Monday, November 30, 2009

NFL Week 13 Power Rankings

Wasn't this week fun? Thanksgiving Day football. A game worth watching Thursday Night. The Colts vs Texans, Eagles vs Redskins, and Dolphins vs Bills in the early games. The Titans vs Cardinals in the late game. A good Sunday Night game, and a well hyped Monday Night game.

If you're like me, you digested as much football as you did calories this past week, and like any overweight American; you want more.

Thankfully we have great college and pro games coming in the next few days.

Until then, here's how the NFL is shaping up entering December.

The Elite

01. New Orleans Saints - Are you still doubting the Saints? I don't think there's a reason to doubt anything about this team until the playoffs. They're built to score points, and until they meet either an offense than can go head to head with them (Indianapolis may be the only one) or a defense that can slow them down (only Pittsburgh and Minnesota come to mind) this team is going to keep on winning. Despite their 11-0 record they still don't have a remotely comfortable lead in the NFC.

02. Indianapolis Colts
- It's understated but this team may be the toughest in the NFL; mentally, physically, emotionally, this team is tough. They were down 17 early on Sunday and weren't even phased. All the media reports is "missed field goal by Kris Brown," or "4th and 2,"or "Flacco interception," at what point are we going to accept that this is the best team in the AFC? Because they are.

03. Minnesota Vikings
- I've heard a lot of people, including respectable football personalities, call this team the best in the NFL. That's a joke. They're not even the best team in the NFC. The Vikings are good though, and they look to be Super; especially that defense. Let's not forget that we're talking about Vikings, who as a franchise make the Bills look like the Steelers. Let's also not forget we're talking about Brett Favre who hasn't won a big game since the 1997 NFC Championship. That's a long time ago. Favre was 8-3 at this point last year with the Jets and the toast of the NFL. Let's see how these Vikings hold up these next five weeks before we crown them champions.

04. San Diego Chargers
- As hot of a team as there is in the league, though they have benefited from a favorable schedule. In the NFL though, all you have to do is win the games you're given. This team will be dangerous come playoff time, especially if they can get a first round bye. Their run defense and run offense are very suspect though.

The Very Good

05. Cincinnati Bengals
- Okay, so they beat the Browns. They were supposed to beat the Browns. Just think how good things would look had they beaten the Raiders last week. They pretty much wrapped up the AFC North this week, so it all comes down to seeding. Whatever seed they are, I've got a feeling that they're going to be one-and-done for the second time in the Lewis-Palmer era.

06. Dallas Cowboys
- The schizophrenic Cowboys enter the month that they've feared all season; December. It's do or die time now for Tony Romo. I'm sure he'll be the Cowboys QB in 2010, but he needs to take this Cowboys team to the playoffs. Scratch that. Romo needs to lead the Cowboys to a division title.

07. New England Patriots - At 7-4 you have to start wondering, are they even close to a big game team anymore? I mean, I don't mean to "hate" on the Pats here but think about? When was the last time they won a "big" game? Beating an injured Chargers in the 07 AFC Championship game? Beating the Giants in week 17 of 07? Since then they're awful. They're 0-4 this season on the road as well. They're likely going to have to win two on the road to get to the Super Bowl. They can still get there though; the Chargers, Bengals, and Broncos are still scared of them.

08. Arizona Cardinals - They actually impressed me this past week without Warner. The defense played well, despite letting up a 90 yard run and a 99 yard drive. Truth be told they made a lot of stops. Warner's value to his team, often questioned by the media and fans alike, was proven this past week.

09. Denver Broncos
- Back in the top 10 after falling fast. With Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Miami, and Houston losses on Sunday, the Broncos playoffs hopes regained some serious footing. Chargers vs Broncos III may be coming this January. This division isn't totally out of reach yet, either.

10. Philadelphia Eagles - The Eagles won on Sunday, and in division games like that, that's all that matters. The playoffs seem likely for the Eagles, but you have to believe they want a home game.

Hanging In There

11. Tennessee Titans - Are they the hottest team in the NFL? It's hard to say they're hotter than San Diego, but this team is hot. Vince Young gets his first real test of the season this week at Indianapolis (I don't consider Houston a test, and Matt Leinart's Cardinals are a lot different than Kurt Warner's). A win against Indianapolis and the Titans will probably be in the playoffs, a loss against Indianapolis and their season is over. It's that kind of a game.

12. Green Bay Packers
- They've done a good job winning the games that they're supposed to win all year (outside of the Tampa loss). They won't do much damage in the playoffs, but they'll probably be there. That looks more clear now than ever.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers
- Slowly fading out of the playoffs after winning the Super Bowl for the second time this decade. You have to believe that if Big Ben played on Sunday the Steelers would've sent the Ravens home for the season. I won't write this team out of the playoffs until they're mathematically eliminated. And I still believe that the Chargers will be scared to death of seeing them in the first round,

14. Baltimore Ravens - Baltimore saved their season this past week, and I'm not one to overuse the word luck, but the Ravens lucked out. I can't see them in the playoffs, but if they get there they'd be more interesting to see than a lot of the other teams muddled in the AFC playoff race.

15. New York Giants
- Despite the ugly Thanksgiving loss they're still the 7th team in the NFC picture, and if Eli is healthy, he'll be hosting the Cowboys at home this week. They're going to need him to be healthy to win. If not, their 2009 is toast.

16. Atlanta Falcons
- When Matt Ryan went down it looked as though this teams season was over. Leave it to Chris Redman to guide them to victory. Ryan needs to be healthy if the Falcons want to get back into the playoff mix.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars
- We knew the wheels would fall off for this team. I mean, the Jaguars were overachieving all year with a mediocre roster. Jack Del Rio probably did what he had to to save his job; Now Tim Tebow needs to save this franchise.

18. Miami Dolphins - What a brutal, crippling loss. A win against the Bills would have given them a free loss against New England this upcoming week. Now, the New England game is a must win. This is a team that will probably be watching the playoffs, not participating in them.

19. New York Jets - I feel bad for Jets fans this season. When they think they're for real they suffer awful losses, when they think they're awful they put up nice wins. They won't make the playoffs this year, but they're not totally dead. If things fall the right way for them they'll be in good shape after this week.

The Dead

20. San Francisco 49ers - A nice win against Jacksonville mixed with help from Tennessee have put the 49ers temporarily in the playoff picture. Don't get too excited '9ers fan, they'll fall out.

21. Houston Texans
- And the horn finally blasts in this franchises ear. After eight years, the team finally had expectations, and after a collapse, the media has finally set in. The Houston Texans franchise is filled with talent on both sides of the ball, but can't seem to win. They destroyed the development of David Carr by throwing him behind an awful offensive line, and now they're in danger of wasting Andre Johnson's prime.

22. Buffalo Bills
- Their fans can't wait until 2010, but the players still want to play. T.O is hot right now, as the team heads to Toronto to play the Jets.

23. Carolina Panthers - The Jake Delhomme era is over. It has to be. It doesn't matter who else is on that roster, Delhomme is done. I know Revis is great, but c'mon. Delhomme is done. Give him credit though as a quarterback who did what he had to do to get to the Super Bowl in his career. A lot of great players never get there.

24. Chicago Bears
- Jay Cutler and Chicago were a bad fit. That is, Jay Cutler and the Bears as constructed were a bad fit. You have to believe the Bears are going to try and build around Cutler; beginning with the firing of Lovie Smith.

25. Seattle Seahawks
- It's ugly in Seattle. How did Jim Mora, Jr. get another team so fast? 2005 seems like a long time ago, and it may be a long time before they get back.

26. Washington Redskins
- This team is proving they're not that far away from competing in the NFC. They're also proving that Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell do indeed, have to go. No matter how unfair that sounds.

27. Kansas City Chiefs
- What a gross, disgusting, loss to San Diego. I understand San Diego are infinitely better, especially right now while they're hot, but c'mon, you just beat Pittsburgh last week. What's up with Chris Chambers though? Matt Cassell is making him look better than Rivers ever could. That's probably all Cassell can do better than Rivers though.

28. Detroit Lions - In the first quarter on Thanksgiving we thought we'd have a game. Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson should take it easy the rest of 2009, no need to risk the future.

29. Oakland Raiders
- The fact that the NFL had the audacity to put this team on Thanksgiving is a joke. Poor East Coast had to watch that game while eating dinner. Oh, and c'mon Raiders, I know Bruce Gradkowski won the week before, but if you're going to force the entire country to watch you play a game, at least put JaMarcus Russell in so families can gather around the television and bond over his quarterbacking play.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- This team has a lot going for them, including their rookie quarterback. Before they take the next step they're going to have to lose their rookie head coach. It was a nice idea trying to emulate Mike Tomlin, but it failed.

