LOS ANGELES — With apologies to Don Draper and Walter White, an argument could be made the two most popular television programs in the country right now are anything involving the National Football League and “Game of Thrones.” So, logically, we here at The Chris Brockman Website decided to combine the two, matching our favorite backstabbers, schemers, and philanderers of Westeros with their respective NFL counterparts. You don’t need to be a loyal book reader of the George R.R. Martin series to appreciate these footballers are who we say they are. (some spoilers ahead)
TYWIN LANNISTER — Bill Belichick, Patriots: Leader of a dynasty and the self-proclaimed “smartest guy in the room,” the similarities between Belichick and the eldest Lannister are endless. Watching Tywin talk down to his Small Council, you can almost hear his Belichikian tone. All that’s missing is cutoff armor and hooded chainmail. There’s no question these two weathered veterans are winners, leaders, and probably not as smart as they or everyone thinks they are. But any time they’re on camera, you can’t look away.
TYRION LANNISTER — Steve Smith, Panthers: Both the undersized Carolina receiver and the Imp have been counted out their whole adult lives because of their physical stature, and while Tyrion has used his brain to get ahead, Smith has used his giant heart and fierce determination. The pair are extremely crafty despite being overlooked from most. Additionally, and this is a point we can’t harp on enough, each are equally despised by their own family as evidenced by Joffrey trying to have Tyrion killed at the Battle of Blackwater, and Smith getting in multiple fights with teammates and his alleged feud with Cam Newton.
BRONN — Aaron Rodgers, Packers: Money and winning are the only pure motivators for Bronn, who is fearless, reckless, and doesn’t play by anybody’s rules. Sounds a lot like the newly-minted, richest-man-in-the-NFL Rodgers if you ask me. Bronn is also funny – have you seen a Rodgers post-game press conference? – and petty – Rodgers got miffed at “60 Minutes” for suggesting he was short for a quarterback. Just not sure if the evil notions in Green Bay come free.
PODRICK PAYNE THE SQUIRE — Josh Scobee, Jaguars: Podrick has proved to have a way with the ladies, to the amazement of Tyrion and Bronn, and the same can be said for Scobee, who has one of the hotter wives in the NFL. Like the young squire, Scobee, as a kicker, knows his role on the team and when to speak up. And like Podrick saved his Lord’s life at the Battle of Blackwater, Scobee on occasion has lifted his teammates to victory in the closing seconds with a game-winning kick.
JAIME LANNISTER — Eli Manning, Giants: By virtue of being a Manning, Eli was automatically enshrined into NFL royalty, and like the one-handed Lannister, Eli has shown his prowess for taking what he wants. You could easily pass on the moniker “Kingslayer” to No. 10 for taking down the league’s Golden Boy not once, but twice in the Super Bowl, thusly denying Tom Brady championships 4 and 5.
WALDER FREY — Al Davis, Raiders: Old, crotchety, respected and always one to hold a grudge, there may not be a better Game of Thrones / NFL match that these two, especially after what took place at the Red Wedding. Davis is renowned for suing the league he helped create and living by his “Just Win, Baby” mantra, and well, we all know how Lord Frey likes to party.
BRIENNE OF TARTH — Joe Thomas, Browns: It takes someone lacking fear to defend a blindside, and no one does that better than Joe Thomas, even though whichever QB the Browns trot out any given Sunday is likely worthless. And like Brienne, a left tackle has to be big, bullheaded, and full of duty and honor. Often overlooked in the stat line, like the lady of Tarth, Thomas often has an impact when his master is unscathed.
DAENERYS TARGARYEN — Russell Wilson, Seahawks: Like the Mother of Dragons emerged from a hopeless girl to dominate across the Narrow Sea, Wilson came out of nowhere to be a real NFL power player after a breakout 2012 season. And while Khaleesi now has a trio of new weapons in her dragons, Wilson now has Percy Harvin’s plethora of talents at his disposal. Both are now major contenders to wear the crown after being unknowns when the season (and show) began.
JORAH MORMONT — Pete Carroll, Seahawks: Jorah was disgraced and booted out of Westeros, which is not unlike Carroll’s tail-between-his-legs exit from Southern Cal following the Reggie Bush scandal. Now, both are fortunate to have fallen into backing big-time winners. Loyal, slick, wise, and cheerleaders, Jorah and Carroll are cut from the same mold and seem to have positioned themselves for long-term success.
BARRISTAN SELMY — Dick LeBeau, Steelers: It’s not often that a battle-tested warrior lives to become an old man in the Seven Kingdoms, much like the NFL translates to “Not For Long.” So it makes sense that Barristan and LeBeau are counterparts. A pair of grizzly veterans of the game, they’ve seen it all, done it all, and have survived to pass on their defensive genius to a new crop of players.
ROBB STARK — Tom Brady, Patriots: Brady is the unquestioned leader of the North, untouchable, and received this tutelage from the best; very similar to Robb, who trained under his well-respected father, Ned. And like Robb, Brady has had moments of resounding brilliance (multiple Super Bowl championships & MVPs) and ones of shake-your-head foolishness (dancing in Brazil, water sliding, ridiculous haircuts). Brady’s big-game performance of late has also matched well with the eldest Stark son, whose actions have left his men wondering if he’s fit to be King.
