Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Top 200 in the NFL: 100-1


100.) David Harris, MLB, Jets – He is the Ray Lewis in the Jets’ defense, not Bart Scott. He has sideline-to-sideline speed, comes off blocks well, and can rush the passer at good efficiency. If he can improve a little bit, the Ray Lewis comparisons might have merit based on play too.

99.) Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys – His best days are behind him, which is why he finds himself barely in the top-100. He has lost the explosiveness that he used to has. Good possession tight end, though.

98.) Dominique Rodgers–Cromartie, CB, Cardinals – With the shine wearing off from the other Cromartie, DRC has risen above his namesake. His ball skills were always good, as was his speed. His coverage is now meriting inclusion in the top-10 corner discussion, if not top-5.

97.) Brian Orakpo, DE, Redskins – Lost in the mess that was the 2009 Redskins, was Brian Orakpo’s amazing rookie season. Without much help from the other side, Orakpo piled up big plays as a rookie.

96.) Jarius Byrd, S, Bills –
The 9 interceptions look nice, but that will definitely not happen again. However, his play being consistently good and his positioning being consistently around the ball will, and considering there is little else in Buffalo, that is more than enough.

95.) Lance Briggs, OLB, Bears – He is at the age where he is what he is: a solid, but not great player. He was one, and his reaction speed is still there, but he is not the physical presence he once was. Having Peppers in front, and Urlacher back beside him will help though.

94.) Andre Gurode, C, Cowboys – The real star of the Cowboys’ o-line, the man once known as the face that met Haynesworth’s cleat, is now turning heads with great play anchoring the Cowboys’ o-line. He might not have the notoriety that his linemates do, but he’s better.

93.) Shawntae Spencer, CB, 49ers – Nate Clements makes the money, but Shawntae makes the plays. He finally stayed healthy, and his play skyrocketed with that renewed physical health. He’s a physical corner with the speed to run stride-for-stride with anyone.

92.) Aaron Kampman, DE, Jaguars – He is coming off an ACL injury, plus he is anything but young, but playing back in his familiar 4-3, Kampman will be able to finally put bite in that Jaguars’ pass rush.

91.) Nick Barnett, MLB, Packers – His great play as a central linebacker is what allows Clay Matthews and Brady Poppinga to not worry about the run. He has been consistently good for half a decade now.

90.) Robert Mathis, DE, Colts – He might not be able to carry the pass-rush without Freeney, but he can certainly be the best complementary pass-rusher in the league. The best at the strip-sack in the NFL as well.

89.) Osiomogho Atogwe, S, Rams – He is now overrated. It is pretty easy to get tackles as a safety when your front seven cannot stop anyone. However, if he ever gets the chance to play for a competitive team, he might be able to justify the hype.

88.) Chad Ochocinco, WR, Bengals – He might be undervalued since Carson had no one else to throw to in ’09, but with TO in the fold as the possession guy, he might just see an uptick in his explosiveness.

87.) Eric Wright, CB, Browns – On a defense with no-names (David Veikune?), Eric Wright stands out. His cover skills allow the Brown to not be consistently blown out. Just think, when was the last time any receiver had a huge day against the Browns?

86.) Michael Roos, T, Titans – There is a reason Chris Johnson can grate out yards. Sure, he has the explosive speed, but he also has a pair of great tackles, the first being Mr. Michael Roos. He wasn’t as good in 2009, but a lot of that has to do with Kerry Collins being immobile early in the season.

85.) Darren Sharper, S, Saints – There is almost no way he puts up the same takeaway/TD numbers this year, but he still has the instincts to break up plays and serve as a great last line of defense. His play also lifts the other members of that defense.

84.) Domata Peko, DT, CIN – After Antwan Odom blew out his knee, many pundits saw the Bengals d-line going to hell. It didn’t and the hairy Samoan named Peko is the primary reason why. His play was great, and now getting Odom back should just make him better.

83.) Aaron Smith, DT, Steelers – He also missed major time last year, and it was his injury that coincided with the Steelers free-fall late last year. The Steelers really missed his presence in run support, as he gets great penetration.

82.) Michael Turner, RB, Falcons – With the ‘Curse of 370’ finally off him, we can expect him to stay reasonably healthy, and what is scary is that the partially injured Turner put up good numbers last year.

81.) Jeff Otah, T, Panthers – He played really well last year at RT, and really well in 2008 at LT, and I would guess that put him at guard and he would still open gigantic holes for DeAngelo and J-Stewart.

80.) Terrell Suggs, OLB, Ravens – In year one of his big contract, he was a small disappointment. He still is great against the run, but his pass-rushing hasn’t been the Suggs that once terrorized the league from 2006-2007. The Ravens Defensive Coordinator pledges to blitz more, which could see Suggs take off.

79.) Wes Welker, WR, Patriots – He has been cleared to practice fully, but I still fear him getting anywhere near 100% Wes Welker in 2010. His game was built almost entirely on precise, quick cuts, which will really test that knee. Tom Brady needs him, though, as his passer rating in 2009 without Wes was 65.7.

78.) Lofa Tatupu, MLB, Seahawks – He was injured for almost all of last year, but it was not as serious at that would seem. He was after his rookie season a perfect Tampa-2 MLB. He still is, but Carroll will use him differently.

77.) Brett Favre, QB, Vikings – Since expected future performance is part of this, and it is unreasonable to expect another 33/7 TD/INT season since he hasn’t done that ever before last year, I think it is safe to say that year-2 in Minny won’t be as pretty as year one.

76.) Will Smith, DE, Saints – Terrorrizing pass rusher, who can crush weaker tackles, but does struggle slightly against the premier tackles in this game. Health and age are concerns.

75.) Aubrayo Franklin, DT, 49ers – He is the unsung hero of the 49ers defense. Patrick Willis is a tackle machine, and it is because Franklin requires double teams, and is arguable the top space eater in football.

74.) Jared Gaither, T, Ravens – The Ravens seemingly wanted to get rid of him, which raised questions about his work ethic and the like, but no question was raised on his ability. He had giant shoes to fill, and has filled them quite admirably. I do not think Michael Oher will do a better job as the LT.

73.) LaMarr Woodley, OLB, Steelers – LaMarr Woodley bided his time on the bench, learned the trade for a couple years, and when he got his degree from LeBeau U, he got on the starting lineup, and has beasted ever since. Has great pass-rushing technique.

72.) Jonathan Joseph, CB, Bengals – One half of the league’s best CB tandem, Jonathan Joseph is the slightly less impactful but slightly more steady of the duo. His major strength is his ability to read and react to route development.

71.) Justin Tuck, DE, Giants – The man who was cast in gold for blowing up Logan Mankins back in Super Bowl XLII, Justin Tuck is still a fearsome pass rusher, but he doesn’t have the support around him to leave him single-blocked.

70.) Donovan McNabb, QB, Redskins – Mike Shanahan knows how to coach older QBs, and although the fit between a historically un-West Coach Offense McNabb and Coach Shanny seems to not gel, John Elway was never the most accurate QB in the league either.

69.) Harvey Dahl, G, Falcons – The Falcons “dirty” guard is arguably the most underrated interior lineman in the league. His ability to hope holes through the middle, as well as keep the pocket clean up the middle for Matt Ryan, arguably makes him the Falcons’ most underrated as well.

68.) Logan Mankins, G, Patriots – Despite his aforementioned beating in Super Bowl XLII, Mankins has been a quality player from day 1. He’s not going to make any huge mistakes, and on a line that is getting older and, quite frankly, less good, his stability is what anchors the Pats up-front.

67.) Ray Lewis, MLB, Ravens – In 2009, he was back to normal Ray, but I hate that the media thinks this is a Ray Lewis resurgence. They said the same thing in 2006 and 2008. Enough already. Just chalk Ray Lewis playing great to Ray Lewis being an all-time great.

66.) Karlos Dansby, MLB, Dolphins – He did yoeman’s work for the Cardinals, bolstering a very transient lB corp, and he fits perfectly in the middle of the Dolphins’ 3-4. Parcells loves him, for good reason.

65.) Steve Smith, WR, Panthers – He played well last year with Matt Moore as the QB, and is just two years off from a 1400 yd season. The explosiveness is still there. Durability is a slight question, as is that ever-lingering question of will he ever get any real receiving help.

64.) Antoine Bethea, S, Colts – Arguably the best low-draft selection by Polian, Bethea has become an all-pro free safety, period. With Bob Sanders in and out of the lineup, he is know the most crucial player in the Colts secondary.

63.) Antwan Odom, DE, Bengals – He was a monster before his injury last year, and reports are that he is tearing it up in camp again. He will greatly benefit from the rest of the d-line being better now than what they were when he piled up 8 sacks in 6 games.

62.) Elvis Dumervil, OLB, Broncos – He was able to end up doing something that few other could do in Denver: play well after their 6-0 start. As the team crashed and burned, he rose his play. Of course he doesn’t play the run all that well, but my God can he rush the passer.

61.) Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals – When he needed to be, he was pretty good in 2010, leading fourth quarter comebacks against the Steelers and Ravens primarily through the air. The biggest concern is that elbow of his, but if he stays healthy, with new weapons, he can have a nice rebound year.

60.) Vincent Jackson, WR, Chargers – It will be interesting to see in the first three games if he was a product of Rivers or if it is the other way around. His ability to use his body to shield defenders when catching the deep ball is amazing. He also has great balance when jumping.

59.) Trent Cole, DE, Eagles – Probably a little underrated, he has been a consistent pass rusher since 2006. Cole has been able to pick up the slack for the departed pass rushers of Eagles yore. Of course, having two mammoth DTs suck on blockers helps.

