Oh, Thursday Night Football. It really brings out the worst from good teams on such a short week of preparation. Last night, the Atlanta Falcons headed to NOLA on a five game winning streak and — aside from Devonta Freeman — played a terrible game. Why can’t they solve the riddle of The Benz?
This past Monday Night Football pitted the New Orleans Saints against the Baltimore Ravens. What we saw was more of the same. The Saints horrendously hole-y defense couldn’t keep the other team from outscoring their potent offense. It was also yet another night that Drew Brees went off, as he tossed the pigskin for 420 yards and three touchdowns at an amazing 77-percent rate.
It was just another night for Drew Brees. Poor, poor Drew Brees. What amazes me most about Brees is how unheralded of a quarterback he seems to be. I know, I know, Brees is the savior of New Orleans, lifting them up to new heights in a time when they sorely needed it. And Brees is one of the most beloved and stand-up players in all of the NFL. He is also, however, very rarely brought up when the discussion arises about who is the Greatest QB of All Time?
Brees suffers from what I like to call the Michael Jordan Syndrome. Jordan was the King of the NBA for 13 seasons from the mid-80s to the late 90s. During that time, some of the greatest players to suit up were on the court lighting up box scores for decades. Names like Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and (as much as it pains me to say it) Patrick Ewing were playing second fiddle to His Airness. If you took Jordan out of the picture, these guys, amongst a bevy of others, all would have had more MVP Awards, probably a few more scoring titles and certainly more championships than the combined zero they accumulated during Jordan’s reign. That doesn’t make them any less part of the all-time NBA greats, but it clearly has removed them from any consideration for the G.O.A.T.
The same could be said for Brees. Throughout his entire career, he has seemed to be on the outside looking in amongst the league’s great quarterbacks. Brees’ career started off slowly with San Diego, but you wouldn’t even know he existed because the eyes of the NFL universe were watching Brett Favre break records and this young Peyton Manning kid come into his own. Then a certain Tom Brady stepped in for an injured Drew Bledsoe and the conversation of the best quarterback in football became a yearly battle between Brady and Manning. Then, Favre left Green Bay and this Aaron Rodgers kid blew up on the scene and Brees seemingly took yet another step back.
But why? Evaluate the numbers alone. There have been only 8, EIGHT, 5000-yard passing seasons in NFL history. Fifty percent of those belong to Brees, including the last three years in a row. He currently has 3,491 yards passing on the 2014 season. That’s an average of 317 yards per game and with five games left on the schedule, that puts him at 5,076 yards passing on the season. That’s four seasons in a row and over 20,000 yards passing in four years. That’s an entire career for a lot of quarterbacks! I know what you’re going to say: it’s a different NFL as it is now a passing league. That’s fine and all, but Brees has never fallen off and has clearly defined this passing age of football.
Brees is currently Top Five all-time in passes completed and attempted as well as passing yards and touchdowns. He has the seventh highest QB rating of all time as well. When you discuss statistical passing leaders, his name is in the same breath as Manning, Brady, Favre and Dan Marino, yet when the best QB conversation is mentioned, those four are usually brought up and Brees is not.
Again, I have to ask why? The knock against Marino was that he never won a championship, but he also did things through the air at a time when other quarterbacks stood by in awe. Well, Brees has one of those. By any chance, do you remember who he beat? True, you can make the argument that Brees doesn’t have any MVP Awards, but he does have a Super Bowl MVP Award. He also has a Comeback Player of the Year Award and TWO AP Offensive Player of the Year Awards. The 2009 season in which Brees led the Saints to the Super Bowl, he couldn’t even muster the MVP. Know why? Manning was wrapping up his fourth.
Brees, like Marino, has a lot of excuses that could be made due to circumstances out of their control. Since Brees has come to New Orleans, like Marino, he has never had a reliable running game. Like Marino, he never had Hall of Fame receivers. They have both had very good receivers that they have made great. Seriously, you think Marques Colston is a number one receiver on any other team in the NFL? Robert Meachem? Devery Henderson? Lance Moore? Hell, Lance Moore can’t even get on the field in Pittsburgh behind two rookies and Meachem failed so badly when he left New Orleans, San Diego sent him back! Brady, on the other hand, was a clutch, game-managing QB until he broke records throwing to Randy Moss, who is one of the greatest receivers ever. Montana had the luxury of throwing to Jerry Rice who made Rich “The Cannon” Gannon (Go Blue Hens!) an NFL MVP. Manning? He has thrown the ball to two sure-fire Hall of Famers and probably two or three more along the way (Dallas Clark, Wes Welker and Demaryius Thomas all present possibilities). Elway was 0-for-3 in Super Bowls until the best running back of the late-90s and possibly the greatest tight end of all time came along. That doesn’t take anything away from the greatness of those quarterbacks, but it certainly helps.