TALISA STARK — Gisele Bundchen: Like Talisa, Gisele stole the heart of the King of the North, and an argument could be made both Robb Stark and Tom Brady haven’t won anything since. Brady has come up short in two Super Bowls since hooking up for the former Victoria’s Secret model. Stark, meanwhile, has upset his own men, soiled the faith of an ally, and been blundering away strategic position since shacking up with the battlefield Volantis nurse.
EDDARD STARK — Brett Favre: One of only two deceased GOT characters to make the list is a fitting match for Favre. Both Ned Stark and the Ole’ Gunslinger were honorable statesmen, loyal to their homeland for many, many years before abandoning what they knew for the perils of the Big City. Favre jettisoned Green Bay for New York and then Minnesota, figuring his built-up good faith would carry over into this new surroundings, not realizing he was out of his element. And while Ned showed he could hang briefly at King’s Landing – like Favre’s career year with the Vikings – he ultimately ended up backstabbed and without his head; Favre’s magical journey ended on the sideline, consecutive games-played streak history, and after he retired, he’s barely been heard from.
JON SNOW — Wes Welker, Broncos: You could say undrafted players are the bastard children of the NFL, which would make Welker much more than Jon Snow given his success. And whether it was by his own doing or not, Welker left the safe haven of the North and joined up with the enemy on the other side of The Wall, or on his case, the Rocky Mountains. If Welker is still working for his new team’s enemy or knows more than nothing, a la Snow, has yet to be seen.
BRAN STARK — Adrian Peterson, Vikings: Both heirs of the North, Bran was thrown from a tree and lost the use of his legs, while Peterson was chopped down and needed reconstructive knee surgery. Bran has since been running like the wind in his dreams, while Peterson went out and nearly broke the NFL single-season rushing record in 2012. You almost get the feeling that Bran is destined for great things and likewise Peterson is only scratching the surface of what he could accomplish, especially after his recent 2,500-yard pronouncement.
ROOSE BOLTON — Bill Parcells: So let’s say you’ve worked your entire career for one team, had a lot of success with that team and grown really close to that team. Now let’s say, a little later on you went to work for that team’s most hated rival because they paid you a lot of money and it’s gotten to the point so much that your other team doesn’t even know you anymore. Maybe you died your hair blond, I don’t know. That would make you kind of a traitor, huh? Thought so.
HODOR — Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: Could you imagine if Gronkowski had a press conference and just said, “Hodor, Hodor, Hodor” every time someone asked him a question? It would be the greatest YouTube moment in sports. Just a big, lovable galoof is what Hodor is, and you could make a serious argument that’s exactly what Gronk is, only with more alcohol. Now if we can just get GOT’s writers to work in “Yo Soy Fiesta” as a battle cry.
THEON GREYJOY — Mark Sanchez, Jets: No one has taken public abuse and been the brunt of more media scrutiny (warranted or otherwise) and sports radio rants than Sanchez, who like Theon, can’t seem to get out of his own way. Seemingly the toast of the New York only a few years ago when he had the Jets in the AFC Championship, Sanchez is practically in shackles after the drafting of Geno Smith. Theon tried to make a bold move in taking Winterfell only to have it backfire into this weird torture play that’s hashing out slowly in Season 3. Neither is a bad guy on the surface, and unfortunately not a winners either, and I suspect both will have an unhappy ending.
STANNIS BARATHEON — Jay Cutler, Bears: When coming up with words to describe Stannis a few immediately came to mind: dull, boring, and pussy-whipped. That led me to only one NFL counterpart: Jay Cutler. Who else embodies Stannis’ spirit of being at times awesome at his position while being an enormous d-bag? Stannis had his best friend, Davos, thrown in jail! Doesn’t that remind you of Cutler screaming at his offensive line for getting sacked all the time? Literally all that’s missing is a Smokin’ Stannis Baratheon Tumblr page and we have Internet perfection.
DAVOS — Ronde Barber, Buccaneers: Davos stood by his King, Stannis, until the bitter end at the Battle of Blackwater, and you could say the same for Ronde, who remained a faithful Buccaneer following their Super Bowl title in 2003, when he no doubt had opportunities to just ship and play for a contender. While he didn’t get made to walk the plank by ownership, he might have well been, as Tampa Bay went 69-91 over the next decade.
JOFFREY BARATHEON — Tim Tebow: The most hated man in the Seven Kingdoms easily could be the most talked about, over-hyped, and dare I say, hated man in the NFL in Tim Tebow. Both Joffrey and Tebow were unfairly placed in their position of power (one by his scheming mother, the other by the scheming media machine and Josh McDaniels) and seemingly have no idea what to do. Joffrey can’t lead his men at the Battle of Blackwater, and while leading seems to be only what Tebow can do, his elsewhere skills so limited at the pro level, as evidenced by his current ouster from the league all together. Joffrey, meanwhile, doesn’t seem likely to sit on the Iron Throne for much longer.
ROBERT BARATHEON — Rex Ryan, Jets:Robert was a terrible king, but by all accounts, a great guy to be around, and he was a helluva warrior. Rex really isn’t that great of a head coach, but he sure looks like he’d be a fun guy to go to the Old Country Buffet with, and he used to scheme a good defense. Robert really liked fathering bastards and Rex, well, he liked to, well, make weird videos with his wife. Both were blubbering idiots who were mostly all show and no go. We know what happened to Robert, so I’m guessing Rex’s days are numbered.
