A Drive To Make His Case
Watching yesterday afternoon's Detroit Lions' game against the Oakland Raiders, I was filled with crushing defeat, then sheer optimism in a matter of milliseconds.
Crushing defeat because Oakland's punter, Shane Lechler, had just boomed a 44-yard beauty that pinned the Lions on their own 2-yard line with no timeouts left and only 2:27 remaining in the ball game. Sheer optimism because I remembered that these 2011 Lions have something that no group before them has had in a meaningful December game—Matthew Stafford in uniform.
Stafford's game-winning 98-yard drive was something legends are born of. He was magnificent. Detroit's No. 9 couldn't have led this comeback without the help of Calvin Johnson's freakish athleticism or the Raiders' shoddy secondary play, but make no mistake—the Lions do not win yesterday's contest without their franchise quarterback at the helm.
This was a drive that endears a player to a city. Playoff hopes on the line, 12—yes, 12—years of suffering fans' hopes on his shoulders, and Stafford delivered. Shades of John Elway? Oh, I'm sorry—only Tebow can be compared to the former Denver star these days.
Which bodes the question: Is Matthew Stafford Pro Bowl-worthy this season? In my biased opinion, he most definitely is.
The Numbers Don't Lie
4,195 passing yards (on pace to break the Lions' single-season record held by Scott Mitchell), a 62.7 completion percentage (better than that of the Giants' Eli Manning, the 49ers' Alex Smith or the Panthers' Cam Newton—all of whom are rumored to be more deserving a Pro Bowl nod than Stafford) and 33 touchdown passes (behind only Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees).
Remind me again; How is it even debatable whether Stafford should be going to the Pro Bowl? With those numbers, shouldn't it be a given?
Better Than His Competition
Do you truly mean to tell me that Alex Smith, Cam Newton, Eli Manning and Tony Romo are more deserving of a Pro Bowl appearance than Matthew Stafford?
Smith truly is nothing more than a game manager. Tell me one game he has "won" (you know, a game in which San Francisco was victorious primarily because of his play) for his team this year? Just one.
All I hear are crickets.
Newton? Sure, he's exciting—he's a dual threat. He's not winning games, though. He's making rookie mistakes, and that's okay, because he is, after all, a rookie! His team has been out of the playoff hunt for weeks.
Cam doesn't deserve a Pro Bowl nod. Not this year, maybe not even next.
I understand that Eli Manning has shown a certain level of clutch this year that us followers of the game thought was solely reserved for Peyton. As if Archie had said to his sons, "I'm going to teach each of you boys how to play quarterback exceptionally well; now, Eli, go inside so I can show your brother how to be elite."
Regardless of Eli's recent salty performances, he's lost games for the Giants this year as well (see yesterday's home game against Washington). Also, in the wide-open NFC East, he's guided his Giants to only seven wins. 'Nuff said.
As for Romo, he's the enigma of the quarterbacking world. Is he elite, is he not vocal enough, is he a choke artist? He may be all of those things.
Personally, I love the way Romo plays the game; he's always reminded me of Favre without the Super Bowl rings, Wrangler jeans or text messaging scandals.
One thing Romo has definitely not been this year is better than Stafford. Their head-to-head matchup in Week 4 proved it.
Rush to the Ballots
It's up to you, Detroit Lions fans, to ensure justice is served. Stafford is deserving of a Pro Bowl nod. The only two quarterbacks who have been better than him in the NFC are Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees; and the general consensus is one of them will be playing in the Super Bowl (making them ineligible for Hawaii).
So, yeah, there's one situation in play in which I could feel at peace with myself if Detroit's gunslinger doesn't suit up for the meaningless game.
Remember back in August when winning nine games sounded like a successful season for the Detroit Lions? Well, nine are in the books, so now let's put No. 9 in the Pro Bowl.
Unless, of course, he's feeling...Super.