58.) Roddy White, WR, Falcons – He is Matt Ryan’s best friend, but more than that, he is a damn good football player. He, like most of the other Falcons, had a down year, but with a healthy QB and RB, White should complete the triplets to the tune of what he had in 2008.

57.) Adrian Wilson, S, Cardinals – He is no longer a secret in the desert, and with aging he is no longer the fierce physical presence that he used to be, but Wilson remains one of the league’s most versatile and instinctive players.

56.) Tony Romo, QB, Cowboys – His numbers were fine, but the shine of the totals offset some problems, mainly being his ineffectiveness in the red zone. The Cowboys in general had a hard time punching it in, but the problems started at the QB position, where Romo couldn’t deal with the tighter windows.

55.) Randy Moss, WR, Patriots – There seem to be two school’s of thought on Moss. One is that he has mentally checked out and is done, the other being that he is set for a bounce back season. Honestly, neither is totally accurate. He doesn’t have the consistent speed to be the same, but he is still a 10 td guy.

54.) Jeff Saturday, C, Colts – On what may be the league’s most hard-to-judge o-line, Saturday is the only one that needs no judgment. He’s great, that is all. He is good at run-blocking, great at pass-blocking, and most importantly, can keep up with the changes Manning makes and direct his offensive line.

53.) Owen Daniels, TE, Texans – He was on pace for a monster season before he got hurt, and his injury might actually help him. Jacoby Jones developed greatly after his injury, which could clear out more space where Daniels can do his best Dallas Clark impression. Obviously, that ACL is still a concern.

52.) Ray Rice, RB, Ravens – He is in the Maurice Jones-Drew mold, as a receiver and runner. Although being called physical, he still dances and is too often stopped before the line, however, that is offset by an explosiveness unmatched in Baltimore.

51.) John Beason, OLB, Panthers –
He is dropped from a top-30 player solely because he is now playing a new position after Thomas Davis’ injury, but Beason is a tackle machine. He has great ability to hem in runners and has perfect tackling form.

50.) Greg Jennings, WR, Packers – The top-50 is headed by Aaron Rodgers’ best weapon. His TD numbers have suspiciously dropped since Favre left in 2008, but his other raw numbers and metrics stay the same. He has the explosiveness that reminds me of a young Chad Johnson.

49.) Jabari Greer, CB, Saints – I will say this about the Bills. They can draft and develop corners. Too bad none of them are still on the Bills. Greer is the latest example. He was brilliant in 2009 for the Saints but got hurt, again, which of course is a sign that he is a true Bills player, as fragile as he is talented.

48.) Richard Seymour, DT, Raiders – He did not become a fat, lazy slob, as most thought he would after being shipped over to Oakland. No, instead he had a better year than he did in 2008 in New England. He can still get good pressure on the QB, which should only increase with the addition of John Henderson.

47.) Ryan Clady, T, Broncos – He is a little too penalty prone (not too serious), and too injured (serious) to get to where his blocking would merit him, but Clady is still one of the best young LTs in the game, at least as far as run blocking is concerned.

46.) Jay Ratliff, DT, Cowboys – He had his best season yet in 2009. He probably can’t get any better, in fact he is probably due to come down a little bit, but even that is good enough for a spot in the top-50. He is still easily the best pass-rushing NT in the game today.

45.) Steve Hutchinson, G, Vikings – Age may finally be catching up to Hutch, which only means that instead of being the best guard in the game, he is one of the best. I’m sure Adrian Peterson still loves him, though.

44.) Matt Schaub, QB, Texans – He wasn’t just finally healthy, he was not the victim of an illegal hit finally. In a pass-friendly offense, Schaub took it to heights that probably even surprised him. If he can get a healthy Owen Daniels back, look for Schaub to go even higher, at least as TD/INT is concerned.

43.) Steven Jackson, RB, Rams – You have to give a guy credit for playing so hard and so well for a lousy team. He has taken a pounding the last three years, and he hasn’t been the healthiest guy, so there are fears that he might not be around by the time the Rams talent catches up to him, and that is surely sad.

42.) Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts – He didn’t have the greatest end to last season, but he had one of his better regular seasons to date. He is still Manning’s most consistent and trusted receiver on the team, ad his precise route running is still there.

41.) Chris Snee, G, Giants – With the Giants o-line faltering at the tackle positions, Snee has picked it up the last two seasons. His ability to get a push on running plays is up there with any player in the league.

40.) DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers – He has a great o-line in front of him and has to split carries, but his talent is undeniable. He has put together two straight great years. His 5.1 career ypc is the highest of any back since 1990, higher than even Barry Sanders, and with that blocking, it could stay that way.

39.) Leon Hall, CB, Bengals – He’s the big play one out of the tandem, the more naturally gifted corner. Leon Hall has developed just like the Bengals hoped he would. Now all that remains is for him to sign that extension to stay a Bengal for a long, long time. (Paging Mr. Brown….. Mr. Brown???)

38.) Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers – He’s the same statistical monster he always has been, getting over 1,000 yds again and what not. However, much like the rest of his team, there is just something about him that makes him hard to trust in the clutch. Either way, the most athletically talented TE is as good as ever.

37.) Vince Wilfork, DT, Patriots – The big man was resigned to a nice fat extension, and he’ll try to do what he always does, throw his fat around to suck up blockers, clog up running lanes, and basically make the lives of Ty Warren and whoever the hell is now replacing Richard Seymour’s lives easier. Same as always.

36.) David Stewart, T, Titans – The best right tackle in the game, and the man more responsible than the man himself for Chris Johnson’s 2,000 yd season, David Stewart just gets better.

35.) Dallas Clark, TE, Colts – Yes, I think he is more important to the Colts than Reggie Wayne. He is the real difference maker now. What he gives the Colts is a dynamic versatility that the top wideout doesn’t. He stays healthy, he stays fast, he runs great routes and Peyton have made their brains surgically attached.

34.) DeMeco Ryans, MLB, Texans – His ability to tackle makes him second in line to replace Ray Lewis as the league’s next iconic MIKE Linebacker. Since his team’s defense has yet to match his, he is somehow underrated. He does struggle to get off blocks in the second level, though.

33.) Jordan Gross, T, Panthers – The last of four players on the Panthers offensive line is their most integral. He has turned into an excellent blindside protector, which makes him all the more valuable, with Matt Moore now the QB he will protecting. The Panthers have the best o-line in football, period.

32.) Charles Woodson, CB, Packers – He probably shouldn’t have been the defensive player of the year last year, but he was sensational. His late career resurgence in Green Bay is quite remarkable. I’m sure Al Davis rues the day he let Woodson walk and didn’t give him the chance to team with Asomugha.

31.) Mario Williams, DE, Texans – He had a bit of a down year, but mostly since the rest of team’s ability to bring pressure dropped off mightily, allowing teams to double him. With the other guys finally healthy, he is primed for a monster 2010.

30.) Eli Manning, QB, Giants – He finally became a pure top-10 QB in 2009, and amazingly did it with a receiving corp that was anything but settled. His connection with the other Steve Smith would make his brother and Marv proud. He’s gotten to the point that the pass offense is arguably the Giants’ best unit.

29.) Darnell Dockett, DT, Cardinals – His monster 2008 playoffs was no fluke. He was a monster inside for the Cards, getting amazing penetration. He is equally adept at stuffing the run, and his presence allowed Calais Campbell to excel beside him. He is the second most active defensive tackle in the league.

28.) Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jaguars – He is still the best multi-purpose running back in the NFL. His blocking isn’t what it was from 2006-2007, so his numbers aren’t as astronomical, but he is still an extremely dangerous receiving threat from the backfield.

27.) Jahri Evans, G, Saints – The best guard in the game, Evans is what any guard should be: mean, nasty and tough. He’s not known for a pass blocker (although he is quite good at that too), but for a run-blocker. He gets extremely good push in front, and Payton trusts him enough to single block noses.

26.) Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions – Megatron could easily be up near the top-10 in one year, but his 2009 was disappointing. This is a man who had 1,300 yards for an 0-16 team. The fact that he was dragged down by Stafford’s iffy performance is interesting. However, he still is a freak of physical nature.

25.) Jared Allen, DE, Vikings – He is a little overhyped, as even his numbers were padded by 7 sacks against the Packers (and 8 in 14 other games), but he is probably the best pass-rushing end against the run. He is able to stop the run on his relentless path to the QB, something that can’t be said for other DE’s.

24.) James Harrison, OLB, Steelers – Just like Mr. Allen above him, Harrison is the best edge-rushing 3-4 LB at stuffing the run as well. He simply cannot be single blocked, as he holds the edge to well. Teams would be better off just not running towards number 92.

23.) Nick Mangold, C, Jets – The real key to the Jets o-line that paved the way for the number 1 running game in the NFL, Mangold has the run-blocking skills of a guard, the pass-protection skills of a tackle and the smarts of a QB. His push inside is the primary reason why the Jets were the 2nd best team in the league at running up the middle and in 3rd or 4th and 1.

22.) Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings – He is not the same back that ran for all those yards in his rookie and sophomore campaign, and his ypc-average is down to 4.4 from 5.6 (as a rookie), which should show signs that he has peaked. But even if he has peaked, that peak is quite high. He still fumbles too much, but even that is negated easily by his strength and ability to pick up crucial yards and find the end zone.

21.) Julius Pepers, DE, Bears – If 11 sacks is a down year for Peppers, like last year, then that is the mark of a true great. He gets dogged for taking plays off, but mostly because he has the talent to get 2 sacks a game, so if he doesn’t , then people view it as not trying. He will work wonders under Rod Marinelli and the Bears d-line. Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre and Matt Stafford, watch out.

