25 Reasons to Be Thankful for the NFL This Holiday Season
Maybe you're an NFL fan and your team hasn't done so well this season.
Or maybe your fantasy team is about to miss the playoffs. There's still reason to love the NFL.
This year has already seen New England return to the top, Michael Vick make an incredible comeback, Atlanta make a case as the best team in the NFC and Arian Foster lead the league in rushing. The New York Jets have had their miraculous finishes, the Pittsburgh-Baltimore rematch lived up to the hype and interim coach Jason Garrett has at least made Dallas respectable.
The reasons go on and on, but you get the point. So with Thanksgiving behind us, Christmas only days away and 2011 looming, let's celebrate.
Counting the playoffs earlier this year, here are 25 reasons to be thankful for the NFL:
25. Derek Anderson's Rant
We get it. He takes the game seriously.
But you had to love when the Arizona quarterback went off when asked why he was laughing on the sidelines. Part of the greatness of the NFL are the rants, whether it's Dennis Green ("We are who they thought they were!"), Herm Edwards ("You play to win the game!"), or Jim Mora's classic, ("PLAYOFFS! PLAYOFFS?!")
24. James Harrison's Aggressiveness
All it would take is a slight adjustment, but no NFL fan wants the Steelers linebacker to change the way he approaches the game. He is an old-school, hard-hitting, violent, fast, physical player and just the type we all grew up with and loved to watch.
23. Indianapolis-New England
The Colts are having a tough year, but this rivalry still matters and fans should still get a chance to see the two greatest quarterbacks in the game face-off during the regular season. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are both future Hall of Famers and their matchups have usually lived up to the hype.
22. Al Michaels
Many probably rejoiced when John Madden called it quits, and it's not the same with Pat Summerall no longer calling games. But Michaels is a legend, and he's someone who remains both credible and interesting to listen to. You don't have to worry about him trying to be funny, or being arrogant. The man simply is a pro.
21. Bradford Breaking The Heisman Jinx
Heisman Trophy quarterbacks haven't faired too well in the NFL for the most part, but it looks like Sam Bradford has snapped that streak. The No.1 pick in this year's NFL Draft has thrown for 3,065 yards and already has a promising St. Louis team contending for the playoffs.
20. Rex Ryan
There's something refreshing about the New York Jets coach. He's not politically correct, he uses salty language, is completely confident in his team and has no problem admitting when his team stinks. Quite a change from coaches who are boring, stale, hate talking and are consumed with giving perfect soundbite answers. One other great thing about Rex? Any coach who will don a wig, and take playful shots at his brother in a press conference is someone you have to enjoy.
19. Big Ben's Broken Nose
Who else was screaming at the TV that night when they saw Ben Roethlisberger's nose bent at an angle? What made the moment even funnier was when it was announced on the broadcast that the Steelers said it wasn't broke. Just bloodied. Right. Noses are supposed to look that way.
18. Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis
If you're a Cleveland Browns fan, you're hopeful, thanks in part, to these two. Hillis has become one of the league's top young running backs, and McCoy has helped lead Cleveland to upsets over both the Saints and New England, and almost over the Jets. Cleveland has struggled, and is still learning how to win, but they have their core with these two.
Time to build around it.
17. Faith Hill's Sunday Night Intro
Many of us grew up with Hank Williams Jr. and "Are You Ready For Some Football?" But NBC made a brilliant move to have Faith Hill open their Sunday Night Football broadcast. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the song, either.
16. Dez Bryant
The Dallas Cowboys landed a huge prize when they obtained Dez Bryant earlier this year in the draft. He battled injuries, and needed time to adjust to the NFL level, but quickly showed he is an incredible playmaker and worthy of wearing No.88. It will be fun to watch him make big catches and run back kickoffs and punts in the coming years.
