Peyton’s Dozen: The Odds on Who Will Land Manning

Ever since the Colts landed the first overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, there has been speculation about if and where Peyton Manning would play again.  Yesterday, something I could’ve never imagined a year ago happened when the Colts decided to go into rebuilding mode and forgo paying Manning the bonus that was due to him today thus making him a free agent for the first time in his career.   And this is not just any free agent.  Peyton Manning has become the most coveted free agent in NFL history as the franchise he has been the face of for 14 years moves forward without him.   We are now aware that no Colts player will ever again wear #18 but the question is of course: which team will have a new #18 on their roster next season?

Multiple sources have mentioned that around 12 teams have been in contact with Manning’s representation and we know who some of those teams are, who some aren’t, and which teams remain a mystery.   We know that the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, and Kansas City Chiefs have contacted Manning’s representation.  We know that the Dallas Cowboys are not interested and neither are, clearly, the Indianapolis Colts.   It is also safe to assume that the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons, San Diego Chargers, New York Giants, and Pittsburgh Steelers.  I’m also fairly confident that the St. Louis Rams, Baltimore Ravens, and Chicago Bears will not go after Manning.  I also like to believe, that though there has been speculation, that the Texans will work to extend Schaub and develop Yates as opposed to cutting Schaub to bring in Manning.  So I do not believe the Texans are part of the twelve (but if they create the cap space and release Schaub they become a frontrunner).  However we can’t rule anyone out.   In my opinion, outside of a few, select teams that have elite NFL QBs, any team that does not at least ask itself the Peyton Manning question is doing themselves a great disservice.

So using what we know and what we don’t know I’ve broken down who I believe to be Manning’s dozen and their respective odds of landing the future Hall of Famer in descending order.

12. Jacksonville Jaguars

ODDS – 1:100

The Jacksonville Jaguars would love to sign their former rival for the next three years and develop the young Blaine Gabbert behind him.  I have no doubts about that.  It’s clear however that Peyton wants to win now because he only has somewhere between three and five years to win another ring.   The Jaguars definitely have the cap room and it could be attractive for Manning to play in Florida but the Jaguars have no personnel to put around Manning where he believes he could win right away.  A few years ago when the Vikings signed Brett Favre a lot of people referred to that team as a “ferrari without a driver” and I believe that’s exactly what Peyton is looking for.   The Jaguars can offer the contract but not much else.

11. Cleveland Browns

ODDS – 1:50

I give the Browns slightly higher odds than the Jaguars of landing Manning.   Once again this is a team in disarray but once that can afford Manning.  The reason I give them any kind of odds is because the Browns could potentially land one of Peyton’s former receivers in free agency (Garcon or Wayne), they have a stout and young offensive line and they have the draft picks to add playmakers to their roster now.  This is an AFC team in a smaller market which many say that Manning would prefer but I just do not see this happening.

10. Buffalo Bills

ODDS – 3:100

The Buffalo Bills are an interesting prospect.  This would put Peyton in the AFC in a small market with a passionate fan base and he would get the chance to play Tom Brady twice a year.  However, the Bills have made a huge commitment to Ryan Fitzpatrick.  This is a team that could make the playoffs with consistent quarterback play but I do not see the Bills making this happen nor do I see Manning wanting to play 7 home games a year in Buffalo and 1 every season in Toronto after 14 years of playing his home games in a dome.  They have the cap room, they have some playmakers, but I am pretty confident we will not see Manning in Buffalo.

9. Tennessee Titans

ODDS – 1:20

If the Titans have already called, I’m certain that Peyton Manning has listened.  He considers Tennessee a second home having played his college ball there.  He can look at Tennessee and see playmakers like Chris Johnson, Jared Cook,  and Kenny Britt.   They have a very athletic offensive line that Peyton would love.  This is a team that has some definite potential but once again I just do not see it.  Matt Hasselbeck had a really good year last year and I believe that the Titans are happy to play him another year and then move forward with Jake Locker who showed a lot of promise as a rookie.  I also do not know what Peyton’s feelings would be on playing the Colts twice a year after his ceremonious exit from the Colts but either way, I give the Titans a 5% chance but not much more than that.

8. New York Jets

ODDS – 1:19

The New York Jets have been linked to Peyton Manning for months and this is a team that is definitely talented and made it to back to back AFC Championships in spite of subpar quarterback play.  Manning is familiar with the Rex Ryan defense and would surely love to have that on his side.  He would play the Patriots twice a year and he would get to share a stadium with his brother.  He would have playmakers all around him but at the same time, there are a lot of issues with the New York Jets locker room.  New York is a large market and it’s his brother’s territory.   I personally think the Jets would be a great fit but I don’t see Peyton going to such an unstable situation or imposing on his brother’s turf.   Another big factor here is that the Jets would have to make some major moves to be able to even afford Manning.  They can’t afford him, it’s unstable, and I just don’t see it.