20.) Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers – Speaking of Aaron Rodgers, everyone seems to be getting a little too excited. Sure, he had a great statistical season, but he built those stats up from unloading on weaker teams. In his three biggest regular season games (the two with the Vikings, and against the Ravens) he was average. However, he still is getting better. With a harder schedule, it wouldn’t be a surprise if his numbers drop, but that doesn’t mean he’s playing any worse.

19.) Patrick Willis, MLB, 49ers – The best MLB in the game is a tackling machine, with the added benefit of being able to cover tight ends. He also has the instincts that make him even the more better. However, he doesn’t have the impact on those around him like Ray Lewis did, but there are no Ray Lewis’ out there (except for the man himself). I probably shouldn’t knock him for being 80% of the best MLB of all time.

18.) Kevin Williams, DT, Vikings – The better half of the Williams wall, Kevin plays so well as a pocket pusher and pass-rusher. His numbers against the pass are amazing. He also swallows up the run like none other. Of course, having the mammoth that is Pat Williams next to him helps, but you get the feeling he is the real deal by himself. He is Albert Haynesworth 2.0.

17.) Ed Reed, S, Ravens – Age is catching up to Ed, but that doesn’t stop the Boss from being brilliant as usual. Although he might start the season on the PUP list, the injury itself is not as serious as an ACL type. Ed still is instinctively the best safety in football. The Ravens do suffer with him out, but oddly, the run defense suffers. Probably because the LBs have to care more about stopping the pass if Ed is absent. I really hope this is not his last season, but even if it is, he has to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

16.) Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Raiders – He lost the title of the best Corner in football, but he still has it for most dominant. Teams don’t even throw his way unless the receiver is wide open. QBs don’t even look his way. With the pass rush on the Raiders improving, and the rest of the secondary along with it, he might have a bigger impact than even before, in that he might get thrown at 50 times, not 30.

15.) Chris Johnson, RB, Titans – Yes, the top ranked RB is No. 15, and mainly because running back is just not one of the 5 most important positions on the field. Plus, his high carry count and lithe frame makes him a prime candidate for injury, nevermind his insane numbers making him a prime candidate for regression. That all said, there is no better running back, and no more explosive player in the league. Guys drafted with insane 40 times rarely succeed, but CJ2K is not only succeeding but setting records.

14.) Joe Thomas, T, Browns – He is slightly overrated, as he is too penalty prone to be considered a top-10 player, and his run-blocking is not the best, but he is a brick wall in pass-blocking. Against the Steelers, he shut down James Harrison twice. If ever he had a QB worth protecting, he might get even better.

13.) Haloti Ngata, DT, Ravens – The Mountainous Tongan, Ngata has become the most athletically gifted interior lineman in the league, easily. He has the speed to chase down QBs and RBs in the backfield. He is strong enough to shed double teams. He is athletic enough to return interceptions for touchdowns. He is great enough to actually outshine Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. It is Ngata’s defense now.

12.) Tom Brady, QB, Patriots – Some say that because of the defenses he faced, Brady was underrated last year. I say BS. He was very Aaron Rodgers-esque, in that if he got into a tight game, he turned to mush in the 4th quarter. He was brilliant in quarters 1-3 (save for that Wild Card game), but gave away too much in the 4th. If Wes Welker is not 100%, it will be interesting to see how Brady can go along.

11.) Troy Polamalu, S, Steelers – He was arguably the biggest singly injury in the NFL last year, as his departure ruined the top defense in the NFL. The Flowin’ Samoan was his usual great self when he was in, and luckily for him and the Steelers, his injury is not of the nagging variety, but his health, which was sterling before 2009, should be watched. With Reed closing in on retirement, Polamalu is now finally the unquestioned best safety in the game.

10.) Dwight Freeney, DE, Colts – The only man that you can argue was a bigger injury than Polamalu was Freeney not being healthy in the Super Bowl. Other than Manning, he is the only player the Colts need if they want to win the Super Bowl. He makes that defense run, he makes them click. He makes Robert Mathis a top-10 DE. He makes the defensive tackles better. His constant pressure (led the league in QB hurries) makes everybody on that defense better.

9.) Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers – His numbers speak for themselves, and apart from the game against the Jets in the playoffs, he plays big in big games (which separates him from Rodgers and Brady right now). Rivers still looks like he is throwing a shot put, but it is a very accurate shot put. He will miss Vincent Jackson, and possible Marcus McNeill, but I believe Chargers fans when they say they trust Philip anyway.

8.) Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals – He was great with Leinart primarily throwing to him (2006), so he should be fine again. Leinart could use a sure-handed, precise route-running, explosive beast at WR, and in Fitzgerald he has one. What is even scarier is that he is evolving, as late in 2009 he drew up a physicality that was Boldin-esquel.

7.) DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Cowboys – There was no regression from Ware, as he was just as scary and good in 2009. He may not have picked up the same amount of sacks, although matching 20 is almost impossible, his hits and hurries stayed constant, and he also evolved as a player. He is no longer a liability against the run, as he holds the edge much better than before.

6.) Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers – I’m not going to delve into his personal issues, so as a QB Ben Roethlisberger is absolutely deserving of this high praise. They say he doesn’t study and prepare as hard as the other top QBs. Well, if that is true, if he ever turns that part of his game around, look out. His game was finally unleashed in full, and they exploded of the page, with 4,300 yds in 15 games. He still is as evasive and creative inside and outside the pocket. He is still as good as ever.

5.) Jake Long, T, Dolphins – Somehow, Joe Thomas is more universally hailed than Long, but that should absolutely not be the case. Long is almost perfect. With great size and long arms, he can pass block and protect young Chad Henne’s blindside. With great power and a mean streak, he can create holes and block for Rickey Williams and Ronnie Brown. He was a top-pick well spent.

4.) Darrelle Revis, CB, Jets – He had the best season for a CB in my lifetime, sure. I would venture that Nnamdi in 2007 was just as good, but since his team stunk and he never got the opportunity to make picks since no one threw at him. Well, people need to start giving Darrelle the Nnamdi treatment: Just stop throwing at him. Darrelle shut down everyone and anyone, and he faced them all. It needs to be seen if he can approach the 2009 level this season, but if he comes 70% there, he will still be a top-20 NFL Player.

3.) Andre Johnson, WR, Texans – Sure, Darrelle Revis may have shut him down once last year, but one game should not decide this ranking. Andre Johnson has been the best NFL receiver for two straight years. The U has never produced a better wideout (including Michael Irvin), and I really hope they make the playoffs just so I can see Andre Johnson perform on the highest stage.

2.) Drew Brees, QB, Saints – Again, one game doesn’t decide everything. Brees did just have a 4th straight year with good passing numbers, but what was markedly different about the 2009 Drew Brees: his lack of turnovers. He stopped forcing the balling as much in 2009, and the effects were brilliant. There is a movement to call him the best current player, and I would say that too much too soon. However, the fact that he is that conversation is amazing enough considering 4 years ago he came to the Saints as New Orleans was still seemingly underwater.

1.) Peyton Manning, QB, Colts – After a 4th MVP award, a 14-0 start, and doing it all with the league’s worst ranked running game, and not having his #2 and #3 wide receivers from 2008, how can anyone not put Manning on top. Peyton can actually get quite a bit better. As FootballOutsiders said, Peyton had a down year for him, and losing Gonzalez hurt. Gonzalez is back, the RBs are healthy, and he is motivated from that pick to Tracy Porter. He is back to take on the league.

Check back later for a division-by-division preview.

Top 200 in the NFL: 200-101

Camps are now open. The long football-less spring and summer is over. So, I have to ask: ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL!!!!!!!

Over the next two weeks, I will be delivering my comprehensive, multi-faceted, season preview of this upcoming NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE season in the Calendar Year 2010. Up first, my list of the Top-200 Players in said league.

I should note that the players are ranked on past performance in the recent past (so, no Brett Favre doesn't get any bonus points for winning three straight MVPs in the 90's), future production (my opinion of what future production will be), and importance to their team. Also, I did dock points for players coming off major injuries (Welker, Gross, Daniels, Kampman, etc). I also tried to be as unbiased as possible (not sure I did that well), and even out between offense and defense (did that exceedingly well, with 100 on each).

200.) Hines Ward, WR, Steelers – Great year last season, as his numbers soared as Bruce Arians took the reins off that passing game, but I expect them to run a lot more this year. Age is also a concern.

199.) Todd Harremans, G, Eagles – Tried and true run-blocker, Harremans has been the link between the current Eagles O-line and their great lines earlier in the past decade.

198.) Clint Session, OLB, Colts – Young player who has a knack of making key plays during games. Good blitzer and run-stuffer compared to past Colts LBs.

197.) Randy Starks, DE, Dolphins – Needs to step up with Philip Merling’s season ending injury, but Starks showed in 2009 that he has the potential to be the Richard Seymour of Miami’s 3-4.

196.) Nick Hardwick, C, Chargers – Older player is the last true vestige of the Tomlinson era. His presence was missed last year. Injury concerns are there.

195.) Matt Shaughnessy, DE, Raiders – Top player so far from the 2009 draft class, Shaughnessy wowed in his rookie season with 5 sacks in limited time. He has a chance to get even better with space eaters Seymour and Henderson next to him.

194.) Donald Penn, T, Tampa Bay – The best young player on Tampa’s young offense, Donald Penn at least stabilizes the second most important offensive position for the Bucs. Sad they can’t do the same for the most important position.

