As part of the ritual around The Shop following the championship game in Week 16 is that, when the owners come to pick up their money, I force them to do top 10 lists at each position for what to expect next year. A lot can change from now until draft day next year, but here are what the boys came up with.
Some of the picks surprised me. It would appear that guys like Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins have earned respect at QB. I was also a little stunned to see Tony Romo on the list because he won’t be in Dallas. The same was true at running back, where Adrian Peterson showed up, apparently playing with a chip on his shoulder for someone else.
These rankings were the composite of more than a dozen questionnaires. They differed with mine, but, when added together, here are our preliminary 2017 rankings.
QUARTERBACK – 1. Drew Brees; 2. Aaron Rodgers; 3. Tom Brady; 4. Andrew Luck; 5. Matt Ryan; 6. Derek Carr; 7. Kirk Cousins; 8. Cam Newton; 9. Ben Roethlisberger; 10. Jameis Winston; 11. Matthew Stafford; 12. Russell Wilson; 13. Philip Rivers; 14. Eli Manning; 15. Andy Dalton; 16. Dak Prescott; 17. Carson Palmer; 18. Marcus Mariota; 19. Tony Romo; 20. Tyrod Taylor.
RUNNING BACK – 1. Ezekiel Elliott; 2. David Johnson; 3. Le’Veon Bell; 4. LeSean McCoy; 5. Melvin Gordon; 6. Devonta Freeman; 7. Todd Gurley; 8. DeMarco Murray; 9. LaGarrette Blount; 10. Lamar Miller; 11. Mark Ingram; 12. Jay Ajayi; 13. Carlos Hyde; 14. Jamaal Charles; 15. Jordan Howard; 16. Adrian Peterson; 17. Jonathan Stewart; 18. Rob Kelley; 19. Doug Martin; 20. Thomas Rawls.
WIDE RECEIVER – 1. Antonio Brown; 2. Julio Jones; 3. Odell Beckham Jr.; 4. Mike Evans; 5. A.J. Green; 6. Jordy Nelson; 7. T.Y. Hilton; 8. Dez Bryant; 9. Demaryius Thomas; 10. Brandin Cooks; 11. Amari Cooper; 12. Doug Baldwin; 13. Keenan Allen; 14. Devante Adams; 15. Julian Edelman; 16. Kelvin Benjamin; 17. DeAndre Hopkins; 18. Jarvis Landry; 19. Alshon Jeffery; 20. Allen Robinson.
TIGHT END – 1. Rob Gronkowski; 2. Travis Kelce; 3. Tyler Eifert; 4. Greg Olsen; 5. Jordan Reed; 6. Jimmy Graham; 7. Delanie Walker; 8. Cameron Brate; 9. Kyle Rudolph; 10. Zach Ertz.
- If you needed yardage points, Buffalo and Miami gave you all needed. The two teams combined for 52 first downs and 1,083 total yards. The run defenses took a holiday, as Miami ran for 261 yards on 38 carries and Buffalo ran for 272 yards on 49 carries.
- One of the things I love about the NFL is that teams don’t tank games when they stink. Entering play Saturday, three teams were still vying for the first overall pick in the draft – 0-14 Cleveland, 1-13 San Francisco and 2-12 Jacksonville. If there is a player they love in the draft, losing would definitely be an option. All three teams won Saturday, showing that even the worst teams in the NFL can win down the stretch of a forgettable season.
- Can we get the mothers of the world to settle on the spelling of the name pronounced Duh-VON-tay? We have Devonta Freeman, Davante Adams, DeVante Parker and Devontae Booker. I didn’t get into writing fantasy football to help spellcheck tell me it’s always wrong. Pick one spelling and stick to it!
- If you’re going to get into one of those free fantasy football playoff challenge pools on ESPN or NFL.com or some other site, if you’re convinced Dallas and New England are going to play in the Super Bowl, if you want to win, put as many of them in your lineup on the wild card weekend, even if they don’t play. You’ll thank me later.
The Razor’s Edge
10. Shuffling Out of Buffalo – In what was likely the last home game for the Ryan brothers, they did what they’ve done all year – allow nondescript quarterbacks to carve them up and rushers to expose them. Matt Moore threw for 233 yards and two touchdowns and Jay Ajayi ran for 206 yards and a TD (on a play where the Bills had 10 defenders on the field). For an offense that has been putting up points, to get beat because you allowed Miami to get in field goal range with no times outs in the final minute to send the game to overtime and lose on a 77-yard drive in the final four minutes, the self-fulfilling prophecy of the Ryan brothers being sent packing seems all but sealed now.