7. Washington Redskins

ODDS – 1:13

Alright, now we’re into the teams that I actually think have a shot.  A lot of people have the Redskins as an odds-on favorite to land Peyton Manning.  They like to cite that great offensive line the Redskins have and the presence of Roy Helu, Santana Moss, Fred Davis, Chris Cooley, and Jabar Gaffney.  It’s clear though that Washington will have to add a true #2 wide receiver to attract Peyton.  Washington does have the necessary cap room and they have an owner in Dan Snyder who loves to spend money.  However, Peyton’s preference is the AFC and I really don’t think he wants to play Eli twice a year.   Washington loves to bring in five star free agents and has the cap room to reunite Manning and Wayne as well as a high enough draft pick to bring in some young playmakers immediately.  While I believe the Redskins will be one of the most aggressive suitors for Manning but I don’t believe Peyton will bite.   This is a team that definitely has everything necessary to attract Manning with the largest drawbacks being the fact that they are a large market NFC team that would play the Giants twice a year.  Many don’t believe that Manning is interested in playing for Washington but on paper they have a pretty solid chance.

6. Arizona Cardinals

ODDS – 1:8

Everyone that follows Can of Corn on Twitter knows that for months I have been lobbying for Peyton Manning to team up with Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona.  This is a team that went .500 last season in spite of Kolb’s terrible play under center.   Manning has mentioned he would love to play on natural grass again but he does appreciate the advantages of a dome.  Good news – Arizona is the only place that can offer both.   Manning has never played with a wide receiver as talented as Larry Fitzgerald and if the Cardinals can re-sign Early Doucet or bring in another wideout (especially Wayne) then this could be a real possibility.  Combine that with tight end Todd Heap and Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams in the backfield and this becomes a very attractive offense.  Manning and Whisenhunt have long had a mutual respect and admiration for one another and so this relationship could definitely work.

The problem is that right now the Cardinals are projected to have, at most, $10.2 M in cap room.   Even if they release Levi Brown and free up $16M , move forward without Kolb and free up the necessary cap room, the Cardinals are left with an even more questionable offensive line.  I love this fit for Manning and like the idea of him throwing to Fitzgerald.  I think the Cardinals will be major players and they are a team that can compete right away with Manning but at the end of the day – I really don’t see Arizona being able to do what’s necessary to attract Manning.   If the Cardinals had the cap room to afford Manning, they would be in the top 3 without a doubt.  There’s a strong mutual interest here between Manning and the Cardinals.  Now it comes down to money.

5. San Francisco 49ers

ODDS – 2:9

What NFL fan does not want to see Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne keep playing together?  The 49ers offer the opportunity to do that.  This is a team that has the cap room necessary to sign Peyton Manning and then also tighten up their WR corps and with a deep WR draft could use their first round draft pick on a rookie wideout or exchange that pick for Mike Wallace.  This is a team that was a few muffed punts from going to the Super Bowl last season and if they were to bring in receivers they could easily attract Peyton there and on the flip side, the presence of Peyton Manning would attract free agent receivers.  This is a dynamic team and Peyton would only be required to put up 20 – 24 points a game with that stout defense.  Jim Harbaugh says he believes in Alex Smith and is trying to extend him but you have to believe the 49ers have at least reached out to Manning and that he would be interested in heading to the West Coast.  Both the 49ers and Peyton are well aware of what each could accomplish together and I think this will be a very attractive option.   I just do not know how hard Harbaugh will pursue this one.  Thus far the 49ers have denied interest in Manning but it’s hard to believe that giving Alex Smith a three year $27M contract is that much better of an option than giving Manning a 3 year $42M deal.

4. Denver Broncos

ODDS – 2:7

If John Elway really wants to move on from “Tebowmania” this is the only possible escape.  If Elway really wants a quarterback that reminds him of himself, then there’s nobody better.  After all, a number one overall draft pick by the Colts going on to lead the Denver Broncos to a Super Bowl is not unheard of.   The Broncos have some great young receivers on offense with Demaryius Thomas, Eddie Royals, and Eric Decker and the necessary cap room to sign Manning.  They are a playoff team with the necessary cap room to sign Manning and this is something that could really happen.  The Broncos have reached out to Manning’s people and with the Broncos being the reigning champion of a wide-open division I think they are an attractive option to Manning.

3. Seattle Seahawks

ODDS – 1:3

I really do not know why more people aren’t talking about the possibility of Manning landing in Seattle.   This is a team that could be very good with a great quarterback.  Manning would have a dynamic receiving corps with Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Mike Williams, and Golden Tate as well as Jon Carlson and Zach Miller at tight end.  The Seahawks just recently extended running back Marshawn Lynch after a career year.  This is a team with a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and with Manning could challenge the 49ers right away.  The Seahawks are considered a frontrunner to land Mario Williams but they could instead direct their focus to Manning especially considering their draft position would allow them a chance to land Melvin Ingram or another top tier rookie outside linebacker or defensive end.   There are some question marks on the offensive line but given the division they play in and the amount of playmakers, Seattle has to be considered a serious contender to land Peyton Manning.

