NFL Week 1 Predictions

As I've said before, picking any week 1 game is more difficult than any other throughout the season.  Even the Super Bowl!  But I'm gonna make my picks anyway as I'm sure you fellow degenerate small time gamblers will as well.  Time to put our money where our mouth is.

It can be tough picking a game straight up because hey "any given Sunday!"  Now add the Las Vegas point spread into the equation and we're talking some serious thought.  With Vegas, the point spread is made for a reason.  They simply want to balance out the betting evenly and collect on the vig (interest).  Sometimes they'll get hurt like when the Broncos pulled out that upset Thursday night over the Panthers in Denver.  Let's see if we can best Vegas here ourselves.  Here are the NFL week 1 predictions including point spread and winner!

@ Atlanta - 2.5 vs Tampa Bay:  Buccaneers 22 - Falcons 16
Minnesota -2.5 vs @Tennessee:  Titans 32 - Vikings 27
@Philadelphia -3 vs Cleveland:  Browns 17 - 14
Cincinnati -1.5 vs NYJ:  Jets 24 - Bengals 20
@New Orleans -2.5 vs Oakland:  Saints 35 - Raiders 34
@ Kansas City -6.5 vs San Diego:  Chiefs 20 - Chargers 14
@Baltimore -3.5 vs Buffalo:  Ravens 16 - Bills 13
@Houston -5 vs Chicago:  Bears 16 - Texans 15
Green Bay -5 vs Jacksonville:  Packers 26 - Jags 23
@Seattle -10.5 vs Miami:  Seahawks:  20 - Dolphins 10
@Dallas (even) vs NYG:  Giants 34 - Cowboys 24
@Indianapolis -3 vs Detroit:  Colts 31 - Lions 24
@Arizona -7 vs New England:  Cardinals 33 - Patriots 17
@Pittsburgh -3 vs Washington:  Redskins 25 - Steelers 23
@Los Angeles -2.5 vs San Francisco:  49ers 18 - Rams 12

Best Bets:

  • 49ers +2.5 at home
  • Giants (pick em) too much offense for NYG
  • Browns +3 will beat a weak, rookie QB Philly team
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2016 NFL Kick Off - Broncos vs Panthers

The 2016 season kicks off with a rematch of last years Super Bowl.  Well kind of!  The biggest and most important difference is the quarterback situation in Denver.  The living legend in Peyton Manning has hung up his cleats for good. So the Broncos now need to hand the ball over to a guy in Trevor Siemian who's NFL experience adds up to a kneel down.

Despite the QB change, the 1st week of the season is always the hardest to predict because it's the first time teams will get to go full speed for 4 quarters or more.  Half of the people in Eliminator Challenge leagues will pick what looks like a lock game like Green Bay over Jacksonville and we get a major upset because week 1 is so unpredictable.  So my advice is don't gamble on NFL games so quickly.

Back to tonight's game and rematch of Super Bowl 50.  The Carolina Panthers are favored in Vegas by 3 points on the road in Denver.  People are jumping all over the Panthers because it appears their arrow is pointing upwards and the Broncos are a potential debacle behind center.  Here's a couple of things to take into account.  First is that Denver is one of the toughest places to play for road teams because of the thin air as visitors can become winded more quickly because they aren't as adapted as Broncos players to the climate.  It's also statistically proven that the team who won the Super Bowl the previous season usually wins week 1 of the following season.

The Broncos still have a great defense and it isn't as if they had great QB play in 2015 en route to the title.  The new version of the Orange Crush Denver defense carried the offense to the Lombardy Trophy.  It's also never a good idea to bet against a home underdog.  For some reason the favorite usually doesn't cover the points or loses outright.

Reigning MVP Cam Newton was the offense for the Panthers last season.  He tried to beat the Broncos in the Championship by himself due to lack of skilled personnel.  If that's the case again tonight then you can expect a similar result.  Luckily for Cam, he has his top wide receiver back in Kelvin Benjamin.  Benjamin may explode as he showed incredible promise in his 2014 rookie season.  Then again he may get off to a slow start. If the Panthers defense can play the way they did last season then they could possibly once again own the leagues best record.  They were 15 - 1 last year and while I doubt they'll reach that mark again, they could very well win 12 or more.