Most of the places you look, whether it is an NFL Films piece, a horribly executed ESPN Top Five or anywhere on the glorious internet, when it comes down to greatest QBs of all time, the argument usually revolves around Manning, Brady, Favre, Marino, John Elway, Joe Montana and Unitas. Most Top Ten lists don’t even mention Brees, throwing the likes of Fran Tarkenton, Warren Moon, Steve Young, Jim Kelly, Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw into the mix. I’m not taking anything away from any of those guys (well maybe Bradshaw. Go ahead look at his numbers, talk about being in the right place at the right time and taking all of the glory). I’m not saying that they aren’t deserving. All I am saying is that it is time to give serious consideration to Drew Brees as the G.O.A.T of NFL QBs.
Week three proved to be yet another exciting one in the 2014 NFL season. The undefeateds lost more than half of their prestigious club as four teams dropped to 2-1 while only three moved on to 3-0. The Eagles, Bengals and Arizona Cardinals are all that’s left in the NFL that are undefeated. I am sure that is a sentence no one ever imagined to be spoken. The Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers can’t buy a win as Tampa does not look like they are in lovie with Smith in their first season.
Week four is the first of those pesky byes and six teams have off for the weekend. There will be no Peyton Manning or Russell Wilson this week, nor will there be any of the surprising high-powered Cleveland Brown rushing attack of Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell. The Austin Davis led Rams will have a week to get their injury-plagued heads straight, and we have one guarantee. The Cardinals and Bengals will remain undefeated heading into week five, but if there is a way to lose a game on your week off, there is no doubt in my mind that Marvin Lewis would find out how to do it.
Don’t worry, folks. There is still plenty of football action going down. I will toot my own horn a little bit. The last two weeks I have been on fire with my mini-predicitions. That means this week, it should all come crumbling down.
Week two in the NFL was highlighted by a bunch of lowlifes. Adrian Peterson stole the show with his child negligence, but Greg Hardy wouldn’t let him have the limelight all to himself. Then Ray Rice jumped in and is appealing his suspension. All three need to just go away for a little while, because if the NFL Network and ESPN can stop talking about them, we may all realize that there has been some awesome football going down thus far in 2014.
Seven undefeated teams remain after week two, and the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals are amongst them. There are also seven teams who have yet to win a game, with the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints surprisingly headlining that list. Week two was full of exciting comebacks by the Packers, Bears and Browns, had the best defensive player in the game catch a touchdown, and watched Antonio Gates rejuvenate himself in dominating the defending champs.
How does week three top all of that? One thing is for certain. I can’t wait to find out!
We are a few days away from the start of the greatest six months of the year. We tolerated a Stanley Cup Final, managed to get through the NBA Finals and are just about through with the marathon that baseball season is, and our ultimate reward is the beauty of NFL football. It all gets underway this Thursday at 8:30 PM when the Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle for a bout with the defending World Champs. One of the premiere defenses in football takes on The Discount Double Check and one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. It’s like football porn.
If we learned one thing from me and my group of NFL prediction makers (more endearingly known as The Thread), it’s that we aren’t very good at predictions. So, instead of trying to predict what the future holds five months from now, Wayniac Nation is going with a simpler approach… or at least one that makes us look less like a group of monkeys making uneducated guesses, which would, in fact, be one hell of a blog in itself, but that’s for another time. But I digress. Without further ado:
THE TOP THREE THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN WEEK ONE OF THE NFL SEASON:
3. The Post Ralph Wilson Era of Buffalo Bills football begins in Chicago.
When the NFL opens its season Thursday, it will be the first time since the AFL/NFL merger that Ralph Wilson won’t be a part of it. Since 1959, Wilson and the Bills were synonymous with AFC football and now the new era begins. The team is in flux as there is a battle over who the new ownership will be. Will the Bills move to Canada? Will feather-haired, denim-wearing, 80s pop icon, Jon Bon Jovi by the team and give it a shot (WHOOOOOAAAA he’s halfway there)? No one knows for sure, but here’s what we do know. The Bills, on paper, look like a terrible team. EJ Manuel may be the worst starting quarterback in football. The majority of this team, like Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, are much like their coaching staff: young and inexperienced in the NFL. Teams have rallied around disasters before (see the Boston Red Sox) and with the passing of the man who bares the name of their own home field, the Bills may be poised to make some noise this season. Starting things off right against a highly touted Chicago Bears team would be a great start.