31. St. Louis Rams
- Poor, poor Rams fans. They entered this decade as the best team, they're probably going to exit it as the worst. They've done well in the draft these past two years avoiding skill position players while developing the pieces that will need to be there to win in the future. 2010 begins the beginning of the rebuilding era in skill positions. I look at them as the New York Knicks of the NFL.

32. Cleveland Browns
- Eric Mangini's team keeps digging their coaches grave. They may not win another game this season, and if they don't Mangini will get fired. That'll set the Cleveland franchise back even further. Mangini's 3-4 NY Jets team looks good this season, and they may be better with him than Rex Ryan this year. Maybe.

The Heisman Race is Hot: Who Should Win vs Who Will Win

The thing about the Hesiman Trophy that makes it (arguably) both the most desired and "overrated" award in sports is that it's talked about, projected, and argued from offseason to offseason.

I'm not going to get into how I feel the media has ruined this award by projecting it's winner every June and trying it's hardest to make sure that projection becomes a reality. Instead I'm going to dissect this years candidates and explain who I think will win, who I think should win, and who I think shouldn't even be invited to New York.

Let's start with the guys who should get some recognition but won't; QB Case Keenum of Houston, DT Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska, and QB Kellen Moore of Boise State. It's no surprise that Suh will get little recognition despite being the best defensive player in the country. We all know the Heisman is a QB/RB award, and the last non QB/RB to win the award was CB Charles Woodson in 1997.

Keenum is a junior, but due to the fact that Houston isn't undefeated, Keenum has little to no shot. The 6 foot 2, 210 pound QB has 38 TD's to 6 INT's in 2009, with 4,992 yards so far. Those numbers are impressive. But if Colt Brennan couldn't win the award in 2007 while going undefeated, there's no chance for Keenum in 2009.

Speaking of Colt Brennan, this years version of him comes from Brennan's former rival, Boise State. As we all know, Boise State are undefeated and once again BCS bound. Part of the reason you can't deny this team a BCS spot is because of Sophomore QB Kellen Moore. So far in 2009 Moore has passed for 3,053 yards, 38 TD's and 3 Interceptions. Unlike Keenum, Moore is undefeated. Though it's likely Moore will be invited to New York City, since he's a Sophomore he won't win. Not with the other big names from big schools involved in the race this year.

Obviously the two big names from big schools that immediately pop in everyone's heads are Texas QB Colt McCoy and Florida QB Tim Tebow. So far this season, McCoy has passed for 3,326 yards, 27 TD, 9 INT, and 2 rushing TD's. Of course the Longhorns, one of the most visible programs in the country, are undefeated, this making this media darling even more probable to win the award.

But you can't say the phrase "media darling" without mentioning Gators QB Tim Tebow. Tebow's numbers right now look like this; 2,166 passing yards, 796 rushing yards, 17 passing TD's, 13 rushing TD's, and only 4 INT's. In case you're wondering though, these numbers are way down from 2007 when Tebow won the Heisman, and about even with his numbers from last year when he didn't win the Heisman, but won the national championship.

Tebow is a tough call to win the Heisman. He wins, he plays hard, and he obviously makes his team better. He did miss some time though, so honestly I feel as though he shouldn't win the award. McCoy on the other hand serves as a more interesting decision. Heading into the season McCoy was asked to improve, while winning the Big 12. A win this weekend and McCoy will have done everything asked of him to win the Heisman. A win and a huge performance this weekend, and the Heisman is his.

Tebow can win the Heisman as well this weekend, if he has a monstrous game against #2 (or #1B if you want to be fair) Alabama. If Tebow does as said, he will also essentially eliminate Alabama RB, and my current front runner to win the award, Mark Ingram from the competition. Ingram is having a great season thus far; 1,429 yards, 12 TD's, 246 rec yards, 3 rec TD's. Those numbers are particularly impressive in the SEC, but he's going to have to have a great game this weekend to hold onto the lead.

Ingram's decline may be due to the rise of Stanford RB Toby Gerhart. All Gerhart has done in 2009 is defy the laws of college football while rushing for 1,736 yards, and 26 touchdowns, Gerhart also ran for over 400 yards and 6 touchdowns combined in wins against USC and Oregon, two defenses that scouts and analysts both considered top 10 in the country. This past week against Notre Dame Gerhart ran for three and passed for one touchdown, en route to another 200 yard rushing game. It's important to note that of all the major Heisman contenders, Gerhart's strength of schedule was the most difficult, which is why he gets my vote for the Heisman.

Gerhart may not even finish in the top 2 running backs in Heisman polling though, because not only does Ingram have a big game this week, but so does Heisman sleeper C.J Spiller of Clemson. Spiller broke the NCAA record with his 7th kick return for a touchdown this season, en route to sending Clemson to the ACC Championship game. Spiller also has over 900 rushing yards and over 400 receiving yards thus far, and adds another 11 touchdowns to make his total 18 on the season. A big game, resulting in a Clemson win this week, and Spiller won't only be headed to the BCS, but also to NYC for the Heisman presentation.

So now that I've mentioned all the candidates, and who I think should win (Gerhart) let me now rank them as I see the media breaking it down; 1. McCoy, 2. Ingram, 3. Gerhart, 4. Tebow, 5. Moore, 6. Keenum, 7. Spiller, 8. Suh.

That's right, it's gonna be Colt McCoy.

Favre Now On Top of MVP Race

Last week it was a close race for the MVP between five quarterbacks and running back (who embarrassingly I forgot to mention in my article).

This week it's officially Brett Favre's MVP to lose.

Now do I think that Brett Favre is more valuable to his team than Peyton Manning or Philip Rivers? Absolutely not. The Colts would probably be 3-8 without Peyton, and the Chargers would at best be 5-6 without Rivers. Without Favre I still think the Vikings are a playoff team in the NFC North based on the fact that they were a playoff team in the NFC North last year and they used Gus Frerotte as their quarterback for the bulk of the season.

The thing that helps Favre is that his numbers are undeniable. Favre currently has the same amout of touchdowns as Manning (24) but has eight less interceptions (3) on the season. Manning currently has over 500 more passing yards than Favre, and more importantly, one more win on the regular season. Completion percentage-wise Manning has a 70.4 while Favre has a 69.3, both incredible numbers.

Helping Favre in the MVP debate is that, although he's won 3 MVP awards in his career (tied for most with Peyton Manning), he's the newer face in the debate. Manning won it last year, so in order to win it again he's going to have to top his production from last year; which he is currently doing.

Another thing helping Favre is that, unlike Manning, no one expected this type of season from Favre. With Peyton, we always expect 12+ wins, 40 touchdowns, 4,500 yards, etc. etc. etc. With Favre, people expected his numbers to be down even from last year as a Jet.

The biggest thing in Favre's way is that, while Peyton has likely cleared the biggest storm of his season (schedule-wise), Favre is about to enter the thick of his. We all remember 2008 when Favre and the Jets were 8-3 before ending the season 9-7 and missing the playoffs. This season it likely won't be that bad, but the remainder of Favre and the Viking's schedule reads as; @Ari, Cin, @Car, @Chi, NYG. That's not going to be easy. Only two more home games, and three games against potential playoff teams. Not to mention the two teams that aren't playoff bound (Carolina and Chicago) will still be trying their hardest to win, considering the teams feature coaches and players who lead those franchises to the Super Bowl yet still have to fight for their jobs.

If Favre and the Packers go 15-1 then Favre will win the MVP. If Favre and the Packers go 14-2, Favre may still win the MVP. Anything less and he probably will fall short to Peyton.

If Peyton and the Colts go 16-0, Peyton will win the MVP, no doubt about it. I don't think 16-0 will happen, but with Ten, Den, @Jac, NYJ, @Buf as the final five games on their schedule, it's not out of reach.

Chris Johnson has moved up to number 3 on the MVP depth chart; but despite his near 1,400 yards, his team will still probably miss out on the playoffs, and it's not his fault the team is on a 5-0 run, because he was still there when they were 0-6. It's Vince Young's doing, which is why he's moved into the MVP discussion.

So as of now the MVP rankings look like this; 1. Brett Favre, 2. Peyton Manning, 3. Chris Johnson, 4. Drew Brees, 5. Tom Brady, 6. Philip Rivers, 7. Vince Young, 8. Adrian Peterson.

Do I think it's an 8 player race? No, I think it's Favre vs Manning, but don't be surprised if someone in the bottom six of that list makes the push to win the award.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

SMU vs Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl

Okay, okay, I know I bore my readers to death with SMU and Hawaii news whenever relevant. I'm sorry for that, but what can I do? Not only do I love the small schools, but UH and SMU are my two favorite small schools to push.