193.) Jim Loehnard, S, Jets – What makes his first season in New York even more impressive is that he actually got better without having the luxury of Ed Reed next to him on the field. Big play, hard working guy.

192.) Zac Diles, OLB, Texans – The First of many good players on that young Texans defense. His presence allows Cushing to freelance. It will be interesting to see how he does with Cushing out.

191.) Chad Henne, QB, Dolphins – The first team with two players on the list, the Dolphins have their QB for the future. If Henne continues to improve, the Dolphins offense will become an air show, and the wildcat will be a thing of the past.

190.) Jacob Ford, DE, Titans – Part of the smorgesboard in Tennessee to replace Albert Haynesworth, Jacob Ford continues to get better as a dominant pass rusher of the end of the line. He’s one of many on the defensive line with the most upside in the NFL.

189.) Dan Koppen, C, Patriots – As the Patriots moved to more and more shotgun starting in 2007, he’s become even more important for his intelligence than his great blocking. Age did show last year, though.

188.) Jerod Mayo, MLB, Patriots – After a stellar rookie year, was not able to raise and lead a youthful linebacker corp. With better play around him, could go back to being a force.

187.) Chris Williams, T, Bears – Was able to shine late when finally given the opportunity to play LT. He has the quickness and size combination to handle Clay Matthews and Jared Allen, which makes the Cutler-Martz connection scarier.

186.) Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts – If list was done a year ago, he would have been about 50 spots higher. A freak injury took him out of 2009, but he has the ability to beat out Garcon and Collie for the #2 job, and if he does, look out.

185.) Jammal Brown, T, Redskins – Curious deal sent him to Washington, but we shouldn’t forget that until his injury last year, he was one of the brighter young LTs in the game. The fact the Saints gave him up that easily is a question mark.

184.) Lawrence Timmons, MLB, Steelers – The first of a loaded Steeler defense, Timmons did not ascend as a run stuffer. He has amazing talent as a pass rusher from an inside position.

183.) Zach Miller, TE, Raiders – He put up solid numbers catching passes from JaMarcus Russell. Now he gets a legitimate QB who looks for his TE often (see: Cooley, Chris 2005-2008). He has the speed and size to beat nearly every TE in the league.

182.) Fred Jackson, RB, Bills – He proved in 2009 that 2008 was no fluke at all. Chan Gailey has always had good faith in one-back systems, and developed o-lineman, and with better blocking, he can explode even further.

181.) Sean Brown, S, Buccaneers – It is amazing a player this solid and consistent is now on his third team in four years. Brown has good skills in staying behind receivers. His impact is more than the statsheet indicates.

180.) Ryan Clark, S, Steelers – The one positive of Troy Polamalu’s injury last year was that it gave Ryan Clark a chance to shine. His play at FS is much like Polamalu, as he can come up and stuff the run. Just another extremely versatile defensive player for the league’s most inventive defensive mind.

179.) Frank Gore, RB, 49ers – His play suffered from bad blocking. Now that the blocking has improved, age becomes a concern as production has dropped 4 straight years.

178.) Ryan Kalil, C, Panthers – The guy who snaps the ball for the league’s best o-line is often overlooked by his more notable linemates, but he should not.

177.) Jonathan Vilma, MLB, Saints – Found a home in the center of the Super Bowl Champion’s defense, and is perfectly utilized as a jack-blitzer for Gregg Williams’ defensive scheme.

176.) Jerraud Powers, CB, Colts – Played amazingly well as a rookie, keeping the Colts corners anchored with Kelvin Hayden out. Durability, much like for every Colts player, is a concern.

175.) Robert Gallery, G, Raiders – Once a punchline as a bust at tackle, Gallery has found a home at guard. When any QB not named JaMarcus Russell was behind center, he did not give up a sack.

174.) Chris Houston, CB, Falcons – Coming off a freak ACL tear, Houston should come close to returning to the form that made him one of the best up-and-coming corners in the league. Especially with more skill around him on the Falcons defense.

173.) Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens – Quietly became overrated, as he piled up stats against dregs, but struggled quite often against the premier teams. Plus, for his 3-2 playoff record, he has only once completed over 50% of his passes in a playoff game.

172.) Leonard Davis, G, Cowboys – He’s aging, and he often mysteriously disappears, but when he’s on, he’s a top-5 guard. Key man for the Cowboys, now that his side mate Flozell Adams is gone.

171.) Corey Williams, DT, Lions – He can be a force in a Jim Schwartz defense, as he was in both Cleveland and Green Bay. If Ndomakung Suh lives up to his billing, it will be because of this man next to him.

170.) Leigh Bodden, CB, Patriots – After years of doing yoeman’s work for bad teams, he finally gets onto a good one. Bodden is a stable player in a very unstable defense.

169.) Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs – If he is not a flash-in-the-pan, then the Chiefs may have another great back in a long line of them. However, it should be said that he piled up yards against two teams (Raiders, Broncos) that are horrible at stopping the run.

168.) Aaron Ross, CB, Giants – Like almost everyone on that defense, his play dipped a bit, but Aaron Ross was still solid, adding some stability and keeping the pass defense decent after Kenny Phillips departure.

167.) Bart Scott, MLB, Jets – He had a good year as the centerpiece of the Jets front-seven, but the track record of players leaving the cozy confines of Ray Lewis aren’t good, and as a bonus even Adalius Thomas had a good first year away from Baltimore.

166.) Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings – His skill cannot be understated, but he had done little to nothing before last year. One more year of big numbers should go a long way to establishing himself as a top-10 WR.

165.) Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers – He had a good finish to the season, but against the premier defenses in the league that the Packers played (Cowboys, Vikings, Ravens) he was silent. That has to change if he should be considered a top-5 TE.

164.) Keith Rivers, OLB, Bengals – He shined in his first fully healthy year, although he showed he could not anchor the defense alone without Maualuga next to him in the Wild Card game.

163.) John Henderson, DT, Raiders – His days of being a pass-rush force are gone, but he was still one of the best run-stuffing lineman last year, and playing next to Richard Seymour, he has a perfect situation to do just that again.

162.) D’Brickshaw Ferguson, T, Jets – Finally really lived up to the draft pick the Jets used on him, he now needs to take it one more step further, as the Jets will have rookie Vladimir Ducasse next to him.

161.) Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys – He has immense talent, but just cannot stay healthy. Thos players usually don’t magically become healthy later on either, especially at running back.

160.) Alex Smith, QB, 49ers – Shined late last year, as he finally had enough receiving weapons to make an impact. If Crabtree takes another step forward, and Vernon Davis continues to play at his high level, he can easily be a playoff-caliber QB.

159.) Jason Campbell, QB, Raiders – He was criminally underrated because he is the hardest thing for anyone to conceptualize, in that he is average. That is all. However, for the Raiders, that is a huge step up, and the team will definitely play hard for him.

158.) Charles Godfrey, S, Panthers – The Panthers will need him to continue his great play from late 2009, as the secondary for the Panthers will be of added importance with the change and injuries in front of him.

157.) Joe Staley, T, 49ers – The 49ers gave up what would have been the #7 pick for him, and he finally showed that they might not have wasted the pick last year. With two rookies along him on the line, he needs to raise his game another level again.

156.) Tommie Harris, DT, CHI – Injuries have wrecked what once was the best interior defensive lineman in the league. He is still a pro-bowl caliber player, and having Julius Peppers next to him will help ease the pressure on him to get just that, pressure.

155.) Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins – Although it still is in some ways reprehensible, his time away from the league has definitely helped him. Injury or not to his competition, but he’s shown that he can do it alone without Ronnie Brown.

154.) Carl Nicks, G, Saints – He has more pass-blocking skills than almost any other guard in the NFL. He is a key guy as no team relies on their interior lineman to pass protect more than the Saints.

153.) Brandon Flowers, CB, Chiefs – The Chiefs have made many drafting mistakes in recent years, but Flowers’ isn’t one. He has a chance to combine with Eric Berry in a premier S-CB tandem for a long time.

152.) John Carlson, TE, Seahawks – Injuries to his QBs have stunted his production, but he is, in many ways, the successor to Jason Witten, as a premier pass-catching and blocking TE.

151.) Bob Sanders, S, Colts – If he could just stay healthy, he could’ve been a hall-of-famer. Whatever he can give the Colts is now gravy, but the Colts know that the gravy is at least extremely tasty in Sanders’ case.

150.) Tanard Jackson, S, Buccaneers – He’s the neo-John Lynch. A ferocious hitter as well as athlete, Jackson is just another member of the new-Bucs, a team that will one day create a defense that will at least mimic the 1996-2002 Bucs.

149.) Mat Birk, C, Ravens – After heading over to the Ravens, many thought that he would take a step back as Hutchinson was no longer by his side. Instead he anchored one of the best o-lines in the game. He is getting a bit old, and probably will see some decline in 2010 if not injury.

148.) Winston Justice, T, Eagles – Enough cannot be said about the work Justice has put in. He used to be known as the guy who let Osi Umenyiora abuse him to the tune of 6 sacks, but now he is quietly one of the better RT in the game.

147.) Travhelle Wharton, G, Panthers – After doing great at LT last year after Gross’ injury, he will slide back to his more natural LG position, where he paced the league in 2008. There is a reason both Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams average 5.0 ypc.

146.) Steve Smith, WR, Giants – In a couple years, he probably will no longer be the “other Steve Smith”. However, the real Steve Smith wishes he had this one by his side. Smith is one of the better possession receivers, a neo-TJ Houshmanzadeh.