GENDRY — Andrew Luck, Colts: Whether he knows it or not, Gendry is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, and by virtue of Peyton Manning’s bum neck, Luck is the future of NFL quarterbacking. The best prospect at the position since the man he replaced, Luck’s upside is exponential, especially after his record-breaking rookie campaign. And the best thing about him, is there’s no ego. Much like Gendry, who just wants to be a part of SOMEthing, Luck is happy to be here and help his team win. The future is bright for both these young, goofy men.
SANDOR CLEGANE — Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: Natural counterparts, The Hound and Roethlisberger are both larger than life, fierce warriors, and survivors of life-altering facial injuries – Big Ben’s after his June 2006 motorcycle accident and The Hound’s after his brother shoved him in a fire. Both like to party (though Ben’s days appear to be over) and never back down from a challenge. Ben is known for always playing through pain and keeping plays alive by being nearly impossible to take down, and The Hound is lauded whooping serious ass and being loyal to those he has a soft spot for.
PETYR BAELISH — Jerry Jones, Cowboys: No other owner can truly stake claim to being the NFL’s Lord of Coin like Jerry Jones, who out of his own pocket practically built the world’s greatest sports stadium. Like Baelish, Jones is extremely crafty and always scheming (how else do you explain the multitude of Draft-day trades?), likens himself as the smartest guy in the room (what other owner is also his team’s General Manager?) and commands an audience. Though you get the feeling others in Westeros laugh at Littlefinger behind his back, as I suspect those across the NFL do as the Cowboys blunder away season after season.
VARYS — Mike Shanahan, Redskins: Not similar in stature but definitely in mind, Varys and Shanahan are without a doubt the ultimate backroom deviants who know who they are and are completely comfortable in their own skin. Varys waited his whole lifetime to get his revenge on the mad scientist who crippled him while Shanahan lived through all the Raiders madness before achieving success with the Broncos. Now, he has the ear of Robert Griffin III and knows good things are on the horizon.
BERIC DONDARRION — Peyton Manning, Broncos: Manning being able to come back and have the kind of MVP 2012 season that he did after four, count ’em four, neck surgeries is damn near the equivalent of Beric coming back from the dead a half dozen times after suffering fatal battle wounds. You could also make the argument now Manning is closer to the Lord of Light given Denver’s mile-high altitude, but you’d need to check with Thoros first, since he’s the one who actually returns Beric from the other side, which we know is dark. Speaking of.
THOROS OF MYR — John Elway, Broncos: If it wasn’t for Elway and his belief in Manning returning to his Colts championship and MVP form, then the Broncos No. 18 jersey wouldn’t be flying off shelves at ludicrous speed in the 303 and 720. It’s well known The Duke likes to throw ’em back, too, and that fits well with the Brotherhood Without Banners’ red priest’s mantra of getting drunk and searching for ways to swindle gold. Thoros was a renowned warrior who now is an adviser of sort to Beric, which fits well with Elway, who is arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history and is doing a mighty fine job thus far as an executive.
MANCE RAYDER — Clay Matthews, Packers: Maniacs, defensive leaders who don’t play by anyone’s rules but their own, and strong men of the North, Matthews and Mance are quite the pair. While Mance doesn’t quite have Clay’s hair, they are both giant, rugged figures, who elicit loyalty from their men and fear in their opponents.
TORMUND GIANTSBANE — Brett Keisel, Steelers: The man with the best beard north of The Wall and the man with not only the best beard in the AFC North, but the entire NFL, are a match made in facial hair heaven.
— thanks to James Wright for his contributions to this column.
LOS ANGELES — The final “You’re The Man” rankings of the 2012 National Football League season comes off one of the best Super Bowls of the last few years. The Ravens and 49ers displayed what we love about the big game; the story lines were thick, there were lots of big and memorable plays, there was a freakin’ blackout, a comeback and a goal line stand to decide the Vince Lombardi Trophy’s owner. In the end, the Ravens proved once again you don’t have to dominate the regular season to be crowned champs in the end; you just have to get hot at the right time. And have a quarterback who thinks he’s elite, God and some steroids on your side (allegedly).
As we head into nearly 7 months without real football games being played – though only 10 days until the Combine and 73 until the Draft – let’s take a look at some question marks teams have heading into the offseason, and stay tuned for hopefully other articles about the NFL and who knows what else (probably the Red Sox, Celtics, movies, life in LA and whatever else I can throw together) here at the site. As always, thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate it.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars — To pay MJD or not to pay MJD, that is the question. And will they bring in Tim Tebow? Seems like the answer right now to both is “no.”
31.) Kansas City Chiefs — Being a Chiefs fan must be rough these days. How do you think they’re doing talking themselves into Andy Reid right now? At least he trimmed his mustache.
30.) Oakland Raiders — Will they go all-win with Terrell Pryor or bring back Carson Palmer for another go around at nearly 5x as much money?
29.) Philadelphia Eagles — Is Chip Kelly going to stick with Michael Vick to run his hurry-up, college-style offense? Or will he trade up and draft Geno Smith?
28.) Arizona Cardinals — Who’s going to play quarterback? That’s the only discussion Bruce Arians should be having with anyone.