For the same reason... pretty much.

I was always enchanted by the story of the "Pony Express" and the death penalty, and how SMU were once this titanic program. The reason you probably don't know they exist (unless you were alive in the early 1980's) is because since the late 80's they've been a joke of a program.

On the other side of fence are the Hawaii Warriors (who if you were alive in the early 1980's you refer to as the Rainbow Warriors) who were one of the worst programs in college football until June Jones came over and made the program a force; remember when they made the BCS in 2007 and got crushed by Georgia? Ouch. But Colt Brennan was then, is now, and forever will be considered one of the greatest college football quarterbacks of all time. At least by this blogger.

After that 2007 loss, Jones ditched Hawaii to go to SMU. To sum up the reason why: he figured he reached the ceiling at Hawaii as it seemed unlikely that the AD was going to allow the program to have the resources that their competition in the WAC (0r the wealthy and starved SMU for that matter) have.

In 2008 Hawaii (with Jones' players) had an alright season but lost in the Hawaii Bowl to Notre Dame in the game we all remember as "the one that saved Charlie Weis' job," or "the one that gave Notre Dame an excuse to let Charlie Weis stay another year because there were no good coaches available," or my favorite; "the one where Jimmy Clausen performed well enough to lead people to believe that Weis could win with him in 2009." That same 2008 season SMU went winless in Conference-USA, but no one expected it to be any different; SMU was in that bad shape.

This past spring there was a lot of talk about Hawaii being lost without Jones and Jones being lost without Hawaii.

That hasn't been the case in 2009 at all, and it may lead to the surprise treat of the Bowl season.

SMU have been impressive. They're not great, but they've been a lock for Bowl game since Halloween in most peoples eyes. Hawaii were pretty bad early on, but they've definitely turned it around, beating Navy this past week, leaving them a win against Wisconsin away from being Bowl eligible yet again.

Hawaii Bowl representatives were at the SMU-Tulane game on Saturday afternoon, and at this point it's a lock for SMU to be in that game. The only thing that could keep the Ponies out of it is a more attractive bowl offer (which may come from the Armed Forces Bowl... though I'm not sure how attractive that is outside of easy transportation). At the risk of sounding extremely corny, and making a lot of my friends want to beat me up, I still have to say that I think Jones and SMU will be saying "Aloha" to the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.
As for that Hawaii vs Wisconsin game that will decide whether or not Hawaii are eligible; that will be a little tougher. Wisconsin are 8-3 and undefeated in out of conference play this year (Wofford, Fresno State, Northern Illinois: FS and NI are on Hawaii's level). If there's anything positive we can take from this game from a Hawaii standpoint, it's that Wisconsin are already Bowl eligible and the game is in Hawaii.

So let's go Warriors. The Jones vs Hawaii story would make everyone's Christmas Eve a lot better.

And let's face it, if it's SMU vs Hawaii you'll watch, if it's SMU vs Fresno State or Nevada, then who cares?

Please Hawaii. Please win.
And by the way... both Hawaii and SMU are in my Top 5 College Football Jerseys.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bama Get By Again

Tell me you weren't into Friday's Alabama vs Auburn game. I can pretty much guarantee everyone who watched the game was.

I'll admit, I flipped back and forth between that and the UFL Championship, but the 4th quarter (3rd Qt in the UFL game thanks to an awful half time show that would have made my High School's half time marching band look like Pearl Jam circa 1992) I was all Bama/Auburn.

Even when it was 14-0, didn't you still know that Alabama were going to win? It's nothing against Auburn, I feel like you have to respect them as a program, but Alabama didn't look like a team that was going to lose.

Maybe it's because we watched the Tennessee game a month ago. Remember that one? The blocked kick. I said to myself then that Alabama may have won the national championship that day (not that the Vols are Texas, Florida, or dare I say, TCU), and things look like that everyday.

I'm always a fan of the teams who win the close games against good teams. Alabama are that team in 2009. They've looked better in their wins, close games, and blowouts then Florida and Texas, and you can't say it's because teams get up for Texas and Florida more. Last I checked, Alabama was playing quality opponents in the beginning of the season while Texas and Florida were arguing which of their QB's is predestined to win the Heisman.

All Alabama has done since is produce the kid who should win the Heisman in 2009, RB Mark Ingram.

It was 5:50 on the East Coast when Alabama kept their playoff hopes alive. You know there were a lot of people in northern Florida who missed the early bird special tonight; not because of the time, but because they weren't hungry anymore.

Jim Fassel, Las Vegas Locos, Win 1st UFL Championship

Many people in charge of the UFL, owners, investors, coaches, players, and marketers, considered the UFL's first season a "dress rehearsal." That's their excuse for the lack of attendance, visibility, and quality of game for the first season.

In the UFL's defense, I did see a sign for their product hanging near Angels Stadium in Anaheim during the ALDS and (I believe) ALCS.

I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't pulling for the UFL. I'd also be a liar if I said I watched a game after the opener.

But I did watch today's UFL Championship Game between the undefeated Florida Tuskers (lead by Michael Pittman, Brooks Bollinger, and head coach Jim Haslett) and the Las Vegas Locomotives (lead by J.P Losman and head coach Jim Fassel). And let me be completely honest, unbiased, and straight forward; it was the best football game that no one saw in 2009.

That doesn't mean it was better than Colts vs Patriots, Lions vs Brown (though that game was blacked out so I don't think anyone saw it), or Tennessee vs Alabama, but it was a very, very good game.

Well played too. And let's be fair to the UFL, they didn't exactly get a preseason, offseason, or a chance to build team chemistry before the opening game; which is probably why the UFL looked so awful the first week.

The teams I watched today had more chemistry than most college teams, and college teams usually have better chemistry than most pro teams, so fill in the blanks. The receivers and QB's were in rhythm, the defenses played pretty good man to man coverage, and the offensive lines were adequate. The kickers made the kicks they'd make in the NFL, the punters had average hang times, and overall, the game liked like a middle-end NFL game. It wasn't the Colts vs Pats, it wasn't even the Lions vs Browns, but it was an entertaining game.

At the end of the day, it was J.P Losman who got retribution, not Brooks Bollinger. It was DeDe Dorsey who won the MVP of the Championship, not Michael Pittman or Tatum Bell. It was also Jim Fassel, finally winning a championship in a decade that saw no coach fall from top to bottom harder.

So now there's a league of four teams worth of NFL free agents ready to be signed, loose, and available to play immediately. That's the point of the UFL, not to compete with the NFL, but to complement it. It's why the AFL and XFL failed, and why NFL Europe should have played in the Fall. The UFL is smart; it's not try to be the NFL, it's not trying to beat the NFL, it's trying to capitalize on a football hungry market by creating a league where free agents, known and unknown, young and old, can build or rebuild their careers.

The UFL will succeed. I hope it does at least. It should make the game more intimate. Go to smaller venues. Instead of Giants Stadium, play at Columbia or Hofstra. Instead of the Home Depot Center, play at some SCIAC school or Fresno (if you want to keep the Redwoods North). Minor league baseball is successful in some markets because of it's intimacy, the UFL needs to do the same.

I turst the league though. They're doing well, and they're smart. The best thing that can happen to the UFL is to have it's players head to the NFL and make an impact come playoff time.

Don't you have a feeling that's going to happen.

Thanksgiving Game Recap

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving filled with fun and good memories, because the NFL games were pretty forgettable.

As expected the Packers and Cowboys dismissed the Raiders and Lions. The Lions looked good early, the Raiders never looked good, but as we all knew would be the case when we looked at the Thanksgiving day schedule back in August; the Cowboys the Packers dominated.

Fantasy football fans were left satisfied, as well. Calvin Johnson scored, Romo and Rodgers produced, Miles Austin produced, in leagues with IDP's Charles Woodson gave a lot of teams 40+ points.

But unless you were sitting in front of your team praying for Woodson tackles, Austin receptions, or Rodgers touchdowns, the early and middle games were pretty much useless.

That being said I don't believe in getting rid of Detroit and Dallas on Thanksgiving. It's tradition. The NFL needs to preserve it's tradition as we move towards a golden age, unless there will be nothing to keep it on top (Baseball and Basketball do a tremendous job reminding us of yesteryear).

The late game was a different story. People actually wanted to watch that game, but few were able to. Luckily, being in New York for the Thanksgiving extended weekend, I was able to catch the game.

