NFL Preseason 2012: A WWE-Themed Preview
Football season is right around the corner.
The preseason is marching on and most teams have their depth charts filled out. That means that everybody will be turning in their season predictions and breaking down rosters.
I, however, am doing an entirely different type of season preview. I have looked at each NFL team and thought about which current WWE wrestler or former WWE legend, and I use the team "legend" loosely, it most embodies.
Think about it this way: If each NFL team had a WWE Sports Entertainer as its mascot, who would it be? You get the point.
All 32 teams, paired up with a star of the squared circle. Here we go.
Arizona Cardinals: Marty Jannetty
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Look, I'm going to say it: Marty Jannetty wasn't too bad. He gets a bad rap because he was the second fiddle on The Rockers, but he wasn't awful when he was a Rocker. As a singles competitor, he wasn't great, but as a Rocker, he was not absolutely terrible.
Fitzgerald is the Shawn Michaels of the Arizona Cardinals.
Without Fitzgerald, the Cardinals would be hopeless. Even with him, their year won't be pretty and may be all but over with real quick.
Just like Jannetty's singles career.
Atlanta Falcons: John Morrison
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Remember that year or so when John Morrison was in every big multi-person match?
Morrison was in the Royal Rumble, Money In The Bank, Elimination Chamber and loads of other seemingly important matches.
He was fun to watch, often coming up with the show-stealing moment, but was never a real threat to win.
Did anybody ever think John Morrison was a threat to be the WWE Champion? Didn't think so.
That is about the story with the Atlanta Falcons. They may be fun to watch, especially with the receiving duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones, and they may win some games and make the playoffs, but does anybody really consider them a Super Bowl contender?
Didn't think so.
Baltimore Ravens: Kane
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Yet, they have only won one Super Bowl, in 2000, and really haven't been a top two or three team since.
They also have a little bit of a little brother relationship with the Steelers.
Kane has been at the top at times, but more often than not, he is billed as a Big Red Machine while actually wrestling in low to mid-card matches.
The Ravens are good. Kane is good. They are just not quite good enough historically.
This year, as we have heard for the last few years, the Ravens will go as quarterback Joe Flacco goes. I expect a playoff team, but a Super Bowl appearance is optimistic.
Buffalo Bills: Owen Hart
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Buffalo deserves to win. The fans are so good, as was evidenced by the fast start last year accompanied by raucous crowds.
With the exception of perhaps Minnesota Vikings fans (of which I am one, so label me biased), perhaps no fanbase in the NFL is more tortured and always waiting for the inevitable letdown.
With all that said, the Bills are an unappreciated franchise. They have shown to be rather exciting the past season or two. If they can stay healthy, with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, they could surprise again.
It is time to appreciate Fitzpatrick as a legitimate starting QB, just like it is long past time to appreciate Owen Hart and the brilliance he brought to the ring.
Go back and watch the period from about Wrestlemania 10-12 and marvel at the Owen Hart matches.
Underrated, undersized and unappreciated: Owen Hart and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Oh yeah, and the Bills play in Canada sometimes. So there is that.
Carolina Panthers: Kofi Kingston
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The Panthers are exciting, thanks in large part to Cam Newton.
Are they a very good football team? No. Sorry, Ryan Kalil.
Kofi Kingston is awfully exciting as well. He is a good wrestler, from a performer standpoint, but from a WWE power ranking perspective, is he very good? No.
Both are certainly worth watching, but meaningful wins are few and far between.
Chicago Bears: Ultimate Warrior
The 80s and early 90s were wild.
The best year in the history of the Ultimate Warrior (Wrestlemania 6) and Da Bears (1985) came in that time period.
But that isn't why I used this comparison. The Bears, like most Chicago teams, are either loved by their fans or hated by the rest of the country, especially in the rest of the Midwest. I used to think this feeling toward Chicago was something exclusive to myself and a few others, but since have heard it on TV, read it in books and heard it from other fans.