27.) New York Jets — Mark Sanchez started tweeting again, actually he was on a retweeting positive comments binge; just reminding himself people still like him. Will they bring in any offensive weapons for him this offseason, because if they don’t, he might get irrevocably broken next season. (But I tell ya what, JaMarcus Russell rumors don’t appear out of thin air.)
26.) Cleveland Browns — Another team with a new coach. How long will Brandon Weeden be calling the offensive shots? He and Trent Richardson need help.
25.) Tennessee Titans — Is it time for the Titans to cut ties with Chris Johnson?
24.) Detroit Lions — Will this once playoff team find discipline in the offseason? Losing a few knuckleheads is a good start.
23.) Buffalo Bills— CJ Spiller is an emerging NFL star but for the Bills to compete in the AFC East they need to be able to stop the Patriots and the emerging Dolphins.
22.) San Diego Chargers — Now that a new head coach and GM have been hired, will the Chargers make The Leap? Not if they can’t beat the Broncos, which they won’t do with zero running game and a shaky secondary.
21.) St. Louis Rams — The Rams need to make a splash, and they need to reap the rewards of that blockbuster trade with Washington last year. They need a big, household name. Clearly, they can play; undefeated against the NFC champs.
20.) Miami Dolphins — It appears Reggie Bush won’t be back, but the biggest question remains who is going to catch the ball from Ryan Tannehill, since it appears he’ll be a halfway decent NFL quarterback.
19.) New Orleans Saints — Now that Sean Payton is back for the entire offseason, the offense should be back to form, but the Saints need all kinds of defensive help. Will they get it?
18.) Dallas Cowboys — Somehow Jason Garrett still has a job, but others do not. Recently, some questioned if the Cowboys are still Americas team based on their decade-plus of mediocrity. How will this offseason go in restoring that once-great moniker?
17.) Carolina Panthers — Face it, Steve Smith might not like Cam Newton but it’s not Cam’s fault Smith is old and can’t play anymore. The Panthers need a young, big-play receiver or 2013 is going to be a 2012 repeat, which means Ron Rivera will be out of work.
16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Bucs gave away their best defensive back and then missed the playoffs. I’d say they’d want to get better at stopping people, what with them being in arguably the most talented QB division in football.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers — Injuries derailed the Steelers this season but finding a running game and some youth on defense are paramount for the black and gold.
14.) New York Giants — It appears the Giants want to be cheaper and younger across the board, let’s see how long that lasts this offseason. Can you buy discounted consistency, too?
13.) Chicago Bears — The defense isn’t getting any younger, it’ll be curious to see how they go about replacing Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and the rest.
12.) Minnesota Vikings — Is Christian Ponder the answer at QB? I’m still not sure. But someone has to be able to catch the ball other than Kyle Rudolph. You gotta give defenses another look besides Adrian Peterson running the ball 30 times a game. Not that you can stop him, but still.
11.) Cincinnati Bengals — Think the Bengals want to go back and change their game plan against the Texans in the Divisional Round to include getting the ball to AJ Green? I’d say so. Still, they need to get better on defense. Especially with the supernova Ravens now kinds of the NFL and AFC North.
10.) Washington Redskins — Clearly, the most important thing facing the Redskins this offseason is the healthy of My Good Friend Robert. All other questions will be deferred until RG runs in a zig-zag line without teetering over like a drunken sorority girl.
9.) Indianapolis Colts — The Colts need some big-time playmakers on defense, because I’m guessing Andrew Luck doesn’t want to come from behind and pull a win out of his ass in 2013 as often as he did this season.
8.) Houston Texans — Matt Schaub finally won a playoff game but having some secondary help might have got him a second.
7.) Green Bay Packers — The Packers were badly exposed by the 49ers in the Divisional Round, which means getting younger and faster on defense should be at the top of Ted Thompson’s offseason priority list.
6.) Denver Broncos — I completely whiffed on the Peyton Manning thing, but the more I think about it, I get the feeling Peyton’s gonna pull a Vikings-era Brett Favre. Remember how great Favre was in 2009? Then remember how terrible he was in 2010? Feel me?
5.) Seattle Seahawks — Top-to-bottom, the Seahawks might be the most complete team in the NFL. Russell Wilson proved he can be a big-time quarterback and their defense is as stingy as summer horse flies. Can’t hurt bolstering the offensive/defensive lines.
4.) New England Patriots — For the second year in a row Tom Brady was outplayed by Joe Flacco in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots made strange clock management blunders to end the first half and again Wes Welker had a key drop in a situation that could’ve helped put the game out of reach. Is this the end of their decade-long reign or can they fill in the missing pieces – big play receiver, shut down corner, rush edge – to stay at the top?
3.) Atlanta Falcons — The Falcons were 5 yards away from reaching the Super Bowl but their issue isn’t on offense. In the second half against San Francisco they gave up 14 unanswered and couldn’t stop Colin Kaepernick if they were the ones controlling his joystick. How will Atlanta improve on defense this offseason? Being so close to the big game you’d expect them to make a move.