2. Miami Dolphins

ODDS – 2:5

We’ve heard it all, the Dolphins have the cap room to sign Manning and bring in another wide receiver.  Reggie Wayne wants to play in Miami and this could give Manning a 1-2 punch of Wayne and Brandon Marshall with Davone Bess in the slot.  Reggie Bush just had the best year of his career and is one of the best pass-catching backs in the game.  Peyton Manning has a home in Miami and the team has an owner that wants a star to latch his team onto.  This is a warm weather AFC team that would give Peyton the chance to play in the stadium where he twice appeared in a Super Bowl.   The Dolphins seem to be a really attractive option for Manning but the biggest question has to be the offensive line.  Outside of Jake Long, this offensive line is suspect.  Of course the 9th overall draft pick could allow the Dolphins to draft Iowa’s Riley Reiff or Stanford’s Jonathan Martin who could bolster this line immediately.  I think that Miami has a lot of attractive options.  I think Manning’s admiration of and friendship with Dan Marino plays a role.  While Miami has a great combination of playmakers, salary cap, and overall fit, there’s one team that has an even better combination of these things.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

ODDS – 3:7

There are a lot of commentators who have begun to mention the Kansas City Chiefs as an underdog or a dark horse candidate to land Manning.  The Seahawks are a dark horse, the Titans and Jets are underdogs, the Chiefs should be considered the favorite.   Anyone who has the Chiefs ranked lower than two is only kidding themselves.   There are a number of factors that make the Chiefs the odds-on favorite to land Manning in spite of the fact that they are “committed to Matt Cassel”.

The Chiefs have been projected to have as much as $50M in cap room next season which would be the 2nd highest in the NFL so they definitely have the financial flexibility to sign Peyton Manning and then to bring in anotherfree agent such as Carl Nicks or Jeff Saturday to solidify their offensive line.  The Chiefs have the necessary weapons on the offensive side of the ball with running back Jamaal Charles, tight end Tony Moeaki, and receivers Dwayne Bowe, Steve Breaston, and Jonathan Baldwin.  Then there’s always the threat of the very dynamic Dexter McCluster who can play in the backfield or line up in the slot.   They have a good young defense as well with playmakers like Tamba Hali, Glenn Dorsey, Derrick Johnson, and Eric Berry.    Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel are both extremely familiar with Peyton Manning and with the restructuring of the coaching staff, this is a team that would be very open to letting Peyton Manning bring in his own offense.  This is a talented AFC team in a small market with a very passionate fan base and distinct home field advantage.   They play in the most wide-open division in the NFL.  This is a team that came within a game of the playoffs despite multiple injuries and inconsistent QB play.   Joe Montana finished his career in KC and got his team to the AFC Championship maybe Peyton can do one better.  If Manning really wants to be on an AFC team and become the first QB to lead two different teams to a Super Bowl win, this is a team that definitely fits that mold and can actually afford him.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!

Remember to follow us on Twitter @can_of_corn!

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My NFL Player Awards

With the conclusion of the 2011 NFL regular season, comes the individual player awards.  So before the award winners are named and the season is complete I would like to throw out who I believe deserve the awards, who I believe will win, and my preseason predictions.   So without further ado, my 2011 NFL award winners.

2011 NFL MVP

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

My Preseason Pick: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

My Midseason Pick: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

Who I Believe Will Win: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

This has been an unbelievable year at the quarterback position and traditionally the MVP award goes to a quarterback (unless a running back or wide receiver just has an off-the-charts year) so I continue that tradition.  Prior to the 2011 season there had only been two instances of a 5,000 yard passing season and now this year we saw three such performances including Brees becoming the first QB to ever pass for 5,000 yards in a season twice as he shattered Dan Marino’s record for passing in a single season.   We have witnessed the 1st, 2nd, and 5th best passing yardage totals in NFL history this season.  He also set an NFL record for most 300 yard games in a season and completion percentage while leading the most prolific offense in NFL history in terms of yardage and first downs. This is a tough call because I cannot discount what Rodgers has done this season – posting a 122.5 passer rating and passing for 45 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions while leading the Packers to a 15-1 record – and I’ve been conflicted the last couple of weeks between Rodgers and Brees but luckily something happened today that gave the edge to Brees.  Today Matt Flynn took the reins of a great Packers team and did something no Packers QB has ever done, not Rodgers, not Favre, not Starr.  He threw for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns – both Packers franchise records.  I am not trying to discount Rodgers but the MVP award is for the Most Valuable Player.  Without Rodgers, the Packers would still be a playoff team – this is not true of the Saints.  I believe that Drew Brees is more valuable to his team than any other player in the NFL and  for that reason he’s my MVP.

*On a sidenote Steve McNair and Peyton Manning showed us a few years ago there can be co-MVPs and this is one year where I would completely satisfied with Brees and Rodgers sharing the award

But High Fives all around to:

1. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

2. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

3. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

4. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions

5. Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans

Offensive Player of the Year

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

My Preseason Pick: Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

My Midseason Pick: Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions

Who I Believe Will Win: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

This was another tough award because a case can be made here for any of the 3 5,000 yard club quarterbacks, Calvin Johnson, and of course the all-purpose yards record holder Darren Sproles but I have to give the nod to Gronk.  He shattered the record for touchdowns by a tight end in a single season with 17.   If you throw in his more than 1,300 yards receiving and you realize that doesn’t make Gronkowski an elite NFL tight end, it makes him an elite NFL receiver.  When you look at his numbers you will begin to realize that he was responsible for nearly a third of Tom Brady’s passing yards this season and almost half of his touchdowns.   I would argue that Gronkowski was the Patriots’ MVP this year and was a big part of New England wrapping up the #1 seed in the AFC this year and Tom Brady posting the second best passing yards total in NFL history.

