Earlier in the week, we discussed the current MVP race and where Matthew Stafford stands through 13 weeks. Many believe Stafford was in the top three for four right now, but most had Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr ahead of him.
On Thursday night, Carr had a chance to distance himself from the rest of the pack. A nationally televised game and a rivalry matchup against a divisional opponent for first place in the AFC West. Everything was set up for Carr to prove his legitamacy and he fell flat on his face.
Carr’s final statline was 17-41 for just 117 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. That was statistically his second worst game of his career by yards per attempt (2.9) and completion percentage (41.5 percent).
The performance dropped his season-long passer rating to 96.0, good for just 13th best in the league (down from seventh prior to the game). Coming into Week 14, Carr had the second-best odds to win MVP, only behind Ezekiel Elliott, according to oddsshark.com. Matthew Stafford’s odds were third—tied with Tom Brady. But after Thursday’s performance, is Stafford now the one nipping at Elliott’s heels?
Statistically, there’s no question that Stafford has been a better quarterback than Carr all year. Take a look at the stats:
Matthew Stafford: 67.2 completion percentage, 7.45 Y/A, 21 TDs, 5 INTs, 100.5 passer rating
Derek Carr: 63.5 completion percentage, 7.00 Y/A, 24 TDs, 5 INTs, 96.0 passer rating
It’s certainly close, but Stafford has the edge here.
When considering “most valuable player” you also have to consider what kind of help an individual is getting from their supporting cast. Carr has the benefit of the seventh-best rushing attack by DVOA and a top-20 rusher in Latavius Murray. Matthew Stafford has the 29th ranked rushing attack and no running backs aside from Ameer Abdullah—who hasn’t played since Week 2—averaging more than 40 yards per game or 4.0 YPC.
Another thing to consider is clutch performances. There’s no better way to grab the attention of the nation than with huge plays in crunch time. Both Carr and Stafford have been lauded for their abilities to make plays in the fourth quarter this year.
From Nov. 29th:
Leaders in 4th Quarter Passer Rating— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) November 29, 2016
1. Derek Carr (121.3)
2. Trevor Siemian (116.9)
3. Tom Brady (115.3)
4. Drew Brees (113.4)
.@Raiders QB Derek Carr has set an NFL record for most game-winning TD passes in 4th quarter/OT in a season— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 5, 2016
via @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/VaTLQkW1cN
Matthew Stafford has 7 game-winning drives in the 4th quarter/OT this season, which ties the single-season record since the 1970 merger.— trey wingo (@wingoz) December 4, 2016
Matthew Stafford is the best 3rd-down, 4th-quarter QB in the #NFL right now. Understanding those numbers:https://t.co/CCecKQTMnN— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) December 8, 2016
Both quarterbacks deserve a ton of attention for their late game theatrics, but, again, it is Stafford who has the edge here. Seven game-winning drives is just ridiculous and should really be garnering more attention than it is. Carr had an opportunity on Thursday to notch another on. Oakland had five possessions in the second half (two in the fourth quarter) trailing 21-13, and Carr proceeded to complete just seven passes for 40 yards the rest of the way. Not exactly an impressive performance from an MVP candidate.
However, there are a few mitigating factors that need to be addressed. The first is Carr’s dislocated pinky on his throwing hand. Last week, a botched snap left Carr’s right hand looking gross and mangled. He ended up returning to the game with a glove and played relatively well. Carr denies the pinky had any reason to do with his poor performance, but his poor accuracy did seem abnormal for him.
Additionally, one has to give credit to the Chiefs’ defense. They remain one of the best defenses in the league and they showed why on Thursday.
But regardless of the context, an MVP-level player is supposed to rise to the challenge on the toughest stage. Carr had an opportunity to prove he belonged at the top of this conversation, but he undoubtedly blew it. Now it’s Stafford’s turn to prove he belongs. With games remaining against the Giants, Packers and Cowboys, he’ll have more than enough opportunities to prove his worth on a big stage.