WHERE WOULD the Eagles be without Mike Vick? Hard to say exactly, but they wouldn't be in a stretch limo on their way to their ninth playoff appearance in the last 11 years.
They wouldn't be in the penthouse of the NFC East. They wouldn't be on NBC Sunday, making their flex-scheduled sixth prime-time appearance, against a 5-9 team.
I don't say that to disparage Kevin Kolb, who is going to be a very good NFL quarterback. But because of the Eagles' protection shortcomings, particularly early this season, they needed somebody with Vick's special Houdini-like skills.
They needed every one of his 130 rushing yards and 242 passing yards last week to accomplish a miraculous comeback over the stunned Giants.
Where would they be without Vick? The same place that the Cowboys and the Redskins and the Vikings and 17 other teams are going to be when the playoffs get under way in 2 weeks. On the outside looking in.
Which brings us to the question of Vick and his MVP candidacy.
When you've watched every down that No. 7 has played this season, like I have and like most of you have, it's easy to convince yourself that no other player in the league could possibly have been more critical to their team's success than Vick has been to the 10-4 Eagles.
They are 8-1 in games that he has started and finished. They have scored 35 offensive touchdowns in the 39 quarters he's played and he's either run or thrown for 28 of those 35. He's accounted for 77 percent of their offensive yards in the 39 quarters he's played.
But there's a guy about 5 hours north of us who's been equally valuable to his team: Tom Brady.
While Vick's passing numbers have been great, Brady's have been greater: a 109.9 passer rating to Vick's 103.6. A .666 completion percentage to Vick's .632. An out-of-this-world, plus-27 touchdowns-to-interceptions differential (31 to 4) to Vick's impressive plus-15 (20 to 5). A 116.6 third-down passer rating to Vick's 106.1.
Where would the Patriots be without Brady? The same place the Eagles would be without Vick. On the outside looking in in 2 weeks.
Brady has led the Patriots to 12 wins despite a defense that is ranked 28th in yards allowed and 30th in third-down efficiency and that has given up just six fewer touchdown passes than the Eagles, who already have allowed a franchise-record 30.
He is leading the league in passing with a receiving corps that pales in comparison to the game-breaking group Vick has at his disposal. I mean, seriously, who would you rather go to war with? DeSean Jackson or Wes Welker? Jeremy Maclin or Deion Branch? LeSean McCoy or Danny Freaking Woodhead? That's what I thought.
I'm fortunate enough to be one of the 50 media members who votes for the Associated Press All-Pro team and its individual awards, including coach of the year, offensive and defensive rookie of the year, comeback player of the year and MVP.
Vick is a slam dunk to win comeback player of the year. From federal prison to a 103.6 passer rating trumps Welker's torn ACL to 83 receptions and seven TDs.
As far as MVP, frankly, I don't know who I'm going to vote for yet. The ballots aren't due until Jan. 7 and I want to see how these next 2 weeks play out. Maybe everything will become clear by then, maybe I'll be just as undecided on Jan. 7.
Earlier this week, I decided to ask three respected colleagues - including two who have seen Brady as much this season as I've seen Vick - for their thoughts on the Vick-Brady MVP race. Here's what they had to say:
Ron Borges, Boston Herald:
"With their defense, the Patriots might not be a .500 team without Brady. He's playing as close to error-free football as I've ever seen. Their only two losses came when he turned the ball over.
"He has two rookie tight ends, a recovering Wes Welker and a newly acquired Deion Branch to throw to and he's made them all look great.
"He really runs the offense in much the same way [Peyton] Manning does in Indy. He's calling plays out of the hurry-up and audibilizing at the line more often than most quarterbacks.
"They are 12-2 with one of the lowest-ranked defenses in pro football in terms of yards and third-down rating. Look at the time-of-possession rate and see what he's accomplished despite barely having the ball 50 percent of the time."
Mike Reiss, ESPNBoston.com:
"The first thing that comes to mind with Brady is the lack of interceptions and how his decision-making and accuracy has been the foundation for the team's success. Some luck of late with tipped balls, but still impressive.
"Also, the Patriots are as young as they've been in [Bill] Belichick's tenure. So Brady's leadership has been called upon more than ever. Just talking with opposing coaches and personnel guys throughout the year, they always come back to Brady, noting how he covers up so many other areas of weakness."
Vic Carucci, NFL.com:
"Right now, Brady would get my vote, but only by the slightest of margins. In fact, the margin is close enough that the only fair way to settle it would be to have co-MVPs because Brady and Vick equally embody everything that the honor defines.
"Without Brady, the Patriots aren't competing for the playoffs, let alone the top seed in the NFC. Without Vick, the Eagles are struggling through their post-Donovan McNabb transition.
"If I have to pick one, here is why I'd go with Brady: a) He doesn't have DeSean Jackson; b) He has put up off-the-charts passing numbers with his deft orchestration of an offense that reinvented itself in the middle of the season after the Pats traded away their lone deep threat [Randy Moss]; and c) The success of that reinvented offense has mostly relied on Brady's ability to get maximum production from a pair of rookie tight ends and an undersized, overachieving running back."
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