I'm worried about the Broncos.  I don't believe they'll make the playoffs.  The QB situation is a hot mess, they're running game can be suspect and Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders who are Pro Bowl receivers will see a certain drop in numbers.  I mean the quarterback issue in Denver is so bad that they actually cut Mark Sanchez.  Wow!

Despite what seems to be a lopsided game as America is salivating over Carolina tonight, the game will be much closer.  I honestly expect some sloppy play from both sides.  Siemian won't be asked to do much as Gary Kubiak loves to run the football.  But Denver will surely be in 3rd and 10 situations tonight and how much faith will Kubiak rest on his new QB to make a play to keep a drive going?

Now on the other hand the Panthers coach Ron Rivera will rely heavily upon his quarterback.  Cam Newton has risen to the top tier of QB's in the NFL.  I have him ranked as 4th going into 2016 behind Rodgers, Brady and Roethlisberger.  He can do it all and has incredible confidence in himself.  Hopefully the very few skilled talent around him will be healthy enough so Cam doesn't have to put his life on the line in order to win a game.  Between his talents on offense and a top level defense led by Luke Kuechly, we could be seeing the Panthers back in the Super Bowl.

If you've read my previous article you know I have the Cardinals defeating the Patriots in Super Bowl LI.  But it's not written in stone and Carolina has the goods.

So who will win tonight.  As long as Cam doesn't turn the ball over I see no reason why Carolina can't outscore the Broncos in a low scoring game.  I don't expect Denver to score more than 14 points.  I believe the Panthers can score close to 20.  I'm going against my natural instinct to take the home underdog but I like the Panthers tonight for all the reasons I mentioned plus revenge from February.

Final score: Panthers 24 - Broncos 13 
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10 Things to Know for the 2016 NFL Season


If you know me you know I love making predictions.  Below is my top 10 things to know going into 2016.  Last year I did a Fantasy Football version of this and just for proof I have the link here http://www.route4sports.com/2015/09/fantasy-football-10-things-you-need-to.html  Now of course not every one was on the nose but look at it from a Fantasy Football perspective.  The first one is tricky.  But first things first.  Here's the top 10 things to know considering the NFL in 2016:

1.  Some things simply never change!  We know the Patriots will be in the playoffs again even without the great Tom Brady for the first quarter of the season.  Odds are Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Green Bay, Carolina, Seattle and Arizona are gong to be playoff teams unless they lose their quarterback or other significant players.  So while it's a beautiful thing when those few teams surprise us every year and exceed expectations, we already know at least half of the teams that will be in the post season.  So if we see two powerhouse teams in the Super Bowl like the Cardinals and Patriots like I picked for the 2016 season, don't be surprised.  The usual suspects usually rise!

2.  Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston will both have excellent sophomore seasons.  Both of these players show tremendous potential and each has a special quality.  For Winston it is his ability to bring his team back in the game quick, fast and in a hurry.  He's a very smart football player and understands the situation around him pertaining to the mental and physical aspects of the game.  It appears he may have that "It" factor.

Mariota certainly has intelligence and a solid arm but his ability to scramble and run effectively is what brings Mariota up to the next tier of QB's along with Winston.  It will become more clear as we reach the halfway point of the season.  Marcus showed great ability last season to find a whole to run through when the play breaks down.  He only threw 10 interceptions last year and if his offensive line can do a better job protecting him then I would expect some special play out of Mariota in 2016.

3.  Ezekiel Elliott will NOT be the stat machine everyone expects out of the gate.  This has little to do with Romo going down for the next 2 months and a rookie QB in Dak Prescott having to step in.  This is more about Elliott playing against competition he's never seen before.  Sure there are some big boys in the Big 10 Conference where Elliott played his college ball at Ohio State.  The kid has skill and power but so do the 11 men he'll be trying to elude on Sundays, not Saturdays.  If Jason Garrett decides to use Elliott early and often then he'll just break down that much quicker and be exploited that much easier.  What I'm saying here is...let's wait and see.  Don't forget names like Trent Richardson, Reggie Bush, Ryan Mathews and Knowshon Moreno just to name a few.

