The one and onlys

Without this dude slinging pigskin, you think the Saints would be an NFC favorite? Getty Images

This article appears in the November 30 issue of ESPN The Magazine, alongisde a feature about Houston Texans WR Andre Johnson. You can read that feature by clicking here.

Prediction: The St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns aren't going to make the playoffs. Okay, okay, as teams continue the march to Miami -- 10 long weeks behind them, 12 longer weeks to go -- we can do better than that. Which is where our friends at Insider come in. Employing exclusive metrics, exhaustive tape review and a dash of original insight, KC Joyner, Scouts Inc.'s Gary Horton and the Football Outsiders crew identify the second-half contenders' MIF -- you know, most irreplaceable factor. Take away a team's MIF, and you can bet that team won't make it deep into January, let alone to February. So here's a better prediction for you: The Lombardi will rest in one of the MIFs' hands.

The Irreplaceable Quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady

The date: Dec. 30, 2007. The opponent: the Titans. The receiver: Craphonso Thorpe. If you're a Colts fan, you might guess what we're describing -- the last time Manning's backup, Jim Sorgi, threw a TD. Yikes. Then again, Sorgi has an arm up on Brees' No. 2, Mark Brunell, who hasn't put six on the board since Nov. 5, 2006. Gulp. As for Brady apprentice Brian Hoyer, you have to go back only to Oct. 25, 2008, for his last TD strike. Of course, he was playing for Michigan State at the time. That's worth a yikes and a gulp. Needless to say, if one of the three MVP candidates goes down, his team is cooked. Here's one more date for you: Jan. 27, 1991. The opponent: the Bills. The QB: Jeff Hostetler of the Giants. We describe, of course, the last time a backup who took over for a Pro Bowler in the second half of the season won the Super Bowl.