San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) watches time expire at the end of the AFC wild card playoff football game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. San Diego won 27-10. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Philip Rivers showed off killer accuracy, efficiency, proves why's a legit MVP candidate

Philip Rivers just might be the most accurate quarterback in the NFL, and it would be beyond criminal to put Rivers outside of a shortlist of the top three most accurate QBs. Armed with a functional offensive line and coaching staff for the first time in ages, it’s not coincidence that Rivers has finally re-assumed his place in the NFL as the fifth-best QB behind the elite quartet of Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees. And if you don’t think Rivers is a fully legitimate MVP candidate, then you probably missed out on a season of great throws and big-time performances, and that’s probably because you were too caught up in the Peyton hype. That’s not something I’ll hold against you, though, because Manning had a terrific season. But seriously, so did Rivers.

I mean, just look at yesterday afternoon’s 27-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Sure, he only attempted 16 passes, but he didn’t have to attempt more than that.  I mean, that’s the same gameplan the Chargers used to upset the Denver Broncos in their second meeting this year, and it’s the same gameplan they used yesterday against the Bengals. While Andy Dalton attempted 51 passes and did everything he could to piss away the game by turning over the football, the Chargers simply played efficient, mistake-free football and made key plays to churn out the clock.

Rivers was at the center of the efficient and mistake-free play. I mean, how else could you define a 12-16 performance that didn’t include an interception (or a fumble) and featured an average of eight yards per pass attempt. And it’s not like those 12 completions were dinky throws either, because he had to make some dimes. That 33-yard pass to Eddie Royal? A flipping dime. His TD pass to athletic tight end Ladarius Green? Vintage Rivers at his best in the red zone.

And here’s the thing, Rivers has been playing uber-accurate, turnover-free football for the vast majority of the 2013 season. Heck, he’s the reason why the Chargers, who were never expected to sniff the playoffs by most pundits (yes, I was one of them, even though I was optimistic on Rivers, Mike McCoy, and Tom Telesco for quite some time), even contended for the playoffs; let alone slipped in. He’s also the reason why the Chargers have a chance at knocking off the Broncos again and on an even bigger stage than a Thursday Night Football game.

You want stats? I’ll give you stats. Philip Rivers led the league in completion percentage at 69.5%, he had Pro Football Focus‘s highest accuracy percentage among QBs (CMP% without drops, throw-aways, and spikes), he finished the regular season with the second-highest WPA (only Manning had more), he threw just 11 picks, he was 5th in TD%, fourth with 8.2 yards per attempt, sixth in passing yards per game, fourth in QB Rating, and tied for second in game-winning drives and fourth quarter comebacks (four).

So Rivers was accurate, efficient, didn’t make many mistakes, he had plenty of counting stats, and he was clutch. And oh yeah, he made it to the playoffs despite having a worse defense behind him than the other playoff teams (though the Chargers defense is starting to prove me wrong on that statement), and he didn’t have as impressive receivers as the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, New Orleans Saints, and Denver Broncos (among others). His receivers are solid, but they aren’t as good as the other QBs who have comparable numbers (Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, anyone?).

Rivers’s performance yesterday didn’t feature mind-blowing numbers, but he was excellent and made great throws when they counted. He’s done this all year, and hopefully he’ll stop flying under the radar. Just because you are unwilling to do your research, doesn’t mean he isn’t an MVP candidate. I’m not saying he should win, but I’m saying that he should at least be in the discussion. I can’t deal with the people tweeting to me saying “Ridiculous” (or worse) when I propose that Rivers is a legit candidate, because what bothers me is the fact that they never concoct a legitimate counter-argument. Is it because there is no legitimate counter-argument? That’s the question I ponder at times.

For the record, he was my mid-season MVP.

Tags: Notes And Analysis Philip Rivers San Diego Chargers

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