First of all, don't bury the Giants yet. Though they didn't look good yesterday, they were close to looking great. A lot of mistakes by the young receiving and running back group made Eli look pretty bad. The real worrisome unit was the offensive line. Eli has been spoiled by having an elite offensive line since 2005, but that's not the case anymore. That's a unit that needs to enter 2010 looking to rebuild.

As does the Giants defense. The Giants defense isn't what it was in 2007. Osi looks soft, and Tuck is still hurt after Flo-Adams cheap shot in week 1. Luckily for the Giants they host Philly and Dallas, and Romo still has a really tough December in front of him.

If the Giants want to make the playoffs Eli is going to have to carry that team and prove that he belonged on my Hall of Fame list (because I know Eli thinks about Funk Football every time he enters the huddle).

As for the Broncos? Well they shut people like me up for at least another week. At 7-4 they're in pretty good shape in an AFC that's really top heavy. They have also reawakened their division hopes, but that may be a pipe dream. They still have Kansas City twice and Oakland once, but road trips to Indianapolis and Philadelphia may be the cripple in their division push.

On the plus side, the Chargers still have Cincinnati, Dallas, and Tennessee on their schedule, as well as a pesky Redskins team. Game for game the Broncos have the more favorable schedule.

But the 6 seed in the AFC seems more likely for the team that started 6-0. What will the 6 seed get Broncos? Probably a road game against San Diego or New England.

In other words, they want the division.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thoughts Heading In To Week 12

Kerry Rhodes

I'm in New York right now so I've heard a lot of hoopla about head coach Rex Ryan's benching of safety Kerry Rhodes. This comes after an offseason where Ryan compared Rhodes to future hall of famer Ed Reed. So far this season Rhodes has underachieved (a lot like his fellow Louisville Cardinals of the 00's) picking up zero interceptions through 10 games.

To make matters worse Rhodes got burnt not only by Wes Welker on Sunday (which isn't dishonorable), but also by Laurence Maroney (which is pretty dishonorable).

Personally, I feel as though Rhodes will bounce back and start in 2010, but Rex Ryan's stock keeps falling, and falling, and falling, to the point where he may not have a job after 2010 if Mark Sanchez doesn't take a huge step forward.

Landon Johnson

It's been that kind of year for the Carolina Panthers. After serving the Panthers valiantly in two starts since an injury to standout linebacker Thomas Davis, linebacker Landon Johnson was placed on the IR on Tuesday. This leaves James Anderson as the starter at weak side Linebacker in Carolina.

Whether the Panthers manage a 7-9 or 8-8 record or not (which they probably will) doesn't matter to me. After this season the Panthers need to do whatever it takes to clear house and start over with the new decade. It won't even be too hard to contend in 2010 with a new batch of faces. Most importantly the team needs to finally develop a young complementary receiver to Steve Smith (it's pathetic that Moosh is still asked to be that guy) and they need to find a Quarterback who raise that passing games level play.

As mentioned by Sebastian, a follower of Funk Football, Jason Campbell may be the right guy for that job. John Fox should probably take 2010 off and resurface in 2011. Maybe in the NCAA.

Matt Leinart

In case you were wondering, Kurt Warner plans to play this Sunday, despite being sidelined mid game last week due to a concussion. You have to wonder how much of this has to do with Warner's actual comfort playing this week, and how much has to do with the Cardinals lack of trust in backup quarterback Matt Leinart.

I have no intention to dissect any of Leinart's other two extend appearances in 2009, or from 2006-2008, because it wouldn't be fair. What we can look at are Leinart's numbers last week. Against St. Louis last week I'm sure you heard (from ESPN or some talk Radio show) that Leinart look pretty tentative at times, and made some really high and bad throws. While Leinart was in the Rams also managed to make it a game with the Cardinals.

To be fair to Leinart he was 10 of 14 for 74 yards, 0/0 TD to INT on Sunday. He also hasn't been the focus of a game plan going into a game since 2007, so there's a reason he may not be totally in sync with Boldin and Fitzgerald.

I'm not defending Leinart, but I'm also not going to slam him like everyone else is going to. 10 of 14 and minimal mistakes in relief is all you could ask for from a backup entering a game the coaches didn't plan on him playing in.

Week 12 Picks

Last week I went 12-4... Good, but not great. I'm shooting for 13 this week.

Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions - Without Matthew Stafford, this will barely be a game. Hopefully it is since we all have to watch it, but this will barely be a game.

I'm taking the Packers on the Road.

Oakland Raiders @ Dallas Cowboys - With all the watchable games on the Cowboys schedule why did the schedule makers put this one on Thanksgiving. Another snooze.

I'm taking the Cowboys at Home.

New York Giants @ Denver Broncos - Remember how good this game looked half a season ago? Some people dared to say Super Bowl preview. It's going to be harder than it looks for the Giants; short week, road game, mile high, but the Giants should still win. The Broncos aren't that good.

I'm taking the Giants on the Road.

Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills - This is a must win for the Dolphins and they're going to win it. They'll be at 6-5, and the way I see it, in control of the wild card. The schedule gets tough, but they have a chance to control their own fate, and I like that.

I'm taking the Dolphins on the Road.

Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans - It's tough. You have to figure the Colts won't go undefeated. Not that they're not talented enough to go 19-0 (because this season they are), but because I honestly don't think the franchise wants to be 16-0 headed into the playoffs; they learned that lesson the hard way in 2005. The thing is, unless they coast and grow content, they're probably going to win this game. Houston are heartbroken and heading into a short week. Then again, that may be the very reason they win this game.

I'm taking the Texans at Home.

Seattle Seahawks @ St. Louis Rams - If the Rams are going to win again, this may be the game. Bulger is down so Boeller is back, and that hurts their chances.

I'm taking the Seahawks on the Road.

Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles - The Redskins aren't going to be a pushover the rest of the season; they're going to play hard, they're going to win a few games as well. The Eagles won't let that happen this week. They realize that every game from here on out is precious. They'll lose a few between now and week 17, but this probably will not be one of those instances.

I'm taking the Eagles at Home.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons - Atlanta's season is pretty much over, but they're still going to win this game.

I'm taking the Falcons at Home.

Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals had their "we're not really elite" loss last week against the Raiders. They should bounce back this week against a pesky Cleveland Browns team.

I'm taking the Bengals at Home.

Carolina Panthers @ New York Jets - The Panthers are the best team in the league with a losing record, and the Jets are in free fall. Revis vs Steve Smith (should it happen) will be a nice match up to watch.

I'm taking the Panthers on the Road.

Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers - Kansas had a huge overtime win last week against the Steelers, but that was likely more of a mirage than an honest assessment of how good the Chiefs are. San Diego are hot, they won't win out, but this won't be a loss.

I'm taking the Chargers at Home.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ San Francisco 49ers - The 49ers are desperate for a win, they know the playoffs are out of reach, but they need a win. The Jaguars are winning, but they've struggled to beat even the shamelessly mediocre teams.

I'm taking the 49ers at Home.

Arizona Cardinals @ Tennessee Titans - The Cardinals are a playoff team, but not without Kurt Warner, which makes this game really hard to predict. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Warner starts, and that will be the difference maker. This team loves to play on the road too.

I'm taking the Cardinals on the Road.

Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings - My biggest upset pick of the week. The Vikings are due for a loss. The Bears are due for a win. It's going to happen this week.

I'm taking the Bears on the Road.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens - If the Ravens lose they're buried. If the Steelers lose they're in danger of not making the playoffs for the first time since 2006. This is going to be a tough game, but I still don't think the Ravens can beat the Steelers. If Big Ben doesn't play it's a different story. But he'll play. Not until he's 35. But he'll play this week.

I'm taking the Steelers on the Road.

New England Patriots @ New Orleans Saints - New England are a good team, but their three losses are alarming (@NYJ, @Denver, @Indianapolis) because it's three road losses to above average (at the time) teams. New Orleans are way above average, and though they've been playing opossum the past few weeks, they'll be up for this game.

I'm taking the Saints at Home.

Monday, November 23, 2009

NFL Week 12 Power Rankings

The beauty of this time of year is that the playoffs start to shape up. The curse of this time of year is that though we now have a picture, nothing is clear.

The best thing to do is just wait and enjoy the games.

The Elite

01. New Orleans Saints - They're schedule turns up a notch starting this week when they host New England. If they win this one, which I think they will, then we can start talking "undefeated season." This team has bigger hopes than that though/

02. Indianapolis Colts - Are the 2009 Indianapolis Colts seriously the most unappreciated 10-0 team of all time? Love them or hate them, respect them or not, the Colts season has thus far been the most entertaining in the league.

