide Receiver | Detroit Lions ... Next Game: 10/16 vs. SF ... Last Poll: 5
Nine TD receptions through five games puts Johnson in exclusive company, particularly considering the Lions' unbeaten record. Since 1960, only Emerson Boozer, Jim Brown, Abner Haynes and Priest Holmes have scored more TDs of any kind through five games. Of the 14 players with at least nine in five game since 1960, only Johnson and Brown played for teams with 5-0 records.
Wide Receiver | New England Patriots ... Next Game: 10/16 vs. DAL ... Last Poll: NR
Welker is the only player in league history to catch at least 45 passes for at least 740 yards and at least five touchdowns through five games. The 99-yarder he caught against Miami is doing wonders for Welker's yards per reception average. Without that catch, his average drops from 16.4 to 14.6 yards. Both would be single-season highs for Welker since he averaged 15.0 yards on 29 receptions in 2005.
Running Back | Buffalo Bills ... Next Game: 10/16 at NYG ... Last Poll: NR
Jackson is the only player since 1960 with at least 480 yards rushing, 232 yards receiving and five rushing TDs through the first five games of a season. He's back on the MVP Watch list after posting his first 100-yard rushing game since Week 2. Jackson leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage. His versatility is one key to the Bills' offense.
Running Back | Oakland Raiders ... Next Game: 10/16 vs. CLE ... Last Poll: 7
The Raiders improved to 3-2 with a big win at Houston. McFadden managed only 51 yards rushing, his lowest total in a game this season, but his 13-yard run on third-and-2 moved the Raiders into position for a go-ahead field goal in the third quarter. And when the Raiders fell behind again, McFadden produced runs covering 8, 14 and 20 yards on successive plays during the winning drive.
Quarterback | Tennessee Titans ... Next Game: 10/23 vs. HOU ... Last Poll: 6
Hasselbeck ranks third behind Rodgers and Brady in Total QBR through five games, just ahead of Brees and Ryan Fitzpatrick. That is outstanding company for Hasselbeck, even though his team's three-game winning streak ended with a 38-17 defeat at Pittsburgh. The Titans have their bye week to work out issues in their ground game. Hasselbeck should be able to sustain his production if Chris Johnson and the running game start meeting expectations. The Titans' next three games are at home.
Running Back | San Francisco 49ers ... Next Game: 10/16 at DET ... Last Poll: NR
The first three games of the season were rough on Gore. His offensive line was struggling and Gore didn't look quite right. An ankle injury suffered against Cincinnati raised questions about his ability to produce. Gore has answered those questions resoundingly. He was the choice to represent the 49ers on this list, even though teammate Alex Smith is on pace for 22 TDs and three INTs. Another game or two from Smith like the one he played Sunday might change the equation.