In CBCSports.ca's Week 5 chatter, our guys address the Aaron Rodgers-Tom Brady MVP debate, the legitimacy of the 49ers, Houston's injury woes, plus an intriguing look at the Colts and their financial quandary with Peyton Manning.
After the first three weeks, it appeared Tom Brady was going to run away with the MVP. But Aaron Rodgers has been on fire the last couple of games and has closed the gap significantly. Assuming both stay in top form, who walks away with the award this year?
Jesse Campigotto: Probably Rodgers. He's been the "hot" quarterback since last year's playoffs, and with a healthier roster around him this year he looks unstoppable. Plus, I get the feeling that more observers think he's powering Green Bay by himself, whereas Brady shares the limelight to some degree with Bill Belichick. By "assuming both stay in top form," I assume you're referring to the risk of injury, and that might be the only thing that can trip up Rodgers at this point. Remember, he's had concussion problems in the past, and his offensive line is banged up right now.
Tony Care: Rodgers has been in a zone since the latter part of last season. I like his offence better: more depth at receivers, better running backs. The only thing going against Rodgers at this point is the Packers' offensive line has some injury concerns. Incredibly, there are still some in the football world that wouldn't put Rodgers in the top tier of quarterbacks, which I find ludicrous. I only have Brady slightly ahead of him in that regard, but that will change if Rodgers wins another Super Bowl.
Jason Davidson: Rodgers hasn't just closed the gap on Tom Brady as far as the early stages of the 2011 season goes, he's already passed him in the MVP race. Brady is having a great year but I can't stop thinking about the four interceptions he threw against the Bills during the New England Patriots' meltdown back in Buffalo in Week 3. Rodgers has only been picked off twice in five games, very impressive when you consider he's only thrown the ball 16 times less than Brady. Rodgers very rarely turns over the football. The Packers look unstoppable right now, cruising along with a 5-0 record. Rodgers is the No. 1 reason for the roaring start in Green Bay. Your move, Mr. Brady.
One of the most surprising teams so far has been the San Francisco 49ers. Following a comeback win in Philadelphia they returned home and embarrassed Tampa Bay. They now lead the NFL West with a 4-1 record. Simply put, are the 49ers this good?
Tony Care: I don't think you can put them among the best teams in the NFC, but it's a good start. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has to get all the credit. He's got his guys believing they can win, with the focus on a good ground game and solid defence. It also doesn't hurt that the 49ers play in the worst division in football. If you're expecting me to give quarterback Alex Smith praise, forget it. He's not the answer moving forward.
Jesse Campigotto: No, but they're plenty good enough to win the terrible NFC West. San Fran has routed Tampa and Seattle at home, but their other two wins (both on the road) came by a combined six points over so-so Cincy and overrated Philly. We'll know a lot more about the Niners after next week's game at Detroit, their toughest opponent of the season up to that point. San Fran doesn't need to win this game to make the playoffs - they should take their division easily - but this is their first chance to prove themselves against a top-flight opponent playing at the top of its game.
Jason Davidson: A good team in a pretty weak division. Give the 49ers credit, that comeback against the Eagles in Philly back in Week 4 was an eye opener for many. More so was the 48-3 thrashing they handed to the Tampa Bay Buccanneers at The Stick on Sunday. Alex Smith looked pretty solid going 11-for-19 with three touchdown passes. A three-game winning streak and a 4-1 record five weeks in? At this rate, winning five of their final 11 games should be enough to capture the division title. Now for Jim Harbaugh to get Vernon Davis to tone it down a little with the smack talking...
In the last two weeks, the Houston Texans have lost wide receiver Andre Johnson (hamstring) and linebacker Mario Williams (pectoral) to significant injuries. Can the Texans overcome these losses and remain competitive in the AFC South or will it be another lost season in Houston?
Jason Davidson: There is reason for concern in Houston. Matt Schaub has lost his best receiver and boy, does the Williams injury put a dent in the Texans' potency on D. The guy had five sacks in five games. Ouch! Now on the other side of the coin, there is a slim chance Johnson could be back for Week 6. Sleepless nights for Gary Kubiak and Texans fans. However, with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts basically afterthoughts in the AFC South, Houston need only be concerned about the Tennessee Titans, who also sport a 3-2 record.
Jesse Campigotto: Luckily for Houston, the division is easily the weakest its been in years. Jacksonville and Manning-less Indy are bad teams, and Tennessee looks like maybe a .500 club. Losing your best player on each side of the ball is obviously a big problem, but Johnson has said he expects to miss only another week or two. On the other hand, with Williams out for the season, the defence is in danger of reverting towards its form of last year, when it was one of the worst units in the league.
Tony Care: All is not lost in Houston. Johnson won't be out much longer and the offence is good enough to get by without him. Williams, who is out for the year, is a big blow but the Texans have made upgrades on defence, especially in the secondary. And with Tennessee being the only other threat in the AFC South, it really comes down to the two games between these teams.
We had fun with this hypothetical scenario during Jesse's Podcast a few weeks away so let's bring it up again. Imagine the Colts, who are 0-5, wind up with the first overall pick in the NFL draft. Do they dare nap Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, considering Peyton Manning's lingering neck problems?
Jesse Campigotto: Manning may not like it, but don't you have to take Luck? I think the real question is what you do after you pick him. Do you deal him to another team for a boatload of picks and players (like the Chargers did when they took Peyton's brother Eli first overall) or do you keep Luck and start grooming him to take over? The decision is complicated by the fact that no one knows how much longer Peyton will play. A neck injury like this has the potential to be career threatening, but will Peyton just walk away from his new five-year, $90-million extension? I know he's a legend, but how did the Colts give him a deal like that when they knew he was hurt?
Tony Care: It's a no brainer: take Luck! You think I'm crazy? Allow me to explain. Manning signed a five-year, $90-million US deal in the off-season. In order for the contract to be completely guaranteed, as I understand it, Indy will have to pick up a $28-million option after the season. Now, Manning is dealing with serious neck and back problems. The Colts have to ask themselves if Manning is worth the risk. He's 35, and there's a chance he won't live up to contract even when returns. I believe Luck is the best prospect to come out since, coincidently, Manning. So the Colts should take him and they won't have to worry about that position for another decade. Of course, this is all hypothetical.
Jason Davidson: Ok before I delve into this one, when I predicted Indianapolis would finish first in the AFC South, I didn't think Manning would be out for such an extended period. Ok, now with that declaration out of the way, they may as well. Who knows how much time Manning has left. He'll be 36 next Spring and this neck injury is pretty significant. The Kerry Collins experiment hasn't quite worked out and Luck will most likely be an upgrade over Painter. Having Luck learn under Manning for a few seasons would benefit the organization tremendously. That is provided, they get the first overall pick.
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