Respect in the NFL is earned and not given. At least, that is how things are supposed to go.
What happens when guys earn the respect, but still don't receive it?
Such is the case for the following players and teams. They have played at a level worthy of envy from the rest of the league and yet have largely been overlooked by their peers.
Let's start with the NFL's leader in tackles, a player that is forgotten far too often.
For one reason or another, Minnesota Vikings linebacker is not one of the first names that most people think of when listing top LBs.
That unfortunate truth should change after this season. Greenway has anchored the Vikings defense to the tune of 123 tackles, the most in the NFL.
Greenway has now recorded at least 100 tackles in five of his six NFL seasons (he had 99 in 2009). Jared Allen is usually the guy most associated with the Vikings defense, but Greenway is quickly making his own claim to that spot.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were downright terrible last season, but if you can get past that tumultuous campaign you will see a team that has found an identity in 2012.
The Buccaneers have become a team predicated on the dynamic rushing ability of Doug Martin, but they can also lean on Josh Freeman and the passing game when the situation calls for it.
Tampa Bay ranks 12th in passing and 11th in rushing, and on the other side of the ball the the defense ranks first in the league against the rush. The team has constantly improved as the season has worn on, not losing any game this season by more than eight points.
As Doug Martin continues to emerge as a legitimate running back, Tampa Bay is a team few others want to see make the playoffs.
The Cincinnati Bengals are gaining respect within the AFC North division, but how much of their recent success is attributed to Andy Dalton?
Perhaps I am off base here, but most talk surrounding the Bengals resurgence tends to focus on the abilities of wide receiver A.J. Green. Green certainly deserves all the praise that is showered upon him, but the man throwing him the ball deserves some as well.
Dalton has thrown for 2,980 yards, 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season. He is blossoming into one of the AFC's best quarterbacks and yet continues to fly under the league's collective radar.
Perhaps the fact that Brian Hartline has only one touchdown this season has clouded the fact that he has played extremely well.
The Miami Dolphins wideout has 891 receiving yards and has helped rookie QB Ryan Tannehill's adjustment to the pro game.
He is the best option on the Dolphins roster and yet is often forgotten when listing the best receivers in the AFC.
What's not to like? Hartline has averaged at least 14 yards per catch in each of his four NFL seasons and deserves every target that comes his way.
The Seattle Seahawks Week 13 overtime victory over the Chicago Bears proved that this team is undoubtedly a contender in the NFC playoff race.
At 7-5, Seattle has one of the NFL's best defenses and an offense that can eat up the clock and wear opponents down.
Running back Marshawn Lynch ranks second in the NFL with 1,138 rushing yards and rookie QB Russell Wilson does not make the kind of mistakes usually associated with players of his age.
Pending suspensions to Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman will be an obvious setback, but this team deserves respect. Being primed for a playoff spot with a third-round pick running the offense is no small feat.
Yes, there is a stigma that follows Tony Romo around wherever he goes—the type of stigma that may never fully go away until Romo wins a Super Bowl.
However, Romo is not as bad as many would like to suggest. In fact, his numbers demand a certain level of respect.
Romo currently ranks third in the NFL with 3,660 passing yards as his Cowboys fight to make it into the NFC playoffs. Assuming Romo clears the 4,000 yard threshold, it will be the fourth time he has done so in the last six years.
Romo's penchant for poor turnovers is often highlighted, but in reality he has thrown 10 or fewer interceptions in three of the last four seasons.