2.) San Francisco 49ers — This is a team than can win the Super Bowl as it is: top-flight defense, an explosive offense and a fiery head coach. While Jim Harbaugh was out-coached Super Sunday by his brother, what the 49ers were missing against Baltimore was a deep threat. It’s clear they missed Mario Manningham, as Randy Moss didn’t give them that stretch of the defense they were expecting. Colin Kaepernick also show signs of what he could be become with a full season under his belt, but why not let him run it down by the goal line? Regardless, he vowed to start preparing for next season immediately, so it appears as if he’s on a mission. San Fran is the class of the NFC, along with Seattle and Atlanta.
1.) Baltimore Ravens — Finally, we’ve found out who’s The Man of this 2012 NFL season. It look 22 weeks but the Ravens emerged from beneath the rubble. Heading into this offseason their biggest question marks are on the defensive side of the ball. Clearly, Baltimore’s offense behind Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta and company are an absolute force. But defensively, it will be a different-looking Ravens squad in 2013 with the retirement of Ray Lewis (perhaps you’ve heard) and the likelihood of Ed Reed playing elsewhere, not to mention Terrell Suggs is older and banged up. We’ll see if they make moves to sure up that side of the ball in the coming months and in the Draft.
LOS ANGELES — The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs is always the most exciting. The final eight teams. The truly best eight of a long, arduous season left standing. And if you break down who’s remaining as we enter Week 19 there’s no question these are the elite eight: Patriots, Texans, Broncos, Ravens in the AFC, and Falcons, Seahawks, Packers and 49ers in the NFC. My preseason Super Bowl pick is still alive and we’ll see if Green Bay and New England make it through the weekend. I know I’m pretty excited after a lackluster Wild Card Weekend.
With the end of the season comes the end-of-the-year awards. Here are my picks:
MVP — Adrian Peterson: carried Vikings to the playoffs and averaged more yards per carry than Christian Ponder averaged per pass. Oh yeah, he blew out his knee just over a year ago and didn’t miss a single snap due to injury this season.
Comeback Player of the Year — Peyton Manning: missed the entire 2011 season and made most who said he should have retired or wouldn’t be the same eat crow with a remarkable 2012.
Offensive Rookie of the Year — Russell Wilson: didn’t get injured or turn the ball over as much as the other rookie candidates, and led the Seahawks to 11 wins and a playoff triumph. Good enough for me.
Defensive Player of the Year — J. J. Watt: 20.5 sacks and another 15 pass deflections. A must-double team on every play or risk him blowing up your whole offensive game plan.
Coach of the Year — Pete Carroll: with all due respect to Chuck Pagano/Bruce Arians, the Colts got some fortunate in-game luck this season (no pun intended) while Seattle played in a tough division, went with a rookie QB and finished undefeated at home. Always compete.
This will double as my end-of-the-regular season You’re The Man Rankings column as well as recapping my preseason Burning Questions for each of the 32 teams. Check that out here to see how I did.
Been an awesome season and it’s only gonna get better the next 3 weeks. Enjoy and thanks for coming along for the ride with me.
32.) Jacksonville Jaguars (final record: 2-14) (preseason YTM rank: 28) – Back before the season started, one of the cornerstones of my fantasy team was Maurice Jones-Drew and one of my questions was what week do I start him in fantasy after his offseason holdout? Well the answer should’ve been NEVER. Like never start him ever. Or trade him immediately. Or how about this: don’t keep him AT ALL. Don’t even consider keeping him. He ruined my fantasy season. Also, me not executing a trade the same week he got injured forced me into scramble mode the entire second half of the year; 418 yards and a TD from my keeper!!?! Sigh. And as for Justin Blackmon, he thrived with Chad Henne at QB and finished the season strong with 38 grabs and 5 TDs in the last 7 games. Certainly something to build on heading into 2013 and on his way to living up to my Anquan Boldin comparison.
31.) Kansas City Chiefs (2-14) (17) – Clearly, I missed pretty bad on my preseason prognostication of the Chiefs; like 14 spots bad. Though, I wasn’t alone. The Chiefs had all the tools to be a contending team this season and it just never got together. And it started with the quarterback. Matt Cassel was atrocious. Like got-his-coach-fired atrocious. I asked if Cassel was the man like people thought he was, well those who thought that are clearly idiots. He turned the ball over at Sanchezian rates – 12 interceptions and 7 lost fumbles – before he was benched in Week 10 and it appears his career as a starting QB are over. Hope he invested his large signing bonus wisely. I’m not sure where Cassel ends up next season, but wherever it is, it’ll be as a handsome backup.
30.) Oakland Raiders (4-12) (22) – Could the Raiders defense carry its weight; that is what I asked to start the season, guessing the offense would be in good shape. Well, let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we. Oakland finished 18th in total offense (8th in passing yards, 28th in rushing), 26th in points scored and 27th in 1st downs. Defensively, the Raiders were 15th in total yards (13th in passing yards allowed, 15th in rushing) and 28th in points allowed. So, in a way, you could say the the defense out-performed the offense but it just gave up too many points, which translated to only 4 wins. Oh, and Darren McFadden getting hurt AGAIN didn’t help anything. Wait, Carson Palmer just threw another interception.
29.) Philadelphia Eagles (4-12) (16) – Debacle. Disaster. Deserving. An overrated player didn’t use any of these D-words to describe the Eagles but they would’ve fit pretty much from Week 1 through their Week 17. This year didn’t just cost Andy Reid his job but it might’ve cost him his sanity. He had LeSean McCoy but barely used him. He benched Michael Vick for Nick Foles. And he thinks he can coach up the Chiefs into a playoff contender. After what Reid went through in the preseason he probably should’ve sat out this season. Then again, I said Peyton Manning should’ve retired. What do I know?
