Lawrence: Halfway Home

While the revolving quarterback door continues, the NFL MVP picture is beginning to take shape

Amy Lawrence
November 06, 2019 - 7:58 am
Christian McCaffrey Panthers

USA Today Images


Believe it or not, we've reached the halfway point of the NFL regular season! Whaaaaat? Time flies when we're having fun!
What words can we use to describe 2019 so far? How about wild and wacky and weird? Seriously, what happened to the Green Bay offense against the Chargers on Sunday?? Why haven't the Browns increased their win total after a flashy offseason? How does Matt Nagy stimulate a "stuck" Mitch Trubisky and his receivers? And how did a frightened (and elusive) black cat change the course of Monday Night Football? So many questions for which we don't have answers. However, the picture is beginning to take shape nine weeks into the schedule.
It's painfully clear that no matter how the next few months unfold, the revolving door of quarterbacks will be a major factor shaping the playoff picture. With Jacoby Brissett spraining his MCL in Week 9, the Colts became the 17th team out of 32 to use multiple QBs because of injuries or ineptitude. In the same AFC South division, the Jaguars just cleared Nick Foles and restored him as starter now that he's healed from a broken collarbone. Under rookie Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville managed an even record, but coach Doug Marrone says he will err on the side of Foles' experience moving forward. The Panthers no longer face a quarterback conundrum with veteran Cam Newton hitting IR this week. They will ride or die with Kyle Allen the rest of the way. So far, so good as Carolina is 5-1 since Cam went out of commission.
Where the quarterback position is stable, there is far less uncertainty. San Francisco, New England, Baltimore, Green Bay, Minnesota, Houston, even Buffalo and New Orleans fall into this category with their offensive leaders healthy and running the show. It is a luxury not to be taken for granted! Just ask the Philadelphia Eagles, who are thrilled to have Carson Wentz safely through to the bye week. On the other side of Pennsylvania, the Steelers have started a trio of quarterbacks; yet they've scratched and clawed their way to 4-4, within striking distance of the Ravens in the AFC North. In the heartland, the Chiefs await the return of Patrick Mahomes, whose recent dislocated kneecap is definitely not getting in the way of him celebrating last-second victories!
Some of the NFL's most intriguing midterm mysteries revolve around coaches on the hot seat. Will Dan Quinn survive a disastrous 2019 in Atlanta with his defense a glaring weakness? Does Jason Garrett earn a new contract in Dallas or will Jerry Jones make a change without a deep postseason run? Will Cleveland ownership stay patient with Freddie Kitchens while he navigates the learning curve in his debut season? Are the Jets reconsidering their options after a miserable first half with Adam Gase??
It's the players on the field who can make their coaches look brilliant or inept. After Seattle's thrilling overtime win against Tampa Bay, Pete Carroll is a genius for noting that when Russell Wilson is out there, "you always have a chance." Such a fitting way to describe this season's frontrunner for MVP. The Seahawks QB threw five touchdown strikes versus the Bucs, including the game-winner to Jacob Hollister in OT. Through nine weeks, he's amassed 2,505 yards and 22 TD passes, most in the NFL, with just a single interception; he's also rushed for three scores and another 200 yards. Wilson's completion rate (68.3%) and passer rating (118.2) are both career highs. His versatility is crucial with the changes to his receiving corps, and his leadership is evident as he raises the level of play of everyone else around him. Wilson exudes confidence and sets the tone for his team.
In Charlotte, Panthers star Christian McCaffrey is giving Wilson a run for his money. The third-year running back leads the league with 1,244 total yards from the line of scrimmage. His ten rushing touchdowns are the most in the NFL, and he's averaging better than 110 yards per game on the ground! Just as importantly, he hasn't fumbled the ball this season. His steadiness anchors the Carolina offense; his reliable production is exactly what Kyle Allen needs as he adjusts to the role of primary QB. In winning five of the last six, McCaffrey's athleticism, elusiveness, and durability are on full display. He's morphed into the face of the franchise with his dazzling runs and lightning quickness. No wonder he was serenaded with chants of "M-V-P!" as the Panthers survived the Titans last weekend.
With Baltimore blasting New England in Week 9, Lamar Jackson threw his hat in the ring as a darkhorse candidate. The Ravens controlled the ball early and late and effectively navigated a high-stakes contest of "keep away" with Tom Brady. Against the vaunted Patriots' defense, Lamar racked up 224 total yards and three TDs. Despite the skepticism about his passing skills, he's turned himself into a dual threat that very often keeps opponents off balance and swiping at the air. At 22, Jackson is the only quarterback in the Super Bowl era to eclipse more than 1,800 passing and 600 rushing yards through the first eight games of a season. With him as the centerpiece, John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman have reconstructed the Ravens' attack. Lamar's smart decisions and poise under pressure are the intangibles that make it successful.
As we take a deep breath and launch forward into the second half, it's fun to imagine all the ways our questions could be answered, from the postseason puzzle to emerging stars and MVPs. The beauty of the NFL is that it keeps us guessing until the very end.

A well-traveled veteran of sports radio and television, Amy is the passionate host of CBS Sports Radio’s late-night program, After Hours with Amy Lawrence, from 2-6am ET on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. Listeners can tune in from Canada and overseas, thanks to SiriusXM, and the CBS Sports app. Amy has also handled basketball play-by-play and color duties for various radio and TV outlets over the past 15 years. Amy graduated from Messiah College with bachelor’s degrees in Communications & Accounting before earning her master’s in TV & Radio from Syracuse University. She is a native of Concord, NH.