4.  Eli Manning will be the MVP of the NFL.  That's right Eli, not Peyton.  Little brother will shine again with his solid receiving corps.  It will help having who I think will be the offensive player of the year in Odell Beckham Jr.  The Giants have a lot of fire power on offense and if Eli can manage to keep the turnovers down and have his wide outs catch the ball more often then drop it, little bro can throw for about 5,000 yards and 40 TD's.  That sounds like an MVP to me.  Plus he'll have to carry the team since not much is expected of the defense this season.  New head coach Ben McAdoo and Eli have been working together for years as McAdoo was the offensive coordinator before being promoted this season.  Eli, Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Rashad Jennings and rookie Sterling Shepard.  This could be the best offense in football!

5.  Jimmy Graham will return to form this season.  He won't put up the numbers he did with Drew Brees in New Orleans but expect Graham to be a much bigger part of the Seahawks offense in his second season in Seattle.  With Marshawn Lynch retired and a small but good WR corps, Graham will have many more plays drawn up for him which means more opportunities to put up some sweet numbers.  Look for Graham to have 1 on 1 match ups down near the goal line and go for that 50 - 50 ball. I predict about 800 yards and 12 TD's for Graham this year.  If fantasy teams got him late in the draft then I say to you well done!

6.  The Philadelphia Eagles will be terrible!  I was going to write this before they traded Sam Bradford to Minnesota.  Now they'll rely on either rookie Carson Wentz or the long time back up in Chase Daniel depending upon his rib injury.  It's not only that but the lack of a running game and any resemblance of a wide receiving unit.  The defense is certainly suspect and on top of that they have a new head coach in Doug Pederson.  This will be Pederson's first season as a head coach who has been a long time protege of of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid.  Philly was 7 - 9 last season.  I'd add on about 2 or 3 more losses as the rest of the NFC East has improved and the Eagles have declined as far as personnel is concerned.  At least the 2017 NFL Draft is in Philadelphia so the fans may be cheering for the #1 pick.

7.  Amari Cooper of the Oakland Raiders will lead the league in receiving yards.  I know most of you think it will be Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. or even Julio Jones.  But you're wrong.  It will be Amari Cooper as he and Derek Carr have developed a solid QB to WR combination in a short period of time.  Not to mention That Carr doesn't have many other places to throw the ball.  Cooper has proven to be as hyped when drafted 4th overall by Oakland in last years draft.  He broke 1,000 yards in his rookie season with the Raiders and I can see him adding another 700 or so to that total.  Big jump...yes.  Impossible...no!

8.  Andrew Luck will be back in the mix for MVP this season.  I don't believe he'll win the award but I see him being determined and focused to make up for the miserable and injury riddled season in 2015.  Luck showed great leadership ability and plenty of skill since he arrived in Indianapolis.  After getting a lot of rest and having his studs back at wide receiver in T.Y. Hilton, Colby Fleener and Donte Moncrief, I'm guessing Luck will put up huge numbers and lower his turnover rate significantly as he undoubtedly watched film the entire time he was rehabilitating.

9.  Todd Gurley will lead the NFL in rushing this season.  This is for a few reasons.  First of all Jeff Fisher loves to run the ball.  Second is they have a rookie quarterback in Jared Goff who will be taking over for Case Keenum sooner than later.  But most importantly is that Todd Gurley is an absolute beast!  This guy has all the tools to be the best overall back in the game.  He's elusive, fast, tough, great vision and he's young.  With the exception of Adrian Peterson, it's usually a very young RB that leads the league in rushing.  That position takes a toll on you.  You get hit every play whether you carry the ball yourself or have to block a blitzing pass rusher in throwing situations. The rookie had over 1,100 yards last season in only 13 games.  Gurley's going wild this year.

10.  Despite Tom Brady missing the first 4 games of the season, the New England Patriots will win the AFC.  I have the Arizona Cardinals defeating the Pats in Super Bowl LI but the point remains that New England is still the class of the American Football Conference.  Ironically these two teams will kick off their seasons against one another in the Sunday Night Opener.  The Cards will be facing Jimmy Garrapolo at QB instead of the great Tom Brady.  So let's say the Pats lose and start 0 - 1.  Okay, they then play the Dolphins, Texans and Bills before Brady comes back.  Maybe they're 2 - 2 at that point or at worst 1 - 3.  Once Brady returns the Patriots will become that well oiled machine that Tom has perfected for over a decade.