I love the Warrior and think he was a legend in the wrestling business. Some think he was a pitiful in-ring performer, a seemingly nonsensical public speaker and, quite frankly, a jerk to his co-workers. I surely can't say what kind of person he is, for I have never met him. But stories are abound on the Internet. I still cherish the memory of him beating Hogan in Toronto to win the WWF Title.
Love them or hate them, The Ultimate Warrior and Chicago Bears inspire a lot of feelings. This season, with polarizing figures such as Jay Cutler, the Bears should be as polarizing as ever, especially considering a healthy Bears offense should be very good.
Cleveland Browns: Jerry the King Lawler
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Cleveland is a great city. I am a die-hard Indians fan, so I am partial to Northeast Ohio's favorite city. But the Browns have been a sad franchise for a long time.
They have super fans. Browns fans are as loyal and devoted as any fanbase in all of sports. Yet, they have never won a Super Bowl and have not come within sniffing distance of an AFC Championship since the team was brought back to Cleveland following the move to Baltimore.
But the fans still persevere, and the Browns keep trying.
Jerry The King Lawler has never won a WWE Championship. He may be past his prime, to say the least, but we still see the King wrestle from time to time.
He had an incredibly great career in the old territories before coming to the WWE, just like the Browns were a storied franchise prior to the Super Bowl era.
In 2012, however, both seem like they are running in place, getting no closer to their ever-coveted championship. This is true of Lawler, for sure. As for the Browns, it is a pretty safe bet, as well.
Cincinnati Bengals: Daniel Bryan
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The Bengals came out of nowhere last year and were a solid, well-rounded football team.
They can look methodical at times, led by surprisingly impressive quarterback Andy Dalton, then break off a jaw-dropping big-yardage play with the breathtaking talent of wide receiver A.J. Green.
The Bengals just seem like a very fundamental team that will win the games they should and, probably, lose the games they should.
Daniel Bryan is similar. Most didn't expect him to be this good in the WWE. I know he is the darling of independent wrestling fans. But after being kicked out of Nexus and his run as U.S. Champion, did anybody expect him to be the guy carrying RAW week after week?
Fundamentals with a splash of the incredible every now and then: The Bengals and Daniel Bryan.
Dallas Cowboys: Shawn Michaels
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This may seem obvious due to the Texas connection. Shawn Michaels may be from San Antonio, but you get the idea.
Dallas is (was) "America's Team." They were the most dominant franchise in the 90s, and despite not winning anything meaningful since, have remained somehow relevant and talked about.
When the Cowboys are winning, they immediately become perhaps one of the top five or so most "liked" franchises in all of sports. Personally, I think the Cowboys could push for a playoff spot this year, but that may be a stretch.
Shawn Michaels has been retired for more than two years now, but is still very well-received every time he is on RAW. He has been a main storyline in both this year's Wrestlemania and Summerslam despite not wrestling since 2010.
Tim Riggins said it best: "Texas Forever,'' even if there isn't any real winning going on.
Detroit Lions: Dolph Ziggler
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Detroit is a chic team right now. Megatron, Matthew Stafford, Shu and the rest of the crew are talented and have a swagger that is definitely alluring.
The Lions play in a tough division, with the powerful Packers and the scary Chicago Bears, but they have the talent to keep up with those teams. It will be wild in Motown when the Lions finally play another playoff game, which could be in about four months.
Dolph Ziggler is certainly a star on the rise. He is all but assured (thanks to his MITB briefcase) of competing for a major title in the near future. He can do it all, both in the ring and on the mic. He also has his own swagger and style.
The Detroit Lions and Dolph Ziggler are both on the rise. The question is if and when they reach the top.
Denver Broncos: The Rock
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The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment could not look less like The Most Electrifying Quarterback in the NFL (over the last decade or so).
The Rock has a personalty bigger than any room he is in. He is a model of fitness and athleticism.
Peyton Manning is slow and looks like an accountant.
Yet, both are undeniably one of the best ever at their respective jobs.