But High Fives all around to:

1. Darren Sproles, RB, New Orleans Saints

2. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

3. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

4. Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions

5. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

Defensive Player of the Year

Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings

My Preseason Pick: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions

My Midseason Pick: Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings

Who I Believe Will Win: Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings

It is a shame that the Vikings were so bad this season because Jared Allen just turned in one of the best defensive seasons any player has ever had.  He capped off an amazing 22 sack season with a 3.5 sack performance against the Bears on Sunday falling half a sack shy of Michael Strahan’s record.  Of course in Allen’s defense he didn’t have Brett Favre to fall on the ground for him like Strahan did.   Many know that I define Future Hall of Famer as someone who if they were to retire from their sport today they would get elected into the Hall of Fame.  This season with his 22 sack performance and becoming the 2nd fastest player to the 100 sack club, Jared Allen is indeed worthy of that title.  This was one of the easiest awards for me to choose because after today’s performance – who else would you choose?

But High Fives all around to:

1. DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Dallas Cowboys

2. London Fletcher, ILB, Washington Redskins

3. Brian Cushing, ILB, Houston Texans

Comeback Player of the Year

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

Preseason Pick: Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

Midseason Pick: Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

Who I Believe Will Win: Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

There were many who were ready to label former #1 overall pick Matthew Stafford a “bust” in just his third season in the league because of an unbelievable streak of unrelated injuries.  There were many who thought he was just another cursed Lions quarterback.  Then all of a sudden this season not only did Stafford stay healthy, he became just the 4th quarterback to pass for over 5,000 yards in a season and had 41 passing touchdowns leading the Lions to their first playoff appearance in over 10 years.  There were some great comeback stories this year but in challenging for the NFL MVP award, Stafford takes the cake.

But High Fives all around to:

1. Nick Barnett, ILB, Buffalo Bills

2. D’Qwell Jackson, ILB, Cleveland Browns

3. Elvis Dumervil, DE, Denver Broncos

4. Plaxico Burress, WR, New York Jets

NFL Coach of the Year

Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers

Preseason Pick: Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans

Midseason Pick: Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills

Who I Believe Will Win: Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers

The only thing I had the 49ers wrapping up in Week 17 before the season started was the Andrew Luck sweepstakes.  I never really thought the 49ers would make the playoffs, let alone win the NFC West or wrap up a first round bye.  What Harbaugh has pulled off this season is nothing short of incredible.  His team neglected to draft a 1st round quarterback when many (myself included) said that was what needed to be done and lost their second best defensive player and in turn they put together maybe the best defense in the League and have gotten a solid season out of Alex Smith.  I have been really impressed with Harbaugh and believe the 49ers will compete for years to come.

But High Fives All Around to:

1. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals

2. Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans

3. John Fox, Denver Broncos

4. Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions

5. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers

NFL Executive of the Year

Mike Brown, Owner/President, Cincinnati Bengals

My Preseason Pick: N/A

My Midseason Pick: Mike Brown, Owner/President, Cincinnati Bengals

Who I Believe Will Win: Mike Brown, Owner/President, Cincinnati Bengals

I have had a few months to soak it in and am still in absolute awe of what Mike Brown has pulled off this season.  He shipped Chad Ochocinco to New England for a draft pick and then he used his first round draft pick to draft the ultra-athletic A.J. Green who just turned in the best rookie WR campaign since Anquan Boldin in 2003.  He then used his 2nd round draft pick on QB Andy Dalton who had a Pro Bowl caliber season and led the Bengals to the playoffs and just their third winning season in the last 20 years.   Nobody saw this kind of success for the Bengals but Brown had a plan.  And if that wasn’t enough, Brown then took a quarterback who was sitting on his couch and the Bengals had no use for (Carson Palmer) and traded him right before the deadline to the Raiders for two first round draft picks.  Brown has the Bengals in position to not only compete this year but for years to come.

But High Fives all around to: Just Mike Brown, no one else even comes close…

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

Preseason Pick: Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints

Midseason Pick: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

Who I Believe Will Win: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

I often discussed Cam Newton as a high risk/high reward draft pick for the Panthers and my personal thoughts were high risk and that he was going to be garbage.  I could not have been more wrong.  Cam Newton was not only impressive, not only did he turn in one of the best QB seasons of all time – he turned in  one of the best quarterback seasons of all time.  He became the first rookie quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards and the first quarterback to ever throw for 4,000 yards and rush for 500 in the same season.  Newton’s 4,051 yards passing and 706 yards rushing are impressive enough but even more amazing is that Newton set a record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season with 14.  Which by the way was more rushing touchdowns than every running back in the league except LeSean McCoy.   I have been amazed by Newton this season and looking forward to some really great things from him and the Panthers in coming years.

But High Fives All Around to:

1. Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals

2. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

3. Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens

4. DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys

5. Doug Baldwin, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos

My Preseason Pick: Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos

My Midseason Pick: Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos

Who I Believe Will Win: Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos

When the clock started ticking last April for the Denver Broncos, I thought Von Miller was the obvious choice.  Miller reminds me alot of Patrick Willis his rookie year, someone that just came into the league and right away and established himself as one of the best linebackers in the NFL.   I thought coming into the draft that Von Miller or Patrick Peterson were the most talented, NFL-ready players in the draft and Miller did not let me down.  In his rookie season, he finished 3rd in the AFC in sacks and while all the talk was about Tebow, Miller is the bigger story and the real hero of the Broncos making their postseason run.  He was the young leader of one of the NFL’s best defenses and he will be a premier linebacker for seasons to come.