28.) Arizona Cardinals (5-11) (30) — I nailed this one right on the head this preseason. I wondered if I was up next on the Cardinals QB Carousel and as it turned out, they trotted out four different jamokes. FOUR!!?! Kurt Warner changed his phone number at least that many times this year ducking Ken Whisenhunt’s calls. Poor Wiz got canned, too. That was a theme this offseason.
27.) New York Jets (6-10) (26) – So as it turned out, Tim Tebow got used as much by the Jets as much as I did. I wondered how bad their offense was going to be this year and let’s find out: 30th in total offense; 30th in passing yards per game; 12th in rushing yards per game. Mark Sanchez was 31st in passer rating, ahead of only Matt Cassel, 26th in passing yards, 2nd in interceptions and 1st in turnovers. Yup, that’s pretty terrible.
26.) Cleveland Browns (5-11) (32) — So, the running game ended up being pretty decent in Cleveland, this fall. Trent Richardson ran for 950 yards and the 5th most rushing TDs in the league with 11. I may have cut Greg Little from my fantasy team in Week 4 or 5 (I’ve really tried to forget this season already) but Brandon Weeden (3,385 yds, 14 TD, 17 INT) wasn’t as bad as Mark Sanchez, so that’s a win. Sort of. The Browns were 30th in First Down Percentage, and whatever that means, I’m guessing it’s not good.
25.) Tennessee Titans (6-10) (24) – I figured the Titans would go as far as Chris Johnson took him, what with Jake Locker being the consistent starter for the first time, and I wasn’t exactly wrong. Surely, they expected more than 6 wins, but after a disappointing 2011 campaign, CJ bounced back with 1,243 yards and 6 TDs this season. Locker was again hurt and questions should be asked about his durability.
24.) Detroit Lions (4-12) (11) – Matthew Stafford finished 2nd in the NFL in passing yards this season, which we all kind of figured; he just missed a second straight 5,000-yard season by 33 yards. But 2012’s 4-win effort was definitely a disappointment especially after being a playoff team in 2011. I wondered if the secondary would let them down and it wasn’t terrible. Their unit allowed the 19th most passing yards per game but the 13th most touchdown passes. Still, how do you go from the playoffs to 4 wins in just one year?
23.) Buffalo Bills (6-10) (18) – Mario Williams did his part this year, registering 10.5 sacks and the Bills defense gave up the 23rd most passing yards per game. However, the offense was mediocre at best: 19th in total yards and you could argue C.J. Spiller was underutilized. Either way, it’s now former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone’s problem. Rumored to be replacing Chan Gailey on Sunday, Marrone led my beloved Orange to its second bowl win in 4 years.
22.) San Diego Chargers (7-9) (19) – Again, I nailed this one. There’s no way the Chargers weren’t finishing out of the playoffs and there’s no way Norv Turner and A.J. Smith weren’t getting fired and there’s no way I’m speaking proper English right now. Regardless, the Chargers were a disaster from the second half of the Denver game, on. Why? Who knows. Was Philp Rivers the problem? Beats me. Is Ryan Mathews a bust? I mean, it looks that way. Who’s gonna be the coach? Can they catch the Broncos next season? Should they just wear the powder blues all year? Probably.
21.) St. Louis Rams (7-8-1) (27) – I was really at a loss when it came to words for this Rams team in 2012, but back in the preseason I wondered who would emerge as a legitimate pass-catcher for Sam Bradford. This no-name group of receivers needed someone to emerge and that man appeared to be Danny Amendola, who despite missing 5 games and parts of two others, had 63 receptions. As a team, the Rams had 7 guys catch TD passes so we’ll see if anyone steps up next season. As for Steven Jackson, he did take a pounding this year but managed to gain 1,000 yards for the 8th consecutive season.
20.) Miami Dolphins (7-9) (31) — At the risk of sounding like a broken record, if you thought, watching Hard Knocks, the Dolphins were going to win 7 games, you’re the big winner at the casino tonight, Mikey. I was hoping Mrs. Tannehill would suit up at WR this year, but the Dolphins’ band of no-names led by Brian Hartline wasn’t terrible catching the ball. Sure, Reggie Bush didn’t lead the league in rushing or even 1,000 yards (he was 14 short), but this team was one of the surprises in the league and will contend for a playoff spot next year. Oh, and Mrs. Tannehill will be around A LOT.
19.) New Orleans Saints (7-9) (7) – Turns out the head coach is pretty darn important. Turns out the interim coach is pretty important, too. Turns out you can’t start the first 4 weeks winless and expect to have it be in the Super Bowl game being played in your stadium. The Bounty Gate situation was a black cloud over the team, city and league for what seemed like the entire season. New Orleans would love nothing more than to put 2012 behind it. Sure, Drew Brees signed a bajillion dollar contract, his coach did, too, and he threw for more than 5,000 yards (again), but he surely would’ve given it all up (and those terrible Pepsi commercials) to have made the playoffs. Next year.