The Rock made quite a return to Wrestlemania this year in an epic battle with John Cena.
Peyton attempts to make his own return this season in the high altitude of Denver. I am of the camp that Manning still has a lot left in the tank and could lead Denver deep in the playoffs. I expect big things from a healthy Peyton this season.
Green Bay Packers: Hulk Hogan
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The Packers (sorry, Cowboys, Bears and 49ers), are the most history-rich team in the NFL.
Vince Lombardi. Bart Starr. Lambeau Field. Super Bowls I and II. Yes, even Bret Favre.
About nine months ago, some people thought the Packers might go undefeated and win back-to-back Super Bowls. They did not, thanks to Eli Manning and the Giants. However, I feel like the Packers are not getting the hype they deserve coming into this season.
They are my favorite to bring the Lombardi Trophy home.
Hulk Hogan is the most history-rich wrestler. I understand many others, such as Stone Cold, The Rock, Shawn Michaels, and many, many more, have left their mark. But love him or hate him, Hogan is the most popular wrestler ever.
Hogan may not have had the in-ring ability of other legends, but he had the national profile, charisma and fame to make the WWE a mainstream company.
Houston Texans: Cody Rhodes
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Arian Foster is going first in thousands of fantasy football drafts this week.
If that last sentence was said two years ago, nobody would have believed it.
The Texans are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They have a good defense, a great running game, a pretty good passing game and a weak division.
Cody Rhodes was always the afterthought of Legacy when he was in a stable with Randy Orton and Ted Dibiase Jr.
Now, Rhodes has arguably been the most interesting and successful of the three over the last calendar year or so.
Randy Orton is still main-event capable because of his popularity with the younger fans, but Rhodes has become a believable heel title contender. Like the Texans, Rhodes has built himself slowly but surely to become an exciting, interesting athlete.
Who would have thought two years ago that we could live in a world with Cody Rhodes holding a major title and the Houston Texans making a playoff run?
Indianapolis Colts: Macho Man Randy Savage
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The Colts, over the last decade or so (The Manning Era), have been one of the top teams in the NFL. I know the Colts only won one Super Bowl, but it seemed as if they were overlooked each season, even though by playoff time, they were one of the best two or three teams in the NFL.
Macho Man Randy Savage was also perpetually unappreciated during his career. Now, with the explosion of the Internet, Youtube, Blogs, WWE Boxed Sets and Anthologies, The Macho Man's legend has only grown.
Savage is finally getting the credit he deserves as one of the best to enter the squared circle.
Savage also always had the prettiest girl on his arm. The Colts kind of had the "prettiest girl" as well in the form of Peyton Manning, and now Andrew Luck.
Last year, when the Colts were terrible and led by Curtis Painter, was the same thing as when Savage was running around with Sensational Queen Sherri.
Savage recovered. Can the Colts?
Jacksonville Jaguars: Heath Slater
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Jacksonville started fast. Remember when they had Mark Brunell and Keenan McCardell and were an exciting team?
Remember how cool it was when Nexus, led by Wade Barrett but including Heath Slater, wrecked the Monday Night RAW ring?
After those flashes, both the Jaguars and Heath Slater kind of faded away.
Sure, the Jags have Maurice Jones-Drew, who is a superstar. Heath Slater had a nice run prior to RAW 1000 when he was always getting beat by such legends as Psycho Sid and Rakishi.
But really, in late August of 2012, both are currently pretty irrelevant in the grand scheme of things
Kansas City Chiefs: Edge
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Edge's career ended too early due to injury. Is that really a surprise? Remember the TLC matches? Is it any surprise that Edge's body failed him?
That is not to say he wasn't fantastic to watch. Edge is one of my all-time favorite wrestlers and his career was fascinating to watch.
The Chiefs' season ended too early last season due to injuries.
Jammal Charles wasn't the only Chief to lose most or all of last season to injury and it showed.
This year, the Chiefs are healthy and looked primed to surprise the AFC West.