But High Fives All Around to:

1. Aldon Smith, DE, San Francisco 49ers

2. Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona Cardinals

3. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

4. Ryan Kerrigan, OLB, Washington Redskins

5. Mason Foster, MLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!


My 2012 NFC Pro Bowl Team

The NFC finally chose this year to overtake the AFC as the better conference in the league.  A lot of that has been due to stellar quarterback play, running back play, and the amazing defense we’ve seen this year.  My biggest regret in putting together my NFC Pro Bowl team is that some of my biggest snubs still did not make the cut because the NFC was way too good this year and there just was not room for them.  For instance, while mainstays Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson were on pace to make the Pro Bowl, their injuries were a major factor in not making it.  Another of my biggest snubs was the Rams’ Chris Long but do you put him in over Allen? Over Babin? Over Pierre-Paul?  Exactly.  The NFC has just been to dominant this season.

*denotes someone who did not make the Pro Bowl
** denotes someone who made the Pro Bowl but is not a Pro Bowl starter that I named a Pro Bowl Starter

Quarterback –

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Drew Brees, New Orleans
Matthew Stafford, Detroit*

Running Back –

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle*
Frank Gore, San Francisco

Fullback –

John Kuhn, Green Bay

Wide Receiver  –

Calvin Johnson, Detroit
Victor Cruz, New York Giants*
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay*
Steve Smith, Carolina

Tight End –

Jimmy Graham, New Orleans
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta

Tackle –

Joe Staley, San Francisco
Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay*
Jason Peters, Philadelphia

Guard –

Davin Joseph, Tampa Bay**
Evan Mathis, Philadelphia*
Jahri Evans, Philadelphia

Center –

Scott Wells, Green Bay**
John Sullivan, Minnesota

Defensive End –

Jared Allen, Minnesota
Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants**
Jason Babin, Philadelphia

Interior Linemen –

Justin Smith, San Francisco
Jay Ratliff, Dallas
Kevin Williams, Minnesota*

Outside Linebacker –

DeMarcus Ware, Dallas
Aldon Smith, San Francisco*
Ryan Kerrigan, Washington*

Inside/Middle Linebacker –

London Fletcher, Washington*
Patrick Willis, San Francisco

Cornerback –

Charles Woodson, Green Bay
Charles Tillman, Chicago**
Brandon Browner, Seattle*

Free Safety –

Earl Thomas, Seattle
Dashon Goldson, San Francisco

Strong Safety –

Kam Chancellor, Seattle*

Punter –

Andy Lee, San Francisco

Kicker –

Matt Bryant, Atlanta*

Kick Returner –

Patrick Peterson, Arizona

Special Teamer –

Darren Sproles, New Orleans*

Well there’s my 2012 NFC Pro Bowl Team.  It’s disappointing that people like Peterson, Forte, Tulloch, Greenway, Bowman, Long, etc. can’t make it though they are worthy but there’s only so many positions available.

Agree? Disagree? Let me hear your thoughts!

My 2012 AFC Pro Bowl Team

   I’m gonna cut straight to the chase, this is the Pro Bowl team I would have selected this year.
* denotes someone who did not make the Pro Bowl
** denotes someone who I have made a Pro Bowl Starter who originally was not a starter

AFC

Quarterback – 

Tom Brady, New England
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati*
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh

Running Back –

Arian Foster, Houston**
Ray Rice, Baltimore
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville

Fullback –

Vonta Leach, Baltimore

Wide Receiver –

Wes Welker, New England
Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh
A.J. Green, Cincinnati
Brandon Marshall, Miami

Tight End –

Rob Gronkowski, New England
Aaron Hernandez, New England*

Tackle –

Joe Thomas, Cleveland
Duane Brown, Houston*
Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati*

Guard –

Logan Mankins, New England
Brian Waters, New England
Marshal Yanda, Baltimore

Center –

Nick Mangold, New York Jets**
Chris Myers, Houston*

Defensive End –

Andre Carter, New England
Elvis Dumervil, Denver**
Robert Mathis, Indianapolis

Interior Linemen-

Vince Wilfork, New England
Geno Atkins, Cincinnati*
Richard Seymour, Oakland

Outside Linebacker –

Von Miller, Denver
Tamba Hali, Kansas City**
Terrell Suggs, Baltimore

Inside/Middle Linebacker-

Brian Cushing, Houston*
Derrick Johnson, Kansas City

Cornerback –

Johnathan Joseph, Houston**
Champ Bailey, Denver
Darelle Revis, New York Jets

Free Safety –

Eric Weddle, San Diego**
Ryan Clark, Pittsburgh*

Strong Safety –

George Wilson, Buffalo*

Punter –

Shane Lechler, Oakland

Placekicker –

Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland

Kick Returner –

Josh Cribbs, Cleveland*

Special Teamer –

Matthew Slater, New England

I’ll roll out my NFC team tomorrow.

Agree? Disagree? Let me hear your thoughts!

