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NFL Divisional Playoffs: Steelers vs Broncos (Preview)

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Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) vs Denver Broncos (12-4)

January 17th 4:40 PM ET/ 3:40 Central

Last Saturday’s victory over the Cincinnati Bengals was not only impressive, great & epic, it proved to be costly as well. Scoreboard wise the Steelers might’ve won 18-16 but in the minds of many this upcoming game against the Broncos is where the Steelers injury riddled season ends.

Healthy, the Steelers were/are an offensive juggernaut not too many if any teams would like to face. They posses not only an All-Pro Quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger but also an All-Pro Running Back in Le’Veon Bell & an All-Pro Reciever in Antonio Brown. They also have guys like Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant & Heath Miller who can make plays as well. Oh, and the Steelers also have a legit guy backing up Bell in DeAngelo Williams.

The bad thing about what I just listed is….The stars are hurt….

Ben Roethlisberger has a separated shoulder. (Injured in the Cincy game.)

Antonio Brown has a concussion so he’s out for the game. (Injured in the Cincy game.)

And Le’Veon Bell has been out since Week 8 with a season ending knee injury. (Injured in a game against Cincy actually.)

Even backup running back DeAngelo Williams is out this week due to a foot injury.

Tough luck.

The Broncos on the other hand are a lot more healthy.

Even with the inconsistent play at quarterback this season (Peyton Manning & Brock O) the Denver Broncos were still pretty damn dominant in part because of their defense.

On defense guys like DeMarcus Ware, Shane Ray, Derek Wolfe & Von Miller (linebackers/ defensive ends) can rush the quarterback while guys like Aqib Talib & Chris Harris Jr. can lock down the opposing teams’ receivers.

From top to bottom the Denver Broncos are the scariest defense in football.

On the season Denver has 52.0 sacks, 14int, 25 forced fumbles (13 recovered), two blocked kicks & 5 defensive TDs….

Prediction: bronx win 24-13

No Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell & DeAngelo Williams is going to hurt the Steelers ultimately. Throw in the fact that they have half of Ben & I don’t see them having much of a chance…. Peyton could still very much throw the game away. But that’s highly unlikely.

Tom Brady: The Modern Day GOAT

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This past Super Bowl game highlighted the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. Tom Brady versus “The Legion of Boom”. This game was a legacy game for Brady; for all of those that doubted him and for all of those who believed him to be a cheater after the recent AFC Championship Game.

With the entire nation watching, Brady struggled early on in the first half but by the 4th quarter he had turned it on by picking apart the #1 defense of the past 3 years. With an amazing drive down the field that ended with a touchdown to Julian Edleman; the Patriots had taken a 4 point lead. The Seahawks had the ball with roughly two minutes remaining.

I honestly can’t remember that much of the drive as I try to recollect what happened. I know I see Russell Wilson chunk the ball down the right sideline, trying to test Malcolm Butler down the field and make something happen. Then with Malcolm Butler playing tremendous defense, somehow someway Jermaine Kearse hits the ground, kicks the ball to himself, then it bounces off of both hands and then makes the catch. I officially believed the game was over and that the football gods would never allow Brady that final ring.

The next play Marshawn Lynch gets an easy run all the way to the goal line and it seemed to all be over. Then some kid named Malcolm Butler, who just let potentially the game winning catch happen on his watch, jumps the slant route at the goal line and the rest is history.

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The question now is, who is the greatest quarterback to ever play?

In most NFL fans’ eyes the top two are Joe Montana and Tom Brady. If you’ve read my article ranking the top 15 QBs of all time, I had Joe Montana at #1. I also claimed that if Brady could get the 4th ring that had eluded him for so long, that the debate for greatest of all time could become legitimate.

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I would like to start off saying I do not care about somebody being undefeated in any championship format. Montana being 4 for 4 or Brady being 4 for 6 does not matter to me at all. If anything, I find it more impressive that Brady was able to make many deep playoff runs. Actually lets start off with this.

Montana played 15 years and Brady up to this point has played in the NFL also for 15 years. (Even though technically Brady wasn’t given a chance as a starter until his second season.) Montana has 4 one and done’s. Which means he went to the playoffs four times without winning a single game.

In those 4 games, Montana had 817 yards (roughly 204 yards a game), 2 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. The reason I bring up these stats is to show that these games lost can be put on Montana’s shoulders by not throwing a single touchdown in 3 of the 4 games.

Brady has 2 one and done’s. In those two games he threw for 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Again blame can be put on the shoulders of the quarterback in this situation because you’re not helping your team if your TD:INT is 1:1.