When the Chiefs are good, they are extremely fun to watch. Dwayne Bowe, Charles, Tony Moeaki and now Peyton Hillis are all exciting players. Aarowhead may be crazier and louder than any stadium in the NFL when the Chiefs are winning.
They are just a fun team to like, just like Edge was a fun person to watch.
Minnesota Vikings: Roddy Piper
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Now, for my admittedly favorite team and lifelong cause of heartbreak, the Minnesota Vikings.
Why Piper for the Vikings?
They have a very devoted following. After the last two seasons of disaster after disaster (Brett Favre, Metrodome Roof, Bears vs. Packers NFC title game, Packers' Super Bowl victory, the Donovan McNabb experiment, Christian Ponder's underwhelming rookie season, AP's knee, and on and on) the fans have to be loyal to still support the Vikes.
Also, the Vikings have never won a Super Bowl despite being one of the more successful and storied NFL franchises.
Roddy Piper has a strong fan following as well. He continues to get a big response whenever he joins Monday Night RAW. Many fans love Piper, whether he is acting like a good guy or an instigator.
Piper also never won the big one, despite being an all-time legend.
Piper has talked on RAW about his heartbreak over never winning the WWE Title. His failure sometimes defines him when it comes to wrestling.
If failure doesn't define the Vikings, then what does?
Miami Dolphins: Goldberg
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The Undefeated Streak.
The 1972 Dolphins remain the only NFL team to go undefeated and win the Super Bowl.
Goldberg had the vaunted undefeated streak to begin his run in WCW.
However, it has turned out that while the Dolphins were a great team and Goldberg was a semi-watchable wrestler because of his persona, both are now the punchline of jokes.
We really only hear Goldberg's name when the crowd is making fun of Ryback. We only hear about the Miami Dolphins when a team is threatening to join the 1972 team in the undefeated club (or in this year's case, when watching Hard Knocks).
The Dolphins do, however, promise to be somewhat interesting this season with a determined Reggie Bush and rookie Ryan Tannehill injecting some life into the offense.
New England Patriots: John Cena
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This one was too easy.
The Patriots are the All-American, fan-favorite or fan-hated national team.
Tom Brady is the NFL's golden boy. He always seems in control. Always seems like the favorite to win. Ladies love him.
John Cena is the WWE's golden boy. He is always in the title hunt, even if it seems he isn't. You never really think Cena will lose.
Here is the secret about Brady, the Patriots at large and John Cena: They are really good. Whether you love them or hate them, and the majority of non-Boston-area adults hate them, they are both incredibly talented and just flat-out good.
If they weren't, people wouldn't hate them (or love them) so much.
New Orleans Saints: Stone Cold Steve Austin
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This may seem strange, a team called the Saints being compared to the ultimate bad boy.
But, I am sure I don't have to remind you about the whole "bounty" thing. The Saints went from America's darlings two years ago to the NFL's black sheep today.
Sean Payton is gone. Jonathan Vilma is suspended. The Saints were, quite frankly in my opinion, unfairly labeled as thugs.
Stone Cold was always anti-establishment, to say the least. Well, if you consider soaking the boss in beer and attacking him a hospital bed "anti-establishment."
But as with the Texas Rattlesnake, the Saints are kind of cool again. It is kind of fun to see if this team, led by ultra-accurate Drew Brees, can still make a Super Bowl run without its head coach, and with a black cloud hanging over it.
Sometimes it is more fun to cheer for the bad guys.
New York Giants: Chris Jericho
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Unappreciated. Underrated. Consistent.
Those words could be used to describe both the New York Giants and Chris Jericho.
Ok, maybe not always consistent, since Y2J leaves for months at a time to tour with Fozzy, and the Giants could win the Super Bowl today and look terrible tomorrow
But unappreciated and underrated certainly do the trick.
Somehow, the Giants have won two Super Bowls in the past five years. Eli Manning has suddenly became not only an elite quarterback, but a clutch quarterback. Nobody thought the word "clutch" would describe Eli.