145.) Brian Urlacher, MLB, Bears – Age and injury concerns have taken some of the shine of the league’s most consistent defender of the 2000s, but Urlacher returns with a new toy in front of him, and newfound determination to win that ugly spat he had with Gale Sayers.

144.) Heath Miller, TE, Steelers – The Steelers don’t heavily throw to TEs, but you can tell that when the goal line approaches, Roethlisberger zeroes in on his TE with great hands.

143.) Calais Campbell, DT, Cardinals – He took some time to develop, but Campbell has restored the legacy of great D-Lineman from ‘The U’. He has great penetration, and playing across from Darnell Dockett makes him more important and more explosive.

142.) Jarrett Johnson, OLB, Ravens – The man who originally was Adalius Thomas’ replacement, has all but made people forget about his predecessor. He plays the run better than any previous Ravens OLB.

141.) Nick Collins, S, Packers – Has become a true ball-hawk, and although doesn’t have the coverage skills of an Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu, has a nose for the football and really thrives when the pass rush is working.

140.) Tamba Hali, DE, Chiefs – If only Glenn Dorsey could do anything, Hali would get even better. The numbers he has put up considering the Chiefs have been impotent in the pass rush otherwise, is amazing.

139.) Tyson Clabo, T, Falcons – He doesn’t protect Matt Ryan’s blindside, but is probably Ryan’s most trusted protector. There is also a reason the Falcons run over RT more than any other team in the NFL.

138.) London Fletcher, MLB, Redskins – He finally made the pro-bowl, ending one of the most amazing streaks in football. He was totally deserving as well. Age is a concern, as decline is almost assuredly opun him.

137.) DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles – He is arguably the top big-play wide receiver, but still has a tendency to disappear unless he can get a deep ball, and makes too many mental-mistakes in his routes.

136.) Vontae Davis, CB, Dolphins – He is slightly better than his sophomore counterpart Seth Smith, and Davis has the upside to become the next Champ Bailey type CB, one with great cover and ball skills.

135.) Ray Edwards, DE, Vikings – He is often overshadowed by his having three other pro-bowlers playing on the same defensive line, but if that divisional playoff against Dallas is any indication, he is ready to make a name for himself.

134.) Mike Patterson, DT, Eagles – He has seen players rotate again and again beside him, but continues to be a dominant interior presence, much like his predecessor Corey Simon. Doesn’t have the same pass-rushing ability, though.

133.) Kenny Phillips, S, Giants – After Troy Polamalu, there was no bigger defensive injury in 2009. His return allows the Giants to focus less on deep coverage, as he will be back there shadowing it all.

132.) Vernon Davis, TE, 49ers – After years of nothing but hype, Vernon exploded, becoming Alex Smith’s primary red-zone target. With Smith the definite starter, I see no reason why that should change. He is still just 26 years old.

131.) Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals – Has been one of the most consistent runners in the NFL over the past two years. His bulldog style works well with his o-line, and he consistently puts up 2-6 yards. Rarely gets huge plays, but rarely gets stuffed behind the line, which is equally important.

130.) Marques Colston, WR, Saints – Drew Brees’ top man may not have matched his insane numbers from 2006-2007, but he came back from an injury plagued 2008 to post another 1,000 yard season. As he is finally totally healthy, look for Brees to call his number even more.

129.) Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons – When you consider he was the first QB ever to post back-to-back winning seasons with the Falcons, even with playing a tough schedule and fighting a big-toe injury, and injuries to his #2 target, Matt Ryan is somehow underrated.

128.) Eric Weddle, S, Chargers – The Chargers drafted a lot of players from 2004-2007 that all seemingly made them the most talented team in the league. The defensive players selected have all been underwhelming, except for Weddle, who continues to be a mini-Polamalu.

127.) Tony Gonzalez, TE, Falcons – His age makes it hard to see him ever reaching the numbers he used to put up, but Gonzalez serves as a reliable safe option for Matt Ryan, and that is all a young QB can ask for.

126.) Barrett Ruud, MLB, Buccaneers – Derrick Brooks replacement hasn’t exactly replaced him fully (obviously), but his play continues to be high-level despite the turnover around him.

125.) Tony Brown, DT, Titans – Haynesworth’s direct replacement might not do what he did, but he is solid against the run, and can command blockers allowing the guys around him to rush the passer. Had huge shoes to fill, and has at least filled the soles.

124.) Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys – Like Sidney Rice above him, needs to do it for more than a year, but at least he was able to consistently put up numbers against good corners without many other targets for Romo to throw at.

123.) Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Steelers – In what is effectively going to be his second season, he has full faith in his team, who are, nicely for Rashard, going back to their running-game roots. The onus falls on him in the Ben-less first 4-6 games.

122.) Joshua Cribbs, RB, Browns – Obviously, his true worth is as a kick and punt returner. Thankfully, the Browns management is smarter than the Bears’, as they haven’t done to him what they did to Hester.

121.) Champ Bailey, CB, Broncos – He still has the ability of a top-10 corner, but is no longer top-5. The top-flight speed is no longer there at his age, but he is smarter than any other corner in the league.

120.) Gary Brackett, MLB, Colts – Always underrated, his presence for the Colts cannot be understated. He is the only LB in the Manning-era to warrant keeping, which says a lot about his ability and importance to the Colts defense.

119.) Eric Winston, T, Texans – There is a reason Matt Schaub finally stayed healthy, and it partly due to this man taking his level up a play up a couple of levels in 2009. He is young so he can continue to keep improving.

118.) Mike Jenkins, CB, Cowboys – Was underwhelming in 2008, but turned it around, taking the opponents’ top WR and for the most part, shutting them down. Still tries to pick off too many passes.

117.) Anquan Boldin, WR, Ravens – He will always have the injury concerns with the way he plays, and he was no longer necessary in Arizona, but he is the perfect safety valve for Joe Flacco.

116.) Jonathan Babineaux, DT, Falcons – He was a menace in 2009, pushing the pocket, and for the most part picking up the slack for the DE’s around him who all curiously fell off. He will be key for stopping the blockers advancing to Curtis Lofton behind him.

115.) Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers – His finish to the season was very impressive, moreso considering that DeAngelo Williams was out. Uses his blockers well, but doesn’t have the same explosiveness Williams does.

114.) Cullen Jenkins, DT, GB – Gets to slide outside, where he excelled before the switch to the 3-4. It remains to be seen if he can make that transition, but considering the rest of his teammates switched to the 3-4 quite well, and his talent in the 4-3, it is easy to think he will.

113.) Albert Haynesworth, DT, Redskins – For the money he was paid, and the commotion around him, his 2009 season was a disappointment, but he still put up good performance when healthy. He is much more hard-working that given credit for. Durability, as well as general happiness, is a concern.

112.) Quentin Mikell, S, Eagles – The eagles go through secondary’s like chain-smokers through Marlboro’s but Mikell has shown lasting power. His ability to help in run support makes the Jim Johnson defense work.

111.) Brandon Marshall, WR, Dolphins – He shouldn’t be higher, because he is not a vertical threat, and that is what Miami really needed, but his ability to be a great possession receiver is not understated. He will be Chad Henne’s best friend.

110.) Asante Samuel, CB, Eagles – As he grows older, he doesn’t become any more conservative. He still goes for way too many picks, which result in too many big plays given up, but considering only Ed Reed has had more INTs since 2003, I can’t blame him.

109.) Bobbie Williams, G, Bengals – The last remains of the 2005-2006 Bengals o-line that made Rudi into a 1,400 yard runner, Bobbie is doing the same for Cedric Benson. He also adds much needed pass-protection stability in a line that doesn’t always get it.

108.) Justin Smith, DE, 49ers – Since his move to SF, he has only gotten better. He works well with the players around him, and although his age is becoming a concern, when healthy he has a Allen-like motor.

107.) Shaun O’Hara, C, Giants – He has teamed with Chris Snee to give the Giants a consistent, healthy, dependable combination. He had a slight dropoff in play in 2009, but that only makes him very good, instead of excellent.

106.) Kris Jenkins, DT, Jets – The Jets did fine without him in 2009 after his injury, but there is no way he can nothing but help them. Durability is a major concern, but when healthy, he’s unblockable.

105.) Curtis Lofton, MLB, Falcons – The best player on a good young defense, Lofton is following Willis, Tatupy and Ryans into a collection of extremely talented 3-down middle line backers.

104.) Clay Matthews, OLB, Packers – If Cushing was known as a steroid user back in the original vote, then he’s probably the rookie of the year. He was a pass-rushing terror, although we must hope that he is a DeMarcus Ware in consistency, and not a Shawne Merriman.

103.) Jay Cutler, QB, Bears – I cannot justify putting him higher, even though I believe that his match with Mke Martz is perfect. In reality, he is nowhere near as bad as his performance in 2009, and with the continued development of Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashadu, his ascendance can come quickly.

102.) Stewart Bradley, MLB, Eagles – He was sorely missed in 2009 with an ACL tear, but he has 12 months to rehab, and has youth on his side. He is critical for the Eagles. A true tackle machine, the Eagles need his consistency in there to do what they do around him.

101.) Santonio Holmes, WR, Jets – It will be interesting to see what he does without a top-5 QB around him like he had in Ben. His ability to freelance with Ben was great, but it won’t be that easy with Sanchize.

Players 100-1 coming soon!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

LeBron: Dick to the Max

I thought it all along, but I never knew just how correct I was: LeBron James is a massive, uninhibited, arrogant, childish dick of a man. He’s a coward, he’s not a warrior, he’s not a champion. He’s not a fighter. He’s a dick, plain and simple.