03. Minnesota Vikings - If someone told you that through week 11 Brett Favre would have a 21-3 TD to INT ratio you probably would have laughed at them. Well, through week 11 he has a 21-3 TD to INT ratio, and the Vikings are definitely playoff bound, they'll probably have a first round bye. Take a look at their schedule though, who have the beaten? Their final six aren't as easy.

04. San Diego Chargers
- Arguably the hottest team in the NFL and they won't be tested again until week 14. They better beat Kansas City and Cleveland these next two weeks or they'll be stuck with the four seed.

05. New England Patriots - A lot of people think this team is the best team in the NFL and they'll have a chance to prove it this week against the Saints. A win, and we can start talking about ring 4 for Belichick and Brady, a loss and we can start wondering who the Patriots are going to play wild card weekend.

06. Arizona Cardinals
- Cardinal fans (and wide receivers) have to be worried about Kurt Warner's health. The way everyone has been talking about head injuries these days, you have to wonder whether or not the Cardinals are going to sit him this week @ Tennessee. Chances are the Cardinals are out of the race for a first round bye, so this team should probably do what's best to set them up for a playoff run.

The Very Good

07. Cincinnati Bengals
- They had a golden opportunity to get to 10-2 and put their mark on the two seed, but they blew it against the Raiders. If this team is for real then they're going to turn it on from here on out and learn a lesson from that brutal loss.

08. Pittsburgh Steelers
- Ouch. You can't lose games like that, not after you lost to Cincinnati the week before. If they can bury Baltimore on Sunday Night then they'll be in great shape to contend for the division again. They'll be in the playoffs, and no one will want to play them.

09. Dallas Cowboys – A lot like the Steelers they have looked pretty bad these past two weeks. Savor the Thanksgiving showdown with Oakland because the remainder of the schedule reads as @ NYG, SD, @ NO, @ Was, Phi. Remember all that talk about Tony Romo in December and January? Get ready for round 4. Also, if you don’t have NFL Sunday Ticket expect to be stuck watching six Cowboy’s games in six weeks.

10. Philadelphia Eagles – Their win against the Bears was close, but a big step in maneuvering this team for a playoff run. This team may not be the best Eagles team of the McNabb-Reid era, but in a top heavy NFC, this is a playoff team.

11. New York Giants – It was a nail-biter with the Falcons, but for good reason; it was also an elimination game. The Giants came out alive, but their schedule doesn’t really cool off. They’re going to need to win three of their final six to make the playoffs, to be safe they’ll have to win four. That schedule reads as (@ Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia, @ Washington, Carolina, @ Minnesota). Despite that schedule, it’s hard to write off a team that has been in contention every year since 2005.

Hanging In There

12. Green Bay Packers - The Packers won their do-or-die against the 49ers and are rewarded with a Thanksgiving game against a Matthew Stafford-less Lions. Although I don't believe in this team, they have an open road to nine wins, maybe even ten or eleven. They'll probably be in the playoffs. Now imagine they meet the Vikings in January?

13. Jacksonville Jaguars - I buried this team, what the heck happened? Quietly this team has won their last three, but outside of they have yet to beat a team in the upper echelon. They might not have to to make the playoffs though.

14. Miami Dolphins - Suddenly the Dolphin control their own playoff fate. If they can beat an identity-less Bills team this week in Buffalo, the Dolphins will be at 6-5 and if New England drop one to New Orleans the game the next week in Miami may be for the AFC East. Imagine that?

15. Denver Broncos - This team is free falling to an 8-8 record at best. They're on pace to make the 2003 Vikings season look like a success. With the Giants, Colts, and Eagles on their schedule, they're probably getting left out of the playoffs.

The Living Dead

16. Tennessee Titans - Jeff Fisher really, really, regrets not starting Vince Young after the 0-4 start. Or maybe he saw Indy and New England back to back and knew that was the worst place to throw a quarterback into. The heat of the schedule turns on these next two weeks with Arizona and @ Indianapolis in back to back weeks. This team can only afford one more loss, and even then they're in an unlikely position to get the six seed. The three seed will be scared to death if they get in though.

17. Houston Texans
- They're 5-5 and they play Indianapolis again, this time at home. The question is how confident can this team be heading into their most important game (for the third game in a row) of their season? There's a good chance they fall below .500 again.

18. Baltimore Ravens - Though it looks as though Indianapolis may've put a dagger in Baltimore's season, don't write the Ravens off yet. Outside of two games against the Steelers, the rest of the schedule is very winnable. If they can win this week at home against Pittsburgh, there's a great chance the Ravens ride momentum to a 10-6 record a playoff berth.

19. Atlanta Falcons - In all reality, The Falcons 2009 is done with that loss to the Giants. They're going to have to beat the Eagles and Saints (fortunately both games are at home) to make the playoffs. The truth about the 2009 Falcons is their too inconsistent to make a run like that. They'll be a .500 team at least.

The Dead

20. Carolina Panthers
- That loss to the Dolphins was brutal, and so was that interception by
Jake Delhomme, that pretty much wrapped the contest up. Final four games are against @NE, Min, @ NYG, NO. They're not going to the playoffs. At this point they're going to play the spoiler and play for their jobs. That Delhomme contract was bad.

21. New York Jets
- Since their 3-0 start the Jets have only beaten the Raiders. Somehow Rex Ryan and Matt Sanchez have devolved. If they win 2 of their final 5 it'll be a positive ending to 2009.

22. San Francisco 49ers
- They're going to be below .500 again. Do they stick with Alex Smith now that he's shown some signs of being a decent NFL QB? If not, then they should let Frank Gore walk, it's unfair for that guy to sit through another process.

23. Chicago Bears
- 2009's biggest underachievers. Didn't they get rid of Rex Grossman because they wanted consistency from the quarterback position? At least Grossman took them to the Super Bowl. The way Jay Cutler is playing, the Bears may not get back anytime soon.

24. Seattle Seahawks
- I really thought they were going to get back to the playoffs this year. I think a lot of changes are going to take place in 2010. The Hasselbeck era may be over.

25. Kansas City Chiefs - The win against Pittsburgh was the type that redeems a season. Matt Cassell has started to play alright, and Chris Chambers looks much better in Kansas City than he ever looked in San Diego. Long term they're in the worst shape in their division.

26. Oakland Raiders - For the second time in 2009 the Raiders cooled off a team with overblown Super Bowl hopes. How much longer until the Raiders have Super Bowl hopes? They
may only be a quarterback (and coach?) away.

27. Buffalo Bills
- They had every opportunity to beat the Jaguars and gain some respectability but they couldn't do it. They were healthier on defense, the offense looked okay, but losing Marshawn Lynch will hurt them for the duration of the regular season.

28. Detroit Lions
- It was a game of the year candidate when they came back against the Browns not once, but twice. Let's not forget that the game was against the Browns though.

29. Washington Redskins
- Man, they missed that field goal and you just knew they were going to blow it. This team just has that aura of stink around them, that even when they're winning, you expect them to lose.

30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - At least they look like an NFL team now. They may not win a game the rest of the regular season though. At least they don't have to worry about drafting a Quarterback, though.

31. St. Louis Rams - They may not have beaten the Cardinals, but they definitely reminded Kurt Warner of his injury prone days at the beginning of the decade.

32. Cleveland Browns - Somebody put a curse on this franchise. Personally, I felt as though the call was wrong on the pass interference, but what can you do? It's the Browns.

50 Active NFL Players Going To The Hall of Fame

I set out to make a list of 20 active players headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That list of 20 turned into a list of 40. From 40 it turned into 50.

Now I know not all 50 will make it to the Hall of Fame. At least ten of them are projections. I'd guess though, gun-to-my-head, that at least 40 of the 50 will make it into the Hall of Fame.

So please, debate. Am I way off? Am I spot on? Write back. Let me know.

Here's the list:

50 Active NFL Players Headed for the Hall of Fame

In No Particular Order

Peyton Manning, Quarterback - He's going to do damage to the NFL record books. He's been the fastest player to every major statistical record, he's likely to retire with the most MVP awards of all time, and he already has a Super Bowl ring and a Super Bowl MVP. He's a 9 time Pro Bowler in 11 professional season, and has 4 first team All Pro bids. He's 33 years old and will pass Warren Moon for 4th all time in passing yards at the end of this season. He'll pass Elway early in 2010. The question for Peyton isn't where his stats will be, it's will he win any more Super Bowls?

Brett Favre, Quarterback -
He's going to retire the statistical leader in every major quarterbacking category in the NFL. Not to mention he won a Super Bowl and 3 MVP awards. Not only is Brett Favre going to be a first ballot Hall of Famer, but he's probably going to be on every major list of greatest players of all time.