2. Jay Gruden takes over the Washington Politically Incorrects.
Mike Shanahan’s tenure in the Capitol City ends with a whimper on the heels of a 3-13 season. Shanahan, who’s four year reign in DC ended with a 24-40 overall record, did nothing to change my mind that he is one of the most over rated coaches in the history of the NFL. Shanahan was heralded as the architect who finally brought Denver their long awaited Lombardi Trophy, but the reality was is he was surrounded by Hall of Fame talent. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe were two of the best ever at their positions and Terrell Davis was the best running back in the game at the time. Shanahan and his power happy, run heavy offensive schemes didn’t seem like the right fight for a player as dynamic as Robert Griffin III. Maybe that’s why he kept playing him on a torn ACL? Anyway, now the one time Arena Football League MVP (no lie) Jay Gruden is at the helms. Considering this is the guy that just made Andy Dalton a multi-gazillionaire, I think what he can pull off with RGIII and his bevy of talented receivers that are all finally healthy or on new contracts will be exciting to watch. Unfortunately, they kick things off against my beloved Texans, and while I think they will win, I sure hope they don’t.
1. Peyton gets some Luck on the first Sunday Night Football matchup of the year.
Andrew Luck is fourteen years younger than Peyton Manning, but they will be forever linked. Manning, arguably the greatest Colt to ever suit up (sorry Johnny U), and his heir apparent go head to head for the second time this coming Sunday. Last season, Peyton Manning got his Denver Broncos out to a 6-0 start by amassing 265 points over their first six games. This guy threw SEVEN touchdowns in a game and heading into Week 7 of the season, Manning had 22 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Right when everyone was saying this team was unstoppable, right when the undefeated talks really started to pick up steam, the Colts “next Peyton” Andrew Luck wanted nothing to do with it. Luck went out and amassed four total touchdowns and the Colts defense did just enough to hold off Denver’s fourth quarter run for the victory. With the bitter taste from his Super Bowl loss last season, and revenge on the mind against his one-time Colts, we can only imagine what Peyton has in store. Last year, he had seven touchdowns on opening night. What can he and Luck give us from the Mile High City this year?
Game of the Week: Thursday’s matchup between Aaron Rodgers and his Packers and Russell Wilson and his Seahawks will certainly be exciting. As I just mentioned, any time that Luck and Manning face off will always be highly anticipated and full of action. The Wayniac Nation Game of the Week for week one has bigger implications than those two games, however. Fresh off their acting debuts on Hard Knocks, Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones are armed and ready to prove last season was a fluke and that they are in fact way less boring of a team than they portrayed on Hard Knocks. Drew Brees has some new toys to play with, but he has his biggest and best one (Jimmy Graham) ready to go and earn even more money than he just got paid. This isn’t simply a marquee matchup of two good teams. This game can lay the foundation of how the NFC South will be won.
Survivor Pool Pick of the Week: Every year I enter the infamous Beat The Pooch survivor pool and every year I seem to go home empty handed by week three. That being said, there are two ways to approach a survivor pool. One way is to just take the best matchup and not care about saving the good teams for later on in the season. The other approach is to gamble and take a team that no one else will pick, leaving you all of the good teams for an end run. So, if you want to play it safe, the San Francisco 49ers against that horrid Dallas defense should be a lock for week one, even giving up the five points. But if you got a little gamble in you, I really like the Vikings covering on the road against the Rams. If Bradford was there it would be another story, but I don’t see Shaun Hill keeping this team on the field long enough to keep Adrian Peterson off of it.
Alrighty, folks. That’s week one in a nutshell. So, rest up and get ready. Kickoff is just days away!
Happy Groundhog’s Day, folks! As my home base of Atlanta finally thaws out and returns to normalcy, that little fur ball Phil popped up and saw his shadow. On top of that, my SYRACUSE ORANGE BEAT DUKE AND ARE THE NUMBER ONE TEAM IN THE COUNTRY!!! If that all wasn’t enough, today, we get to watch the Super Bowl.
If you have followed my posts this week, you know my thoughts. But a quick recap wouldn’t hurt: Super Bowl in New York = bad idea and Broncos are your Super Bowl champs. This Super Bowl means so much to Peyton, and I think the heart of the warrior brings home the Lombardi Trophy to Denver.
