The New England Patriots, winners of eight straight, divisional leaders, conference favorites, mother of dragons, and consensus-best team in the NFL, are on a roll. Since week 5, the Patriots have allowed the fewest points, scored the fourth-most, and have the second-best point differential.
Tom Brady is the league MVP. Dion Lewis has been the most efficient running back in the AFC. Rob Gronkowski has been the best tight end. Brandin Cooks has an obvious and electric rapport with Brady. The offensive line is blocking at a high level. The defense, as stated, has been the best in the NFL at keeping points off the board.
But if you head over to Monday Morning Quarterback and their “Players of the Week” section, you’ll find a curious exclusion on a weekly basis- and something that I believe is rooted in why Tom Brady and Bill Belichick aren’t the heavier favorites to win Most Valuable Player and Coach of the Year.
Over the Patriots eight-game winning streak, only two New England players earned any distinction: Brady for his week 6 performance against the Jets, but only because he set the NFL record for most regular season wins by a quarterback and not for his play that week, and Stephen Gostkowski for his week 11 performance against the Raiders in Mexico City, where he hit a 62-yard field goal.
Of the 78 players that earned distinction over that time, just two were on the Patriots. In fact, MMQB’s Peter King also has a “Goat of the Week” award for the worst performances and just as many Patriots opponents (Buccaneers K Nick Folk, Chargers WR Travis Benjamin) have been worst of the week.
The Patriots are one of ten teams to win 75% or more of their games over the past eight, with the Minnesota Vikings the only other franchise to go undefeated. These ten teams are responsible for 50% of the “of the week” awards.
New England is tied with the Tennessee Titans for the fewest award winners since week 5 with just two. For comparison, the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers have six, each. The Jacksonville Jaguars have five. The Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, and Seattle Seahawks have four, and the Los Angeles twins of Rams and Chargers have three.
The best defense in the NFL over that span has zero players that receive distinction, even though CB Stephon Gilmore has been lights out and newly-signed EDGE Eric Lee is the perfect underdog story that MMQB typically highlights. The offense can run for nearly 200 yards in back-to-back weeks and Brandin Cooks can go off for 149 yards and a score and no one gets any attention.
This isn’t to argue that other players don’t deserve praise, because they definitely do. But to highlight that it would be tiring for a Patriot to be singled out for their performance every week in a national column and, as a result, no one gets the attention.
A player on New England has to do something truly exemplary to gain national praise because the team is held to a different standard. Excellence is expected and should therefore not be credited. Only otherworldy performances- like setting an NFL record for career wins, or kicking a 62-yard field goal- receive applause.
These weekly awards by MMQB don’t really mean much for the Patriots, but I think it just serves as evidence that in order for Tom Brady to actually win MVP, or for Belichick to win Coach of the Year, or for any other player to win any other award, that they must go far above and beyond their competition to garner support.