Troy Polamalu, Safety - Players like Polamalu get into the Hall of Fame all the time. He's the face of a defense that has already won two Super Bowls. From 2004 to 2008 he went to five straight Pro Bowls, and like Ray Lewis and Jason Taylor, he's been one of the faces of the NFL this decade.

Junior Seau, Linebacker
- The funny thing is that Seau should probably be getting inducted in the Hall of Fame this year. Needless to say, he's played in two Super Bowl's and was one of the most prolific linebackers of the 1990's (and 2000's I suppose). When he (finally) retires he'll get in first ballot.

Hines Ward, Wide Receiver
- As far as Wide Receivers go, Hines Ward isn't exactly one of the greatest ever. To be fair, Ward couldn't shine Jerry Rice, Cris Carter, Tim Brown, Don Maynard, Steve Largeant, Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, or Terrell Owens' shoes. What Ward does have is a lot of respect around the league (despite being deemed a "dirty" player) and two Super Bowl rings, including one Super Bowl MVP. Ward also has over 10,000 career receiving yards, four Pro Bowls, and will likely play his entire career in Pittsburgh; a franchise that has a nonstop shuttle from the playing field to Canton.

Ray Lewis, Linebacker
- His criminal allegations should prevent him from getting in first ballot, but it won't. Ray Lewis will enter Canton five years after he retires, and will rightfully be considered one of the greatest players ever to play the game. He has two defensive player of the year awards (a rarity) and a Super Bowl MVP (an even greater rarity for a defensive player). He's an icon of 00's.

Tom Brady, Quarterback - A no brainer for the Hall of Fame. He has three Super Bowl rings, an MVP, the single season touchdown mark, and an incredible winning percentage. His career numbers will easily be Hall of Fame numbers, and who knows, he may even get another ring between now and his retirement.

Tony Gonzalez, Tight End
- The most prolific TE of all time. He may not be the best tight end to ever play the game, but his numbers year in and year out, at a position where most players have short careers is astounding. He has over 11,000 yards receiving and is a 10 time Pro Bowler, 5 time first team All Pro. He'll get in first ballot.

LaDanian Tomlinson, Running Back
- The defining tailback of the 00's, LT will go in first ballot. Whether he wins a ring or not doesn't matter; just ask Barry Sanders, O.J Simpson, etc. His numbers are great. He won't come close to Emmitt's record like he said he would, but he's going to join Emmitt in the Hall.

Terrell Owens, Wide Receiver - He's going to retire in the top 5 all time in receiving yards, and top three all time in receiving touchdowns. His reputation will prevent him from being first ballot, and maybe even second ballot, but the only question surrounding whether or not Owens is a Hall of Famer is what team does he go in as? I suppose the 49ers will claim him.

Kurt Warner, Quarterback
- Super Bowl MVP, 2x NFL MVP, 3x NFC Champion QB, 2x first team All Pro, 4x Pro Bowler, career passer rating 93.6. It'll be hard to keep him out.

Edgerrin James, Running Back - He has the yardage, the touchdowns, the awards, two rushing titles, and he was part of one of the more visible teams of his era (that always helps). The only thing that hurts his chances of getting in is Joseph Addai, but odds are five years from now people will let that go.

Kevin Mawae, Center
- The Seahawks wish they never let this guy go. Mawae is a seven time (and counting) Pro Bowler and three time All Pro. He's also the most identifiable center of his generation, and has started well over 200 games.

Adam Vinatieri, Kicker
- The greatest kicker in league history. Though his leg strength is nowhere near elite, his kickoffs were always average, and he only went to two Pro Bowls, his four Super Bowls, and countless clutch kicks (Tuck rule game, SB XXXVI, SB XXXVIII, 2006 AFC Div Playoffs etc. etc. etc.) will send him into an exclusive group of kickers viewed as Canton worthy.

Randy Moss, Wide Receiver - It was obvious since his rookie season in 1998 that Randy Moss was Canton bound. Forget about his off the field issues, and the two years in Oakland, Moss has the numbers to retire today and easily find his way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has led the NFL in receiving touchdowns four times (including a single season record 23), and is a four time All Pro. He currently ranks second all time in receiving touchdowns.

Jason Taylor, Defensive End - The former defensive player of the year, six time Pro Bowler, and three time All Pro, leads all active players with 126 sacks. He's also been one of the most visible players of his generation and that will enhance his Hall of Fame odds. He won't need much enhancement though, he's getting in.

Ed Reed, Safety
- He may not have been on the World Champion 2000 Ravens, but his addition to the Ravens in 2002 is what kept the defense elite for the remainder of the decade. He's a five time Pro Bowler, 4 time All Pro, and has also been a successful kick returner. He's got a lot of mileage left in his tank, and there's no doubt he's going to be one of many University of Miami players to enter the Hall of Fame from this generation.

Walter Jones, Tackle - Jones is a nine time Pro Bowler, four time All Pro, and was the best player on the 2005 NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks team. Chances are, whenever he retires, he'll be a first ballot Hall of Famer. He may not be the most well known player in the NFL, but he's absolutely regarded as one of the best.

Torry Holt, Wide Receiver
- Holt was part of the "Greatest Show on Turf," and though Isaac Bruce, Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, and Orlando Pace may take some of the shine away from Holt, it's hard to deny that Holt wasn't equally as important as those four players. He's been to seven Pro Bowls, was selected to one All Pro team, and has already caught for over 13,000 yards. He's likely to finish his career top 5 in yards; and his Super Bowl ring certainly helps his chances.

Isaac Bruce, Wide Receiver - He only has four Pro Bowl selections, but that means nothing when it comes to Isaac Bruce. Not only did he play for the 1999 Rams, who arguably had the most explosive offense of all time, but he currently ranks as number two all time in receiving yards. He's going to the Hall of Fame.

Jeff Saturday, Center
- The icon of Peyton Manning's offensive line, Saturday has become one of the most marketable and recognizable offensive lineman of all time. He will (likely) play the remainder of his career with Peyton, and chances are Peyton will be giving a speech in Canton 5 to 7 years after Saturday retires.

Brian Urlacher, Linebacker - Say what you will about Urlacher, he's far too much of an icon not to make it to the hall. He'll have the Pro Bowls, he has a defensive player of the year award, he'll have the All Pros, and he lead a defense to a Super Bowl. He's one of the most recognizable players of the decade, too. And that helps.

Ty Law, Cornerback
- Ty Law was instrumental on helping the Patriots win three Super Bowls, and he played for them in four. Law has also been a part of five Pro Bowls, has two All Pro teams to his name, and has recorded over 50 interceptions in his career. The fact that he's been a journeyman since 2004 doesn't matter.

Dwight Freeney, Defensive End
- Freeney is bound to retire with great sack numbers (likely over 120), not to mention at least one Super Bowl ring. He was one of the most visible defensive players of his generation, and the amount of double coverage he demanded his entire career will definitely be examined when his numbers are. He currently has four Pro Bowls and two All Pro selections, and those numbers are likely to grow.

Ben Roethlisberger, Quarterback
- His game may not be the most beautiful in the history of the league, but Big Ben is Canton Bound. He already has two Super Bowl rings, and his career record as a starter is great. He won't shine in the Hall of Fame with beautiful numbers, but if he keeps up this pace, he may have his own section in the hall.

Jamal Lewis, Running Back - Despite having seven 1,000 yard seasons, Lewis only has one Pro Bowl and one All Pro appearance. In 2003 he rushed for over 2,000 yards, one of only five running backs in that club (OJ, Dickerson, Barry Sanders are in the Hall, Terrell Davis had too short of a career to make it, but should get in one day in my opinion). Help Lewis is the fact that he's going to enter Hall of Fame yardage status, he has a Super Bowl ring, he has an AP Offensive Player of the Year award, and he has the 2,000 yard season. Hurting Lewis? He spent 2001 in jail.

Reggie Wayne, Wide Receiver
- Playing your entire career with Peyton Manning helps. Wayne is bound for his fourth Pro Bowl this season, already has one Super Bowl, has performed tremendously in big games, and will probably retire with numbers that will make Marvin Harrison envious.

Orlando Pace, Tackle
- The NFL loves it when guys like Orlando Pace make it to the Hall of Fame. The #1 overall pick in the 1997 draft, Pace helped the Rams turnaround a franchise that once lay dead at the bottom of a ferocious NFC. With Pace blocking the blind side, Kurt Warner won two MVP awards, Marshall Faulk won one MVP award, and Steven Jackson and Marc Bulger became Pro Bowlers. There's no denying who the best player mentioned in this paragraph is; Orlando Pace.

