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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Until we meet again...

To my From The Fan readers:

It has become quite obvious to me (and most likely to you) that I am not able to post on this blog on a regular basis. Work, family, and yes, football has began to dominate my time. Unfortunately, I must take a hiatus from blogging until my schedule allows for more posting time. However, I will drop in from time to time with my two cents when the opportunity presents itself. When I am able to do so, I hope you'll be interested in reading more from me. Thanks for all of your support and comments over the past few months and keep watching every down of football that you can!

Until we meet again,

Friday, September 11, 2009

Season Opener

The 2009 NFL Season kicked off with a defensive thriller at Heinz field between the defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennesse Titans. The Titans had the best regular season record of last year at 13-3. The game aired nationwide on NBC and drew in the best ratings in 7 years for a season opener.

If you were tuning in to the game hoping for an offensive shootout, you were sorely disappointed. The game went scoreless until near the end of the 2nd quarter when Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit wide receiver Santonio Holmes for a 34 yard touchdown. The Titans answered right back with 14 yard pass to wideout Gage to tie the game.

Field goals made the difference in this game. Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas rarely misses a kick, but he only managed to nail 1 out of 3 field goal attempts in this game. One kick sailed wide, while the other was blocked. On that play, Steeler strong safety Troy Polamalu suffered a sprained knee that sent him to the locker room for the evening. It was a severe blow to the Steeler defense since Polamalu was playing like a man possessed and had already intercepted Titans quarterback Kerry Collins once in the game. Polamalu will be out of play for 3-6 weeks.

At the end of regulation, the Steelers had a viable drive for a game winning field goal. However, wide receiver Hines Ward fumbled the ball at the Titans 4 yard line to put the game into overtime. In the extra period, Roethlisberger drove the Steelers downfield to put them right back into field goal range by hitting his receivers (Ward, included) down field. Steeler kicker Jeff Reed hit the 33 yard field goal to put the Steelers 1-0 for the season. The Titans start off the year 0-1.

photo credit: (AP/Photo Keith Srakocic)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

'Twas the night before the start of the season

Never fear From the fan readers, I am still here. Life gets busy at times, but make no mistake... NFL football is still in the forefront of my mind. I have my fantasy teams ready to go, I have beer in the fridge, and I am giddy like a 5 year-old on Christmas Eve. In the spirit of that giddiness, I have prepared a Season Eve poem for all of you NFL fans out there. If anyone can appreciate this, you can.

'Twas the night before the start of the season

'Twas the night before the start of the season, and all through the league
the players were fighting off training camp fatigue.
The socks were all hung in the lockers with care
in hopes that tough actin' Tinactin soon would be there.

The cheerleaders went home to practice their moves,
and the rookies all knew they had something to prove
The Manning boys in their commercials and I in my chair
had just settled in for a long season's air.

Soon out on that lawn will arise such a hit
that the fans and players will yell out "oh s**t!"
away to the television fans fly like a flash
to see if Vick is back or will he fade away like Slash

Favre is back as a Viking and Cutler a Bear
Madden is gone and Michael Crabtree is where?
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear
But Chad Ochocinco scoring TDs up in here!

Fantasy running backs abound, so lively and quick
and breaking down games on the Network is coach Billick.
Not just Ravens, but Eagles and Cardinals games
and coach Mariucci is doing the same.

Now Dawkins, now Willis, now Ray Lew, and Dixon
will bring on the pain when they all come a blitzin'
to the QB one! to the ground he must fall!
Now sack away! Sack away! Sack away all!

And then, in a twinkling I heard to a beat
the running and rushing of each little cleat
the cheering and roaring of each home crowd
as we sit back, grab a beer, and turn it up loud!

We're all dressed in our gear and we've painted our faces
We've put on our jerseys and tied up our laces.
A ticket, a package, some witness to bear
that T.O. is a Bengal and he's willing to share!

My eyes how they'll twinkle when it is time for the game
The Saints are lookin' for more of the same
Drew Brees and his team look to win one at home
on their journey to win back-to-back Super Bowls.

Then on Sunday, they will all play. Some go 0-1,
some go 1-0 and play one-on-one
or play man-to-man or drop back in zone
But no one, I promise you, will play the game alone

Not Boldin, nor Marshall, Revis, or Moss
can solely accomplish a win or a loss
Well actually, maybe Tom Brady can
after all, he is the Stetson man.

The season is finally here, we've waited so long
but it's always too short, it soon will be gone
But tonight is before the very beginning
and I for one can't seem to stop grinning.

It's the eve of the season, NFL football is here!
It's the time Baseball sponsors have all come to fear.
From The Fan wishes you all a season of great fun!
Happy Season to all! And to all a great run!

photo credit: (AP/Photo Sean Gardner)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Burress pleads guilty, will serve prison time

Former New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress pleaded guilty to attempted criminal weapons charges on Thursday. He agreed to a plea deal that carries a sentence of two years in prison followed by two years of supervised release. Last November, Burress and former teammate Antonio Pierce were in a crowded night club when a gun slipped from Burress' waistband and fired a shot into his right thigh. No one else was injured in the incident.

Burress was not licensed to carry a firearm in the state of New York or in New Jersey, where he resides. He did have a license to carry a gun in the state of Florida, but that permit expired in May of 2008. Burress' official plea was made in the Manhattan State Supreme court to a charge of one count of attempted criminal possession of a weapon. He was indicted earlier this month by a Grand Jury on two counts of criminal possession of a weapon and one count of reckless endangerment. Those charges carried a minimum sentence of 3 1/2 years.

The 31 year-old wide receiver was released in April by the New York Giants. It has been quite a turn of events for Burress who caught the winning touchdown in Super Bowl XLII. That touchdown catch gave the Giants one of the biggest upsets in sports history as they beat the New England Patriots who were the first team to win every game in a 16 game regular season.

With time off for good behavior, Burress could be released after serving 20 months. His sentencing date is set for September 22.

photo credit: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Favre returns... again

Reporting on Brett Favre's retirement from football has become a bit frustrating. One minute I'm certain he's coming back to play for the Minnesota Vikings and serve cold revenge to the Packers. The next minute, I'm certain he is retired and just 5 short years away from Hall of Famer status with a bust in Canton. Even though I predicted his return in my June 23rd post "Top 10 Bold Predictions for the 2009 Season", I must say it caught me off guard to hear of Favre's decision to return to football. Nevertheless, Brett Favre was officially introduced as the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings last night and Packers fans everywhere must have shed a collective tear.

Football fans, players, and analysts will have their opinions of Favre's decision. Packers fans will either loathe him (if he is successful with the Vikings) or mock him (if he fails). Many will be skeptical of his body and his heart; particularly with him constantly changing his mind about his retirement. What does Favre think of the criticism? "Don't watch, you know?" stated Favre in his introduction press conference, "My legacy, it's mine. It's what I think of it".

It can't be lost on Favre, the agony and betrayal Packers fans will feel with his return to football. This isn't like last season when he played for the Jets. The Jets were out of conference and never faced the Packers. Green Bay fans also had satisfaction in the fact that Favre and his team missed the playoffs last season and Favre himself appeared to lose steam as the season wore on. I'm sure those fans hoped the Jets stint would be the end to Favre's football career. But this move by Favre will directly effect the Packers and their fans. He will play them twice a year; wearing the #4 jersey in purple. The Vikings are the Packers biggest rivalry in the NFC North division and this move by Favre must feel like a knife in the heart of the Cheeseheads.

Make no mistake, this will make for excellent football. Watching Favre hold up that Vikings jersey in the press conference last night gave me chills. I knew that the Packers fans and players had to be watching as well. I knew it had to hurt them to see this dramatic turn of events. But, I also knew that I will be watching Favre this season intently; especially when he plays Green Bay. There are still many questions to be answered. Will his recent surgically repaired shoulder hold up for the soon-to-be 40 year old? Just how bad will the boos be when he walks onto Lambeau Field in that purple jersey? Can he really win another Super Bowl?