On top of all that, the fact is that the AFC isn't all that good!  I like the Steelers but they always seem to have injury issues.  The Bengals can't even get out of the first round.  For some reason people think the Houston Texans are going to b a powerhouse because they signed a giant in Brock Osweiler.  The Chiefs are solid but do you really think my man Alex Smith can out-duel Tommy Boy on the big stage?!  Forget about the Colts, Broncos, Jets or whoever comes across your mind.  Once Brady is back they'll rarely lose.  Even if they are a wild card team heading into the post season they still have more than enough to get through the AFC.  Plus they'll be more rested due to suspensions like Brady's or even Rob Ninkovich for 4 games.

- Hope you enjoyed this and please feel free to comment here and check out my full 2016 predictions including every teams record, MVP's and more!
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NFL Predictions 2016

Oh how we love to make predictions!  We all become the Nostradamus of football once the season kicks off.  I'm guilty of this as well since my Twitter handle is @SportsProphet1.  I have a decent track record if I do say so myself.  Let's see how I do this year and I would love to hear your predictions in the comment section so we may compare after the Lombardi Trophy is hoisted up.

Unfortunately some fans feel like their season is over before it even starts.  Tony Romo will be out for at least half of the year and while Dak Prescott has shined in the pre-season, this is not the ideal scenario for Cowboy fans.  Teddy Bridgewater tore his ACL and the Minnesota Vikings will now rely on journeyman Shaun Hill to be under center.  Again, not what Vikings fans were hoping for.

But let us not forget when Trent Green went down for the Rams back in 1999 and some guy who was stocking groceries ended up taking over "the greatest show on turf" by winning a Super Bowl and the MVP of the league.  His name is Kurt Warner and not only did he lead the Rams to two Super Bowls, winning one, but later in his career taking the underdog Arizona Cardinals within seconds of winning another championship and would have been the only QB in history to accomplish such a feat.

There's also a guy named Brady that was thrown into the mix in week 3 of the 2001 season when Drew Bledsoe was knocked silly by Mo Lewis of the New York Jets, putting Bledsoe out for most of the season.  The Patriots were about to throw in the towel until Tom Brady took control of the offense and New England started winning games consistently.  Four rings and six Super Bowls later, Tom Brady became an NFL legend because the starting quarterback got injured.

The point is you never know!  Maybe Warner and Brady are extreme examples but these things do happen and it occurs more often than you think.  How about when Jeff Hostetler, yeah remember him, took over for Phil Sims as the New York Giants defeated the favored Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV.

I happen to think this is one of the most difficult years to pick playoff teams let alone the Super Bowl champs.  We know who the usual suspects are and which QB's and defenses are strong enough to make the tournament.  We also know that  few organizations have next to no chance to make the post season.  Then again we get surprised by a handful of teams every season.  Teams will perform to a higher level than previously predicted and others will disappoint and underachieve expert expectations.  It occurs every year folks and it will again.  Which teams will creep up on us and which will crumble apart?  I don't know but here's my prediction:

AFC

East
New England Patriots (10 - 6)*
New York Jets (9 - 7)
Buffalo Bills (9 - 7)
Miami Dolphins (6 - 10)

North
Pittsburgh Steelers (11 - 5)*
Cincinnati Bengals (10 - 6)*
Cleveland Browns (8 - 8)
Baltimore Ravens (6 - 10)

South
Tennessee Titans (10 - 6)*
Indianapolis Colts (10 - 6)*
Houston Texans (8 - 8)
Jacksonville Jaguars (6 - 10)

West
Kansas City Chiefs (11 - 5)*
Oakland Raiders (9 -7)
Denver Broncos (8 - 8)
San Diego Chargers (7 - 9)

NFC

East
New York Giants (10 - 6)*
Washington Redskins (9 - 7)
Dallas Cowboys (8 - 8)
Philadelphia Eagles (5 - 11)