Joe Montana in 1989 cultivated the greatest post season run that has only been matched by one player since. In that ’89 run, Montana threw 78% for 11 touchdowns and ZERO interceptions. The most touchdowns in a post season for Brady happen in this past playoffs in which he threw 10 touchdowns to 4 interceptions. Montana is 16-7 in the playoffs compared to Brady’s 21-8.

Postseason Edge: Very slightly Brady

Now to the regular season comparisons. Montana has six 10+ win seasons. Brady has double the amount with twelve 10+ win seasons. The one year Brady didn’t have 10 wins, he went 9-7. Brady brought together one of the greatest offenses of all time in 2007 when he threw for 50 touchdowns with 8 interceptions, doing so with Randy Moss and Wes Welker.

Montana had one season with 30+ touchdowns compared to Brady’s five 30+ touchdown seasons. It’s good to note that in Montana’s sole 30+ touchdown season with 31 total TD’s; Jerry Rice had 22 touchdowns that season making up for 70% of Montana’s touchdowns that season, and Rice consistently made up for about 50% of Montana’s touchdowns every year he was there.

Brady’s best year with 50 touchdowns, Randy Moss accumulated 23 touchdowns making up only 46% of his touchdowns. Brady led a team to only the 2nd ever perfect record in a regular season going 16-0.

Regular Season Edge:Brady

Another thing to note about each quarterback. Brady’s team went 11-5 with him out for an entire season when Brady went out in the very first game of the season. Montana went down and was replaced with young prospect Steve Young who went on to win a Super Bowl without Montana being in the picture. In this argument though I have to give it to Montana because the 49ers got really lucky finding Steve Young who could be argued as the most efficient quarterback ever.

Now the surrounding cast. Montana had Jerry Rice, who by many is seen as the greatest football player to ever play, John Taylor who was a legitimate threat opposite of Rice, and Roger Craig who was a threat from running and receiving recording over 1,100 yards from scrimmage in 7 straight seasons. Brady has had Julian Edleman, who was huge in this past Super Bowl and was named to the all pro team, Randy Moss who I believe and many others believe to be the second greatest receiver ever, Wes Welker who I do believe was good but I can’t help the fact that he became a 3rd or 4th option when he went to Denver, and Gronkowski who I believe if he can stay away from injuries, will go down as the greatest tight end of all time.

All of the weapons I named for Brady came after his initial 3 rings. Montana didn’t have most of the weapons I listed for his first 2 rings but also had arguably the greatest defensive player to fall back on with Ronnie Lott and an overall loaded defense. Not to say that Brady didn’t have his own defense to fall back on, as they were the firepower of those first 3 championships. Both quarterbacks had great coaches and are even in that aspect.

One of the biggest arguments to look at when comparing the two is the fact that there was no salary cap back then. The San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, and a few others were loaded with money to pay guys.

Throughout Brady’s whole career a salary cap has been put in place. Brady makes it easier on himself a bit by constantly taking pay cuts to sign other guys, but the Patriots are not able to go out and get the top free agent every off-season. All around Montana just had a lot more help. Brady hasn’t had any of his weapons besides Gronk who has been riddled with injuries most of his career, and Welker for more than 3 years.
Edge: Brady

In conclusion I see the arguments both ways. If you say anything different than me, I’m not going to say you’re wrong; I’ll just give the facts as I see them, but Brady has a slight edge in every aspect. I can’t shake the fact that the one and only time he had a top 10 receiver he almost went 19-0 and threw for 50 touchdowns.

He could have 6 rings right now if not for Mario Manningham making one crazy catch, and Eli throwing into double coverage after the pocket broke down to some guy named David Tyree who caught the ball on his helmet making arguably the greatest catch of all time.

You can argue that Montana in his Super Bowl appearances never let the game be close enough for that to happen, but he also didn’t face the teams Brady did. Brady beat the “Greatest Show on Turf”; which is still recognized as the BEST offense of all time; the Eagles lead by Donavan McNabb, Terrell Owens, and Andy Reid; plus this last Super Bowl where Brady beat the Legion of Boom who beat down statistically the greatest offense ever two Super Bowls ago 43-8.

Brady has done as much if not more depending on how you look at it, with less than Montana had. The greatest quarterback to ever live is out on the field and is looking to extend that legacy even further. Tom Brady is the greatest of all time.

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Top 10 Tight Ends of All-Time

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10. Ozzie Newsome

Ozzie is one of the greatest Brown’s players ever. He held the team record for receiving yards in a game with 191 which stood for 29 years up until Josh Gordon broke it. He has over 7,000 yards, 47 touchdowns, and 662 receptions. There are other options to this spot but I decided to go with Ozzie because of his toughness and the dominance he would show when the moment called for it.