Why does Peyton need to win this Super Bowl? It’s simple. In the NFL, more than any other sport, rings define greatness. Notice I used the plural form. You need multiple rings. In other sports, you can be considered elite without any rings. Take the NBA for example. Many consider that the top Power Forward to ever suit up is either Sir Charles or the Mailman. They have a combined 0 rings, but it’s forgivable because they played during the Jordan Era, and no one could win rings unless you joined the Bulls. Baseball is mostly about statistics. Cal Ripken has one ring and barely even made the playoffs during his career, but many consider him the greatest Short Stop ever. Tony Gwynn never won a ring at all and many baseball enthusiasts will argue he is the purest, most natural hitter of our lifetime. But in the NFL, it’s all about the bling.
Brett Favre will always be in the conversation for the best QB ever, but despite his records, despite his 3 MVPs, most people still think Brady and Montana surpass him. Why? One ring. Jim Kelly led his team to four straight Super Bowls, a feat that in this era of parity, we will never see again. But he didn’t win a single one and he has a hard time breaking a lot of people’s Top Ten. Poor Dan Marino would be the greatest QB ever if he could have just gotten a few Super Bowls. Drew Brees has some of the most insane numbers any QB has ever put up since he joined the Saints and he’s not even in the Top Ten conversation despite his statistics showing otherwise. Why? One ring. One ring is the same amount that Brad Johnson, Trent Dilfer, Jeff Hostetler, and Jim McMahon have. No offense to those guys, but they are not even in a top 50 conversation.
Two or more rings, though, and all these crazy conversations start. Is Eli Manning elite? Seriously? This guy has two good drives in his life and people start anointing him better than his brother. Come on, people. This is why Peyton Manning needs to win. If he holds up that trophy tonight, not only will one of my good friends, Jay Scott, be thrilled, but Peyton Manning will solidify himself as the Greatest Quarterback of All-Time. It can be supported by opinion, it can be supported by rings, and it can be supported by FACTS. Let’s look at the facts, folks, and stack him up against the other people in the Greatest QB ever argument.
Who is in the argument? Brett Favre, based on rings is eliminated. Dan Marino, who was deprived of any rings, is also out. Bart Starr is hands down a Top Ten QB based on his winning pedigree, but he doesn’t have the numbers to compete, so cross him off. So, for me, that leaves Johnny Unitas, Tom Brady, Joe Montana, and John Elway in the hunt with Peyton for the best ever. Well, last night, while Syracuse was beating Duke to become number one in the land, Peyton took home his fifth MVP. That’s two more than anyone else has ever had and four less than the others in this conversation had combined (Unitas has 3, Montana has 3, Brady has 2, and Elway has 1).
Montana and Brady are in the argument because of how they played in the post season and especially the big game. So despite the fact that if Peyton wins his second ring tonight they will still have one more ring, I still think Peyton will best them. Why? In my opinion, all you need are rings. It doesn’t matter if it’s 2 or 3. Want proof? Terry Bradshaw has four rings and even a drunken Steeler fan knows he’s not the GOAT. So after that, we look at statistics, and Peyton dwarfs them all.
Manning: 64,964 yards at a 65.5% rate, 491 TDs, 219 Ints, 97 QB Rating
Elway: 51,485 yards at a 56.9% rate, 300 TDs, 226 Ints, 79.9% QB Rating
Brady: 49,159 yards at a 63.4% rate, 359 TDs, 134 Ints, 95.7 QB Rating
Montana: 40,551 yards at 63.2% rate, 273 TDs, 139 Ints, 92.3 QB Rating
Unitas: 40,239 yards at 54.6% rate, 290 TDs, 253 Ints, 78.2 QB Rating
(Johnny U only has one Super Bowl ring, but he has two pre-Super Bowl NFL Championships so he is allowed in the conversation)
You can see it’s not even close. If you do happen to be a statistics guy and want to argue Favre, you have a good case… right now. If Peyton’s neck is ok and he gets clearance to return, he will break Favre’s records. The only reason there is even a Greatest QB of All-Time conversation is because of Manning’s post season record and lack of rings. Tonight he can change all of that. Tonight he can cement himself as the greatest of all time.
Well, folks, it’s that time for me to cool off. Enjoy your Super Bowl parties and to my people in the service industry stuck working, make that money. Let’s go Broncos, and remember: CUSE IS NUMBER ONE!!!