Let's just say the 2009 NFL season just became a lot more interesting. Ratings and water cooler talk will hit an all time high when Favre plays his old team. Fans will not have to wait long. He will face the Packers on October 5th and again on November 1st; that's twice before Minnesota's bye week. To even have a chance at a Super Bowl, Favre will have to beat the Packers. The divisional winner automatically makes the playoffs, regardless of their win/loss record. A divisional rivalry just became a high noon showdown, and you had better believe both teams will come out with guns blazing.

photo credit: AP photo/Star Tribune, Jerry Holt

Friday, August 14, 2009

Vick signs with the Eagles

The answer to whether Michael Vick would play in the NFL this season has been answered, along with the question of which team would take a chance on signing him. Vick signed a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday making him a professional football player once again. The one year contract worth a reported $1.6 million dollars comes with a one year team option worth over $5 million. Michael Vick will be introduced at an Eagles press conference scheduled for today at 11 a.m. EST.

Vick was convicted in 2007 for conspiracy and bankrolling a dog fighting operation. The conviction and details involving the brutal killings of innocent dogs left the public disgusted and mortified. The animal rights group PETA protested against Vick's actions in 2007 and continue to protest today. They wasted no time reminding the public of Vick's actions and their disappointment in the Eagles for signing him.

The NFL players seem to have a different take on Michael Vick and his conviction. Many players feel that Vick has served his prison sentence and should be given a second chance. One of those players is Eagles starting quarterback and the face of the franchise, Donovan McNabb. "I pretty much lobbied to get him here," McNabb stated. "I believe in second chances and what better place to get a second chance than here with this group of guys...".

The signing comes just days before the show "60 Minutes" airs Vick's first interview since serving out his prison term. In the interview, Vick expresses remorse and shame for his actions. CBS Sports' James Brown conducts the interview that will air Sunday night. Although Vick can immediately participate in team practices, meetings, and preseason games, he won't be eligible for game play until week 6. The Eagles face Vick's former team, the Atlanta Falcons, on December 6th.

Photo credit: AP Photo/Steve Helber, File

Monday, August 10, 2009

League Lowdown

Well, the 2009 season is officially underway and the first preseason game aired last night on NBC. I have to admit, I felt giddy watching live football for the first time since the Super Bowl. Since my top 10 Tuesdays ended with the start of preseason, I can now focus on blogging about things that are currently happening in the NFL. I definitely have opinions about last night's game, training camp holdouts, fantasy drafting, and all things football. I don't know about you, but I am thrilled to have NFL football back in the conversation.

Preseason Week 1

The NFL preseason began with the Tennessee Titans vs. the Buffalo Bills in prime time. T.O. definitely left a lasting impression in the one series he participated in for the Bills. He had two catches for 27 yards; 16 yards on the second play from scrimmage. However, Buffalo as a whole looked sluggish and out of sync. The team ran a no-huddle offense that didn't look particularly comfortable. Quarterback Trent Edwards threw a bad pick in the red zone to end the first drive.

As for Tennessee, quarterback Kerry Collins looked as good as he did last season. He had 7 completions out of 10 throws for 82 yards. Backup quarterback Vince Young got in the mix completing 5 passes out of 10 throws and a touchdown. The Titans won the game 21-18.

One disturbing note: Did anyone else catch the orange striped shirts worn by the refs in last night's game. What on earth? I'm all for bringing the game into the 21st century and all, but somethings you just don't mess with. The black and white vertical stripes are synonymous with the role of referee. The orange stripes looked like bad Halloween costumes and they became quite distracting. Here's a time to apply the whole "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" rule.

Crabby's Crap:

Here's my take on the whole Michael Crabtree holdout from the 49er's training camp. First of all, the guy couldn't perform at the combine or hold a pro day workout for NFL scouts. Nursing a broken foot which required surgery, Crabtree entered the draft with buzz largely created by his college play and reputation for scoring in big games. 9 teams passed on Crabtree, who was widely considered the best wideout in the draft. The 49ers drafted him with the 10th pick and that is what he is worth.

To then demand money worthy of a top 5 pick, is rather ridiculous. But what is even more crazy is Crabtree's cousin (yes, his cousin) stating that the receiver is willing to holdout for the entire season. That move only hurts Crabtree. The 9ers will retain the rights to him up until one week prior to the draft. This will again keep Crabtree from working out for scouts. His diva-like attitude, his inability to control his own P.R., his foot, and a year out of football will definitely drop his value and he'll be lucky to be drafted in the 1st round of the 2010 draft. By the way, the 2010 Draft looks to be rich with wide receivers.

The 49ers hold all the cards here. But, the front office is excited about this receiver. They want to sign him, but at fair market value. The players couldn't care less about Crabtree and his holdout and the 49er fans have already had enough of his drama. Simply put, the man needs to get his butt into camp with the quickness.

No Favre, No Vick:

Well, training camp has started and preseason games are underway. Yet the drama of the "will he play?" in reference to quarterbacks Brett Favre and Michael Vick has seemingly died down. Favre appears to be content in retirement. Not even the thought of coming back and competing against the team who released him after 16 seasons was enough to light a fire under Favre, who is pushing 40 years of age.

Vick was reinstated by the NFL this summer after serving his prison term for crimes relating to dog fighting. The reinstatement comes with at most a 6 game suspension, which the commissioner has the right to waive. So far, no teams have signed Vick. However, according to former head coach Tony Dungy, Vick may sign with a team very soon. Dungy has acted as somewhat of a mentor to the troubled quarterback and it is clear that Vick needs Dungy's support for public backlash to be kept at a minimum. If he is signed soon, Vick could make his return to the NFL in one or both of the last two preseason games.

My Fantasy Draft Results:

This past week I participated in live drafting in fantasy football courtesy of I think it went well and I'm both confident and excited about my two fantasy teams. I was able to snag a few sleepers that were previously mentioned in last week's post. Tight-end Brent Celek, wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, and wide receiver Nate Washington all made the cut.

I also grabbed 49er running back Frank Gore for both fantasy teams. You may think that decision was biased because of my love for the 49ers. However, Gore is touted by most analyst as a great pick up for the fantasy owners this season and the news on him out of camp has been stellar. I somehow drafted LaDainian Tomlinson as Gore's backup (what?!) which simply put.... rocks! Tom Brady and Matt Ryan will act as starting QB's on each of my teams. Both solid guys, but I'm hoping Brady returns to his 50 touchdown season form of 2007.

photo credit: AP Photo/David Richard

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Top 10 Fantasy Sleepers for 2009

Now that training camp is up and running, you may be preparing for your fantasy football Draft and plotting your league domination for the season. But, no fantasy championship is won without the "sleeper pick"; that is the selection of a player that no one saw coming. Selecting a sleeper pick takes player and team knowledge, gut instincts, and a bit of luck. There are plenty of sleeper picks to be had in the 2009 season and I list them here in this Tuesday's Top Ten:

10) Brandon Pettigrew (Detroit Lions)

Already signed and into camp on time, Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew is ready to work within the Detroit offense. The best tight end prospect in the 2009 NFL Draft, the 263 lb. Pettigrew is not only an excellent receiver, but a stellar blocker as well. But, blocking doesn't get you fantasy points. Detroit will have to get the tight end the ball early and often for Pettigrew to reach sleeper status.

Whether its Daunte Culpepper at quarterback or rookie number 1 pick Matthew Stafford, Pettigrew should get lots of looks during drives. Number one receiver Calvin Johnson will undoubtedly draw the double team from defensive backs down the stretch. Having a big tight end with excellent hands is an asset to any NFL quarterback. However, Pettigrew did strain his quadriceps in practice yesterday, but the injury appears minor.

9) Nate Washington (Tennessee Titans)

At 25 years old, wide receiver Nate Washington has already won 2 Super Bowl rings with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now a member of the Tennessee Titans, Washington looks to continue his winning ways in an offense that he is completely suited for. Titans quarterback Kerry Collins has already gotten in rhythm with his new offensive weapon and the two have quickly established a productive rapport in camp.

While with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington played behind receivers Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward; both former Super Bowl MVPs. With the Titans, look for Washington to be more of a go-to-guy. His dominant play in practice is pushing him forward as the number one receiver on the team. Washington has all of the qualities as a bonafide sleeper pick.