North
Green Bay Packers (11 - 5)*
Minnesota Vikings (9 - 7)
Chicago Bears (7 - 9)
Detroit Lions (5 - 11)

South
Carolina Panthers (11 - 5)*
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10 - 6)*
Atlanta Falcons (8 -8)
New Orleans Saints (7 -9)

West
Arizona Cardinals (12 - 4)*
Seattle Seahawks (11 - 5)*
Los Angeles Rams (8 -8)
San Francisco 49ers (4 - 12)

* Playoff Teams

Super Bowl LI

Arizona Cardinals 34 - New England Patriots 31

Awards

MVP:  Eli Manning
OFF MVP:  Odell Beckham Jr.
DEF MVP:  Luke Kuechly
ROY:  Ezekiel Elliott
COY:  Dirk Koetter
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How to Win Your Fantasy Football Draft

We all think we have the greatest team in our fantasy football leagues once the draft is completed.  We compare, we debate and then we wait.  Not until the seasons begins and many games are played will we know who actually had the best draft.

Of course we'll all hit the waiver wire as the season goes on due to injuries and disappointing draft selections.  One week you'll have 2 or 3 studs on a bye and need to go grab a spot starter for your match up against the other guy who also thought he had the best draft in your league.

There are no guarantees in the NFL.  Pro Bowl players get hurt during the first game of the season and suddenly are out for the year.  You need to be prepared for these scenarios because they are going to happen.  Usually it's the wide receivers and running backs that get hurt most often.  This inevitable fact implies that perhaps the most important rule while drafting your team is to have depth at the WR and RB positions.

Make sure you draft a stud running back that is the primary ball carrier on his team.  Nowadays coaches are using a two back system, therefore RB's aren't getting as many touches as you or they would like.  So if you can grab Peterson, Gurley, Lacy or even Devonta Freeman in the first round then do it!  There are plenty of receivers to choose from and it's slim pickings when it comes to valuable running backs.

Speaking of running backs, as I stressed before, get a lot of them.  Draft 5 or 6 if you can because only half of them will do you any good.  That's when the waiver wire can also come in handy!

Okay listen, I'm not saying Ezekiel Elliott isn't going to be an awesome fantasy football player,  I'm saying I just don't know because I've never seen him play in the NFL.  Do you all remember how absolutely incredible Reggie Bush was at USC!?  Experts said he'd be a phenomenal football player, which he is, just not as a fantasy running back.  The point I'm driving home here is that it is tough for me to take rookies in the first round or two no matter how large the hype is.

Your first 2 draft picks need to be as close to a sure thing as possible.  If you can somehow get two of the top tier RB's with your #1 and #2 pick then do it!  Now I am not quite sure David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals is a number 1 running back although many of those "experts" are saying he's a top ten selection.  I'd be careful with drafting him my friends.

If you can't get 2 top RB's then go get one of the many top level wide outs on the draft board.  Okay so you won't get Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham Jr. but you'll have a stud at running back and a guy like Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, DeAndre Hopkins, Jordy Nelson, Allen Robinson to name a few to be your #1 wide receiver.  If you draft a WR with your first pick then don't expect to have a good backfield.  Antonio Brown will be a top 3 pick in most leagues and the person that drafts him will have a below average RB squad.  Then again, Antonio Brown may be the only exception because of how many touches he gets per game and in PPR leagues Brown is a monster.  Still ladies and gentleman, draft a top tier RB before getting that stud wide out.  Having Peterson and Marshall is a lot better then having Julio Jones and C.J.Anderson.  Ya get it!

There's no reason in the world why anyone should draft a quarterback before the 8th round.  This is no joke!  That goes for Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers as well.  As great of fantasy players as they are it's a waste of a draft pick.  Why draft one of these guys in the 2nd or 3rd round when you can get Eli, Rivers, Stafford, Romo or maybe Big Ben in the 8th?  They're going to end up with very similar fantasy numbers by the time the regular season concludes.

Don't even think about drafting a defense and a kicker until the final two rounds.  If you do then you either have no idea what you're doing or you're on auto-pick.  Sure we know to an extent how good defenses and kickers are but that doesn't always translate to fantasy points.  Draft your kicker in the last round and pick the best defense in your mind left on the board before the final turn.  You'll likely be playing the best match ups and spot start team defenses often during the season as it is  Any experienced fantasy player knows this.  And for you amateurs this is a top 3 rule.

