W10: Top NFL Stories of 2011

10) Cam Newton exceeds the hype

I think it’s safe to say that Cam Newton had a far better year than anyone could have ever imagined him having. I suppose the back-to-back 400 yard passing games he had to open the season gave away that he was going to be one hell of a talent. Cam even ended up breaking Peyton Mannings rookie record of 3739 passing yards, which many thought was a record that would stand the test of time. Add to that his 14 rushing touchdowns (a league record) and you have one of the greatest rookie seasons by a quarterback in NFL history.

9) Eagles “Dream Team” fizzles out

Nobody in the league had a better off-season than the Philadelphia Eagles this year. Signing free-agents Jason Babin, Ronnie Brown, Cullen Jenkins, Steve Smith and Nnamdi Asomugha to go with Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson made the Eagles the early favorites to win the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for them, success was hard to come by in 2011. The team lost 4 of its first 5 games and currently sit at a respectable, yet uninspiring 7-8. This team has all of the talent in the world and some of the best players in the league on both sides of the ball. Their failure to win games and even make the playoffs this year just top off what has been a huge disappointment of a season for Philly.

8) Drew Brees breaks Dan Marino’s seasonal passing record

Dan Marino’s record of 5084 passing yards in a season is no more. The new king of the mountain is New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. On a Monday night game in late December, Brees threw for 307 passing yards to top Marino’s record and help the Saints triumph over the Atlanta Falcons 45-16. That passing mark stood for 27 years before Brees shattered it on Monday. If not for the year Aaron Rodgers is having in Green Bay, Brees would probably win the MVP award this season as well. Currently, Aaron Rodgers and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady also have a chance of passing Marinos yardage record before the year is done.

7) The lowly Kansas City Chiefs end the Green Bay Packers undefeated streak

Upsets don’t come much bigger or better than this. With a new coach and a new quarterback running the show, the 5-8 Kansas City Chiefs shocked the football world and defeated the then 13-0 Green Bay Packers 19-14 in Kansas City on December 13th. Newly signed quarterback Kyle Orton threw for 299 passing yards tearing up the Packers highly touted secondary. The Packers were expected to be just the third team in NFL history to go an entire season undefeated, but that dream was no more after this match-up with the Chiefs. This will go down convincingly as the biggest upset of 2011.

6) The 49ers, Lions and Texans become winners, make playoffs

The Houston Texans had never won a division title in their franchises history. The San Francisco 49ers hadn’t won a divisional title or qualified for the playoffs since 2002. The Detroit Lions had been held out of the playoffs for more than a decade. In 2011, all of that changed. The Texans, 49ers and Lions all had Cinderella stories in the NFL this year, as all 3 teams qualified for the playoffs and finished with winning seasons. A lot of credit can be given to new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, new Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and Lions coach Jim Schwartz for helping to turn these once troubled franchises back into winners.

5) The NFL Lockout

At least the lockout didn’t cost the league any games like it did the NBA. The NFL Lockout lasted 136 days, making it the longest labor stoppage in league history. A new 10-year collective bargaining agreement was reached in July which saved the NFL from missing any regular season games. Well, the Hall of Fame game was cancelled, but no one really cares about that. The players got all of the changes and perks they wanted instigated and the rich owners of the league got even richer. Everyone walked away from the table happy as a clam.

4) Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis passes away

On October 8th of this year, the football world lost a true legend as Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis tragically passed away at age 82. Al was one of the most recognizable owners in all of professional sports and was  the main face of the Raiders organization from the early sixties until he passed away. When you thought Raiders, you thought Al Davis. He was a rebel who had a huge passion for winning, but he was also a caring, loved and well-respected man. His contributions to the game of Football and the Oakland Raiders organization will never be forgotten.

3) Peyton Manning misses the entire season with a neck injury, Colts suffer GREATLY

I never could have figured that the Indianapolis Colts were going to end up being THIS bad without their star Quarterback in 2011. The Colts lost 13 games in a row to begin the season, with backups Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky holding down the fort for the injured Manning. Some fans started jokingly saying that Manning deserved MVP votes without even having played a game. Without him, the Colts were the laughing-stock of the league and were on route to a win-less season before gaining victories in their last 2 games against Tennessee and Houston. With the long-term health of Manning in question and a high pick in this summers draft, the organization is already hinting that they may be selecting a quarterback. Perhaps we may never see Manning in the blue and white ever again.

2) The Green Bay Packers win Super Bowl XLV, defeat Pittsburgh 31-25

Considering the way Green Bay has been playing this season, it would be hard to believe that the Packers barely even made the playoffs in 10-11. Barely sneaking into the postseason with victories in their final 2 games, the Packers would go on to defeat the Eagles, Falcons, rival Bears and AFC Champion Steelers to win the franchises 13th championship and first since 1996. Aaron Rodgers finally emerged from the shadows of former Packers quarterback Brett Favre and cemented his own legacy in Green Bay with a Super Bowl victory. The Packers currently sit at 14-1 and are the heavy favorites to win it all again this January.

and the number one NFL story of 2011 is/was…

1) Tebow-Mania!

I still have yet to figure out why Tebow is as big a star as he is or why so many people care what this guy does on the field. Nevertheless, there is no denying the fanfare and publicity Tebow  garnered for himself in 2011. He actually may be the biggest name the league has right now. That’s not bad for a guy who can’t complete more than 50% of his passes, or have the throwing mechanics of an elite quarterback. He did take the lowly Denver Broncos from 1-4 to 8-7 and a possible playoff berth this season, so I suppose that has to account for something, right? I guess you know you’ve made it in the sports world when fans and haters alike mimic your signature pose. Tebowing anyone?

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