8) Brent Celek (Philadelphia Eagles)

It was clear in last year's NFC championship game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Arizona Cardinals, that very few people had heard of Brent Celek. But, by the end of the game, the fans and especially the Cardinal players had become quite familiar with the tight end out of the University of Cincinnati. Celek had two receiving touchdowns in that match-up and put the Eagles in position for a comeback late in the game. Although the Eagles went on to lose that game, Celek earned himself props around the league as a tough tight end who can step up in the clutch.

Celek had 19 catches in the 2008 playoffs; third most for a tight end in NFL history. His 10 catches in the NFC championship game set a team record. He also set a franchise record in week 9 with 131 yards receiving in one game. Look for Celek to have a breakout season this year as Philly looks to contend for the Super Bowl.

7) Chris "Beanie" Wells (Arizona Cardinals)

Beanie Wells out of Ohio State University was chosen in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. Soon after the selection, the Cardinals unceremoniously released veteran running back Edgerrin James. Apparently, the team knew the kind of power runner they will have in Wells and head coach Ken Whisenhunt wanted to roll the dice with the rookie.

However, he will have to fight for the starting job in camp with running back Tim Hightower. Wells was actually hurt in camp a few days ago and was carted off the field. It appears to be an ankle injury. Be sure to have the final word on the extent of the injury before drafting Wells as your sleeper pick.

6) Hakeem Nicks (New York Giants)

After releasing embattled receiver Plaxico Burress last spring, the New York Giants selected Hakeem Nicks in the 2009 NFL Draft to help fill the void at wide receiver. The first round draft pick out of North Carolina will have big shoes to fill. Burress was the go-to-guy for Giants quarterback Eli Manning and was instrumental in their surprising Super Bowl win a couple years back.

Nicks left the Tarheels as their career leader in catches (181), touchdowns (21), and yardage (2,840). He signed a 5 year contract with the Giants (worth around $12.5 million dollars) and will report to camp on time. That pleased head coach Tom Coughlin who is impressed with Nicks' hands and his ability to make catches across the middle of the field. Look for Nicks to emerge as the starter once the season begins.

5) Josh Morgan (San Francisco 49ers)

The 49ers had a surprisingly good 1st round on Draft day back in April. Michael Crabtree, thought to be the best receiver in the draft, fell to the 49ers at the number 10 spot. The 49ers needed a go-to-receiver and it appeared as if their prayers had been answered. Only problem is, Crabtree wants to get paid like a top 5 draft pick. In this league, especially in the middle of a recession, only guys chosen in the top 5 get the top 5 money. So Crabtree is a rookie hold out in camp and the 49ers are going with what they have.

What they have is a young receiver with great speed and even better hands. Josh Morgan has emerged as a consistent deep threat on the practice field. It's not lost on Morgan that Crabtree's holdout will ultimately benefit him. In fact, it would seem that the rookie's ego driven contract holdout has motivated Morgan during training camp. The 49ers new offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye is quickly becoming a fan of Josh Morgan. "He's an explosive guy and a great leaper" said Raye, "... he can get to some balls with extension that some guys can't." Look for Morgan to emerge as a good sleeper pick this season.

4) Vernon Davis (San Francisco 49ers)

Every year Vernon Davis is touted as a good sleeper pick in the tight end position. Every year, he fails to impress and leaves fantasy owners disappointed enough to cut him from the roster. However, this season Davis has an offensive coordinator who is known to use the tight end extensively in the passing game; especially in the red zone. Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye describes Davis as "explosive, competitive (and having) wide receiver speed." Those qualities will come in handy once the season begins.

Davis' attitude has been a consistent road block in his development. He is known to get into confrontations with teammates in practices and to over celebrate a mediocre reception during a game. But, head coach Mike Singletary has effectively put VD in his place and has even gone so far as to kick the tight end out of a game because of his antics. Let's hope that Samurai Mike can keep Davis in line this season. Draft Davis with a late round pick; he is a risky investment.

3) Kyle Orton (Denver Broncos)

When the Denver Broncos were forced to trade pro bowl quarterback Jay Cutler to the Chicago Bears this spring, it looked as if the Broncos made a huge blunder. After all, they ended up with Kyle Orton as their top quarterback in replace of Cutler. Orton certainly appeared to be a step down from Cutler. He's never made the pro bowl and his position as the Bears starter was always up for grabs in a heavy competition with teammate Rex Grossman.

But, Orton may surprise a few folks. New head coach Josh McDaniels will bring his excellent passing system from New England to the Broncos which should allow Orton to shine. Of course, starting wideout Brandon Marshall could determine just how successful Orton will be. Marshall is coming off a hip injury and is unhappy with his current contract with the Broncos. Even without Marshall, Orton will still have guys like Eddie Royal and Tony Sheffler to throw to; which is an upgrade from the surrounding talent he had in Chicago. Use Orton as a backup quarterback and draft him in the middle to late rounds.

2) Anthony Gonzalez (Indianapolis Colts)

It's hard to believe that fantasy owners will overlook Anthony Gonzalez of the Indianapolis Colts during the draft, but they will. He is a quiet force on the Colts offense and it's easy to overlook the 57 catches, 664 yards, and 4 touchdowns he had last season. But, this guy could be the steal of the fantasy draft and you will need to keep your eye on him as one of the biggest sleeper picks of the season.

Gonzalez has a lot going for him coming into this season. First of all, he has the best quarterback in the league throwing to him. Last season's league MVP Payton Manning will look to throw in Gonzalez's direction quite a bit this year. With the departure of Marvin Harrison, Gonzalez will aim to step it up in production and Payton Manning will aim the ball in his direction. Also, fantasy owners are not the only ones who seem to overlook Anthony Gonzalez. Opposing teams overlook him as well. As defenses double up on go-to-guy Reggie Wayne, Gonzalez will find himself frequently open; especially in the red zone. Draft him as a second or third receiver and look to put him in the starting lineup.

1) Trent Edwards (Buffalo Bills)

Trent Edwards wanted Terrell Owens on his team. Why? Because Edwards planned on getting Owens the ball and winning football games. Edwards knows that the two things that keep Terrell Owens happy is getting the ball and winning games. With Owens on one side and Lee Evans lining up on the other side, Edwards is my number one sleeper pick for the 2009 season. Evans had over 1,000 yards receiving last year; averaging over 16 yards per catch. And, despite his antics, Owens has always been a monster receiver who gives defensive backs nightmares. Edwards will also benefit from running back Marshawn Lynch (who is serving a 3 game suspension for misdemeanor gun possession).

Last season, Trent Edwards finished with a 85.4 quarterback rating and 11 touchdowns. Those numbers will undoubtedly increase this year with the addition of Owens. However, you don't want to draft this guy as your number one quarterback. Pick him up in the later rounds and use him as your number two guy. If you need him on a bye week or for a good match-up situation, he should produce good numbers for you as if he were your number one guy. He would also make good trade value if you need solid player down the stretch.

Well, those are my top 10 sleeper picks for the 2009 Fantasy season. I have my draft later today and this list will aid me in my quest for a 4th Fantasy league championship. I hope all of you end up with a solid roster to work with this year and I wish you luck in snatching up a few sleeper picks on draft day.

photo credit: AP Photo/David Duprey

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The 10 Best Quarterbacks for the 2009 Season

As training camp gets underway, teams are solidifying their rosters and preparing for competition in the 2009 NFL season. The quarterback position is the most important position on the roster. He is the only skilled player to touch the ball on just about every single offensive play (except for maybe the "wildcat" formation). Today's league covers the entire spectrum of quarterback talent. We have everything from rookies, to Super Bowl legends, to guys who should probably just stay retired. Which of these guys standout as the best in the league? This Tuesday, I count down the 10 best arms (and sometimes feet) in today's NFL.

10) Tony Romo (Dallas Cowboys)

It's pretty clear that Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Tony Romo has a lot to prove in 2009. Last season, Romo battled a broken pinkie, distractions regarding girlfriend Jessica Simpson, and then teammate Terrell Owens. All of that seems to have changed for the upcoming season. Romo is healthy and appears to be single after a rumored breakup with Simpson. Owens was released and subsequently signed with the Buffalo Bills. What may still haunt Romo is the mediocre season he had last year with the Cowboys.