This has nothing to do with the evil superteam that has now been created in Miami. Sure, they will be the most hated team in sports since the 2007 Patriots, and probably a relatively bigger villain since a basketball team will never be as hated as a football one. Miami is now enemy #1 in American sports. I don’t even totally think they are assured to win titles. Basketball still is a team sport, basketball teams still need player 4-12, and the Heat don’t have those. The Heat also have two players that have really done nothing in the playoffs. LeBron and Wade are way too similar, way too commanding of the ball, and frankly, LeBron has way too much of an ego to be subversive. Either way, LeBron can go out and fall and break his leg tomorrow and I won’t care at all.

LeBron James is a dick, because he is a coward, a fool, and a narcissistic schmuck. He is a coward because picking Miami is basically LeBron saying to the world, “I cannot win a title unless I have one of the three best players in the league on my team.” Even if this was true, LeBron admitting it is ridiculous. Michael Jordan, a guy who is so far above anything LeBron can or will do, would never have willingly gone and signed with Isiah Thomas’ Pistons, or Clyde Drexler’s Blazers when he couldn’t win titles. No, he would have bottled up the energy of playoff defeats and gone out and beat those guys on the head with a bat (he did just that). Kobe Bryant would never go play with D-Wade. LeBron is basically giving up the fight to build a champion together, taking the easy way out. He will never be known as the Greatest player now, because he will never win a champion without Wade on his side. Even if the Heat go out and win 4 titles, Wade will still have one more ring, and one he won without LeBron and with as much (or little depending on how you look at it) talent as LeBron has had in Cleveland these past two years.

LeBron is a fool because he thinks that people love this shit he pulled. He has no idea because all the King does is surround himself with yes-men who fellate him regularly. He thinks everyone loves him, and maybe that was true to a point previously (people like me and others saw through his lovable front he tried to push past us all), but no more. He is also a hated player now. He has gone past Kobe, or A-Rod or Belichick, he is now the biggest sports villain in America. LeBron is a fool if he thinks this will grow his brand. His brand would have been the same had he gone anywhere. The only thing this can grow is Dwayne Wade’s brand.

LeBron is a narcissistic schmuck because of that very same brand. Someone needs to go to LeBron and piss on his face until he understands that he is an ATHLETE. He is not a businessman. Because if he was, he would understand how painfully bad this whole sharade came off, and he would have cancelled his trainwreck of a show. He is not a mogul, he is not an entertainer (he is painfully unfunny when he tries to be funny, and his antics seem so much more forced now), he is a fucking athlete. I hope to God he never becomes a billionaire, because honestly, if you are an athlete and you make a billion dollars, then earn that money by playing your fucking sport. Not by conning the world into believing you are a caring, happy-go-lucky guy. He is more of a narcissistic fuck by having this whole show. Sure, Dwayne Wade had people come and court him, but when he finally settled on staying, there was no show, there was no big fanfare, there was no one-hour special.

LeBron decided to make a huge spectacle of this, decided to make the whole world stop and glue their eyes to the TV and watch this attention-whore make a decision. When Michael came back, he said just that: “I’m Back.” No big show, no interview with Jim Gray, no cahoots with ESPN, and no faux show for his sponsors. When Tim Duncan (a player that is still above LeBron on the career totem pole, and took times half as talented as the 2009 and 2010 Cavs to championships) decided to stay in San Antonio, there was nothing but a phone call to Gregg Popovich saying “I’m ready to go back to work.” LeBron doesn’t want to work, he wants the world to give him babies to kiss and money to launder and ads to promote. LeBron wants the glory, he doesn’t want to work.

LeBron James has now ruined his legacy forever. People will never view him the same way. We all thought he was an arrogant prick when he scheduled this primetime show, and that was even before he decided to cop-out and go to Miami. LeBron James is such a dick, he’s made Dwayne Wade into a bad person, while he deserves so much more. LeBron James is such a fraud. People want to say that he went to Miami because he really wants to win. Sure, he wants to win, but not because he wants to be called a champion, but because he wants to win one because it will increase that brand value of his. LeBron is just a marketing puppet now. It is hard to take someone like him seriously. I hated the throw chalk into the air and dance around like a jackass during meaningless regular season LeBron. I hated the give up in the second round of the playoffs and walk off the field looking completely content and go out and blame your teammates when great players have won with talent just as bad LeBron. But that hate is nothing like it is to give up on trying to win by myself and think only of myself and my insecurities, and decide to take a deuce on the world by going to Miami LeBron. That’s the worst LeBron of all.

To finalize, LeBron is a dick. LeBron is a coward for running away from the challenge of winning himself. LeBron is a fool because he thinks the true reception he will get from the world is unending adoration instead of the reviled contempt that the world now has for him. LeBron is a narcissistic fuck for making this whole thing about him, and by thinking that he is bigger than basketball, something that if it did not exist LeBron would probably be working at Macy’s. LeBron should go take a good look at what he’s done to himself, because God knows we have, and what we see now is the most reviled dick of an athlete in recent memory.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Story of the Year: 2007

The Patriots Act

A perfect storm is an often used cliché. It is used for, sparingly, actual storms, but mostly for any disaster that was most likely not a perfect storm, but it seems either more interesting or more defensible if it was some ‘perfect storm’ brewed from nature like a potion. The use of the phrase is now so common that never does anyone even question its use. True perfect storms are rare, powerful and destructive. Perfect storms come around once or twice a decade in reality, like the Indian Ocean Tsunami/Earthquake. That was a perfect storm. The Credit Market collapse that ruined the economy worldwide, that was not a perfect storm. Hurricane Katrina, that was a perfect storm. The recent BP oil spill, that was not. The 2007 New England Patriots taping video signals and that blowing up in their face, causing scorn and hatred which was retaliated by the most vengeful team in sports history, which finally ended poetically with a great upset, all of those things which never would have happened if the perpetrator’s right hand man with inside knowledge decided not to turn him in after a hissy fit after an embarrassing loss, that was a perfect storm.

There was no team more interesting, more polarizing, more ashamed, more vengeful, more hailed, more hated and more popular than the 2007 New England Patriots, and all of it had to do with silly video signals. There was a tyrannical team that was caught as a team form of a criminal. The team was led by a dictator of a man, shrouded in mystery. Instead of accepting their punishment, they terrorized the rest of their peers week after week, somehow turning it around and placing the blame on everyone else. They showed no remorse, beating the strong until they were down, killing the weak while they were. Not until a team from the Gotham of New York City came to fight them with the Batman of Eli Manning, and his (helmeted)sidekick Robin named David Tyree, was the tyrant stopped, but until then no one complained, just watched in amazement. The Patriots were that tyrant, but more than that, they were THE tyrant. At a time when villains and heroes are doing battle in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Patriots become enemy #1 as well as exhibit #1 of greatness in team sports. All the talking heads had something to say, from those on sports radio to those on Capitol Hill. Everyone wondered, “How much did they cheat?”, “Were they punished enough?”, “Why are the Patriots acting like the victim?”, and most importantly, “Can Anyone beat that F**king team?!?!”

It started in Week 1 of the 2007 season, near the end of the Patriots rather routine 38-14 win over the New York Jets. The Jets were not a very good team, so that score was not that ridiculous (at least compared to what was to come). Eric Mangini claimed that the Patriots were illegally taping the defensive signals of the Jets, which was clearly against the rules. Mangini was correct, and he knew this since he knew the Patriots were taping signals throughout his time in New England as well. The Patriots were not forced to forfeit that game (what would have been a fair punishment), and for a day it did not seem like that big of a story. Most people thought that like in baseball, sign stealing was not that big of a deal, was not going to be punished that severely, and that the season would go on like normal. However, by the next Tuesday, it became obvious how wrong this was, and that the 2007 Season would not be like any other in recent memory.

On Tuesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell levied his penalty. Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, a hoodied, mysterious genius of a coach, was to be fined 500,000 dollars, the most ever levied to any one coach (or even player), and the team would be docked their first round pick in the 2008 draft. Some said this was too much, some said that this was not enough, some stupidly called for the Patriots’ three Super Bowl Titles in 2001, 2003 and 2004 to be stripped. Of course, Roger Goodell smartly did not listen to this polarized outcry, but he, stupidly, burned the video tapes that the league confiscated from the Patriots, burning the lasting evidence to the severity of the crime, and burning away the remains of the tape-stealing story. Roger Goodell would have loved for his burning of the tapes to end all discussion of Spygate, as the incident was unoriginally coined, but he was wrong. It was just starting, and the Patriots would be taking center stage.

LaDainian Tomlinson, the future Hall of Fame running back, was not a fan of Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ work. In fact, he hated their work and he hated them especially after they celebrated on the Chargers field after winning a playoff game the previous January. He was delighted by the public shame that the Patriots action had garnered them, and he used this opportunity to join various other NFL Players and coaches, both current and past, to voice his displeasure with the Patriots and their Spygate-ing ways. “The Patriots follow the motto, ‘if you’re not cheatin’, you’re not tryin’” he said in an interview. The Chargers and Patriots were scheduled to play that Sunday night in Foxboro, MA, in a early-season litmus test for both, which is why these words were so meaningful. For years the Patriots were known as a team who used this “bulletin board material” to inspire their performances, but this was usually used to inspire their defense. This taunt from Tomlinson was pointed at the team. Everyone’s taunts and jabs were pointed at the team. It was unofficial ‘Bash on the Pats’ week in the NFL, and everyone was happy to oblige. The Patriots, although 100% guilty of what they were accused of doing, had enough of this most public celebration by the rest of the league on their demise. They fueled the numerous taunts, and questions and insults into something special, so special it would captivate the nation and turn the fall and winter’s most watched TV program into “New England Patriots Games.”