Cheers, Jeers, and Sneers – 2012 NFL Pro Bowl

Every year when the NFL Pro Bowl rolls around (like any All-Star Game) there is are always players that we as fans felt were snubbed from this honor.   This year’s Pro Bowl seems to have an unreasonably high number of snubs and so before unrolling my Pro Bowl roster for this year, I will give my 5 biggest cheers (glad they got it right but thought they might not) and while I usually do 5, I will do my 10 biggest jeers (biggest snubs) given how bad the balloting was this year and of course my newest category, I will provide my 5 biggest sneers (players that should not have been named to the Pro Bowl).  Tomorrow morning I will roll out my Pro Bowl Roster.

CHEERS

5. A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals –  A.J. Green has had a phenomenal rookie campaign with over 1000 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns and seemed like a no-brainer for the Pro Bowl but given that that last time a rookie receiver was named to the Pro Bowl was Anquan Boldin in 2003.  There is always a logjam at the Wide Receiver position for the Pro Bowl and so I am glad to see Green was able to break through.

4. Richard Seymour, DT, Oakland Raiders –  A lot of us made fun of the Oakland Raiders when they traded a 1st round pick to New England for Seymour because many thought Seymour’s career was done and that this was the Raiders being the Raiders. Seymour has enjoyed a resurgence in Oakland and his leadership on the defensive side of the ball is a big part of the reason the Raiders are  making a serious playoff push.

3. Tamba Hali, DE, Kansas City Chiefs – I feel like Tamba Hali is an elite defensive end who has been largely ignored by the national media.  He is having a monster year with 4 forced fumbles and 12 sacks and looking very much like his KC predecessor Jared Allen.

2. Patrick Peterson, PR/KR, Arizona Cardinals – Similar to A.J. Green I am always happy to see a deserving rookie actually get in.  The biggest reason I’m excited about Peterson is he is deserving and has been an absolutely electric returner but I was afraid he would lose out to Devin Hester based on name recognition.  Well done Pro-Bowl voters.

1. Derrick Johnson, ILB, Kansas City Chiefs – Derrick Johnson is a name that is barely known outside of Kansas City but he is one of the best linebackers in the game and is having a great year.  126 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 2 interceptions – the stats speak for themselves.  I am glad that he got noticed because he is most worthy of this honor.

JEERS

10. Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots – Aaron Hernandez has had a monster year for a tight end.  The only problem is that his teammate Gronkowski is having the best NFL season that any tight end has ever enjoyed.  Furthermore, he had to compete with the established name of Antonio Gates but it’s still unfortunate that he could not make the Pro Bowl.

9. Ryan Clark, FS, Pittsburgh Steelers – I have been very impressed with Ryan Clark this season but it’s very hard for a safety to get noticed when his teammate Troy Polamalu and Baltimore Raven Ed Reed have established themselves as the premier safeties in the League.  It is difficult to quantify the way that Clark has played this season but he has been the best defensive player on the Steelers and that makes him deserving of a Pro Bowl nod.

8. Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings – Adrian Peterson has established himself as the best running back in the league ever since he burst onto the scene in 2007.   In just 12 games played this season he had 970 rushing yards and a league-leading 12 rushing touchdowns.   This will be the first season of his career that Peterson does not top the 1000 yard mark and does not make the Pro Bowl but injury is the major culprit here.

7. Chris Long, DE, St. Louis Rams – There has not been a lot to be excited about in St. Louis this year (at least in football) but Chris Long has been one thing for Rams fans to be happy about.  This is the season that Long started playing at the elite level that was expected of him all along.  He has 13 sacks and 1 forced fumble and is very deserving of a Pro Bowl nod.  The incredible years that have been enjoyed by Jared Allen, Jason Babin, and Jason Pierre-Paul made it very difficult for any NFC defensive ends to be recognized.

6. London Fletcher, ILB, Washington Redskins – I am constantly amazed by the high level that Fletcher continues to play at and while I don’t think he’ll get in the Hall of Fame, in my eyes he is a future Hall of Famer.  This year he leads the league in tackles with 162 and additionally he has 1.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions.  I was shocked he was left off the rosters.

5. Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants – This year little-known wide receiver set a franchise record for receiving yards with 1,358, has 76 receptions, and has 8 touchdowns.  Without a doubt, Cruz should be a Pro-Bowler.

4. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Seattle Seahawks – Many don’t remember this but Marshawn Lynch was taken just 5 picks after Adrian Peterson by the Bills.  Lynch has shown flashes of brilliance but this is the year he finally became a top NFL Running Back.  His 12 touchdowns are tied with Adrian Peterson for the League lead he has 1,118 rushing yards.  He has enjoyed a Pro Bowl season and while he will probably take Forte’s place in the game he should’ve been voted in.

3. Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers – 1,101 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns – since when does that not get you to the Pro-Bowl? He has been the best wide receiver on the NFL’s best receiving corps this season.  Talk about a snub…

2. Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals – How impressive has Andy Dalton been this year?   His 3,166 yards and 20 touchdown passes have taken one of the league’s worst teams last season to being a wild card team this year. There is no way that Andy Dalton should’ve been snubbed for the likes of Phillip Rivers.

1. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions – Stafford has 10 more touchdowns and 2 fewer interceptions than Eli Manning and their passing yard totals are almost identical.  Another big difference is that Stafford has already wrapped up a playoff bid for his team and he’s accomplished this in the NFC’s toughest division.  His exclusion was the biggest shock of the ballots.

