Matthew Stafford, Lions quarterback
When: Stafford has engineered a leaguehigh eight comeback victories and eight gamewinning drives this season. He has 3,720 yards passing (seventh-most through Week 15), a .663 completion percentage, 22 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions. He was snubbed in Pro Bowl voting, but he has the Lions on track for something better: a playoff berth.
What’s up: The Lions’ star quarterback dislocated his right middle finger in a win at Chicago and is now sporting a special glove on his throwing hand. He went 24-of-39 for 273 yards, zero touchdowns and an interception in a loss to the Giants last weekend; he and Lions coach Jim Caldwell insist his finger injury won’t be an issue.
Background: The Lions (9-5) have been in the playoffs only twice in the past 16 seasons, and they haven’t made it past the wild-card round since 1991. With Stafford leading the way, the Lions have won eight of their past 10 games and sit atop the NFC North, but they face a grueling final stretch at Dallas on Monday night and then at home against Green Bay, a game that could decide the division champion.
Jhabvala’s take: Stafford’s numbers are Pro Bowl-worthy and, frankly, he should have been selected. Despite the difficult start to the Lions’ season, Stafford has been the key to their turnaround, playing some of the best football of his career and deservedly joining the MVP conversation. He is one of only four quarterbacks to have played in every regular-season game since 2011. But his biggest tests await him, at Dallas and against Green Bay.
Matthew Stafford and the Lions close with two big games — at Dallas on Monday night and then at home against Green Bay, a game that could decide the NFC North champion. Al Bello, Getty Images