NFL teams enjoy the comforts of home.
Twenty-one squads are .500 or better at home this season. Only 13 teams that have winning or even records on the road. It is because of those stats that coaches want to avoid the task the Packers had to overcome last season, when they became only the third team in NFL history to win the Super Bowl after winning three road playoff games. For some, earning a home playoff game is almost as important as earning a playoff berth itself.
However, to secure those home games in January, teams must win difficult road games toward the end of the regular season. Road teams won eight of the 16 Week 12 games, thanks in large part to the play of some MVP candidates.
On Thanksgiving, Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to a huge divisional win in Detroit. The leader on the Meter tossed a pair of touchdowns and helped Green Bay win its 17th consecutive game.
The road heroics continued on Sunday. Tom Brady showed no brotherly love to the Eagles in Philadelphia, completing more than 70 percent of his passes in a 38-20 win for the Patriots. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger dealt with frigid conditions and a hostile crowd at Arrowhead Stadium, throwing the only touchdown of the game in a 13-9 victory over the Chiefs. With a rookie at quarterback for most of the game, Texans RB Arian Foster took control against the Jaguars, helping Houston remain in control of the AFC South despite a lengthy injury report. Tim Tebow helped keep the Broncos' winning streak alive with an overtime victory in San Diego.
With teams coming closer to clinching playoff spots and the topic of homefield advantage soon to be part of the everyday football conversation, it's important to realize there are some elite players out there who can also get the job done away from the comforts they enjoy at home.
(Last week's ranking in parentheses)
1. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (No. 1) — Many have pointed to this upcoming Sunday vs. the Giants as the game most likely to derail the Packers' bid at an undefeated season. If that does happen, it would provide interesting symmetry. The Giants were the team Green Bay defeated to start their 17-game win streak. In that game — Rodgers' only career start vs. Big Blue — he threw for 404 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
2. Patriots QB Tom Brady (No. 2) — When all is said and done, the Brady-to-Welker connection may go down as one of the greatest in NFL history. Last Sunday, they connected for eight catches, 115 yards and two TDs. "(Welker) is so consistent and reliable; he's a phenomenal player," Brady said after New England's Week 12 win.
3. Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 3) — Brees threw four touchdown passes and also had a rushing TD in a dominant win over the Giants on Monday night, but he apologized to an all-time great from another sport for messing up a touchdown dance. Brees tried to simulate a slam dunk over the crossbar after running eight yards for a TD, but he lacks the hops required to throw one down and ended up doing a layup instead. "I was a little more tired than I thought I would be,'' Brees said. "I didn't quite get the oomph and I turned it into more of a finger roll. I apologize to Michael Jordan.''
4. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (No. 6) — He threw only one touchdown against the Chiefs in a Week 12 win, but that one throw was vintage Big Ben. On a playaction pass, Roethlisberger attempted to move out of the pocket to his right, eluded a tackler by hopping back to his left, then lofted a throw that TE Weslye Saunders hauled in at the back of the endzone.
5. Texans RB Arian Foster (No. 5) — Another week, another quarterback lost for the Texans, as Matt Leinart is done for the season with a broken collarbone. That means an even greater reliance on Foster, who had 22 carries and seven receptions in Houston's Week 12 win. Next week the Texans face the Falcons, who have one of the NFL's toughest run defenses.
6. Bears RB Matt Forté (No. 4) — Though he still leads the league in yards from scrimmage, Forté has struggled lately. In Week 12, he had just 12 carries for 59 yards and backup Marion Barber had 10 carries for 61 yards. With the Bears starting a backup quarterback, they need their star runner to be more productive.
7. 49ers RB Frank Gore (No. 7) — There wasn't much offense out of either team in the Thanksgiving clash between the 49ers and Ravens, but Gore hasn't been at his best lately. He should be able to get back on track in Week 13 vs. the Rams, who rank 32nd in the league vs. the run.
8. Cowboys QB Tony Romo (No. 8) — Thanks in large part to Romo's success, the Cowboys went 4-0 in November and moved into first place in the NFC East. Now comes the difficult part for Romo. He has been in a giving mood during the holiday season throughout his career, throwing 20 interceptions in December, where he is 9-12 lifetime. The good news this season is that the combined record of the Cowboys' December opponents is a measly 18-26.
9. Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs (NR) — In a league full of loud defensive stars, Suggs may be the most vocal — and also the most versatile. He had three sacks and a forced fumble against the 49ers in Week 12, and spent part of the evening shutting down TE Vernon Davis. He also delivered some memorable quotes during the game, including comparing Ravens TE Dennis Pitta to a credit card.
10. Broncos QB Tim Tebow (No. 10) — Last week, a reader tweeted that Tebow doesn't deserve to be on the MVP Meter because Broncos rookie OLB Von Miller has been the most valuable Bronco during the team's recent winning streak. I agree the Miller has been outstanding, and that Tebow is a bit of a controversial pick, but I have a tough time ignoring a quarterback that has accounted for nine TDs compared to just two turnovers during his team's 5-1 run since he became a starter.
Five on the cusp (in alphabetical order) — Lions WR Calvin Johnson, Giants QB Eli Manning, Falcons QB Matt Ryan, 49ers DL Justin Smith, Patriots WR Wes Welker.
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