Chris Jericho just continues to be one of the best in the business whenever he is around a WWE ring. Jericho is incredible on the mic and in the ring. Even in his older age, Jericho has put on two fantastic matches at Wrestlemania and Summerslam this year with CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler, respectively.
Don't ever sleep on Y2J, and don't sleep on an Eli-led Giants team.
New York Jets: The Miz
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Remember when the Jets were a half away from beating Peyton Manning and the Colts to go to the Super Bowl? Seems like a long time ago.
The Jets are not the team they were two years ago. The defense is still ferocious, but the offense is not as promising. Not only is the Super Bowl a long shot for the Jets this year, the playoffs may be a real stretch.
The Jets are more a reality show right now than a Super Bowl contender.
The Miz was a reality star at one time. Then he built himself up to what I considered a very good WWE Champion. He will be the first to tell you that he did headline a Wrestlemania and did beat John Cena in that match.
Since then, things haven't been the same for The Miz. He now holds the intercontinental belt and hasn't been a main-eventer in a while.
Oakland Raiders: HHH
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HHH, even after the beating at Summerslam, is a scary dude.
With the exception of maybe only The Undertaker, HHH has some of the best entrances in WWE history. His Game of Thrones-like entrances are especially great.
When The King of Kings dons the crown and the sledgehammer, he would fit right in with the Raider faithful in Oakland.
And, of course, the Raiders have the most intimidating fanbase in the NFL.
Let's also not forget that HHH is the son in-law of Vincent Kennedy McMahon, the win-at-all-costs boss. Kind of like the Raiders were the baby of Al Davis.
Just win, baby.
Philaldephia Eagles: Brock Lesnar
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The Eagles are flashy. They have as much talent as any team in the NFL. They have injury concerns, namely Michael Vick. They have a ton of confidence, and they are a pretty disliked team, outside of Philadelphia, thanks to that same guy, Vick.
Brock Lesnar is sure disliked. He was disliked by college wrestling fans from outside of Minnesota, disliked by WWE fans, disliked by UFC fans, and now, again, disliked by WWE fans. That is not to say that nobody liked Lesnar. He has millions of fans worldwide.
Lesnar has injury concerns. He has talent. He has swagger.
Lesnar is finding his way back atop the WWE. Will the Eagles find themselves atop the NFC East, or miss the playoffs again?
Pittsburgh Steelers: The Undertaker
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The Undertaker has the most wins in Wrestlemania history.
The Dead Man is not only the wrestler who is always guaranteed to put on a great match, he is also the most respected wrestler in the locker room.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have the most Super Bowl wins in NFL history.
The Steelers are a franchise that consistently produces competitive teams built on toughness and defense. They are also, thanks in large part to their winning tradition and owner Art Rooney, perhaps one of the most respected franchises in all of sports.
It seems like it has been years since we have not expected the Steelers to at least contend in the AFC. It has been years since we saw The Undertaker lose at Wrestlemania. And by years, I mean never.
Seattle Seahawks: Christian
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Great fans. That is the main constant for Christian and the Seattle Seahawks.
Christian was finally a World Heavyweight Champion last year, only to lose it almost immediately. Now, Christian is losing matches for the Intercontinental Championship. Yet, his "Peeps" continue to love him.
The Seahawks have perhaps the best home-field advantage in the NFL. Part of this is attributed to the stadium design in Seattle, but a lot of it goes to their fiercely devoted fans.
Christian's championship days may be over, and the Seahawks may be a ways away, but the fans will stick by both of them.
St. Louis Rams: Wade Barrett
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The Rams were so close to the playoffs two years ago. Kind of like Wade Barrett was so close to being a main-event guy.
In the last year, the Rams fell off, and Barrett suffered a bad injury and is just now promoting a comeback.
Now, both are hoping to bounce back.
The Rams have put their faith in Sam Bradford. They must believe in the third-year quarterback to lead them back atop the NFC West.