Alright, Gronk and that's it!  Still I could never see myself taking a tight end in the first round or even the second.  If Gronk were available in the second round then I would heavily debate selecting him depending upon your draft position.  If your next pick is within 6 turns then that could be worth it, also depending on the players still on the board.  Gronk is the only tight end worth drafting before the 7th round.  There's only a few TE's out there that will consistently give you production.  The problem is that besides Gronkowski there aren't any guarantees.  Jimmy Graham sure isn't one of those guys anymore because of the type of offense run in Seattle.  You got Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed and Greg Olsen if you want to take a TE in or after the 7th round.  After that don't bother.

So what did we learn today?  Don't draft a quarterback early even if his name is Cam or Aaron.  Stack up on those wide receivers and running backs.  Make sure you get a top tier RB within the first 2 rounds.  Don't you dare draft a kicker or defense until the final 2 rounds.  Be careful how quickly you draft a tight end because those other positions are much more important to fill.  And last, think twice before picking a rookie in the early rounds.  With that I wish you all Andrew Luck in your draft and here's to another great season in the NFL Fantasy Football world!
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Top 10 QB's Going into 2016 NFL Season


So our collective favorite sport is back in action as NFL training camps get underway and veterans are signing big deals.  Soon they'll hit the field and instead of competing for a job against his own squad, he'll be competing against other players as big and bad as he is.  Gosh I love football.

Quarterbacks are always the topic when it comes to the NFL and we all love ranking players and saying this guy is better than that one.  I'm guilty of being one of those people.  Even though I'm not a Patriots fan, I am disappointed that Tom Brady will miss the first 4 games of this season.  I want to see the best play and in an honest moment most athletes will tell you that they want to play against the best.  Players enjoy earning their victories by beating the best with no excuses.

With that being said I am not going to factor in Brady's and the Patriots issue of Tommy boy missing a quarter of the season when I rank my top 10 QB's going into 2016.  So here they are and I'd love to hear yours.

1. Aaron Rodgers:  I've always said Rodgers is a right handed Steve Young but Aaron has a much quicker release and can throw it faster and longer than Steve.  There's nothing the man cannot do on the football field.  Much like Tom Brady, Rodgers makes his players look better and play harder.  He's been the best and most consistent QB in the league for the past 6 years or so.  His TD/INT ratio is basically 4 to 1 which is ridiculous and led the league by a mile in that category last season.  He's currently ranked #1 in the history of the NFL with a 104.1 passer rating.

2. Tom Brady:  Even though the Great and All Mighty Tom Brady will be 39 years of age once the season begins, he continues to prove how great he truly is.  He may be the best QB ever to create an offense in which their skills are limited and annually find themselves either in the Super Bowl or the AFC Championship Game because of what Brady does with these "no name" players and turns them into household names.  Believe it or not this 4 game suspension may ultimately help to keep Brady healthy and come back with a furious vengeance to once again reclaim the title and be hoisting the Lombardy Trophy at the e
nd of the season.  Brady loves proving people wrong.  Being drafted in the 6th round way back when still bothers him today and that chip on his shoulder may never leave.

3. Ben Roethlisberger: I'm sure I'll surprise many when I say that Big Ben Roethlisberger is the 3rd best QB in the NFL.  Even more of a shocker is that I heavily debated putting him at #2.  And why not?  Think about it or better yet turn on the television when Big Ben is playing and what you see is a winner that never gives up, who'll do anything to win and most of all a complete football player.  He's like a TE/LB playing the QB position.  Despite him running a 40 second 40 yard dash, Ben has displayed over and over again how he works the pocket and is able to move around enough to extend plays and create something out of nothing.  When speaking of comparisons, Big Ben reminds me of another Hall of Famer in John Elway.  Not to mention that even if a defender is able to grab hold of Big Ben during the course of a play, you cannot blow the whistle and call it a sack because Ben is strong enough to shove those 275+ pounders off of him and run down the sideline for a 10 yard gain for a first down,  Although health has plagued Big Ben throughout his career, when healthy he's as fun to watch play ball as anyone in the league.

