Front Row Feature – NFL MVP Race, Coaching Vacancies, And Playoff Picks

Welcome to the inaugural Front Row Feature, a mostly NFL column, exclusively available on Border Fuel MVP!

FRF is and will be a weekly installment where we discuss the hottest of topics around the National Football League, it’s players, and teams.

You’ll quickly become familiar with the style I aim to achieve here at FRF, with a more podcast-similar layout, where I’ll discuss the in-depth truth and realities that haunt some fan bases, and fuel the fandom for others.

Let’s get started by realizing the obvious – the NFL is the biggest and baddest when it comes to sports entertainment across the world. With the regular season coming to an end, it’s only appropriate to cover the biggest updates across the league. Most notably, the race for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player.

Who would you rather? – NFL MVP Edition

Aaron Rodgers appears to remain the shoo-in for most football fans at this point, and rightfully so, so what is there to talk about? Well, let’s start with the argument that he has had less to work with than that of a Patrick Mahomes or a Josh Allen.

I’m not one to rely solely on stats alone, or even Pro Football Focus grades for that matter. Both of these resources are important in their own right but can be skewed.

I will tell you all right now that I’m a heavy reliant on the “eye test”.

The eye test tells me that Rodgers has a better stable of running backs, offensive linemen, and defensive consistency. We can sit here and argue the Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, and Stephon Diggs comparisons all day long, but since I don’t want to write this column for another several hours – we’re gonna move on.

Yes, Mahomes has a better tight end option in Travis Kelce than either the Packers or the Bills, so there’s that. However, let’s consider the true intent for the MVP award itself.

The MVP award, simply put, is supposed to identify the most valuable player – who if not available – would make the biggest impact on their specified team. So, let’s dive into the secondary options for these teams.

We just experienced the Chiefs’ alternative in Chad Henne on Sunday, and while he was certainly serviceable, it’s no secret that Kansas City would be in HUGE trouble if Mahomes misses time.

The Bills would theoretically roll out veteran Matt Barkley – again “serviceable”, but in no way carries the type of pure skill that Allen does.

Rodgers most certainly has the most talented backup among the three players, with 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love waiting in the wings.

So what does this prove? The answer is – absolutely nothing. But, let’s keep in mind given this info, that Rodgers’ Packers certainly feature a more replacement-worthy roster, should he have missed time.

Allen has had a very strong season, as has Mahomes, so in the end, I’d lean towards these two players over Rodgers in this year’s MVP race.

Read more on this topic here, where two of our Border Fuel columnists debate the MVP race.

Replacements that make the most sense for NFL head coaching vacancies

The NFL is a cruel world for coaches, especially those who don’t put W’s in the standings. Weird right? (Is it appropriate to put “LOL” in a Border Fuel column?)

The reality is that no coaches, to this point, are “surprise” firings. The Falcons, Lions, and Texans had jumped the gun, appropriately, with their moves by removing their incumbent head coaching options mid-way through the season.

The Jets finally boot Adam Gase after he not only proved to be a terrible coach but he also cost the team the chance at a much brighter future via the number one pick in the ’21 NFL Draft.

The Buccaneers’ Junior Varsity squad in Jacksonville moved off of the ever-so mediocre Doug Marrone, which makes this an attractive destination for a future head coach.

Anthony Lynn was fired by the Chargers, despite ending the season with four straight victories and remaining competitive all season.

The reality is that each of these destinations carries some intriguing pieces, whether it be draft picks, quarterbacks, location, or whatever it is that floats a head coaching candidate’s boat.

The trick is landing the right person for the job. The most flashy option or the youngest guy doesn’t always pan out. Scheme fit and the traits that make a coach very good at what they do best is key with these decisions.

Here’s how I’d best fill these vacancies:

  • Atlanta Falcons – Robert Saleh, Current San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator
  • Detroit Lions – Brian Daboll, Current Buffalo Bills Offensive Coordinator
  • Houston Texans – Marvin Lewis, Former Cincinnati Bengals Head Coach
  • New York Jets – Jim Harbaugh, Current Michigan Head Coach
  • Jacksonville Jaguars – Urban Meyer, Former Ohio State Head Coach
  • Los Angeles Chargers – Eric Bienemy, Current Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator

A few quick thoughts on these matches…

These are the best fits I’ve identified for these teams, but with several of these teams also looking for general managers, this is purely a guess.

Bienemy will likely have the option to interview for every opening he may have interest in, as well as Saleh. In the end, I paired Bienemy with the Chargers because of the similarities in rookie sensation Justin Herbert and the Chiefs’ Mahomes. Additionally, Bienemy’s ties to the running back position should attract him heavily to Austin Ekeler.

Saleh lands with the Falcons here, given the defensive youth. The offense certainly could use some retooling, but the entire roster still consists of some very skilled players.

Daboll for the Lions is because of the potential Matt Stafford could have in the same system that has Josh Allen thriving this season. Whereas Lewis gives the Texans the stability and maturity that Bill O’Brien lacked heavily.

Harbaugh gives the Jets a true leader with tons of experience in the quarterback room, which gives the team options when it comes to Sam Darnold and the second pick in the Draft.

Urban Meyer is a bit of a wild card, but rumors suggest that he is set to land in Jacksonville.

The NFL’s Wildcard Weekend is set to be a fireball

I’ll keep this section short and sweet. Below are my winners and losers for this weekend’s Wildcard games:

Design by Carter Bowman

The AFC scene is rather unsurprising. The Steelers have the potential to roll the Browns this weekend, where the Ravens and Titans could be a very close contest.

Now, the NFC side of things could get really interesting. The Buccaneers should absolutely drop the Alex Smith-led Washington team, and the Bears shouldn’t hold a candle to the Saints. Anything can happen though.

The biggest draw of the weekend will be the Rams-Seahawks contest. Both teams have had ups and downs this season, and consistency hasn’t been either team’s best friend. Should Jared Goff be able to play, the Rams have a real shot to overcome the battered Seahawks.

Thank you for reading! What’d you think of this week’s Front Row Feature? Comment below to let me know!

Follow me on Twitter @RunARoute and follow Border Fuel @BorderFuelHQ.