A ridiculous interception thrown by Romo in the 4th quarter on the road in a must win game against the Steelers cost the Cowboys that game. The lost dropped the team to 8-5 and cost them the division title. Three weeks later, the Cowboys lost another must win game to the Philadelphia Eagles by the score of 44-6; the worst lost in franchise history. Romo committed 3 turnovers and had no touchdown throws on the day. The pressure is on Romo to perform in the big games. Losing wide receiver Owens will help with locker room drama, but it also takes away Romo's biggest receiver. Wide receiver Roy Williams and tight end Jason Witten are expected to pick up the slack.

9) Jay Cutler (Chicago Bears)

After an embarrassing and public feud with new Denver Bronco head coach Josh McDaniels, quaterback Jay Cutler was traded to the Chicago Bears. Cutler finished the 2008 season with career highs in passing attempts (616), passing completions (384), and passing touchdowns (25). He also capped off the season with 4,526 yards passing; also a career high. So it would seem that the Bears struck gold by trading for the pro bowl quarterback.

The Bears have inexperienced wide receivers with return specialist Devin Hester possibly filling the number one spot. If Cutler will have success this season (success meaning the playoffs) he will simply have to make his receivers better. He will have to work hard in training camp to establish a rhythm and allow these guys to get more confident. That is a tall order; which is why Cutler isn't ranked higher on this list.

8) Eli Manning (New York Giants)

You would think after winning XLII and being named the game's MVP that Eli Manning would be higher on this list. After all, the Giants made the playoffs last year and won their division. But, after the loss of go-to-receiver Plaxico Burress, Manning may find it difficult to connect downfield when needed. In Burress' absence, the Giants went 2-4 after an 11-1 start. They eventually lost in the playoffs to Philadelphia Eagles.

The Giants did draft two wideouts prior to training camp. Wideouts Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden are expected to fill the void left by Burress. The Giants also have an effective running attack in running backs Derrick Ward and Brandon Jacobs. With a defense that ranked 5th in the league last season, Manning should have plenty of possession time to make plays on the field.

7) Kurt Warner (Arizona Cardinals)

Last season was stellar for Kurt Warner. Although the team finished with a mediocre record of 9-7 and barely made the playoffs, they finished just shy of the Super Bowl championship losing to the Steelers 27-23. Kurt Warner shined in the playoffs. He managed to throw at least 2 touchdowns in each post season game and had a quarterback rating of 112.3 in the Super Bowl.

Warner has the luxury of throwing to one of the most prolific wide receiver tandems in the league. Receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin both made the pro bowl last season. Both players notched over 1,000 yards last season along with third wideout Steve Breaston. Look for Warner's numbers to be impressive again in 2009.

6) Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia Eagles)

After being benched in week 12 by coach Andy Reid, a fire was lit under Donovan McNabb. Rumors swirled regarding his future in Philly and whether or not he still had it in him to be starting quarterback for the Eagles. To be fair, McNabb had two interceptions and one fumble against the Ravens that week and it was the coach's right to bench him. It was also the fans right to doubt him. But, it was definitely Donovan's right to prove them wrong. The following week he scored 4 touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals; defeating them 48-20.

McNabb led the Eagles all the way to the NFC Championship game by beating the Minnesota Vikings and the defending champion and top seeded New York Giants. The team lost in the conference championship to the Arizona Cardinals, but McNabb played very well in that game. He threw for 375 yards and 3 touchdowns. McNabb and company will look to rebound this year and make a run for the championship. One snag is the health of key offensive player, running back Brian Westbrook. Westbrook will miss the majority of training camp with a high ankle sprain.

5) Phillip Rivers (San Diego Chargers)

San Diego Charger quarterback Phillip Rivers has established himself as a tough, talented team leader in the National Football League. Last season, Rivers had the highest quarterback rating in the league (105.5) and led the league in touchdown passes (34). He also averaged 8.4 yards per throw; again first in the league. The fact that Rivers did it all without a pro bowl receiver, make his stats more impressive.

What Rivers does have is an excellent rushing tandem in runningbacks LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles. He also has one of the best tight ends in football, Antonio Gates. Wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers will also provide Rivers with stellar production. If Rivers continues to play at a high level and stay tough all season long, look for him and the Chargers to get deep into the playoffs.

4) Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)

Big Ben Roethlisberger and the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers look to become the first team to repeat since the 2004 New England Patriots. Roethlisberger will have most of his offense intact this season. He did, however, lose wide receiver Nate Washington to the Tennessee Titans. But, Super Bowl MVPs Santonio Holmes (SB XLIII) and Hines Ward (SB XL) will continue to provide Roethlisberger experienced targets downfield.

Roethlisberger is currently being sued for sexual assault from an incident in his hotel room at Lake Tahoe during a celebrity golf tournament. Roethlisberger denies any wrong doing. How this will effect his football season remains to be seen. He will attend training camp as scheduled and his quick denial of the assault should help keep his legal situation from becoming too distracting, at least during the season.

3) Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees had astounding numbers in the 2008 season. Brees threw for 5,069 yards last season. That was good for best in the league and second best in NFL history. The 34 touchdowns didn't look to shabby either. In fact, Brees threw for over 300 yards in 10 games last year; which ties the league record. He also did it all without a pro bowl wide receiver on his roster.

Fans, players, and fantasy owners should look for Brees to do more of the same in 2009. He is undoubtedly one of the top three quarterbacks in the league today. However, he is playing in a tough NFC South division and the Saints defense will have to step it up for the team to have a chance to improve on last year's 8-8 record.

2) Tom Brady (New England Patriots)

Putting Tom Brady second on this list has nothing to do with his performance last season. In fact, Tom Brady played less than 10 minutes of football last year. He was hit during the first quarter of the team's season opener against the Chiefs and sustained a knee injury that put him out for the rest of the season. But, when you have won the Super Bowl three times in 8 years, been named Super Bowl MVP twice, and was the first quarterback to throw 50 touchdowns in a season (an undefeated season), people tend to give you the benefit of the doubt. There is no doubt that Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.

I put him 2nd on this list because he is coming back from a season ending injury. But Brady still has Randy Moss to throw to and the team added Joey Galloway to help out on the other side. The Pats also added running back Fred Taylor, cornerback Shawn Springs, and tight end Alex Smith in free agency. Look for Brady and the Pats to have a good season and re-emerge as a Super Bowl contender.

1) Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts)

It's probably no surprise that Manning is number one on this list. I mean, he was the league MVP for the 2008 season after all. Throwing for over 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns didn't hurt either. Although Manning had weapons such as Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, he was not able to rely on a consistent running game or a pro bowl running back. Which makes his consistent dominance in the NFL even more impressive.

This season will be Manning's first season without future Hall of Fame wide receiver Marvin Harrison. He will also be without head coach Tony Dungy, who retired after last season. The team is in the tough AFC South division and last year's record of 12-4 was only good enough for a wild card spot in the playoffs. Look for a healthy Peyton Manning to lead the Colts deep into the playoffs this season.

Those are my top quarterbacks for the upcoming season. If you're preparing for fantasy football, this list could be of good use to you. Any of the guys on this list could get you to the post season if you have the other roster spots solidified. As always, keep looking for news out of training camp regarding all of the big name players. This will keep you from drafting someone that is injured or holding out for contract reasons.

Photo credit: Craig O'Neal , derivative work by Ytoyoda (talk)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Ten Greatest Teams in NFL History

When you take a look at all of the seasons played in league history, certain teams obviously stand out. Teams with great defenses, legendary quarterbacks, and Super Bowl greatness set themselves apart in the discussion for the best of all time. In comparing those teams against each other, which teams emerge as the 10 best ever? I'm pretty sure that no two fans could agree on that list, but I take my shot at it in this week's top ten.

10) 1971 Dallas Cowboys

The 1971 Dallas Cowboys defense was known as the "Doomsday Defense". Basically, if an opposing team was relying primarily on their offense to lead them to victory, they met their doom when they faced Dallas. The stingy defense only allowed 122 points that season. With defensive tackle Bob Lilly anchoring the line and high intercepting linebackers like Chuck Howley and Lee Roy Jordan, the team had not given up a touchdown in 25 quarters leading up to Super Bowl VI.

