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Sully's Mailbag: How about a defensive player for MVP?

Jerry Sullivan

As a Christmas stocking stuffer, I'll toss in a question this week. Does the MVP of the NFL have to be a quarterback? I know it's the most important position, and it's amazing what Tom Brady has done at 40. But come on, nine of the last 10 MVPs have been quarterbacks. It would be nice to see a little diversity in the voting.

No receiver has ever won MVP, which goes back to 1957. Not even Jerry Rice, who many consider the best football player ever. So I wouldn't hold out much hope for the Steelers' Antonio Brown, who has been the most productive wideout in history over the last four years.

Would it be a crime to pick a defensive player? Isn't defense half the game? No defensive player has won it since Lawrence Taylor in 1986. The only other defender to get the honor was Alan Page of the Vikings in 1971.

How about Rams tackle Aaron Donald? With apologies to Todd Gurley, Donald is the best player on a team that made an amazing one-year turnaround. Donald, who is virtually unblockable, has a case for defensive player of the year, which usually goes to an outside rusher. “I was thinking more like most valuable player in the league,” said Wade Phillips, LA's defensive coordinator.

On to this week's mail:

mclennon99 asks: If a Festivus Miracle occurs and the Bills win this Sunday in Foxborough, which scenario is most likely: They ride the momentum and win in Miami, or they break Bills fans' hearts and have a huge letdown by being over confident?

Sully: I've heard this a lot lately from seasoned Buffalo fans. It would be so typical of them to upset the Patriots and miss the playoffs by losing to the Dolphins. No doubt, they're haunted by the memory of the 2004 finale against the Steelers and the 2014 loss at Oakland.

But such an outcome is pretty unlikely. The Patriots have been close to unbeatable at home in significant late-season games in the Brady-Belichick era. They haven't lost a home game to an AFC East foe with Brady playing the entire game since 2006. It's been 15 years since they lost a conference home game in December with anything at stake.

So sit back and enjoy Sunday's game and hope that Brady's little slump continues. He has thrown an interception in four straight games for the first time in four years. He hasn't thrown a pick in five games in a row since 2002. I know we've been here before, but maybe his age and his marginal cast of wideouts is finally catching up to him.

To answer the original question, they'd probably ride the momentum and beat Miami if they stunned the Pats. If they lose to the Dolphins, it won't be because they're overconfident. One thing about Sean McDermott, he's managed to keep their heads on straight during good times and bad in his first season as a head coach.

The most likely scenario, of course, is that they lose on Sunday, then win against Jay Cutler and an unmotivated Miami team on New Year's Eve. If that happens, they have a 60 percent chance to make the playoffs, needing some help. Which brings us to:

Daniel Sanford asks: Give it to me straight, Jerry. Will my Baltimore co-workers dance upon my playoff dreams?

Sully: There are so many possible scenarios, it's hard for Bills fans to know whom to root for and against. My head is spinning just trying to figure them out. But your cohorts will be dancing if the Ravens win their last two, a good bet considering that they're playing against the lowly Colts and Bengals.

You should be rooting against the Titans, who are also 8-6. On the other hand, you might want Tennessee to win, because that would limit the possibility of a Bills head-to-head tie with the Chargers, who beat the Bills. Did I fail to mention that the Chargers are still alive at 7-7? You have to root for them to lose one of their next two, of course.

There's also a faint possibility that the Jaguars could lose their last two, including the finale to the Titans, which would complicate matters if Tennessee wins out, giving the AFC South title to the Titans. If the Ravens also win out, the Bills could actually miss the playoffs at 10-6 in that scenario.

The heck with it. Just root against everybody.

Jim Majors asks: So Tyrod Taylor is “master of Miami.” But what about his career stats and won-lost record vs New England? Even with Buffalo getting double-digit points, I am guessing you won’t be betting the Christmas bonus on the Bills, right?

Sully: Taylor's career numbers against the Patriots are in line with his overall stats. In five games as the Bills' starter, he has completed 60 percent for 194 yards a game, which is five yards under his average. He has four touchdowns and four interceptions. In five starts against Miami, he averages 250 yards and has nine TDs and zero picks.

Taylor threw three picks against the Pats in a 40-32 home loss in 2015, the only time in his career he has thrown more than one interception in a game. So you're right. If I did in fact get a Christmas bonus, I would not be putting it on the Bills to win Sunday.

@eaj1257 asks: Should Bills make playoffs, who's your coach of the year?

Sully: Clearly, you're suggesting that Sean McDermott would be a top candidate, and he would merit consideration. But there's another first-year coach named Sean who seems to be the favorite at the moment -- Sean McVay, who has turned the Rams into a title contender.

I would vote for Bill Belichick, who could win it every year, in the way that LeBron James could be the NBA's most valuable player every year. Belichick gets the most out of his talent every year. He has no stars on defense, which is reflected in their 29th ranking in yards. But somehow, the Pats are sixth in the NFL in fewest points allowed.

That's no fluke. In the last 17 years under Belichick, the Pats have finished higher in scoring defense than overall defense 15 times. This would be the fourth time they have finished in the bottom 10 in yards allowed and the top 10 in fewest points.

That's great coaching, and it can't be acknowledged enough.

Brandooo asks: Do you think we have a legit shot at two Big 4 teams in the NCAA tourney in Bonnies and UB? Both have assembled very strong teams this year.

Sully: Definitely. They both should have gotten in two years ago, when UB got in and Bona got snubbed by the committee. The Bulls have the most talented team in the MAC and are favored to win the tournament. They have possible all-MAC players in CJ Massinburg, Nick Perkins and Wes Clark. The Bulls are motivated after missing the NCAA tourney a year ago.

Nate Oats calls Clark, a Missouri transfer who became eligible last week, the most talented player he's ever coached. UB currently has an RPI of 45, thanks largely to non-conference losses to highly ranked Syracuse and Texas A&M.

St. Bonaventure is 10-2 and gave its NCAA at-large hopes a boost with an overtime win at Syracuse on Friday night. The Bonnies again figure to be a top five team in the A-10. They have one of the nation's top scoring backcourts in Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley.

The A-10 has put three teams in the NCAAs in each of the last three years, but the conference is down this season. The league barely finished above .500 in non-conference and is ranked 10th among leagues. Dayton and VCU, traditional powers, don't have a top 50 win. George Washington lost to Rider.

Bona beat UB and lost to TCU, which is currently sixth in the power rankings. That'll help down the line, but they can't afford to get upset early in the A-10 tourney and might have to win it to get in.

Frank Wolf asks: With the Sabres' recent purchase of the Buffalo Beauts, do you expect any callups to help fill the toughness void left by Schoenfeld and Playfair? Merry Christmas from a long-time subscriber.

Sully: Way to bring a smile to my face and happy holidays to you, too, Frank. I'll bet the Beauts have some defensemen who would have gotten down to block Stephane Richer's blaster back in the 1990 playoffs.

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