By Sex Panther
As we approach Thanksgiving—the point where real football starts to get played in the NFL—the contenders will separate themselves from the pretenders and a few unexpected teams will go on the patented late season runs to become Super Bowl dark horses. We might once again see a vintage Tom Brady-Peyton Manning race for the playoff bye opposite the Texans in the AFC, coupled with a similar NFC battle among the Bears, Packers, Giants, and 49ers. That is, barring the annual wilting of the Falcons, and Matt Ryan comparisons to Tony Romo rather than Aaron Rodgers.
The Midseason All-Pro Team
I’ve take a more avant-garde approach to this exercise, breaking players down by position groups or actual functionality rather than the rigid sets used by most pundits. We know the game has changed and nobody plays traditional pro set offense or base defense anymore, so why grade that way? As for positional groupings, it’s very hard for one player to succeed independent of a scheme or strong grouping, so I’ve used groupings but left spots for essential roles (elite pass rusher, cover corner, slot pass/run defender, cover linebacker, big defensive hitter/thumper).
Competition was tightest at QB, #1 WR, Cover Corner, and Edge Rusher. Whenever you have to leave Matt Ryan, Victor Cruz, Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Charles Tillman, Aldon Smith, and Jason Pierre Paul off your all pro teams, you know that the position is stacked. In contrast, the TE position was really a two player competition, as was the Lightning RB. Slot Coverage and Cover Backer are two positions that are still somewhat evolving, and on the elite defenses are the ones with solid play there. When rating offensive lines, I also intentionally discounted teams whose QB is capable of making elite pre-snap judgments at an elite level; I wanted to reflect the play of the line rather than the brilliance of their quarterback. That’s why you don’t see the highly rated Broncos, Patriots, or Giants lines here. I doubt those lines would be top 10 with Matt Schaub or Alex Smith behind them.
|Position/Group||1st Team||2nd Team||3rd Team|
|QB||Peyton Manning||Aaron Rodgers||Tom Brady|
|#1 WR||AJ Green||Roddy White||Demaryious Thomas|
|Possession/Slot WR||Wes Welker||Percy Harvin||Eric Decker|
|Thunder RB||Adrian Peterson||Arian Foster||Frank Gore|
|Lightning RB||CJ Spiller||Jamaal Charles||Darren Sproles|
|TE||Rob Gronkowski||Tony Gonzalez||Jimmy Graham|
|Cover Corner||Tim Jennings||Richard Sherman||Patrick Peterson|
|Slot Coverage||Glover Quinn||Ryan Clark||Marcus Trufant|
|Edge Rusher (DE/OLB)||Clay Matthews||DeMarcus Ware||Von Miller|
|Cover Backer||Paul Posluszny||Daryl Washington||Karlos Dansby|
|Thumper (LB)||Brandon Spikes||Patrick Willis||Derrick Johnson|
Season Ending Awards
MVP: Peyton Manning
Offensive POY: Aaron Rodgers
Defensive POY: JJ Watt
Rookie of the Year: Andrew Luck
Coach of the Year—Progress: Pete Carroll, Greg Schiano, Joe Philbin
Coach of the Year—Sustained Excellence: John Harbaugh, Bill Belichick, Jim Harbaugh
- The NFC playoff teams will be 1. 49ers 2. Falcons 3. Packers 4. Giants 5. Bears 6. Seahawks
- The AFC Playoff teams will be: 1.Texans 2. Patriots 3. Broncos 4. Ravens 5. Steelers 6. Colts
- The Packers will beat the Giants in the NFC Championship
- The Patriots will beat the Steelers in the AFC Championship
- The Packers will beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl
- Norv Turner, Rex Ryan, Romeo Crenell, Scott Pioli, Andy Reid, and Jason Garrett will get fired at the end of the season
- Mike Vick, Tony Romo, Christian Ponder, Mark Sanchez, Blaine Gabbert, and Matt Cassel will lose their starting jobs for next season.
- The Chiefs will get the #1 pick.
- A fringe contender (Cowboys, Vikings, Cardinals, Bills) will make a godfather offer for Phillip Rivers.
- Jon Gruden will return to coaching in the NFL.