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9. Dave Casper

He started off very slow only bringing in 9 receptions in his first 2 seasons. However, he started producing heavily after those seasons. In a time that the games were battled in the trenches, Casper hauled in 52 touchdowns during his career. Casper was also involved in some miraculous moments. Telling the details of each one would be an article all of its own so I highly suggest you google Dave Casper and fill yourself in with all he’s done.

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8. Mike Ditka

Known mainly for his coaching career leading one of the best defenses of all time in the 85′ Chicago Bears and as an analyst on ESPN. Best believe he was one of the best football players to ever step on the field. His numbers aren’t just ridiculous but he was a very good blocker as well which sadly can’t be shown in the stat sheet. In his first year his presence was felt by winning rookie of the year, scoring 12 touchdowns, and having 58 receptions. Alongside Mackey, Ditka helped revolutionize the position.

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7. Jason Witten

Witten will go down as one of the greatest Cowboys of all time and could be argued that he should be higher up on this list. He broke his jaw early in his career and still continued to play. From that point onward was when the legacy started. He is the only Cowboys TE to date to record 1,000 yards in a season. He’s a leader, and the locker room in Dallas falls in line behind him. He still has the potential to go a few pegs higher on this list before he’s done.

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6. Shannon Sharpe

1996-2000 were some very good years for Sharpe. He already had some good years before then but was able to really shine in that 4 year span. In that time, he had 306 catches, 3,971 yards, and 28 TDs. The greatest moment that Sharpe ever had was his 96 yard TD in the AFC Title game which still stands as the longest TD in playoff history. You may hear him brag about himself a lot, but it is well earned by coming in as a 7th round pick and ending his career as a top 5 tight end in touchdowns.

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5. John Mackey

Mackey was the main weapon for the great Johnny Unitas. They have awards named after him as he was the first great tight end to ever play. He was a deep threat. In his first four seasons, he averaged 18 yards a reception. There are few who believe he was the best ever as his numbers can’t translate when comparing his era to the tight ends who have played in the last 20 years. We can all thank him though for what the tight end position has become.

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4. Rob Gronkowski

Gronk is just an absolute monster. In my opinion, the best receiving option in the game today. He’s had many issues staying healthy but his numbers speak for themselves. The man has only played 5 years and has more touchdowns than almost everyone on this list who have played over 10 seasons. In 2011, he had the best statistical year ever for a tight end posting 1,327 yards, 90 receptions, and 17 touchdowns. The yards and touchdowns are the most ever by a tight end in a season. I believe by the time his career is over he will go down as the greatest ever; leaving a huge gap between himself and the man I have at number one.

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3. Antonio Gates

Another guy who played basketball, Gates was undrafted out of Kent State. Damn there were so many people who wish they found this diamond in the rough. Gates redefined the tight end position. Nobody had ever seen a player at this position with that type of power and speed. He is one of only two tight ends to have four seasons with at least 10 touchdowns. Another guy I really wish could get a ring but sadly it is just out of his hands. As soon as I thought Father Time finally hit him, Gates blew up this past year with 12 touchdowns. He has a very good chance of leading all tight ends in touchdowns if he plays another two years.

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2. Kellen Winslow

Kellen Winslow was a huge weapon for Dan Fouts and the Chargers offense. Winslow had the most receiving yards by a tight end ever in the 1980 season when he recorded 1,290 yards. That record stood for 30 years until Rob Gronkowski broke it in 2011. In 1981, Winslow tied a record of 5 receiving touchdowns in a single game. All of those accomplishments are great but none of those compare to his game against the Dolphins in the 81′ playoffs. He had what I describe as the best individual performance ever in a playoff game. He caught 13 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown. He also blocked what could have been the game winning field goal for the Dolphins to send the game into overtime. To make the game even more memorable, Winslow was treated for a pinched nerve in his shoulder, dehydration, severe cramps, bruised ribs, and received three stitches to his bottom lip. The picture above is of his teammates helping him off the field.

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1. Tony Gonzalez

Without a doubt the greatest tight end of all time. His numbers are up there with top 5 wide receivers. He is 2nd all time in receptions, 5th all time in receiving yards, and 6th in receiving touchdowns. Coming into Kansas City, Gonzalez worked with a lot of below average guys. He wasn’t able to win a playoff game until his 16th year in the league when he finally was with a good team. It’s sad that he couldn’t add a ring to his ridiculous resume, but regardless Tony Gonzalez will always be remembered as an all time great.