That Super Bowl was the second in a row for Dallas. The previous year they lost to the Baltimore Colts in a game known as the "Blunder Bowl"; due to its sloppy play and poor officiating. The '71 Cowboys beat the Miami Dolphins 24-3. The team set Super Bowl records for most first downs (23), most rushing yards (252), least points allowed, and least total yards allowed (185). Cowboys legendary quarterback Roger Staubach finished the season as Super Bowl MVP and the NFL passing leader.

9) 1999 St. Louis Rams

No one saw Kurt Warner coming. The guy went from working in a grocery store to working as a backup quarterback to Super Bowl champion in the span of two years. In the 1999 season, Warner and the Rams offense was known as the "Greatest Show on Turf". Warner had the supporting cast of star running back Marshall Faulk, legendary receiver Isaac Bruce, and Pro Bowl wideout Tory Holt. The team would comprise an 8-0 record at home and finish the season 13-3. Kurt Warner was named league MVP

The team won Super Bowl XXIV in dramatic fashion against the Tennessee Titans. However, this time it was the Rams defense that made the difference. The unit held the Titans one yard short of the end zone, preventing them from tying the game on the final play. Warner would go on to be named Super Bowl MVP. He threw for 414 yards and two touchdowns in the dramatic victory.

8) 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers

The 1979 Steelers were AFC Central division champs and finished the season with a 12-4 record. They would finish the season in their 2nd consecutive Super Bowl. The team was led by legendary quarterback Terry Bradshaw. With receivers like Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, Bradshaw finished the season with 3,724 yards and 26 touchdowns. The "Steel Curtain" defense finished first in the AFC, showcasing Hall of Famers like Jack Lambert, "Mean" Joe Green, and Jack Ham.

In Super Bowl XIV, Pittsburgh defeated the Los Angeles Rams 31-19. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw was the game's MVP with 309 yards passing and two touchdowns. Bradshaw hit wide receiver John Stallworth with a 73 yard pass late in the game to take the lead. But it was the defense that solidified the win by not allowing any points in the entire 4th quarter. It was the Steelers fourth Super Bowl ring in franchise history.

7) 1991 Washington Redskins

The 1991 Redskins led the league in scoring with 485 regular season points. On the flip side, the defense only allowed their opponents to score 224 points all season. Mark Rypien led the offense at the quarterback position with Art Monk at wide receiver and running back Earnest Byner in the backfield. Byner was ranked 5th in the league with 1,048 rushing yards. The defense was ranked 3rd in the league in fewest yards allowed all season (4,638). Defensive end Charles Mann recorded 11 sacks on the season and defensive back Darrell Green led the team in interceptions (5).

They finished the season 14-2 and faced the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI. By the third quarter of the game, the Redskins were up 24-0; a lead the Bills could not recover from. Mark Rypien led the way with 292 yards and two touchdowns and was named Super Bowl MVP. The 1991 Washington Redskins would win their 3rd Super Bowl in franchise history by a score of 37-24.

6) 1994 San Francisco 49ers

In the 1994 season, the San Francisco 49ers became the first team in league history to win 5 Super Bowls. Steve Young had officially taken over the offense after the trade of the legendary quarterback Joe Montana. It was the 1994 season that would determine if Young was truly a champion. He was benched in a 40-8 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in week 5, which dropped them to 2-3 on the season. A furious Steve Young was seen yelling at head coach George Seifert on the sidelines during the embarrassing loss. Young's fire sparked the rest of the team and prompted a 10 game winning streak that would carry them right into the playoffs.

But without beating Dallas and winning the Super Bowl, the team would be deemed a failure by the fans, media, and even themselves. After losing to Dallas in the NFC Championship for 3 consecutive seasons, the 9ers got over the hump and beat them 38-28 to advance to Super Bowl XXIX. Facing the San Diego Chargers for the championship, the 49ers dominated from start to finish. Steve Young had the performance of a lifetime with 6 touchdowns; still a Super Bowl record. He was named Super Bowl MVP. Stellar performances by wide receiver Jerry Rice and defensive back Deion Sanders also highlighted the game.

5) 1989 San Francisco 49ers

Not to be outdone, quarterback Joe Montana and the 1989 49ers are placed a notch higher on this list. The 1989 49ers set out to win back-to-back championships. They started by dominating the league that year on both sides of the ball. Montana threw for 3,512 yards and 26 touchdowns, while only throwing 8 interceptions all season. At the time, those numbers netted him the highest quarterback rating of all time (112.4). Wide receiver Jerry Rice finished the season with 1,483 yards and 17 touchdowns and running back Roger Craig led the team with 1,054 yards rushing and 6 touchdowns. To top it off, the defense was ranked 3rd in the league.

The 49ers finished the regular season with a 14-2 record. In Super BowlXXIV they faced the Denver Broncos led by quarterback John Elway. What resulted was the most lopsided victory in Super Bowl history. The 49ers beat the Broncos 55-10. The team scored on 6 of its first 8 drives. Montana threw for 297 yards and 5 touchdowns to be named Super Bowl MVP. Jerry Rice finished with 148 yards and 3 touchdowns. The 49er defense held the Broncos to 167 yards and just 12 first downs.

4) 1962 Green Bay Packers

Under coach Vince Lombardi, the 1962 Packers comprised a 13-1 record. Quarterback Bart Starr led the league in passing with 2,438 yards. Packer running back Jim Taylor led the league in rushing with 1,474 yards rushing; the one year that Jim Brown didn't win the rushing title with the Browns. Defensive back Willie Woods led the league in interceptions with 9. In the 1962 season, the franchise looked to win a back-to-back NFL Championships.

In the NFL Championship game, the Packers faced the New York Giants in Yankee Stadium. Legendary linebacker Ray Nitschke recovered two fumbles and deflected a pass to become the game's MVP. The Packers defense kept the Giants scoreless in the first half and only allowed them one touchdown in the entire game.

3) 2007 New England Patriots

If the Patriots had won Super Bowl XLII, they would have topped this list as the best team in the history of the NFL. They didn't win the Super Bowl, but they did win every game in a 16 game regular season. No other team has ever accomplished that feat. Their 2 wins in the playoffs made them the first team in league history to win 18 games in a row. And, their offensive assault on the NFL record books will have a long lasting impact on the game.

Quarterback Tom Brady set the record for most touchdowns thrown in a season (50). Brady was named league MVP and league Offensive Player of the Year. While wide receiver Randy Moss set the league record for most receiving touchdowns in a season (23). The team sent a franchise high 8 players to the NFL Pro Bowl. But, the shocking loss in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants keeps this team from being the best of all-time.

2) 1972 Miami Dolphins

Its surprising that the 1972 Dolphins are number 2 on this list. As the only team to go undefeated in an NFL season, the Dolphins have a very good argument for the top spot. With a flawless season from week 1 to the Super Bowl, the '72 Dolphins are hailed as the only team with a perfect regular season, a perfect playoff record and a Super Bowl ring. When quarterback Bob Griese broke his ankle in week 5, it appeared as if the team would have trouble. But, backup veteran quarterback Earl Morrall led the way in week 6 as the team beat the Buffalo Bills by 1 point. After that victory, the team never looked back.

Running backs Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris became the first running tandem to each rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. The "No Name Defense" ranked first for the season and was led by linebacker Nick Buoniconti, tackle Manny Fernandez, and defensive end Bill Stanfill. They faced the Washington Redskins in the championship in the lowest scoring Super Bowl in NFL history. The Dolphins beat the Redskins 14-7; allowing the Redskins to cross mid-field only 4 times the entire game.

1) 1985 Chicago Bears

I know that I give the 1985 Bears a lot of love. I'm not even a huge Bears fan. But the team's dominance in the 16 regular season game format coupled with their huge win in Super Bowl XX continues to standout against other teams in league history. The roster was filled with stars and future Hall of Famers. That season, middle linebacker Mike Singletary was named Defensive Player of the Year, running back Walter Payton was named NFC Offensive Player of the Year, and coach Mike Ditka was named Coach of the Year.

When you look at the regular season performance of the 1985 Bears, what stands out is the dominance displayed over teams week after week. Many of their wins were blowout victories; with many teams failing to score more than 1 touchdown against them. But it is the post season play of the 1985 Bears that sets them apart. The total annihilation of teams in the playoffs made the Bears look like a team of men playing among boys. The defense allowed 1 touchdown in 3 playoff games, with two of the games ending in shutouts. In the end, the Bears beat the New England Patriots 46-10 to win Super Bowl XX.