The Patriots, mad at what Tomlinson and everyone else (like Coach Jeff Fisher, Terry Bradshaw, Tom Jackson, Merrill Hodge and more) said, drummed the Chargers 38-14 (up 24-7 at the half). They destroyed the team that many saw as the best in the AFC, and did it on National Television. At the end of the game, each Patriots player took time to hug their coach and leader, the man who was $500,000 lighter in the jeans pocket than he was just seven days earlier. Most people around the nation thought they saw an inspired performance by a great team. What they didn’t realize was that the fun, at least for the Patriots, was just beginning, and that the Chargers weren’t the focus, everyone was.

The Patriots, fueled by the taunts of the teams around the league, score 38, 34, 34, 48, 49 and 52 points in the next six games. It was the most amazing sight in football history. They were simply ruthless. Tom Brady, a QB that was hailed as the next Joe Montana, was finally putting up the stats that everyone wondered if he could ever put up. He had a perfect receiving corp, with Randy Moss, who was fired up to show the league that his stint in Oakland was a mirage and the real Moss was still there, Wes Welker, who was fired up to show the league that he was not a type-cast “white” receiver, and that he could be great, Donte’ Stallworth, who was fired up to show the league that he was not to blame for his being on three different teams in three years, and great offensive line, who was fired up to show the league just what pass-protection looks like. Of course, everyone was fired up to show the league that stealing signals had nothing to do with their 3 Super Bowl Titles. It was proof by execution. “Surely the signals that we taped meant nothing if we are setting offensive records here!” they were saying to the league. Of course, this polarized the nation on the Patriots even more. There were the people who love greatness, love perfection, and they were ebullient to see offense being played at a level it never was before. Then, there were all the people who lauded sportsmanship, and saw the Patriots Revenge Act as bad natured when they humiliated teams. Of course, this lead to controversy number two, running-up the score.

There has always been a code among sportsmen, a code that is rarely broken. It says that when one team is comfortably ahead, assured of victory, that that team would stop running all ten cylinders and dial everything down, basically go through the motions until the clocks showed zero. The Patriots, however, knew of no such gentleman’s agreement (or as Tomlinson, I’m sure, would agree, they knew of the agreement, but the Patriots weren’t gentleman). They threw when up 42-21 in the fourth quarter. Lord knows, they threw on 4th down up 45-7 against Washington. They threw and threw and threw. They always had to get one last touchdown in, one last “eff-you” TD, as Bill Simmons called it, just to show that team that first, the torture was not over yet, and that the Pats are just that dominant. The fact that they did this to Joe Gibbs, one of the few men who could claim to be Bill Belichick’s equal as a head coach, made it worse. The Patriots were, seemingly, intentionally running up the score on teams that had no chance to stop them anyway. It was horrible, unjust and ugly, and of course, great, great television.

The Patriots were suddenly America’s villain, and of course, everyone had to check out the villain. Even people that had no idea what sports were, and who Bill Belichick was, and certainly not if stealing signals had any real effect on the game, had to check in. Everyone has to be witness to the perfect storm. The Patriots, for one season at least, became America’s team. Patriots’ games were the 5-highest rated TV events of that TV season. The Patriots-Chargers, Patriots-Cowboys, Patriots-Colts, Patriots-Chargers Championship Game, and Super Bowl XLII (Patriots-Giants) all garnered more viewers than any other single TV program that TV season. American Idol was no longer the best reality show. That was the Patriots. Would they run it up? Would they hit 70? Would Tom Brady throw 6 tds? Would Belichick shake the opposing coach’s hand? These were the new question’s in TV. And of course, that same old one: “Can anyone beat that F**king team?!?!”

The chase for perfection was what made the 2007 Patriots the perfect storm. Not only did they break the rules in a manner that was probably more egregious than any football team in the NFL’s history, not only did they run up the score in a smug fashion and play with a hauntingly funny outward arrogance, and not only were they on pace to shatter nearly every record in the books on offense, but they were yet to lose a game. Never has the “Is this team going to go undefeated” asked any earlier than it was with the Pats. Because they were winning games by 24, 24, 31, 17, 21, 21, 21, 45 points for the first eight games, there seemed to not even be a team that could play with them, let alone beat them. The madness reached its height when before their Week 9 matchup against the Colts, the Patriots were favored by 6 points. The Patriots were playing in Indianapolis, against the defending champion Colts who were 8-0 and won their last two games by the combined score of 60-14, and the Patriots were nearly touchdown favorites, and no one could argue. The Patriots managed a tight win, coming back from 20-10 down in the 4th quarter. Sure, the Patriots won the game, but at least the Colts showed that the Pats were beatable, and maybe the revenge that they were levying against the rest of the league had an expiry date.

The Pats offense slowed, but the wins did not. It culminated in a Week 13 game agat the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens, 4-7 at the time, were not supposed to be any match, but their defense, the heart and soul of their team, was finally healthy, and playing for their fallen College comrade Sean Taylor. On a windy Monday Night, Baltimore played inspired. Tom Brady barely completed half his passes, and with 2 minutes to go, the Patriots, who had sputtered all night, were down by 4. However, like they did every single one of the first 18 games they played, the Patriots made every play late. It was not the “eff-you” TD but the “Thank-God!!” TD. The Patriots, just like they did in a 31-28 win over the Eagles the week before, escaped with a win. Sure, the Patriots that dropped 48, 49, 52 and 56 points in four games in six weeks were gone, but the ones that win were not, and entering the playoffs at 16-0, the season that started, and in all reality kickstarted, by Spygate, by fines and lost draft picks, by scorn and rage, by taunts and insults, was three weeks away from ending in the most unlikely way, with a 19-0 record.

The Patriots efficiently, if not listlessly, rolled through two playoff games, setting up a rematch against the Giants, the team that barely lost to the Patriots 38-35 four weeks earlier. They were not supposed to be any match for the Patriots and their record setting offense. In between the day Spygate started, and their cap to a 16-0 season, the Patriots scored 589 points, beating the old record by 33. Tom Brady threw 50 tds (to just 8 ints), to barely beat Peyton Manning’s 49 he threw three seasons earlier. Randy Moss caught 23 td passes, again barely beating Jerry Rice’s 1987 record of 22 (it should be noted Jerry did his 22 in only 13 games, as it should be noted Brady threw 81 more passes than Manning did in 2004, because the Colts did not run up scores). The Patriots set records everywhere, but the one they really wanted, and would really shut up all the idiots who claimed that the league should strip their earlier titles, was the Super Bowl, and that record for most wins in a season with 19. All of those earlier records could be broken one day. The 19-0 never will. They will live on forever, just like the 1972 Dolphins did and continue to do. The Patriots knew this, and knew that this was the perfect way to end the storm that started five months earlier in Giants Stadium (irony there) where they were caught filming signals.

Of course, the Sports God’s had different ideas. In what was mistakenly called a perfect storm of a game by the Giants, the Patriots fell, somehow. For a team that had once scored 42 points before halftime, they were awful, outdone by a defensive line that simply played better. The Giants simply played better. Sure, luck was involved. If Asante Samuel caught that interception, the Pats would have won. Sure, if Eli Manning didn’t escape the sack or if David Tyree didn’t spontaneously use his helmet as a bar to catch a pass, the Patriots most likely would have one (if Tyree dropped it, it would have been 4th and 5 with 1 minute to go, not exactly over). However, the Patriots know better than anyone that “if” is a dangerous proposition. The best NFL franchise of the decade had made a fortune of banking on “If”s that didn’t turn out. “If Drew Bledsoe never sheared that blood vessel”, “If Walt Coleman didn’t inexplicably overturn Brady’s fumble”, “If the Rams learned to hold onto the ball”, “If Drew Bennett didn’t drop that fourth down pass”, “If the Panthers never went for two”, and “If the Eagles knew how to run a hurry-up offense.” If any of these “if”s didn’t happen, the Patriots dynasty doesn’t happen. “If”s are a part of life, and the biggest “if” for the 2007 Patriots was a different one, “What if Eric Mangini decided to keep his damn mouth shut.”

Eric Mangini’s double-crossing expose of the Patriots signal-stealing was the first step to creating a monster. The Patriots were so motivated by the taunts and insults launched at them after Spygate was exposed that they took it out and layed waste to the rest of the league for 18 weeks. Sure, the Patriots were a mightily talented team, with great weapons on offense and a savvy, good defense, but as we know from what happened when the momentum from the revenge for Spygate wore off sometime around the Colts and Eagles games in Weeks 9 and 12, the Patriots weren’t insanely better than the rest of the league. The Patriots played close games in the 4th quarter in Wins #9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 17, 18 and in Loss #1. But it was Wins #1-8 and 10 that made the Patriots of 2007 the most analyzed and watch team of the decade, and what made Spygate and the Patriots subsequent chase of perfection one of the stories of the decade. When the Patriots were at their ruthless best, nothing else in sports really mattered. That years Red Sox World Series Title was totally overshadowed. The death of Sean Taylor was overshadowed. Everything happening in the world was overshadowed. The Patriots were the sports story, the news story and the gossip story. The Patriots were the story.