4. Cam Newton:  Some have him higher and deservedly so.  He absolutely began to peak last season when he led his Carolina Panthers to the best record in the NFL and a trip to the Super Bowl.  They lost to the Denver Broncos as Peyton Manning Rode off into the sunset on his Bronco and ran into a couple of Colts on the way.  I guess Peyton loves horses.  Anyway, what Cam Newton has done so far in his career and taking a huge leap last year earning MVP honors has turned him into the icon he wanted to be before his rookie season ever began.  With all due respect to his teammates Cam carried that team offensively.  Yes they had one of the best defenses in the league as well but still Newton performed incredibly and showed that he is no joke and not just some athletic quarterback.  He's an amazing athlete but he really put it together in 2015 as he learned how to win from the pocket.  Imagine if he weren't playing injured toward the end of the year!  His numbers would likely have inflated and perhaps even won the Super Bowl.  But it's now clear that Cam Newton belongs in the the conversation of best QB's in the NFL.

5. Russell Wilson:  He's been exceeding expectations since the so called experts said he was too short to be an NFL quarterback.  Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and his defense helped lead the team to 2 consecutive Super Bowl appearances (1-1).  They could have won both but we all remember the interception seen round the world when at the goal line the Seahawks decided to get tricky and treated themselves to a miraculous interception to put Seattle's back to back titles to bed.  Back to Russell Wilson himself.  He's Doug Flutie on steroids.  Other than Big Ben, nobody makes something out of nothing like Russell Wilson.  He is accurate, he can toss the long ball, he makes smart decisions at the line and man can this kid run.  Every play is designed to work for positive yardage.  That doesn't happen every time so Wilson will run around the backfield until a receiver gets open or a lane opens up for Wilson to run through for a 25 yard gain.  He's smart, athletic and already a champion.

6. Philip Rivers:  People forget that Rivers was in the same draft as Big Ben and Eli Manning because they have won two titles each.  If Rivers had a better defense and WR group then they could have made a Super Bowl or two.  They did come awfully close a couple times but the Brady Bunch had other plans for January.  Rivers is underrated in my opinion.  He doesn't have the weapons like Eli and Ben.  Rivers is forced to throw the ball 55 times a game because they're lack of a running back has plagued them since LaDanian Tomlinson left.  Still pound for pound Philip Rivers is at least at top 10 quarterback in the NFL>

7. Andrew Luck:  Luck is another guy without any luck in the backfield.  Andrew Luck throws the ball as much as anyone in the league due to the lack of a running game.  Last year Luck was hurt so we certainly didn't see his best.  Don't get me wrong, Andrew Luck is phenomenal and a fierce competitor.  My big issue with him is that he creates too many turnovers.  True he is hurt by their mediocre defense and pathetic run game but he needs to protect the ball better and figure out how to beat the Patriots.  Luck is a fantastic player but he needs to learn ball control and get better at his down field passes.  It's scary because he's so good with so much room for improvement.

8. Drew Brees:  A couple of years ago Brees would be in the top 4!  With the emergence of Cam, Russell and the fact that Brees is clearly in decline I can't rank him higher than 8th.  The man can still play ball but his skills are depleting.  Brees still managed a 32 TD to 11 INT ratio which is fantastic.  Brees is an all pro in himself but the talent around him has taken a negative effect.  Brees may be ranked higher if his defense were better and Drew didn't have to throw the ball 600+ times a season.  Brees is easily still a top 10 QB and maybe he should be ranked a bit higher.  All I can say is I watch the games and the 7 QB's I have ahead of Brees are playing better than him right now.

9. Tony Romo:  I want to rank Romo higher but his lack of post season success and even the lack of making the playoffs has been a thorn in his side for quite some time.  Romo is injury prone and that hurts his value in my eyes.  Tony Romo is a great quarterback.  Yes he is!  But he has made mistakes in very crucial situations.  He is notorious for throwing picks in critical moments.  The best quarterbacks play their best under pressure.  That's why Eli almost made the list but he turns the ball over constantly and rarely gets his team far in the payoffs with of course the respected exception of his 2 Super Bowl victories.  The Giants defense won the first one and Eli had more of a hand in their 2nd SB under Tom Coughlin.  Romo won't be considered a great QB unless he wins a championship.  That door is closing rapidly.