18.) Dallas Cowboys (8-8) (21) – One of the big Cowboys stories heading into this season was Jerry Jones giving Dez Bryant his own set of bodyguards. Well those guys did their job as Dez had one of the more memorable receiver seasons by someone not named Calvin or Johnson. All Dez went out and do was haul in 92 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, including 10 scores in the last 8 weeks and doing it with a broken finger. He balled out. No question about it and really answered the bell when many were questioning him throughout the year. He’s an elite receiver. Wish the Patriots had him.
17.) Carolina Panthers (7-9) (15) – If you have a younger sibling, you remember what it was like when they were born and suddenly you weren’t the toast of the town anymore. I get the feeling Cam Newton’s feelings were hurt by all the buzz around Andrew Luck and My Good Friend Robert. Look at the season splits; in the first 10 weeks the Panthers were 2-7 and came had 10 INTs and only 8 TDs. Down the stretch, Cam lit it up as Carolina saved not only its miserable season but Ron Rivera’s job, throwing for 11 TDs and only 2 INTs. Sophomore slump? Sure. But I’d be back on that Camwagon next season, if I was you.
16.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9) (13) – I thought this Bucs team was going to make the playoffs; even said so when they started 2-4. I believed. And was looking even better after rattled off 4-straight wins to get to 6-4 and were in the drivers seat for the Wild Card. Josh Freeman was in shape, making plays and Doug Martin was running rampant. Then … yeah, I don’t know. Then the wheels came off and the Bucs lost 5 in a row and Freeman threw 10 picks. It was brutal. 6 and 4 became 7 and 9 with lots of questions heading into the offseason.
15.) Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) (12) – Nailed this one, too, and I don’t feel good about it. Mike Wallace couldn’t have been more terrible; don’t know the exact number but he had to have led the league in drops while killing my fantasy team in the process. Ben Roethlisberger nearly got himself killed by playing with fractured ribs and Rashard Mendenhall probably won’t even be on the team next year. Oh, and Todd Haley is talking to the Cardinals about their coaching vacancy. Yup, a season to forget in Pittsburgh.
14.) New York Giants (9-7) (1) – Normally it’s the Super Bowl loser who struggles the following season but the Giants gave Tom Coughlin little to smile about this season. I’m not sure if it was the 3-5 collapse after a 6-2 start or if it was watching the hated Redskins win the division for the first time in 13 years or if it was just he constantly has a sour puss look on his face. Actually, his A Football Life was one of the more enjoyable this year and gave some insight as to why Coughlin is who he is. Check it out if you haven’t had the pleasure.
13.) Chicago Bears (10-6) – Brandon Marshall was tied for 2nd in targets (195) with Reggie Wayne and receptions (118) with Wes Welker, trailing only Calvin Johnson in both. Marshall was 3rd in receiving yards (1,508) behind Megatron and Andre Johnson. BM15 also scored 11 touchdowns. So, yeah, I’d say he and Jay Cutler made sweet music this season on the Midway and should be a great combo moving forward. Though we’ll see who the Bears new coach is what he has to say about it.
12.) Minnesota Vikings (10-6) (29) — Remember all those ones I said I nailed earlier? Well I definitely screwed the pooch on this one. Here’s exactly what I said again about Mr. Adrian Peterson before the season: “If I’m Adrian Peterson, for starters I’d probably spend an uncomfortable amount of time staring at myself in the mirror, but I also wouldn’t be in any rush to get back on the field in Minnesota.” Yeesh. So 2,097 yards later, how’s that taste, Brockman? But my real preseason question was about the Vikings defense, so a quick statistical analysis tells me that it was it gave up the 9th most passing yards in the league, and worst in the NFC North.
11.) Cincinnati Bengals (10-6) (8) – The 2011 Bengals went 9-7 and were the AFC Wild Card. Andy Dalton threw for 3,398 yards, 20 TD and 13 INT and made the Pro Bowl, while rookie wide receiver A.J. Green caught 65 balls for 1,057 yards and 7 TDs. But they ultimately lost in the opening round of the playoffs to the Texans. The 2012 Bengals went 10-6 and were the AFC Wild Card, Dalton threw for 3,669 yards, 27 TDs and 16 INTs, Green caught 97 passes for 1,350 yards and 11 TDs but lost to the Texans in the AFC Wild Card. So yeah, I’d say they equaled last year.
10.) Washington Redskins (10-6) (20) – What went on in the NFC Wild Card aside, there’s no question that My Good Friend Robert (as he’s been known as this season in this very column) was one of the chief stories of the 2012 NFL Season. What he did to shock to life the football-crazed DC area was nothing short of a miracle and to call him a Cam Newton-lite, like I tried to do in the preseason was a vast understatement. Here’s Cam’s 2011 season numbers: 4,051 passing yards, 21 TDs, 17 INTs, 706 rushing yards, 15 TDs. Here’s Robert’s 2012 season stats: 3,200 passing yards, 20 TDs, 5 INTs, 815 rushing yards, 7 TDs, AND he was 3rd in the league in passer rating behind two guys named Rodgers and Manning. Ho hum. Unreal. And Mike Shanahan went the other direction used just one main running back this year, another rookie, who only rushed for 1,600 yards in Alfred Morris. Football is back in Washington.