The 1985 Bears and the 1972 Dolphins will continue to be in the argument for best team ever until a team can finish what the 2007 Patriots started. That is win all 16 regular season games and the Super Bowl. Until then, there will be fans that have very good arguments for either team to be labeled the best ever. As always, I welcome your opinions.

photo credit:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Top 10 2009 NFL Power Rankings

Training camp has not officially started, so it may be a bit early for league power rankings. Many things can happen in camp to cause a team's ranking to slip or rise before the season opener. That being said, I still found myself analyzing the 32 teams, their draft grades, free agency, and last season's records to form my 10 best teams for 2009.

10) Chicago Bears (finished 9-7)

The Bears have had a very busy offseason. It started with the miraculous signing of former Denver Bronco quarterback Jay Cutler; a deal that spawned from a nasty dispute between the Pro Bowl quarterback and the Bronco's new head coach Josh McDaniels. The Bears also added Orlando Pace on the offensive line. The 7 time Pro Bowler will need to stay healthy to make a difference in quarterback protection.

The Bears will also have 2nd year running back Matt Forte who rushed for 1,238 yards last season; averaging 4 yards per carry. If the defense can get back into the top 10 of the league, then the Bears could have a decent shot at winning the NFC North and may find themselves in the playoffs in 2009.

9) Carolina Panthers (finished 12-4, lost at home to Arizona in playoffs)

After an embarrassing loss at home to the Cardinals in the divisional round of the 2008 playoffs, the Carolina Panthers signed quarterback Jake Delhomme to a 5-year contract worth $42.5 million. The contract says a lot about the franchise's faith in Delhomme. Especially after he threw 6 interceptions in the loss to Arizona.

This season the Panthers are looking to bounce back from that disappointing end to their season and make another run at the Super Bowl. They will have a decent shot since they're bringing back 21 players from last year's roster. That includes running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

8) San Diego Chargers (finished 8-8, won their division but lost in the playoffs)

The 2008 Chargers became the 0nly team in NFL history to start a season 4-8 and still make the playoffs. Once in the post season, the 2008 squad defeated the Indianapolis Colts and went on to lose to eventual champions the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round. Look for the Chargers to improve on their record and make a serious run at the championship in 2009.

The team is returning its entire offense for the upcoming season. They are also competing in a weak division with the Broncos, Chiefs, and Raiders looking to rebuild their once competitive franchises. With a running game that features both LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles, look for the Chargers to be a power house in the AFC West.

7) Tennesee Titans (finished 13-3, lost in playoffs at home to the Ravens)

Tennessee finished the 2008 season with the best record in the league. They entered the playoffs with home field advantage, but lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round. Now the Titans aim for a championship ring with the help of veteran quarterback Kerry Collins and the awesome running attack of Chris Johnson and LenDale White.

There were some major changes on the defensive side of the ball. The Titans lost Albert Haynesworth to free agency and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is now the head coach of the Detroit Lions. The Titan defense was ranked 7th overall last season and had a large role in their 13-3 record.

6) Baltimore Ravens (finished 11-5, lost to Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game)

The Baltimore Ravens looked like contenders in 2008. They made it all the way to the AFC Championship game last season and lost to the Steelers who eventually won the Super Bowl. Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco showed poise and efficiency while starting for Baltimore. He became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to win 2 playoff games.

The defense ranked 2nd overall in the league last season. The Ravens were smart and signed both Terrell Suggs and veteran leader Ray Lewis; even though both linebackers started the offseason as free agents. Look for Baltimore to contend for the division and the Super Bowl in 2009.

5) New York Giants (finished 12-4, lost in the playoffs to the Eagles)

The Giants had a respectable season in 2008, but lost in the playoffs at home to the Philadelphia Eagles. During the offseason, New York released wide receiver Plaxico Burress due to his highly publicized misconduct off the field. They also lost veteran wide receiver Amani Toomer. The wide receiver position definitely has voids on the roster.

They did draft Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden to help fill the vacant wide receiver positions. However, the lack of NFL experience with these players has got to be a concern for the Giants. With last year's 5th ranked defense, stellar lines up front on both sides of the ball, and Eli Manning at quarterback, New York and company will remain viable contenders in 2009.

4) Indianapolis Colts (finished 12-4, lost to the Chargers in the wild card game)

Peyton Manning and the Colts had another decent season in 2008. However, if it doesn't result in a championship ring, the Colts regard the season as sub par. They will have another chance at the Super Bowl this year if the team can continue its constant playoff presence.

Manning was named league MVP last year and the defense was ranked 11th in the league. However, with the departures of coach Tony Dungy and wide receiver Marvin Harrison, the Colts are entering a new era of competition in Indianapolis. New coach Jim Caldwell looks to keep the winning ways around during his tenure. Meanwhile, wide receiver Reggie Wayne has no problem filling the role of go-to-guy.

3) Philadelphia Eagles (finished 9-6-1, lost to the Arizona Cardinals in NFC Championship)

The 2008 Eagles barely made the playoffs, but once they got there it was obvious that Philadelphia was ready to play. The Eagles won 2 playoff games before losing to the Cardinals in a highly competitive NFC Championship game. Donovan McNabb will continue his role as quarterback and face of the organization in 2009.

The majority of the coaching staff will stay in place for the Eagles. But, they did lose some key players. Defensive veteran Brian Dawkins went to the Broncos along with backup running back Correll Bulkhalter. Veteran and key offensive player Brian Westbrook is rehabbing an ankle injury and will miss most of camp. The Eagles drafted running back LeSean McCoy to help carry the load.

2) New England Patriots (finished 11-5)

Future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady was lost for the season in the 2008 season opener. Somehow the Patriots, with backup quarterback Matt Cassel, still managed to win 11 games. Amazingly, that record was not enough to get them to the playoffs. They were the first 11 win team to miss the playoffs since 1990.

Brady seems to be healthy and ready for training camp. The New England defense was ranked 10th last season and will still feature guys like Richard Seymour and Adalius Thomas. Veteran wide receiver Randy Moss will still be running routes for Brady, which can only yield positive results. Also, the Pats picked up a lot of players in free agency. Wide receiver Joey Galloway, running back Fred Taylor, and defensive back Shawn Springs were just a few of the veterans added to the roster. Look for coach Bill Belichick and company to contend for their 4th Super Bowl.

1) Pittsburgh Steelers (finished 12-4, won the Super Bowl)

The Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl last season and they did it in the most impressive fashion. For starters, they competed against the most difficult regular season schedule in the league. Five of their 16 games were nationally televised, which is the most allowed by one team. And, they had to drive 78 yards in a come from behind victory in the final minutes of the Super Bowl to beat a hot Arizona Cardinal team. They won the championship and they made it look easy.

This will be the third season for coach Mike Tomlin and all of Pittsburgh is buying whatever he's selling. The team loves him, the fans love him, and even the media seems to be smitten with the tough, hard working head coach. With star quarterback big Ben Rothlisberger at the helm and the 2008 number one ranked defense still intact, the Steelers will try to defend their championship in 2009.

Well, those are my power rankings for 2009. As training camp gets underway, we will see exactly what these teams bring to the table and how they will fare against the rest of the league. As preseason turns into regular season and regular season leads into the playoffs, it will be interesting to look back at this list to see just how these 10 teams competed in the 2009 season.

photo credit: Michael Rooney ""

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Top 10 running backs in NFL history

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. Once I started counting down players on my "top 10 Tuesdays", I knew eventually I would have to turn my attention to the best rushers in history. I will try to be objective and let each player's stats and records stand for themselves.

Of course, Super Bowl wins and longevity should also be taken into account. But, I have to also consider the shelf life of an NFL running back and the stress that the game puts on their bodies. Which makes this list less about Super Bowl rings and more about the dominance each player displayed during their time on the field.

10) Earl Campbell (Houston Oilers, New Orleans Saints)

Earl Campbell was the top overall pick in the 1978 draft and was chosen by the Houston Oilers. Also known as "the Tyler rose", Campbell's impact on the league was felt immediately. He was named both Rookie of the Year as well as league MVP for the 1978 season. The following year, Campbell did not slow down. He was named Offensive Player of the Year and also voted to the Pro Bowl.