9. Riverboat Run Sinks Again – The Carolina Panthers had a chance to preserve some dignity at home against the division champion Falcons, but fell behind 13-0 in the first quarter and never had a chance in a 33-16 blowout loss. They allowed Atlanta to roll up 408 yards, while Cam Newton completed just 18 of 43 passes and had a passer rating of 44.5. For a team that went 15-1 a year ago, the latest defeat was just another reminder of how big a bunch of frontrunners the Panthers are and how bad they can look when they get in a hole early.
8. Getting Off the Schneid – Nobody wanted to be the team that allowed Cleveland to get its first win, but the Chargers found a way. San Diego outgained Cleveland by more than 100 yards (356-251), but nine penalties consistently killed drives and gave the Browns the dignity-saving victory that prevented them from going 0-16 this season. Nobody wanted that loss on their resume, but the Chargers have found ways to lose games all season, so if it was going to be anyone, it may as well have been them.
7. The Bucs Stop Here – Tampa was a cool story this season, stringing five wins together, throttling the offenses in Seattle and New Orleans (in their first meeting), vaulting themselves into a playoff God spot. Instead, they fell behind the Saints 20-7 a minute into the third quarter and, every time the Bucs offense scored to cur into the deficit, the defense allowed immediate retaliatory strikes that never let the Bucs have a legitimate chance to win. Another death-by-paper cut exit for a team with playoff promise.
6. Not Remembering the Titans – Just when the Tennessee Titans were getting the respect they deserved, knocking off Green Bay, Indianapolis, Denver and Kansas City to put themselves in position to win the AFC South title, all they had to do was beat Jacksonville to set up a one-game playoff against the Texans next week. Instead, they got trucked by the Jaguars – losing 38-17 while rushing 20 times for just 58 yards and allowing the Jags role up 415 yards. They had put themselves in position to control their own destiny – only to have to 2-12 Jaguars provide the knockout punch.
5. It Looks Good On You, Though – For those who have to travel Saturday to get to a holiday destination, the only game you likely saw was the Saturday night tilt between the Bengals and Texans. If Santa had a gift for you, it was not watching this stink bomb. I like a defensive battle as much as the next man, but this was a defensive battle because the offenses were so dismal. If I wanted to see 16 punts, I’d buy season tickets for the Rams.
4. The Defense Rests – Minnesota was the last unbeaten team in the NFL at 5-0, boasting the league’s best defense. Since then, however, it’s been all downhill. After allowing 27 first-half points to Indianapolis, Minnesota did themselves one worse Saturday, allowing 28 points to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the first half, on their way to 38-25 loss. For a defense that was so dominant at times during the season, their undoing recently on defense will transform them from a 5-0 team to a squad that will have to win New Year’s Day just to finish .500.
3. This Ain’t Nirvana – The Seattle Seahawks had the chance to make sure that the NFC playoffs would go through Seattle with a rested team ready to put the boots to whoever was unlucky enough to draw the Hawks in the second round. And why not? A home game against hapless Arizona and a finale against America’s Houseguest – the San Francisco 49ers, the Kato Kaelin of NFL franchises. Easy, right? Not so fast, my friend. The vaunted Seattle defense allowed the Cardinals to score four times in the fourth quarter in a 34-31 loss that translates in the likelihood of their only home game coming in the wild card round.
2. Down Goes Frazier!! – The defending champion Broncos needed to flex its defensive muscle in order to keep their flickering playoff hopes burning, but, in the biggest game of their season, they allowed 21 first quarter points – part of an onslaught that had the Chiefs of pace to gain 1,110 yards. When the anemic Broncos offense was forced to come back from a double-digit deficit to save the season, the Siemian Gang managed just three points in the final three quarters, meaning there will be two new entrants in the Super Bowl and guys polishing their rings and wondering what went wrong.
1. Dead Harbaugh Walking – The Baltimore Ravens were arguably the streakiest team in the NFL this season. They won their first three, lost their next four and won five of their last seven. A win Christmas afternoon and they have their playoff fortunes in their own hands. After allowing 10 points through the first 46 minutes of the game and holding a 20-10 lead on the road, Heinz Field was silent. The Ravens had a double-digit lead and the defense to make it hold up. Wait, what? After scoring on their opening drive, the Steelers next six drive went punt, punt, punt, interception, field goal, interception. Their three four quarter possessions included 21 plays, 205 yards and three touchdowns. If you’re going down, it doesn’t get much more Scorched Earth than that.
NOTE: As we flip the “Closed” sign over for another season, those of us at The Shop would like to wish all of you the best in 2017 and we’ll see you back here next year for a shave, a haircut and some fantasy chatter.