HOUSTON – The league will hand out hardware Saturday night at its NFL Honors event and the most anticipated award is MVP.
The two quarterbacks left standing – Matt Ryan and Tom Brady – are the frontrunners for the award and Brady told me recently that Ryan “deserves” to win.
A panel of 50 selected by the Associated Press votes on MVP, a host of other awards and All-Pro selections. I’ve been one of the 50 voters since 2007. The ballot deadline was January 4.
Ryan is expected to win. He’s had a statistically brilliant regular season and the way Atlanta performed in the postseason only served to validate the work he’d done for 16 weeks.
As amazing as Brady’s season was both statistically and in hitting the ground running after the NFL’s four-game exile, that he played 12 games while Ryan played them all was undoubtedly a factor.
If Ryan does indeed win, another storyline will be added to Super Bowl Sunday. The league MVP hasn’t been on a Super Bowl champion since Kurt Warner in 1999.
Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman and center Ted Karras, who were each listed as questionable with injuries, made the trip to Cincinnati with the team Saturday but backup defensive tackle Byron Cowart was downgraded to out with a concussion, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss.
Edelman, the team's leading receiver, has been battling shoulder and ankle injuries. Karras, the starting center, missed the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday with a knee injury. Both were limited in practice this week.
The Patriots (10-3), coming off back-to-back losses to the Houston Texans and Chiefs, play the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Here we have two teams at opposite ends of the food chain. The 10-3 Patriots and the 1-12 Bengals. Unfortunately, they have one thing in common. Neither one scores much. The Bengals high for the season is 23 points and that was in Week 4. They’ve only scored more than 20 points twice.
The Patriots have scored fewer than three offensive touchdowns in five out of six games and the lone game they scored three – in Houston – two came in the very late stages after falling behind 21-3. So this game has the potential to look like a Patriots-Bengals from the not-so-distant past. Not the “On to Cincinnati” game people remember from 2014, but the ugly slog in the rain a year earlier when the Patriots lost 13-6 at Cincy.
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So many elements are the same now for the Patriots offense – limited talent at wideout and a lack of protection up front.
Because of the Patriots' offensive struggles, what seemed for months like a simple walkover has the potential to be uncomfortably competitive.