9.) Indianapolis Colts (11-5) (25) – What an amazing season in Indianapolis from the play of their rookies, a rejuvenated Reggie Wayne and the story of Chuck Pagano and Bruce Arians, who deserve to share Coach of the Year honors. I had the Colts 25 in the preseason and predicted that would be their lowest ranking of the year. Turns out I was more than correct. I didn’t envision a playoff team, but thanks to Luck’s astounding rookie season (4,374 passing yards, 23 TDs, 17 INTs, 5 rushing TDs) and some timely big plays, the Colts won 11 games and should be again contenders for the next decade or so.
8.) Baltimore Ravens (10-6) (4) – The Ravens began this year with an undrafted, 22-year-old rookie kicker from Texans named Justin Tucker, who replaced Billy Cundiff, who if you remember, missed from 32 yards in last year’s AFC Championship game and cost Baltimore a trip to the Super Bowl. So I wondered if its new kicker could indeed make a 32-yard field goal. And while Tucker had a fine 2012 season in which he only missed 3 field goals the entire year, he did not make one from 32 yards out. He was 8-for-8 on kicks between 30 and 39 yards, including three each from 38 and 39 yards, but not from 32. Tucker was perfect from 50-plus yards, but none from 32. So we’ll see this weekend and beyond if he is called upon can he deliver from that distance.
7.) San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1) (5) – Maybe the real question I should’ve asked was whether or not someone OTHER than Alex Smith will make everyone forget Jim Harbaugh tried to woo Peyton Manning last offseason. Man. Poor Alex Smith. Who saw his benching coming? Guy was leading the league in passer rating, got knocked out, and then Wally Pipp’ed. Colin Kaepernick has come in and gone 5-2-1 as a starter and looks explosive and unguardable at times. He has a cannon and runs like a gazelle. He beat the Saints and Patriots on the road and the Bears at home. Battle tested? Not exactly. We’ll find out very, very soon against Green Bay. But remember, Smith got them to within a few minutes of the Super Bowl last year, anything less is a disappointment out of CK1.
6.) Seattle Seahawks (11-5) (23) – This will be my shortest response of the column. I asked if Russell Wilson could make the Seahawks a contender when the games counted for real: YES. YES. YES. I’m a believer. He did it. And he kills it on this week’s Eisen Podcast, listen for yourself and tell me you’re not all-in on this kid.
5.) Houston Texans (12-4) (6) – Arian Foster continues to dominate NFL defenses and the Twitterverse, while the bow is catching on as a favorite end zone celebration. He bowed a total of 17 times this season and led the league with 351 rushing attempts, so clearly Gary Kubiak was a fan of the bow, as well.
4.) Green Bay Packers (11-5) (3) – Well, as it turned out, Cedric Benson wasn’t the answer for the Packers running game, and in reality, there have been a few answers to that question this season. In all, the Packers used 6 different running backs (including fullback John Kuhn) with Benson being the go-to guy before his Week 5 injury. From there, James Starks picked up on his 2011 postseason run, then Alex Green and now DuJuan Harris appears to be the featured back. Still, when you have Aaron Rodgers, you’re offense is in good shape.
3.) New England Patriots (12-4) (2) – Lost in the amazingness that was Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson’s 2012 seasons was the once again masterful season-long campaign of Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. A strong case could be made Brady should win this third MVP award. All he did was lead the Patriots to another ho-hum 12-4 season by throwing for 4,827 yards, 34 TDs and only 8 INTs; his third career season of single-digit interceptions. I wondered preseason if Brady could get better looking and the answer is, duh. Look at him. Whenever I see his Uggs billboards I scream “TOMMY!!” at them. People look at me like I’m nuts. They’re not wrong. I also asked if the dreadful 2011 Patriots defense could be better than 31st and they improved slightly to 25th. Hey, offense (and being attractive) wins games, right? (reminded of Super Bowl 42 and 46) Sigh.
2.) Atlanta Falcons (13-3) (9) – For the first few weeks of the regular season, probably up until he threw 5 picks against the Cardinals, Matt Ryan was a legitimate MVP contender. The Falcons were rolling everyone in their path and while they stumbled going 2-2 the last month of the year, they still finished 13-3 and the top seed in the NFC. Ryan, my fantasy QB I might add, accumulated 4,719 passing yards, 32 TDs and 14 INTs; all career highs. Still, if they don’t beat the Seahawks this weekend it’ll be considered an unmitigated disaster year and both Mike Smith and Ryan will take an enormous amount of offseason heat for failing, once again, to win a playoff game. Not to mention, Tony Gonzalez will retire winless in the playoffs.
1.) Denver Broncos (13-3) (14) – In a way, it’s fitting that my biggest whiff of the preseason predictions would go on to become the top team the NFL as we enter the Divisional Playoff Round. Peyton Manning had a throwback season for the ages after missing 2011 in its entirety following four neck surgeries, and most think he’s at least a 50/50 shot at winning his record 5th MVP. Hard to say he transformed the Broncos since they were a playoff team (and winner) a year ago, but he gave them a true identity and a definitely attitude and swagger they haven’t had since John Elway roamed the backfield. Riding an 11-game winning streak, I wouldn’t want to come anywhere near them in the playoffs. That’s good enough to earn you billing as The Man.
Stay tuned for my final 2012 NFL Season You’re The Man rankings which will come after the Super Bowl, where I’ll focus on the one thing each team has to look forward to or be concerned with heading into the 2013 offseason.