NFL: 25 Reasons To Be Thankful for Football This Holiday Season

Trae ThompsonSenior Analyst IDecember 22, 2010

25 Reasons to Be Thankful for the NFL This Holiday Season

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks to pass against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    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

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    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 12:  Quarterback Derek Anderson #3 of the Arizona Cardinals watches from the sidelines during the NFL game against the Denver Broncos at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 12, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals def
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    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

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    PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 21: James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers pumps up the crowd during the game against the Oakland Raiders on November 21, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    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

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    FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 21:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots shakes hands with Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts after their game at Gillette Stadium on November 21, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    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

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    TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 19: NBC commenator Al Michaels reports from the sidelines as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the Seattle Seahawks at Raymond James Stadium on October 19, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    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

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    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 05:  Quarterback Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Rams defeated the Cardinals 19-6.  (Photo b
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    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

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets looks on during warm ups against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    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

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05:  Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on after defeating the Baltimore Ravens 13-10 at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
    Larry French/Getty Images

    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

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    PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 17:  Colt McCoy #12 of the Cleveland Browns hands the ball off to Peyton Hillis #40 during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 17, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Image
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    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

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    TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 29:  Singer Faith Hill speaks at the pregame show and national anthem press conference held at the Tampa Convention Center on January 29, 2009 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    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

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    ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 21:  Wide receiver Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after the Cowboys beat the Detroit Lions 35-19 at Cowboys Stadium on November 21, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
    Tom Pennington/Getty Images

    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

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    ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 14:  Fred Jackson #22 of the Buffalo Bills runs against the Detroit Lions at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 14, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. The Bills won 14-12.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    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

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    OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 19:  Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders runs with the ball during their game against the Denver Broncos at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 19, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    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

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    MARINA DEL REY, CA - MAY 17: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver and NFL hall of famer Deacon Jones at the 2008 NFL PLAYERS Rookie Premiere Reception held at Glow on May 17, 2008 in Marina Del Rey, California.  (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for NFL PLAY
    Jesse Grant/Getty Images

    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

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    PITTSBURGH - NOVEMBER 9:  Head coach Tony Dungy  of the Indianapolis Colts watches the action from the sidelines during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 9, 2008 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by: Rick Stewart/Getty
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    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

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    FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 21:   Danny Woodhead #39 of the New England Patriots carries the ball as Jerraud Powers #25 of the Indianapolis Colts defends on November 21, 2010 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots defeated the Colts 31-28.
    Elsa/Getty Images

    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

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    CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 05:  Dree Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints gives instructions to his team during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  The Saints won 34-30.  (Photo by Andy
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    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

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    SEATTLE - NOVEMBER 28:  Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe #82 of the Kansas City Chiefs is congratulated by quarterback Matt Cassel #7 and Tony Moeaki #81after scoring a touchdown to take a 34-17 lead against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on November 28, 20
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    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

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05: Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens follows the ball against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    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

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    FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 19:  Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks with head coach Bill Belichick before playing against the Green Bay Packers at Gillette Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  The Patriots won the g
    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    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

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 14:  Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys looks on from the sidelines against the New York Giants on November 14, 2010 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Ima
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    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

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 19:  DeSean Jackson #10 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs in the game winning touchdown on a punt return against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 19, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Ni
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    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

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    NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 09: A detail of the New Orleans Saints Super Bowl Champions patch is seen on the jersey of Drew Brees at Louisiana Superdome on September 9, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    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

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    NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24:  Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings fumbles the ball as he was hit by Jonathan Vilma #51 of the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisian
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    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.

2. Pittsburgh-Baltimore

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    BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 05:  Wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs the ball against linebacker Ray Lewis #52 and safety Dawan Landry #26 of the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  Pi
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    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

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 19:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles rushes against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 19, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    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.