SNEERS

5.  Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers – Greg Jennings has had a great season but the truth is he wasn’t even the best receiver on his own team this year.  I can name at least 5 receivers in the NFC more deserving of a Pro Bowl Bid than Jennings and there may even be a couple more.  I did not like the Jennings selection one bit but he got in primarily off name recognition.

4. B.J. Raji, DT, Green Bay Packers – Similar to Jennings, Raji was the beneficiary of name recognition and being a member of the NFL’s best team.  Raji has had only 21 tackles and has had 3 sacks.  These are just not Pro Bowl numbers and overall, I hated this selection.

3. Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis Colts – Freeney has had an ok year but once again he is another person who got in off their name.  7.5 sacks is pretty good but he has only 18 tackles and his defense is giving up an average of 24 points a game? How is that Pro Bowl worthy?

2. Phillip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers –  This selection had me just scratching my head.  His 4,300 passing yards have been astounding but his team has taken a step back, he has played several awful games and his 24 TDs to 19 INTs is hardly Pro Bowl worthy.  He has the yards but has not been able to win games and has had an unbelievable amount of turnovers.  I can name a number of QBs who are more worthy than Rivers.

1. Brian Urlacher, MLB, Chicago Bears – This pick was nothing short of awful.  Urlacher got into the Pro Bowl purely off name recognition.  Off the top of my head London Fletcher, NaVorro Bowman, Stephen Tulloch, and Chad Greenway were all more deserving than Urlacher.  He has accomplished nothing worth noting this season.

Questions? Comments? Snide Remarks? Let me hear ’em!

 

Quick Thoughts – What if other sports employed the BCS?

While Alabama watched football all day, Oklahoma State went out and won a conference championship. And will still likely be left sitting at home when the BCS Championship rolls around...

I have always been very careful in my usage of the word hate.  When I use the word (and mean it) what I am saying is that I think something is so awful, egregious, horrible, etc. that society has a whole would be better off without it.   With that understanding let me whisper to you four little words:

I HATE THE BCS.

Those who know me, know that I have long been in opposition of the Bowl Championship Series rankings.  While every other level of NCAA successfully implements a postseason playoff (ranging from 20-32 teams), Division I FBS schools have not been able to manage a 4-8 team playoff that would satisfy most fans.   Instead of having a playoff, the NCAA and BCS have decided to use systematic demarcation to determine it’s national champion.  Why in the country where democracy and meritocracy were born would our nation’s most beloved sport defer to institutionalized discrimination to determine a champion?  For the same reason our country has ever allowed any form of systematic discrimination to be put in place – to make a profit.

The BCS is all about commercialism and money.  It cares nothing for the sport or who the best team in the country is but instead it cares about the bottom line and what teams will give them the best television ratings.  In a country where all are supposed to be equal, the BCS mercilessly stomps on the dogma of Horatio Alger and reminds young athletes that the “American dream” and “rags to riches” are nothing more than a pipe dream that can never be realized if you don’t belong to the right class (in this case, the six AQ conferences – specifically the SEC).

The BCS not only encourages the Floridas, LSUs, Alabamas, Ohio States, USCs, Oklahomas, and UTs to push the Houstons, Boise States, and TCUs to the back of the bus – it enforces it.

It has created system of computerized expectation that takes away the magic and unpredictability of sport.  When teams from football’s lower class do make a strong case that cannot be ignored (such as TCU and Boise State back in 2009) the BCS puts them in their own “separate but equal” bowl so that they too can be a winner, just not THE winner.  These computers have taken away the excitement of the postseason.

If NCAA Basketball used the BCS System we would’ve never heard of  Butler, VCU, George Mason, Gonzaga, or UNI.

If the NFL employed this system –  Cowher would steal be searching for his title, Eli would’ve never had a shot to prevent Brady’s perfection,  Warner would’ve never gotten a 3rd shot at a ring, and Vince Lombardi  Trophy Winner would not be listed on Aaron Rodger’s resume.

If the NBA used the BCS teams like Orlando and Dallas would’ve never made the NBA Finals.

If Major League Baseball employed the BCS, Texas would be without any World Series appearances and San Francisco and St. Louis would not have been celebrating these past two years.

Sports history would be dramatically different (and rather uninspired) if computerized expectations were used to determine championship match-ups.  Yet the NCAA insists on forcing this system upon the fans.

It’s a story as old as time itself, the haves versus the have-nots.  Tonight the BCS will decide that Alabama, a team that spent yesterday sitting on the couch watching college football (Hey! I did that too! Can I have a BCS title shot?) is worthy of a national championship appearance.  Not because they played better teams or won their conference (Oklahoma State beat the same number of ranked teams as Alabama and 1 more bowl-eligible team than Alabama in route to winning the Big 12 Championship outright) but because they belong to a certain class that is worthy of an appearance in this game.   It’s about elitism and pedigree over results and resume.  It won’t make sense to us that the #1 team in the country had to win a game yesterday to qualify and the #2 team did not but the BCS does not care about fairness or what makes sense.  The BCS is not as much concerned with who they crown champion, they are more concerned about making sure certain schools do not have a chance to be crowned.  For these reasons,  the BCS will most likely select Alabama over Oklahoma State.

And when this happens, we will be reminded that in this country we have a system of institutionalized discrimination driven by the search for larger profit margins of which the Southeastern United States is the primary beneficiary.  Sound familiar?