10. Matt Ryan:  Man did those Falcons fly to kick off the 2015 season.  Heading for a possible #1 seed they ran head on to a brick wall and destroyed their season,  Ryan was still playing well with one of the best 1-2 punches in football between him and Julio Jones.  Ryan has led the Falcons into the playoffs plenty of times but haven't had much success making it out of the first round only once t lose to the 49ers in the NFC Championship a few years ago.  Matty Ice has the goods and the ability to lead his team down the field when the pressure is on.  I've seen Ryan make 2 or 3 passes in 30 seconds to set up a short field goal for the win,  How else do you get a nickname like Matty Ice.

Honorable Mentions:
Eli Manning
Alex Smith
Carson Palmer

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If LeBron Goes 2 - 5 in NBA Finals...

What will become of LeBron James legacy if/when the Golden State Warriors take down his Cleveland Cavaliers for a 2nd straight season in the NBA Finals?

One could say that these Warriors are one of the greatest teams of all time with the best regular season record in NBA history at 73 - 9.  Others will support LeBron by saying that he has no support on the court.  Okay that argument can be made for last season's Cavs team when both Irving and Love were absent from the Finals and certainly his first NBA Finals appearance back in 2007 when the Spurs swept Cleveland 4 - 0 and was never even close.

So LBJ takes his talents to South Beach to join his best friend Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.  In four years LeBron led the Heat to 4 Finals appearances with 2 championships winning the MVP in both.

Possibly feeling that he was satisfied with two titles in Miami and wanted to bring his home town team a championship or 2 or 3 or whatever, he returned to the team that drafted him with instant dominance in the Eastern Conference.  LeBron has dominated the East for a decade but the Western Conference just seems to have his number, which maybe he should have kept #6 since #23 hasn't brought any luck.

As far as I'm concerned, LeBron James is one of the greatest players I've ever seen.  He's absolutely dominant.  But not dominant enough.  He turns 31 in December and still has at least 4-5 good to great years left given his condition and commitment to the game of basketball.  But even those who work out as much or more than LeBron know when their time is up.

Kobe Bryant is certainly one of the greatest players who ever lived and worked out relentlessly to keep his body in shape.  Well even the greats must eventually fall.  Kobe retired this season at the young age of 37 since coming straight into the NBA fresh out of high school in 1996 and played 20 years in the league.  Kobe started to break down around the age of 35 and even before with constant injuries.  If LeBron has to miss some time over a couple of seasons due to an injury than that will surely diminish his goal of winning more rings

Like Kobe, LeBron went into the NBA right out of High School and has about the same amount of mileage on his NBA legs as Kobe and his 5 rings do.  Bryant went 5 - 2 in his NBA Finals career with 2 MVP's.  Yes, Shaq absolutely was the MVP of the Lakers 3-peat in the early 2,000's.  Yet Kobe is an absolute solid Hall of Famer and Shaq knows those Lakers wouldn't have won 3 titles in a row without Kobe.

Bryant has 1 regular season MVP though!  LeBron by the way since he has 4 regular season MVP's and 2 to match Kobe in the Finals.  But in the Finals guys like Kobe (5) Bill Russell (11) Kareem (6) Jordan (6) Magic (5) Duncan (5) have all these titles and rarely lost.

Did you know that Jerry West, the logo of the NBA was 1 - 8 in the NBA Finals?!  That's why we don't talk about him as one f the top tier players of all time.  He went to 9 NBA Championships and only won once.  Getting their 9 times is an amazing accomplishment but people don't remember you for how many Finals you went to, it's how many you won that matters.  That may or may not be true in the real world but as far as NBA fans, officials, players, writers and others alike will criticize LeBron despite the fact that he may be 1 of the 3 best players to ever hold a basketball.

So here's the bottom line.  LeBron has about 6 years to get himself a couple more championships without losing.  He'll still likely have a losing record in the Finals but people remember how you go out more than when you come in!
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