Barrett had been running a promo showcasing his bare-knuckles history. He hopes to come back and contend for the World Heavyweight Championship soon.
Both need a big comeback year. Plus, Bradford kind of looks like he could be Barrett's little brother.
San Diego Chargers: CM Punk
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I know Phillip Rivers is probably not near as anti-establishment as Punk, but they are kind of similar.
Both were underrated when starting their careers in the "big leagues,"and both have proven to be excellent pros.
Also, while Punk is straight edge, it is said that Phillip Rivers refuses to say a swear word. That is about as straight edge as language gets.
Recently, Punk has been an awfully whiny champ. His new gimmick is to feel disrespected and slighted by the fans and brass at the WWE.
Rivers is always complaining about something. He may not cuss out his teammates, but he sure lets them hear it if someone screws up.
That may not be a similarity, but their straight-laced tendencies and their talent make them more alike than it may seem.
San Francisco 49ers: Bret the Hitman Hart
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Excellence of Execution. A well-deserved nickname of Bret Hart.
Few were ever as fluid and smooth in the ring as The Hitman. Bret Hart was in some of the very best matches of the 90s.
He is a legend who made his mark with fundamentals and preparedness. And, of course, execution.
The 2011 49ers were also a model of execution. Their defense was stifling while the offense just tried to not lose the game. Alex Smith became a game manager and the 49ers won a playoff game.
The '90s were more kind to Bret Hart than the 49ers, but the Niners seem to be back in the ranks of the elite teams in the NFL.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mankind
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Mick Foley is the real comparison, I suppose, but since Mankind is likely his most mainstream character, even if Cactus Jack is probably more beloved, I used Mankind.
Foley was always a wild card. He never looked like an athlete. He wasn't real technically sound. But he still put on some of the best matches in WWE history, especially of the hardcore variety.
But beyond the hardcore legend status, the thing Foley is best remembered for is his multiple characters, including the deranged one, Mankind. He had a bit of an identity crisis.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had an identity crisis last year. They were expected to contend for the playoffs, Josh Freeman was supposed to take the next step, LaGarrette Blount and Mike Williams were supposed to be fantasy stars.
Instead, the Bucs took a huge step back. They were really bad last season, leading to the dismissal of coach Raheem Morris.
This year, the Bucs hope to turn things around, yet again, and be a team to be reckoned with.
Tennessee Titans: Sheamus
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I really wanted to use Sheamus for a team. He is the World Heavyweight Champion, after all. It was hard to find an Irish team that was a heel champion turned face champion. But the Titans made a little sense.
Here is why: Sheamus came out with a bang. He was a really good heel champion in my opinion, then turned face, was pretty irrelevant for a while and now is World Heavyweight Champion and the face of Smackdown.
Chris Johnson came out with a bang and had no problem declaring himself an elite back. He was one of the best running backs in the NFL before his holdout last year, and then was less efficient last season, while still being very good.
Now, many experts think Johnson may bounce back to his pre-2011 totals. Johnson has had a bit of a Sheamus-like career: top spot in the business as a rookie, fall off to a mid-carder and now back on the road to the top of the business.
The Titans as a team may not shoot to the top like Sheamus did, but the team looks to be somewhat interesting this year, especially considering the team has been put in the hands of Jake Locker.
Alright, it's not the best comparison for Sheamus, but I tried.
Washington Redskins: Ted DiBiase
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Money, money, money, money, money.
Ted DiBiase had it, and Daniel Snyder has it.
But neither has won the big one.
The Redskins have been annually disappointing during the Snyder years. They spend a lot, but still have not been able to crack the top of the NFC East in many years.
Things may be turning around for the Skins soon, however, thanks largely to the promise surrounding RGIII.
With Robert Griffin III leading the Redskins' attack, they may finally be a team worth watching.
The last time the Redskins had this much hype surrounding them, Mark Rypien was throwing to Art Monk, and Ted DiBiase was trying to use Andre The Giant to buy the WWF title.