Adrian Peterson, Running Back - He's only been in the NFL three seasons so naturally this is all projection. As a rookie, Peterson was a Pro Bowler and rushed for over 1,300 yards. In his second season Peterson won the league rushing title. In his third season, Peterson is again in the rushing title hunt. In a forthcoming era that will see fewer and fewer Running Backs see Canton enshrinement, Adrian Peterson looks to be the last of a dying breed. He only needs another three to four seasons like the ones he's had so far to get to Canton. Since 2007 he's been the best in the game. He'll probably be the best for a few more years.

Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver - Again, this is totally a projection, but at age 26 he already has 7,000 receiving yards, three Pro Bowls, and a playoff run that would make even Jerry Rice envious. Fitzgerald is also the best receiver to play the game since Jerry Rice (sorry Randy, Andre, Reggie, TO) and the media loves him. It's important to note that his numbers with Kurt Warner are considerably better than his numbers without. Warner maybe has one more season left in the NFL.

Donovan McNabb, Quarterback
- In a way, it's sort of sad the way we look at Donovan now. In fifteen years everyone reading this blog right now will remember McNabb as a player in a lot of great games. "The good old days" we'll call them. 4th and 26, the scramble on Monday Night vs Dallas, five NFC championship games in one decade. He also evolved the game, and was the only "athletic quarterback" of his generation to truly pan out. McNabb is also (along with Peyton Manning) the only quarterback to start and close a decade as the opening day starter for the same team. Longevity like that, especially at the quarterback position, usually translates into a Hall of Fame induction.

Charles Woodson, Cornerback - His Heisman Trophy won't mean anything towards getting into the Hall of Fame, but it definitely adds to his lure. The five Pro Bowls (and counting) only add more fuel to Woodson's Hall of Fame campaign. His numbers don't necessarily look great, but for a cornerback that's usually a sign of greatness. Opposing quarterbacks rarely ever threw Woodson's way, especially during his days with the Raiders. He also forced a fumble in a certain 2001 playoff game that changed the game forever.

Julius Peppers, Defensive End
- Players like Julius Peppers don't come around every often.
Versatile, athletic, and explosive, Peppers is 29 years old and already has over 77 sacks in his career. Like Dwight Freeney, Peppers sees a lot of double and triple coverage, which makes that number even more impressive.

Matt Light, Tackle
- He doesn't have a ton of Pro Bowls, he only has one All Pro, but Light was the Left Tackle for a team that went to 4 Super Bowls, and for the bulk of a Hall of Fame QB's career. That will be enough to get him to Canton. If he doesn't get it, it will be because of Super Bowl XLII.

Champ Bailey, Cornerback
- 8 Pro Bowls, 3 All Pros, not much more you can say. He's only 31 years old so he still has another three to four years left in his tank. After that, he should find a home in Canton. Question is, is he a Bronco or Redskin? I say a Bronco.

Fred Taylor, Running Back - Taylor has the career stats and longevity to make it to the Hall of Fame. Taylor's problem may be that he's never been an elite Running Back. He may not get in first ballot, but he'll get in eventually, especially as the length of running back careers shrink further.

Chad Ochocinco, Wide Receiver
- Remember when he wore that stupid jacket opening day 2007? He's probably going to hit the 10,000 yard receiving mark this season, he has five Pro Bowls, he gets a lot of touchdowns, and at 31 he's still relatively young. Two or three more 1,000 yard seasons after this one will guarantee Ochocinco a spot in the Hall of Fame.

Eli Manning, Quarterback
- Even with as much critique to his name as Eli Manning has, it'll still be hard to keep him out of the Hall of Fame when his playing career is done. He's easily on pace to join the exclusive 40,000 yard club, and he's already begun to develop a great winning percentage. He'll have the numbers, and he already has a ring from a game that will become legendary. A few more Pro Bowl seasons and he'll get in. Another ring and it's a sure thing.

Patrick Willis, Linebacker - Like Adrian Peterson, this is a projection, and like Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis has entered the NFL and immediately taken over as the best in the league at his position. He's a tackles machine, he makes the 49ers defense legitimate, and he'll probably be a Pro Bowl fixture for the next 7 years. He'll be a welcome addition to the Hall of Fame for a 49ers team that had a pretty bad 00's after dominating the 80's and 90's with Hall of Fame talent.

Steve Hutchinson, Guard
- Ask Matt Hasselbeck how good this guy is. He's been to the Pro Bowl every year since 2003, and he's established himself as the best Left Guard in the NFL in that time span. With the Seahawks he helped make Shaun Alexander the leagues premiere rusher, with the Vikings he's helped make Adrian Peterson the leagues premiere rusher. Coincidences like that don't happen in professional football. Steve Hutchinson is a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Andre Johnson, Wide Receiver - Johnson is only 28 years old and already has over 7,000 career receiving yards. He's just beginning to hit his stride as an elite receiver, and already has been to 3 Pro Bowls and has 1 First Team All-Pro to his name. Those numbers should be 4 and 2 after this season.

Ronde Barber, Cornerback
- His better known, twin brother Tiki Barber won't get into the Hall of Fame, but Ronde will. Perhaps because of the participation of the 2002 Bucs defense, one of the greatest units in NFL history, perhaps because of the 5 Pro Bowls, 3 All Pros, perhaps because of the 37 career interceptions (including a mesmerizing 10 in 2001), or perhaps because he plays defense and has scored 13 touchdowns thus far in his career. Ronde Barber is a Hall of Famer.

Olin Kreutz, Center - He hasn't been to the Pro Bowl since 2006, but the Bears offensive line has still been pretty good since then. From 2001 to 2006 he represented the Bears in the Pro Bowl every single season, and his presence of the offensive line is part of the reason that Shane Matthews, Jim Miller, Chris Chandler, Rex Grossman, and Kyle Orton were able to have success as Chicago's starting quarterback.

Brian Dawkins, Safety - When he retires, Brian Dawkins is going to go straight to Canton. seven Pro Bowls, 4 All Pros, the face of a defense that dominated the 00's in the NFC. Brian Dawkins deserves all the praise he gets as a professional football player, and despite what some believe (mostly NFC East fans) he was never overrated.

Tommie Harris, Defensive Tackle - He's only 26, but you can see where this career is headed. He has three Pro Bowls, that number is going to grow, and more importantly you can see the difference he makes when he's on the field. If he can play at this level for another six seasons, there's a good chance that Tommie Harris will be in the Hall of Fame.

Antonio Gates, Tight End
- He may not be the best tight end of his generation, but he's definitely the second best. For a tight end, Gates is a yardage and scoring machine. He's changed the way the game is played at the TE position, and if he can put up good numbers for the next three seasons, he'll be a Hall of Famer.

Steven Jackson, Running Back
- This is another projection, but Steven Jackson is only 26 years old and should be headed for his 2nd Pro Bowl on a team that asks him to do more than any one player should have to do. He's had five straight 1,000 yard seasons behind a banged up offensive line. He's going to finish 2009 near 6,700 to 7,000 yards and will have three seasons to get to 10,000 yards. If he does, then he'll be a Hall of Famer. He may have to leave St. Louis though.

Darren Sharper, Safety
- It's hard to get into the Hall of Fame as a defensive player without a ton of accolades and media attention. Darren Sharper doesn't have any of that (although he may finally get it this season), but he leads all active players in interceptions, has been to four Pro Bowls, has one All Pro selection (will likely be two after this season) and ranks second all time in interceptions for touchdowns, and 9th all time in interceptions. If Sharper gets just five more interceptions it will be really difficult to keep him out of the Hall of Fame. He's 34 so he has maybe two more seasons to get there.

Jeff Feagles, Punter
- It's really, really, hard to get into the Hall of Fame as a special teams player. Adam Vinatieri will get in because he had too many big kicks to ignore. It's even harder to get into the Hall of Fame when you're a punte, but Jeff Feagles career numbers are going to be hard to ignore. He currently has 70,000 punting yards, over 10,000 more than the person in second all time. He's a two time Pro Bowler, but I'm not sure how much going to the Pro Bowl matters for a Punter. I can't guarantee he's going to get a Hall of Fame look, but hopefully he does. He deserves a look.

Drew Brees, Quarterback
- Doing a little projecting, it's hard to ignore the numbers that Brees is going to put up. He's only 30 years old, so he has at least another five seasons at this level of play, which should be good to easily put Brees over the 40,000 yard mark. Since 2005, Brees has played at a very high level, and his three Pro Bowls and one All Pro selection are likely to grow in the next five years as well. He will need to get his team to the playoffs, but he's very similar to Warren Moon in that his numbers are so good, that it's hard to blame him for any losses his team may have.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Brady vs Manning Question Redux

The following article was written for Funk Football by Joseph Bellear. It is fully endorsed by the website.