In all, Campbell would make the Pro Bowl 5 times and lead the league in rushing for 3 straight seasons (1978-1980). His best year was in 1980 as he ran for 1,934 yards which included four 200-yard games. He averaged a whopping 5.2 yards per carry and scored 13 touchdowns that season; despite teams stacking the box in an attempt to stop him. Campbell was voted to the NFL Hall of Fame class of 1991.

9) Marcus Allen (Los Angeles Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs)

After being chosen by the Raiders in the 1982 NFL draft, Marcus Allen quickly began to leave his mark on the field. In a strike shortened season, Allen managed to rush for almost 700 yards and helped the Raiders to an 8-1 record. He was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. Allen was just getting started.

He would rush for 1,759 yards and score 11 touchdowns in the 1985 season and was named the league's MVP. But it was his performance in Super Bowl XVIII that made Marcus Allen legendary. He rushed for 191 yards and scored 2 touchdowns in the big game. He had the longest touchdown run in NFL history in the game as well (74 yards); a record that stood for 20 years. Needless to say, Allen was named MVP for Super Bowl XVIII. When it was all said and done, Allen would reach the Pro Bowl 6 times and rush for a career total of 12,243 yards. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2003.

8) Tony Dorsett (Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos)

Not to be out done, Tony Dorsett took the league by storm as well. He also won Rookie of the Year honors as he rushed for 1,007 yards and scored 12 touchdowns that first season. But, Tony took it a step further by being the first player in sports history to win a college championship one year (University of Pittsburgh) and follow up with a Super Bowl championship their rookie season.

Dorsett's best season was in 1981 with 1,646 yards rushing and a spot in the Pro Bowl. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in 8 of his first 9 seasons. He also holds the record for the longest running play from scrimmage in NFL history with a 99-yard touchdown against the Vikings. Tony Dorsett was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1994. His son, Anthony Dorsett, played in the league as a defensive back until 2003. Anthony made the Super Bowl twice during his career.

7) Gale Sayers (Chicago Bears)

Gale Sayers was selected by both Chicago and Kansas City (before the NFL merger) in the 1965 NFL draft. In that first year, Sayers would score 22 touchdowns, a rookie record that still stands today. He also notched 2,272 all purpose yards as a rookie; 1,374 of them rushing. He is still tied for most touchdowns scored in a regular season game with 6 against the 49ers later in his rookie season. He was easily chosen as Rookie of the Year for the 1965 season.

Sayers showcased a stellar career rushing average of 5 yards per carry. He made the Pro Bowl 4 times and was Pro Bowl MVP 3 of those times. Gale Sayers' NFL career wasn't a very long one. Injuries cut his play on the field short and he finished after about 6 seasons. But what he did in that time span was nothing short of phenomenal. He was inducted into the NFL hall of fame in 1977. He is still the youngest player ever inducted into the Hall.

6) Eric Dickerson (L.A. Rams, Indianapolis Colts, L.A. Raiders, Atlanta Falcons)

The Rams selected Eric Dickerson second overall in the 1983 NFL Draft. Once on the field, Dickerson quickly set rookie records for most rushing attempts (390), most rushing touchdowns (18), and most rushing yards (1,808). Those stats resulted in him being named Rookie of the Year and earned him a spot in the Pro Bowl. In 1984, Dickerson took the role of running back to another level by rushing for the most yards ever in a single season (2,105). He averaged a stunning 5.6 yards per carry that season.

After contract disputes with the Rams, Dickerson was traded to the Colts and quickly got back to work on the NFL record books. He became the fastest player to reach 10,000 career rushing yards. He did it in only 91 games. By 1989, Dickerson would have 7 straight seasons of over 1,000 yards; setting an NFL record. He retired in 1993 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999, his first year of eligibility.

5) O. J. Simpson (Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers)

Before O. J. Simpson became infamous or incarcerated, he was an incredible running back in the NFL. Nicknamed the "Juice", Simpson was drafted first overall in the 1969 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills. Unlike other running backs on this list, Simpson did not have an outstanding rookie season. In fact, his first 3 seasons were pretty mediocre. But by 1972, O. J. hit his first season of more than 1,000 yards (1,251). In 1973, O. J. Simpson became the first player to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season (2,003). He is the only player to do so in a 14 game season.

O. J.'s football success continued and he won 4 NFL rushing titles from 1972-1976. During that span, he averaged 5.1 yards per carry and over 1,500 yards per season. Simpson was selected to the Pro Bowl 6 times during his career and was league MVP in 1973. He retired in 1980 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985.

4) Barry Sanders (Detroit Lions)

Barry Sanders was selected 3rd overall in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. He was given the jersey number of his hero, another famous Lions running back, Billy Sims. Although he missed his first training camp due to a contract dispute, Barry seemed to handle NFL football with ease. He dazzled fans and defenses with his signature spin moves and his ability to shake every tackle. By his fourth NFL touch of the ball, Barry was in the end zone. He was voted to the Pro Bowl that very first season and named Rookie of the Year.

In the 1994 season, Sanders would notch 2,166 all purpose yards from scrimmage (1,883 rushing, 283 receiving). He averaged 5.7 yards per carry and was named Offensive Player of the Year. Barry Sanders had his best season in 1997 when he rushed for over 2,000 yards (2,053) and averaged a staggering 6.1 yards per carry. Sanders was voted to the Pro Bowl 10 times before his abrupt retirement in 1999. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2004.

3) Walter Payton (Chicago Bears)

Walter Payton was known as "Sweetness", which accurately described his pure, prolific, running on the football field. Drafted 4th overall by the Bears in 1975, Payton's career began with a rough start. He finished his rookie year with only 679 yards rushing and just 7 touchdowns. But by the following year, "Sweetness" had his first 1,000 yard season with 17 touchdowns to his credit. He improved even more in the 1977 season, where he rushed for 1,852 yards and 16 touchdowns.

By 1985, Payton was in his prime and had just broken Jim Brown's career rushing record the year before. He also had the luxury of having the best defense in history on his team. The Bears touted a 15-1 regular season record and would go on to win Super Bowl XX, Walter's only NFL championship. At the time of his retirement in 1988, Walter Payton would hold the most rushing yards of any player in NFL history with 16,726. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1993. Walter "Sweetness" Payton died on November 1, 1999 from a rare autoimmune liver disease. His legacy lives on as many NFL players and fans hail "Sweetness" as the best player to ever step on the field.

2) Emmitt Smith (Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals)

When Emmitt Smith entered the 1990 NFL Draft, some teams passed on picking him due to his size and speed. The Dallas Cowboys, on the other hand, traded up to draft Smith. And the rest is NFL record book history. Emmitt Smith is in an elite class of running backs that are considered the best of them all. He is only one of three NFL running backs to start their careers with 7 straight ten touchdown seasons. In fact, Smith leads them all with 164 career touchdowns. He also holds the record for most postseason rushing touchdowns with 19.

But it is the NFL career rushing record that puts Emmitt Smith in a class by himself. In the 2002 season, Smith broke Walter Payton's career rushing record and finished his career best all-time with 18,355 career rushing yards. He left the game in 2005 after winning 3 Super Bowls (SB XXVIII MVP), being selected to 8 Pro Bowls, and notching 78 games of 100-yards or more. Emmitt Smith will surely be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame next year, his first year of eligibility.

1) Jim Brown (Cleveland Browns)

With Emmitt Smith holding the record for most rushing yards in a career, you may wonder why Jim Brown is #1 on this list. Well, the answer is simple: Brown left the game at 30 years old, the peak of his career. Had he played 15 seasons like Emmitt instead of the 9 seasons he actually played, Brown's stats would have been astronomical. Jim Brown also never played in a 16-game regular season format. His first 4 seasons were in 12-game format and the rest were with 14 regular season games.

With all of that being said, Jim Brown still has the numbers to show for his dominant time on the field. He played for 9 seasons and made the Pro Bowl every year that he played. He led the NFL in rushing 8 of those 9 seasons. He was league MVP 4 times. He averaged 104 yards per game and 5.2 yards a carry. Brown was also unique in his ability to do anything to help the team win games. He would catch the ball, return kicks and even through a pass or two if needed. Even more astonishing, Brown never missed a single game in his career. No other running back had the durability and versatility of Jim Brown.