15. Bills Get Over The Hump
Buffalo began the year 0-8, and had so many close losses, including to New England, Baltimore, Kansas City and Chicago. But the Bills finally got a win when they beat Detroit 14-12 on Nov.14. Buffalo is 4-10 and is set to get a lottery pick, but hopefully there are better days ahead. Coach Chan Gailey is also a good man, and deserves a shot at success.
14. Oakland Is Respectable
It's seemed like forever since the Oakland Raiders were in the Super Bowl facing former coach Jon Gruden. Since then, they've become a laughingstock, and were further embarrassed after No.1 pick Jamarcus Russell was a bust. But things appear to be turning around for the Raider Nation under coach Tom Cable. Oakland is 7-7, has been contending for the playoffs and has one of the league's bright young stars in running back Darren McFadden.
13. Old School Past
What makes the NFL so great is its tremendous past, with coaches like Lombardi, Tom Landry, Bill Walsh and Bill Parcells. Players like Deacon Jones (pictured), Paul Hornung, Roger Staubach, Mean Joe Green and Walter Payton all made the league what it is today.
12. Tony Dungy
He may not be coaching anymore, but it's good that the former Colts coach is still around the game as an analyst for NBC. Dungy is now focused on making a difference in society, is a sought after speaker and fans have to admire and respect him for helping mentor Michael Vick.
11. Danny Woodhead
Fans have always loved undersized, unknown, hard-working players and Woodhead fits the mold. The 5-foot-8 Patriots running back is in his third year out of Chadron State, and has been a key part of the Patriots offense, rushing for 435 yards and four touchdowns, while catching 31 passes for 347 yards.
10. The Good Guys
The list is plentiful, but what makes the NFL so beloved too are its collection of classy players like Jason Witten, the Manning brothers, Adrian Peterson, Matt Ryan, LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees. The league is very image-conscious, but you don't have to worry with these guys.
9. Cassel To Bowe
Matt Cassel has developed quite a chemistry with Dwayne Bowe in Kansas City, and they have become one of the NFL's most dynamic duos while also leading the Chiefs back to success and a shot at a division title.
8. Ray Lewis
After all these years, the Ravens linebacker is still bringing it. He is currently fifth in the league in tackles with 124, and leads a list of old-school players that includes Brian Urlacher, DeMarcus Ware, Clay Matthews, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu.
Many fans will say the NFL has become too soft, but it's players like Lewis that still bring back the physical, rough nature many of us grew up with.
7. New England's Dominance
You'll either admire their excellence, or hate them simply because they're too good. But the Patriots are 12-2, without a doubt the team to beat in the NFL and if they secure home field advantage, go ahead and book them to Dallas for the Super Bowl.
6. The Upsets
You've got plenty to choose from, whether it's Cleveland beating both the Saints and Patriots, Miami beating the New York Jets, Detroit beating Green Bay in their rematch or Dallas upsetting the New York Giants in Jason Garrett's first game as interim coach.
5. The Miraculous Plays
DeSean Jackson's 65-yard punt return on the final play of the game Sunday against the Giants has gone down in history among other great miracle finishes. Now, is it up with "The Catch" or "The Music City Miracle"? Those would be hard to top, but several years later they haven't been forgotten.
4. Super Bowl Commercials
The hype for the Super Bowl always carries with it the anticipation for great commercials. There were some more classics this year, including another Etrade commercial with the babies on the plane, as well as the Doritos commercial with the young boy protecting his mamma.
3. The Playoffs
The wait is almost over, and hopefully there will be some more memorable playoff matchups. Last year saw a classic between Minnesota and New Orleans for the NFC Championship, while the Jets also made a stunning run to the postseason.
There's no question it is the nastiest, most passionate, violent rivalry in the NFL. Both teams have tremendous defenses, and hate to lose to each other. The rematch was incredible, now let's just hope they play again in the playoffs.
1. Michael Vick's Comeback
Everyone deserves forgiveness and a second chance. Michael Vick has stayed the course, and has bounced back tremendously, becoming a favorite for the MVP and leading Philadelphia to contend for the NFC East title.