Now to be fair and make myself perfectly clear – when it is announced that the title game will be Alabama vs. LSU, the athletic governing body of our institutions of higher learning will not be asking the birthplace of democracy to accept systematic discrimination.

They will be asking us to embrace it.

Who’s Number 2? The Argument for Virginia Tech

When it comes to #2, why is nobody talking about Virginia Tech?

There is not a doubt in my mind that LSU is the best team in the country.  Not only have they gone undefeated (thus far) in the nation’s toughest conference (make that division) but they did it in style.  They went on the road and won an ugly game against the #2 team in the nation at the time in Alabama.  They destroyed #3 Arkansas.  And let’s not forget they had an impressive opening week win against Pac-12 Champion Oregon.   There is no doubt that should LSU beat Georgia tonight (which I expect they will do by at least 17 points) they will be going to the BCS National Championship.

The question is clearly not – who is #1, but instead it’s who is #2?

Just a month ago there were so many questions as to who would play the SEC Champion in the BCS National Championship game – would it be undefeated Oklahoma State?  How about golden boy Andrew Luck and his Stanford Cardinal?  Maybe the resurgent Russell Wilson and the Wisconsin Badgers?  Surprise team Clemson?  Or maybe, just maybe, Boise State would get their shot.

But now as we head in to championship weekend, the case for #2 is unclear.  While FCS, Division II, and Division III use a playoff to determine who should be the national champion, the BCS has failed us once again due to a plethora of one-loss teams.   The BCS focuses on what should happen and what will happen as opposed to what does happen and takes all the magic out of sport.  Can you imagine if NCAA Basketball used a BCS-type system?   Would we have ever heard of the Butler Bulldogs, VCU Rams, or George Mason?

But the BCS system is what we have and the question remains – who should be #2?

A lot of people believe that Alabama should play LSU for the national title – I STRONGLY disagree.   Alabama already had their crack at LSU.  They had them at home and lost a game which ultimately proved nothing except that LSU’s kicker is marginally better than Alabama’s kicker-by-committee.   If we had a playoff system I would have no problem with two teams from the same conference playing for a national championship.  But we don’t – the whole season is a playoff.   Alabama did not win their division, did not win their conference, and will be sitting at home this weekend.  The nation’s best country had to beat the Pac-12 champion, the #2 team in the country on the road, and these last two weeks had to face the #3 team in the nation, and now goes to face the SEC East Champion.  LSU has to win to make the national title game.  It seems that Alabama doesn’t have to do anything at all.  It makes no sense.  If the whole season is a playoff, Alabama has already been eliminated.

I would love to see Stanford play for a national title and watch what Andrew Luck can do against an SEC defense.  I would love to see Boise State finally get their shot.   My argument for them is the same as Alabama – they had their chance and they blew it.  They did not win their conference and they did not win their division.  And in a system where the season is the playoff, I just cannot justify sending someone to a national championship game that does not win their conference.   The Big Ten has eliminated themselves on a strange series of last-minute heroics that leaves Wisconsin with two more losses than they should have.   If Oklahoma defeats Oklahoma State like I believe they will, that will also leave 2-loss teams in the Big 12.  Kellen Moore and Boise State once again lost a conference match-up they could not afford to lose on a last second field goal.  If not for a loss to TCU, the Broncos would probably be getting the title shot they have been clamoring for all these years.  Houston provides intrigue and has a great QB in Case Keenum but unfortunately their undefeated season will not get them to the BCS title game.  Conference USA took a big step backwards this year which in the computer’s eyes makes a very impressive Houston team look rather lackluster.  Don’t even get me started on the Big East –  the Mountain West and Conference USA are more deserving of being an AQ conference than the Big East.

That leaves the ACC – wait a second what about the ACC?

Do they boast a team that should be considered #2?

Clemson started off the season fast beating #21 Auburn, #11 Florida State, and #11 Virginia Tech but quickly showed their colors with a string of three losses in four weeks – two of which were unranked teams.  Today they will be playing against the Virginia Tech Hokies for the ACC title.  The Hokies are a program that has really blossomed over the past decade and made a number of BCS bowl game berths.

This season Virginia Tech has only one loss on their resume.  But since they won their division they will have the opportunity to avenge that loss against Clemson tonight.  They have won 7 straight games since that early season loss.

They have the seventh ranked defense in the country and additionally, Virginia Tech has played the same number of opponents that Alabama has with 8 wins or more.  Overall, Virginia Tech has played more bowl-eligible teams than Alabama.   And a win tonight would have them sitting with only one loss (that they avenged) and as division champions and conference champions of an AQ conference.

But the media meanwhile is not even talking about the Hokies but instead expects us to believe that the Crimson Tide can beat the Bayou Bengals in Louisiana in January when they could not beat them in Tuscaloosa in November.

Of the top 5 teams in the BCS Rankings at this moment, only 3 of them are playing for a conference title.  Two teams ranked ahead of Virginia Tech didn’t even win their division.  If tonight goes the way I believe it should then there is no reason why a one-loss team in Virginia Tech who has a conference championship in an AQ conference and avenged their sole season’s loss should be ranked behind a 2-loss Oklahoma State or a Stanford and Alabama team that could not win their division and did nothing this weekend to boost their resume.

If the #1 team in the country has to win this weekend to play for the national title, shouldn’t the same be expected of #2?

Why aren’t we talking about Virginia Tech?