Well, there you have it. My 10 best running backs of all-time. There were lots of other names that were pondered upon when this list was created. Names such as: Terrell Davis, Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, Lenny Moore, and even Bronko Nagurski. But at the end of the day, I know I gave this one a lot of thought and evaluation. As always, feel free to comment and debate. You know me, I love that stuff.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Steve McNair found dead at age 36

Former NFL quarterback Steve McNair was found shot to death in a condominium in downtown Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday afternoon. McNair was the long time quarterback for the Tennessee Titans and also spent time with the Baltimore Ravens.

McNair suffered multiple gunshot wounds, including a gunshot wound to the head. Another victim, an unidentified woman, was also found dead at the scene from an apparent gunshot wound. McNair was only 36 years-old.

Reports claim that Nashville police officers received a call regarding injured persons inside of the condo and arrived to find McNair and a woman dead inside of the residence. It is not known at this time if McNair owned the residence, but he was known to frequent the condo. The condo was in close proximity to Titans stadium, as well as local businesses and restaurants.

McNair was known for his leadership as well as his toughness. He was a favorite among teammates and fans alike. He leaves behind a wife and four sons. McNair opened a restaurant shortly before his death. The restaurant was called "Gridiron9" and was just opened on June 19th, 2009.

photo credit: Keith Allison

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Top 10 Fantasy Running Backs for 2009

It's that special time of year when fantasy football fanatics start to plot out their drafts. Most fantasy owners would agree that the art of drafting the running backs is based on knowledge, patience, and determination. Here are 10 guys to look out for during draft day. If you can get multiple guys from this list, you'll have a decent chance at making the post season.

10) Clinton Portis (Washington Redskins)

Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis is known for his comedy antics with the media, but he's also known as one of the most prolific rushers in the league. With him shooting down reports of a riff between himself and coach Jim Zorn, Portis appears poised for another season of over 1500 yards rushing.

He just missed that mark last season with 1,487 yards and a respectable 4.3 yards per carry. That was enough to get him to his second Pro Bowl. Look for Portis to post a good season; as long as he doesn't fade out near the end.

9) Steve Slaton (Houston Texans)

Steve Slaton had one heck of a rookie season. The third round pick (86th overall) was named the starter for the Houston Texans last season and never looked back. He put up impressive numbers that allowed him to finish sixth among all running backs in the league.

In week 11, Slaton ran a 71-yard touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts; the longest in Texan's history. He would finish the season with 1,282 yards making him the top rookie running back in the league. Look for Slaton to do even more during his sophomore season with the Texans.

8) LaDanian Tomlinson (San Diego Chargers)

L.T. has fallen quite a bit in the draft rankings this year. He had cemented the top spot for several recent seasons before sustaining injuries that held him back. Last season Tomlinson posted career lows in rushing statistical categories including: rushing yards (1,110 yds) and rushing attempts (292).

His latest injury, a severe groin pull, sidelined him during the playoffs last season. Still, he managed to score 11 touchdowns and surpass 1,000 yards for the 8th straight season. If he happens to fall to the second round, it will be a steal.

7) Steven Jackson (St. Louis Rams)

Last season, the St. Louis Rams had a disappointing 2-14 season. And yet, Steven Jackson still managed to rush for over 1,000 yards (1,042) and average 4.1 yards per carry. Now with new coach Steve Spagnuolo in place, the Rams hope to rebound and compete for the NFC West division title.

They drafted arguably the best offensive lineman in the draft in Jason Smith; an outstanding offensive tackle out of Baylor. This should help soften the blow of Orlando Pace's departure and allow Jackson to continue his production.

6) Frank Gore (San Francisco 49ers)

In 2008, 49er running back Frank Gore played under offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system that is known for its passing of the football. It is a complex system that requires the quarterback to throw on most downs and turnovers are common. Yet, Gore managed to rush for over 1,000 yards (1,036) on 240 carries (4.3 yards per carry) for 6 touchdowns. He became the first 49er running back to rush for 1,000 yards through 3 consecutive seasons.

This season, Gore appears healthy and will be in a new system that focuses on the running game. With new offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye and former 49er fullback Tom Rathman as the running backs coach, look for Gore to have a standout season. If that doesn't convince you, the 49ers also added fullback Moran Norris to pave the way for Gore.

5) Chris Johnson (Tennesee Titans)

Tennesee Titans running back Chris Johnson was a rookie last season. But, you wouldn't know that by his rushing numbers. Johnson ran for 1,228 yards on 251 carries. He boasted an impressive 4.9 yard per carry average and 9 touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl his rookie year and finished 2nd in the AP voting for rookie of the year to Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

Johnson was actually part of a two running back tandem referred to as "Smash and Dash" with Johnson being the Dash of the duo and Titans running back LenDale White being Smash. This season Johnson proclaims that the moniker is no more and wants to be referred to as "Every Coach's Dream". This move didn't sit pretty with his coach or LenDale White.

4) DeAngelo Williams (Carolina Panthers)

DeAngelo Williams made plenty of fantasy football friends with his rushing statistics last season. The running back for the Carolina Panthers ran for 1,515 yards on 273 carries; that's an average of 5.5 yards per carry. Williams' production didn't just translate into yards. He also added a staggering 18 touchdowns on the season.

Another reason Williams was a fantasy favorite was his meticulous handling of the football. The Carolina Panther was fumble free for the entire 2008 season. I'm also pretty sure that his 4 touchdown game against the Giants didn't hurt either. It was a shame that Williams was snubbed in the Pro Bowl voting. Hopefully that will add further motivation to this talented runner.

3) Matt Forte (Chicago Bears)

In 2008, Matt Forte made his professional football debut with the Chicago Bears against the Indianapolis Colts. He would rush for 123 yards on 23 carries and score a touchdown. He set a Bears franchise record for most rushing yards in a running back's first game.

The impressive victory over the Colts and Forte's debut performance caused the rest of the league to take notice. He became the first Bears running back to rush for over 1,000 yards since 2001 (Anthony Thomas). He would finish the season with 1,238 yards and a whopping 316 carries; averaging 3.9 yards a carry. Altogether, Forte would total 1,715 total yards from scrimmage in his rookie season. ranks him 2nd on their fantasy running back list, behind Adrian Peterson.

2) Michael Turner (Atlanta Falcons)

Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons had a monster of a season in 2008. In fact, with 1,699 rushing yards on the season, Turner tied for second place in the AP's NFL MVP award voting. The former San Diego Chargers back-up for LaDainian Tomlinson broke the Falcons franchise single game rushing record in his first game for the team. In that game alone, Turner ran for 220 yards on 22 carries and 2 touchdowns.

Later in the season, Turner would score 4 touchdowns in a win over a tough Carolina Panthers team. In all, Michael Turner would reach the end zone 17 times last season; a franchise record. 17 touchdowns is only second all-time in NFL history for a player debuting with a team.

1) Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings)

Adrian Peterson was the top running back for 2008 and there is no reason to believe he will slow down in 2009. He led the league in rushing with a monstrous 1,760 yards by the end of the regular season. That total was second highest in league history for a running back's sophomore season. In fact, the past two seasons for Adrian Peterson have been the third best start for any NFL running back.... ever.

Most of Minnesota's team will remain intact as the team intends on making a run for the Super Bowl next year. Time will tell if they end up with retired (yeah, right) quarterback Brett Favre on the roster. But with Adrian Peterson coming off of another stellar season in which he scored 10 touchdowns and averaged 4.8 yards per carry, the team will remain tough to beat; regardless of the starting quarterback.

Well, those are my top 10 fantasy running backs for 2009. Other notables: Maurice Jones-Drew, Brandon Jacobs, Marion Barber, Joseph Addai, and one of my favorites, Brian Westbrook. Normally, Westbrook would be no lower than 3 on this list. But with Westbrook still nursing a high ankle sprain, it looks like he'll be out the entire training camp and preseason. Look, for him to be probable for the season opener and a steal in the fantasy draft.

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Photo credit: AP Photo/Paul Sakuma