There never will be another perfect storm in sports like the 2007 New England Patriots again. First, there never will be another Spygate. For the first two weeks of its aftermath, it had giant-sized legs. People were bringing up all different types of alleged shady business that went on in Foxboro. People clamored for the Patriots titles to be stripped. Senators asked for congress to review the NFL saying that by destroying the videotapes the NFL was covering evidence that might show the league was unfair. Even the Matt Walsh fake story of the Patriots allegedly taping the Rams walkthrough had legs (I’ll have to admit, if that story was true, I believe stripping the Patriots of the 2001 Title might be reasonable). Then, there will never be another team that can use Spygate as the gasoline to spark that size of a sports’ inferno. The Patriots already had revenge and redemption on their mind after blowing a 21-3 lead in the 2006 AFC Championship Game. The failings in that game led to the Patriots bringing in Stallworth, Welker and Moss, which even without the extra-motivation from Spygate would have made for a dangerous offense, but when the energy from Spygate was added, it turned into arguably the greatest offense of all time (I’ll still take the Greatest Show on Turf, version 2000). Finally, add in a chase for perfection and you have the perfect football storm. That led to hundreds of hours spent on that old question, “Can Anyone Beat this F**king Team?!?!”

Monday, July 5, 2010

Semifinals Breakdown and Predictions

So far, I have been locked in in both Football and futbol playoffs. 6 for 6 in the divisional round and championship games back in January, and so far 4 for 4 in the World Cup. Anyway, before we get to the games, here are a couple World Cup thoughts.

= We still have not seen a great game. Uruguay - Ghana was the closest thing, however the wild ending and the fact that it was 'Uruguay' and 'Ghana' will cloud it 20 years from now. The football in that game was open, attacking and entertaining, but the fact that it is, again, 'Uruguay' and 'Ghana' will probably make the games lost as time goes on. Germany - Argentina was probably the most entertaining from a schadenfreude perspective, as it was fun to see Maradona's cocky team get plasted, but again, not a great game. There is a chance with the Germany-Spain game and then the Final, assuming Holland gets through, so there is still time.

= I guess South America isn't the dominating football force ESPN thought it was. After losing just one game in the group stage, and actually putting more teams through to the quarterfinals than Europe (4 - an all time high for South America - to 3 - an all time low for Europe), the three remaining European teams all knocked out their South American foes, and the only remaining one needed a guy to miss a penalty kick to be here. In football, it is still the Europeans world.

= So much for Leo Messi. He had a nice tournament, but nice isn't good enough when you are supposed to be the best player in the World. He didn't have to go at it singlehandidly, with splendid attacking talent throughout the roster, and still didn't make a dent. The all-time stars are made in the World Cup. Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, Beckenbauer, Zidane, the five in the pantheon, all scored goals, all played in World Cup finals, and with the exception of Cruyff who looking back lost to a loaded West Germany team, all won a World Cup. Messi is still young, but realistically, he has one World Cup left to show us something. He's not the type of player who will age well, and he will be 31 in 2018, so it is 2014 or bust. He wasn't as bad as Kaka, or Rooney or Ronaldo (who was the only one of the 'big 4' who managed to score a goal), but still, he was not the best player on his team, let alone in the World. He better hope that Holland doesn't win the World Cup, because Wesley Sniejder is closing in on that FIFA Player of the Year award (it almost always is swayed largely by World Cup performance in World Cup years).

= Coaching does matter, I guess. The two most polarizing coaches were Dunga and Maradona. The were questioned coming in, and then proceeded to sweep to the quarterfinals without much adversity. That led to both of them jawing out the media, the Germans and really the fans (in Dunga's case). Of course, as Europe and Bastian Schweinsteger showed, you better back up your talk. After the dust settles, both Dunga and Maradona inherited teams that lost in the Quarterfinals to European teams, and both ended their run in the quarterfinals against European teams. Net gain: Abso-fucking-lutely nothing.

Anyway, let's get to the games.

Netherlands vs Uruguay

Holland is back in the semifinals for the first time since 1998. Considering Uruguay has actually, you know, won this competition before, it is staggering it has been 40 years since they have made the last 4. This looked to be a one-sided matchup before Luis Suarez' red card. After, it is all pointing towards the Dutch. Suarez was the key player. He was the guy that really allowed Uruguay to keep most of their players back to stifle their opponent, as he, Carvani and Forlan proved strong enough to go at the opposition alone. His absence, deserved because of his blatant hand-ball, will really cripple the Uruguayans chances.

As for those Dutch, they, as well as Spain, are poster-childs for the theory of "Win and Advance". Both Spain and Netherlands entered this tournament promoting free, attacking soccer. They both have failed to deliver on that respect, but have both delivered their fans a different kind of joy: backing a winner. Sneijder's first goal was a wiff by the usually brilliant Julio Cesar. Spain's goal was aided by three posts. Whatever, doesn't matter, they are both still playing. The Dutch will also miss some key players, as both Nigel De Jong and Gregory Van der Weil will miss the semis due to 2 accumulated yellow cards. That is a shame, but luckily for them, as they are a holding midfielder and a defender, respectively, Uruguay's best striker decided to go and get him suspended for the game as well.

The key matchup here is how Uruguay's defense contains the Robben and Sneijder pair. Those two have been really the only Dutchmen on the field, as they have played the usual Dutch football to a tee. Uruguay has been able to contain some very good players so far, but this will be their sternest test. Wesley Sneijder might just be the best player on the planet right now (David Villa is close), however there is one guy who can answer to Sneijder, and really to Holland in general: Diego Forlan.

That man, to me, has had the best World Cup of any player, and has the singular ability to score from anywhere on the field. He will really miss Suarez up top to drag away defenders, but he has the shot to make any amount of defenders potentially negligible, and as Holland proved on Robinho's goal, their defense is not all that organized. I would think that Forlan, in what is the biggest game for his country in about 60 years, will come to play.

In the end, Holland is just too good, and on too good of a karmic form, to drop this game. Really, they should be playing Ghana, who probably would win the karma battle, but Uruguay will be so hated by the crowd in the semifinal (because of what was perceived as a dirty play by Suarez that led to Africa's demise - it wasn't, since if Asamoah Gyan just hit his penalty, it wouldn't have mattered), that Holland will almost be like an adopted African nation. Plus, they are due. They really are. After another dramatic flameout in Euro 2008, all the dutch were probably thinking, "Here we go again" when Holland fell behind in the ninth minute, but that wasn't a usual soft team. That Holland against Brazil resembled their hated rivals, Germany, in their mental resolve. Plus, since 1990, either Brazil, or the team that beat Brazil has made the final.
Netherlands 3 Uruguay 1

Spain vs Germany

This has a chance to rival Germany's thrilling semifinal loss to Italy (yes, those two teams can combine to play some fucking dramatic games - including the 1970 semifinal which entered extra time at 1-1, and left it at 4-3). These two teams were the best in Europe in 2008, when Spain beat Germany 1-0 in the Euro 2008 Final, and they are probably the best still today. Germany has a shot at revenge, and Spain has a shot to beat Europe's biggest acheiver to shed the label as Europe's biggest underacheiver. Again, the key here is Spain.

I still believe, regardless how this game goes or even if Spain wins the World Cup, that Vicente Del Bosque screwed up. He should not have sat David Villa in favor of Sergio Busquets. The reason he did so was to put another holding midfielder to shore up the Spanish defense, but that is pure garbage Spain's offense and possesion control is its defense. In Euro 2008, Spain played one holding midfielder, Marcos Senna, and played David Silva, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez in front. With Silva acting as a deadly winger, they were able to play David Villa up top and play a true two-striker formation, which was deadly. Spain still technically plays a 4-4-2, but it is really a 4-5-1 (or more accurately a 4-4-1-1), with David Villa playing a wing. Him playing a wing has really cut off the distribution to Fernando Torres. Torres isn't fit from end of season knee surgery, but the real problem is Spain just cannot get him the ball because he is on an island, and Villa who drops down is a far easier option. Villa needs Torres up top, but Torres doesn't need Villa there. Truthfully, Spain was at its best in the Final when Villa was hurt. They are at their best playing a true 4-5-1, with either Villa or Torres up top (though Torres is more used to being a lone striker), but either way, Vicente Del Bosque cannot sit Torres for this game.

Torres has to play, he's a big game player. He only scored one goal in the Euro 2008, and that was the only goal in the Final against Germany, where he outran and outmuscled the German dfense singlehandidly to a ball and curled it around Jens Lehmann. He has a great record at Liverpool of scoring against the other big three. He has the pysicality to play against the physical German defense. Del Bosque cannot give into the pressure of sitting him, especially if he is just replacing him with Llorente (it is more understandable if he's putting in Fabregas instead). He comes up big for Liverpool, and he came up huge for Spain in 2008. He should start.

As for their Germans, their ability to counter Spanish talent with their own talent will finally allow the Spanish game to open up. The Germans won't play nine behind the ball, eight in the box defense like Paraguay, or Switzerland or Honduras before them against Spain, because they don't have to. Plus, the German defense is more about ball pressure. The Germans will probably not be able to counter-attack as well as they did against Argentina, because of Spain's ability to play offense without overcommitting men forward. However, the Germans are the Germans, and both Klose and Podolski, like they always do, have been outstanding. Also, in Bastian Schweinsteger, Spain finally meets a player with the ability to take over a game without scoring, much like their own duo of Iniesta and Xavi. Schweinsteger is not Cristiano Ronaldo or Messi. No. He is Germany's Wesley Sneijder, or more accurately, the Germans' version of Andrea Pirlo for the Italian team in 2006. He has the ability to push forward, and keep Xabi Alonso, and most likely, Busquets back. This really is a fascinating mixture of two great teams. This has the chance to be a classic, a real classic, and I think it will be.

Spain 2* Germany 1 (* - in extra time)

About Me

I am a man who will go by the moniker dmstorm22, or StormyD, but not really StormyD. I'll talk about sports, mainly football, sometimes TV, sometimes other random things, sometimes even bring out some lists (a lot, lot, lot of lists). Enjoy.