As this decade nears its end, there is little doubt the most controversial question to bring up to an NFL fan is this: Must win game, do you want Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? I realize this topic has been nearly beaten to death, but it seems as if the ignorant party always wins.

Ignorant Party: “ZOMG Peyton sucks, Brady has three rings and Peyton only has one, so Brady is better!”

(Much like prior to the 09 postseason, A-Rod was considered a postseason failure compared to Derek Jeter, despite A-Rod sporting a slightly higher .OPS. Prior to 09, A-Rod registered an .856 OPS compared to Jeter’s .846 OPS.)

Now, as admitted hater of all things Boston (I am a Yankee fan after all), I have an immediate preference towards Peyton. It isn’t exactly a baseless choice, if Peyton continues at his current pace for another five years while putting up his career average statistics; he’ll likely be the greatest quarterback of all-time.

However, despite a Super Bowl title in 2006 and a laundry list of records, there are many arguments against Peyton’s “clutchiness” (yes, it is a made up word). Brady after all has emerged as nearly as prolific as Manning in the regular season thanks to the 2007 acquisition of Randy Moss, he owns three Super Bowl rings and he holds a superior postseason record (14-3) to Manning’s (7-8). But do those numbers tell the whole story?

I can’t think of an interesting or creative segue into cold facts and numbers so I’m not going to bother. So here they are. If you were to ask Tom Brady what style of game he would prefer to play in the postseason, shootout or defensive battle, there’s little doubt in my mind that Brady would pick defensive battle. Why? The Patriot’s defense has held opposing offenses to 17 points or less in 10 of Brady’s 17 playoff games. Brady’s record in those games is a sparkling 9-1. In games where the Patriots allowed more than 17 points, Brady’s record is still very good, but not as immortal at 4-2. But included in that record is when the Patriots allowed 27 or more points, in which Brady is just 2-2.

On the other side of the equation, Peyton has been in 15 playoff games. In those 15 playoff games the Colts have allowed more than 17 points in 10 games, with Peyton sporting just a 2-8 record in those contents. When the Colts allowed 27 or more points, Peyton is 1-2. But when they allowed 17 or less points? Peyton has a 5-0 record.

This should come as no surprise. The cliché in football is that defense wins championships and that is because more often than not, it’s true. Both quarterbacks are basically unbeatable when their defense gives them an above average to great performance.

Another aspect that is often overlooked in this comparison is defensive and special team’s touchdowns. How incredible is it when you see your favorite team run in a pick-6? Maybe there’s a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown. The amount of joy you feel is equivalent to the deflating feeling that the opponent is experiencing at that very moment.

Peyton has enjoyed the benefit of such a momentum boosting moment just once in his postseason career when Kelvin Hayden took a Rex Grossman pass to the end zone in the Super Bowl. By contrast, Brady has seen a combination of seven touchdowns from his defense and special teams.

Does this make Brady any less “clutchy”? Of course not, that would be ludicrous. You can’t hold those touchdowns against Brady, but the fact that Brady has gotten 49 free points from his the rest of team shouldn’t go unrecognized when it comes down to the amount of playoff games and championships that he’s won compared to Peyton who rarely gets that type of support from the rest of his team.

To put those 49 points in perspective, Brady teams average 24 points a game in the postseason offensively, while Manning teams average 23 points a game. But when you subtract the 49 points from Brady’s point total, Brady teams average 21 points a game. Three points, a field goal. It doesn’t sound like much, but consider the fact that six of Brady’s playoff victories have come by three points and you begin to realize how much those extra touchdowns have helped solidify Brady’s place as a postseason icon.

Finally, there’s the cold hard statistics that both quarterbacks have put up in the postseason. Brady has the advantage in some ways with those numbers, buts it’s not as clear cut in favor of Brady as the average Bostonian (or ESPN anchor) would have you believe.

Brady’s postseason numbers read like this, 372 completions, 595 attempts for a 62.5% completion rate. He has thrown for 3954 yards, 26 touchdowns, 12 INTs. His yards per attempt are 6.65 and he has averaged 232.6 yards a game. Those numbers are good for an 88 quarterback rating, which is an archaic but still mainstream accepted way of judging quarterbacks.

Manning stat line lies out like this, 348 completions, 564 attempts for a 61.7% completion rate. He has thrown for 4208 yards, 22 touchdowns, 17 INTs. His yards per attempt are 7.46 and he has thrown for an average of 280.5 yards a game. His numbers are good for an 85 quarterback rating.

Manning’s only sin is that he appears to be more careless with the ball than Brady. But there is a reason for that. As mentioned earlier in this passage, Manning often found himself playing in games where his defense was less than stellar. The result? The Colts have had to chuck the ball around more in games than the Patriots which leads to more chances for interceptions. The YPA difference also highlights the fact that Peyton has had to play a riskier brand of football, throwing a little deeper and taking more chances downfield, whereas Brady has been able to play a little safer due to his more favorable circumstances.

If the Patriots were to somehow miss the playoffs and the Colts played in two playoff games this year, would there any doubt that Manning would have around 40 to 50 more pass attempts than Brady, despite playing the same amount of games? With the way the Colts defense and running game has looked this year that might be a low end estimate on my part.

Simply put, Brady has been able to rely on much better defenses and special teams play than Manning ever has. And when Manning did get the type of defensive support that Brady had enjoyed, is it any surprise that he finally won his Super Bowl? Still, that didn’t stop Manning’s extreme haters from criticizing him for relying on his defense to win games for him. Sound like anyone else we know?

At the end of the day, nothing will convince Manning supporters from choosing Peyton in these arguments and nothing will convince Brady supporters from choosing Peyton in these arguments. It is important to realize football fans, that this argument isn’t nearly as lopsided as you may think.

Ok, We Can Finally Start Talking MVP Race

To me, the NFL is not a sport where you can start discussing the MVP before the end of the season. I know fans of the NBA love to have that debate and crown an MVP before Christmas, but I don't like crowning an NFL MVP before Christmas, let alone the NBA. But we're now 11 weeks in, every team has had their bye week, and it's officially "ok" to start wondering who the MVP of the league is.

And for the seventh time this decade it's likely to be named a quarterback.

As of right now Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Brett Favre lead the MVP voting, with Tom Brady and Philip Rivers seriously in contention. It's going to be a tough situation for voters, given they're not only going to have to judge wins, and numbers, but for once they're going to have to judge just how important each of the five players are to their team.

Manning was given the award in 2008, so there's no judging whether or not the voters will hold that against him in 2009. In 2008 the Patriots won 11 games without Tom Brady, they'll need to win out for Brady to get the MVP this year (unless his numbers are huge). The 2008 Vikings won their division, so the 2009 Vikings will likely need to win home field advantage for Favre to get the MVP award, and then there's still the chance the Adrian Peterson manages to snag a vote or two from him. Brees' numbers are down from 2008 but his teams wins are way up, it'll be hard to ignore him. Rivers is the wild card of the bunch, if the Chargers can somehow earn a first round bye, it'll be really hard to ignore Rivers, no matter what Manning, Brady, Brees, and Favre do. That being said, It will be tough for Rivers to make it to the Pro Bowl this year with Manning, Brady, Palmer, and Roethlisberger all putting up huge numbers in the AFC.

As you can see through week 11 it's a wash.

But let's not forget, at this point last year the Colts were 6-4 and Manning was just entering the MVP discussion that was headed by Adrian Peterson and James Harrison. At the end of the year, Peterson and Harrison pretty much fell out of the discussion, Chad Pennington and Michael Turner entered it, and Peyton Manning won by a mile.

So you really can't clearly judge an MVP situation in week 11 unless a player is having a ridiculous season and his team is winning like Manning 04, Alexander 05, Tomlinson 06, and Brady 07, still 04 had Jamal Lewis, 05 had Peyton Manning, 06 had Drew Brees, and 07 had Randy Moss to make it a debate at this point in the season.

Personally who do I think is the MVP through week 11? It's hard to say. Since 2003 Peyton Manning has finished out of the top 3 in MVP voting only once (2007 when he played perhaps his best season) so the odds are in favor that it will be hard to stop Manning from getting his league record 4th MVP award. The only things stopping him are a late season collapse, a rise in turnovers, or the media really falling in love with Brett Favre.

But for the moment the MVP depth chart is 1. Manning, 2. Brees, 3. Favre, 4. Brady 5. Rivers.

You can almost guarantee that will change between now and the first week of January.