Randy Moss and Polarizing Players Who Will Define the 2012 NFL Season

John RozumCorrespondent IJuly 11, 2012

Randy Moss and Polarizing Players Who Will Define the 2012 NFL Season

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    A polarizing player can certainly disrupt a team's focus at the beginning of the season.

    Randy Moss is easily a prime example, as we all saw when the New England Patriots traded him during the beginning months of the 2010 NFL season. For the supreme talent that is Moss, his attitude didn't fly in New England, and he now has a chance for redemption in San Francisco.

    In the same boat as Moss, there are other polarizing players who will have a profound effect on their teams throughout 2012. Here, let's check out Moss and see who joins him in defining the upcoming season.

Tim Tebow: QB, Jets

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    If one player defined the 2011 NFL regular season, Tim Tebow is that guy.

    After a so-so training camp and preseason that put him as Kyle Orton's backup, Tebow rose to an extreme amount of popularity once given the opportunity to get under center. Interestingly enough, Tebow's marketability began in Denver, and he's now in New York.

    Therefore, we have nothing else to believe other than that Tebow's polarizing fame will only significantly increase in the nation's largest market. Include a flaky quarterback like Mark Sanchez, who has only seen minimal improvement, and his room for error is virtually zero.

    The Jets have been an intriguing bunch to watch before, but the addition of Tebow will draw interest from the world over. As the season progresses, Gang Green has to hope for a solid beginning otherwise the criticism will be relentless.

Eli Manning: QB, Giants

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    It seems like no matter how many times he wins and performs in clutch situations, Eli Manning will always be looked at as Peyton Manning's younger brother first.

    Well, with two Super Bowl MVPs to go with the jewelry, Eli has proven to be an elite NFL quarterback. Last season he carried the Giants by himself with almost 5,000 passing yards, as Big Blue's ground game and defense were extremely inconsistent.

    If there is a downside to winning the Super Bowl, it's winning another one in New York, which only increases the expectations of the fans and media. Every year Yankees fans want a World Series, and Manning has upgraded that Super Bowl feeling for Giants fans.

    On the bright side, however, Eli has brought the Giants more Super Bowls than any quarterback in franchise history. He's safer in the Big Apple, but outside of it Eli remains more known as Peyton's younger brother.

    As for the 2012 season, the Giants may have four Vince Lombardi Trophies, but none of those teams have ever successfully defended the title. Oddly enough, the Giants have yet to win consecutive NFC titles.

Ray Lewis: LB, Ravens

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    Ray Lewis is a 37-year-old linebacker, and the man has lost a step, if not two.

    He's still a future Hall of Famer, but the man's status as a player can significantly increase or decrease in 2012. Last season Lewis played in 12 regular-season games and recorded fewer than 100 tackles for the first time since 2005.

    Lewis' reputation as a fierce player has an opportunity to enhance this season because of the absence of Terrell Suggs after his Achilles injury. Regardless of how long it is until Suggs returns, Lewis will have more pressure to perform and keep control of the front seven.

    It's not that Lewis can't get it done, but he already passed his prime form a few years ago. Not to mention that Suggs is the better defender, as he was the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year.

    If Lewis remains dominant this season, then that will just enhance his legacy. However, if Lewis sees any kind of decline in production, then the criticism will be emphatically present.

Tony Romo: QB, Cowboys

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    Tony Romo comes as no surprise, considering how impressive the quarterback has performed throughout his career despite only having one playoff win.

    It's reasonable for any Cowboys fans to criticize Romo because Dallas has a long history of signal-callers who got Big D at least on the brink of competing for a championship. Aside from the five combined Super Bowls from Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, other Cowboys quarterbacks like Don Meredith, Craig Morton and Danny White all have outperformed Romo in the postseason.

    Morton took Dallas to Super Bowl V (loss), and Meredith and White both came within one game of the big stage. Romo has yet to get past the NFC's divisional round, even when receiving a playoff bye week, as the Cowboys did in 2007.

    Coming off his best single-season performance in 2011, Romo and the 'Boys have increased expectations for 2012. With Eli Manning having won two rings, the Eagles also fielding excellent talent and Washington seemingly back on the rise with Robert Griffin III, Romo is under even more pressure.

    Regardless of how the regular season pans out, Dallas just has to make the playoffs. That is where Romo has to deflect his doubters and put on a ridiculous performance.

Randy Moss: WR, 49ers

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    Randy Moss possesses arguably the most athleticism of any receiver from his era.

    With excellent top speed, acceleration, leaping ability and size, Moss reached over 1,000 receiving yards in 10 of his first 12 NFL seasons. Unfortunately, Moss wasn't the most motivated player either, and it was no surprise he played for three teams during 2010.

    In addition, no one bothered to sign him for 2011, but he is back for 2012 in San Francisco. For Moss, it's reasonable to think that this is his final legitimate opportunity to showcase his freakish athleticism because the 49ers are a Super Bowl contender and he's 35 years old.

    This season, it's not so much how well Moss produces as it is his impact on each game. San Francisco presents other excellent talent like Mario Manningham and Vernon Davis in the passing game, while Frank Gore and rookie LaMichael James are a great two-back system on the ground.

    Moss just needs to be efficient when given opportunities to make plays. Alex Smith is still developing, and it's likely that Moss won't see a ridiculous number of targets. So, provided he withholds any potential frustration, 2012 will be an impressive season.

    However, if Moss' attitude takes over like it did in New England, the end result will be disappointing.

Michael Vick: QB, Eagles

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    A polarizing athlete is a vehement understatement when discussing Michael Vick.

    His athletic ability alone is so uniquely exciting that it's hard to look away. But then we revert to why he missed the 2007 and 2008 seasons, and it's difficult to imagine him as a quarterback.

    For one, it's certainly reasonable for any person to refuse to accept Vick as an athlete simply because that's not necessarily the first thought when hearing his name. Strictly viewing him as a quarterback, though, you can still picture the polarization.

    He's not a true pocket passer, and through his first six seasons Vick was an unbelievable scrambler. Since returning to the pros Vick has become a better passer, but the odds of fully developing are against him.

    The pressure of 2012 is on him just as hard as Tony Romo and Eli Manning. Last season the Eagles significantly underachieved and have arguably more talent heading into 2012. Another down year in Philadelphia and Vick's polarity will take to new heights.


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