Before I get to my predictions for the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, I wanted to look at this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists.
After looking through the candidates, I find it silly that there is a limit of five modern day enshrinees, as I could see a minimum of seven candidates I would absolutely vote for, and a handful more I find deserving. Let’s take a look at them.
Definitely would not vote for
Charles Haley – Sorry, but I just don’t understand how Haley is a finalist and Kevin Greene is not. Being lucky enough to play in a bunch of Super Bowls isn’t a good enough reason, because you don’t see John Salley getting any Hall of Fame love in basketball.
Curtis Martin – Here’s my problem with Martin: While his career numbers are solid, particularly his being fourth in career rushing yards, I think how a player was thought of during his career is an important factor in the football Hall of Fame. Was there ever a time where Martin was truly feared by opponents? Was there ever a time where he was considered one of the two or three premiere back in the league? He was only a first team All-Pro once and never won a major award. I just think that if you vote Martin in, you have to vote Warrick Dunn in, as well as Thomas Jones once he retired. And there’s no way you do that.
Why are you being judged against actual players?
Ed Sabol – I love Sabol and what he did in creating NFL Films and think he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. The fact that he has to be left off any ballot because voters are limited to five choices makes absolutely no sense to me.
Maybe next year
Dermontti Dawson – Dawson was a stalwart center for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1988-2000. He’s a seven-time Pro Bowler with a great level of consistency. Offensive linemen are very tough to judge (as are how Hall of Fame voters will judge them), but it appears Dawson is on track to get in, if not this year, within the next few years.
Chris Doleman – Doleman should make the Hall of Fame one day, and hopefully he will. But his biggest problem is there are simply too many worthy candidates every year, and with the limit set at five, he’s usually one of the first omissions. Hopefully he gets in one day.
Andre Reed – Another in a long list of receivers who were stuck in the shadow of Jerry Rice. Reed ranks just below the likes of Carter and Brown, so will likely have to wait another year.
Richard Dent – I understand why there is an outcry to get Dent in the Hall of Fame, but his career compares mostly to Claude Humphrey, another deserving candidate who never quite made the cut. I hope Dent makes it one day, as there needs to be more enshrines from the ’85 Bears, but not this year.
Cortez Kennedy – Just as deserving of a candidate as the enshrined Dan Hampton. I hope Kennedy makes it one day.
Would definitely vote for
Cris Carter – Carter and Brown are in the same boat in being stuck behind Jerry Rice in most voters’ memories. Carter is third in career receptions, eighth in receiving yards and fourth in receiving touchdowns. I don’t quite understand how anyone could make an argument against him. Both he and Brown compare favorably with James Lofton and Steve Largent, who are both Hall of Famers. Hopefully, they both make it this year.
Marshall Faulk – I have to admit to being somewhat biased toward Marshall Faulk because he was such a joy to watch and I got to see him throughout his prime. But the numbers don’t lie regarding Faulk, who burst onto the scene in 1994 and ’95 with the Indianapolis Colts before exploding as the most feared back in the NFL with the St. Louis Rams in 1998. Faulk ranks 10th in career rushing yards, 7th in career rushing touchdowns and 7th in career touchdown. On top of that, his 1999-2001 run ranks among the greatest three year stretches in NFL history. I think he’s a shoo-in.
Deion Sanders – Sanders certainly benefited from his loud talking and flashy play, but his cockiness was always backed up. An eight-time Pro Bowler and six-time All Pro, Sanders’ skills weren’t just as a defensive back (he ranks only 23rd in career interceptions), but also as kick and punt returner, and was just a dangerous player all-around. Look at Devin Hester right now and imagine if he were an elite cornerback as well. That’s Deion Sanders.
Shannon Sharpe – I’m not quite sure why Sharpe isn’t in the Hall of Fame yet. He compares favorably with Hall of Fame tight ends Ozzie Newsome and Mike Ditka, as well as sure Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez. The Hall of Fame needs to start giving more love to tight ends, and hopefully it starts this year with Sharpe.
Willie Roaf – One of the most dominating offensive linemen that nobody talks about, Roaf is just as deserving of a candidate as current Hall of Famers Gary Zimmerman and John Hannah. I think he’s a shoo-in to make it this year.
Jerome Bettis – Bettis is interesting because he was a media darling with an incredible level of consistency, yet he never once led the league in rushing yards. He’s a six-time Pro Bowler and his No. 1 comparison on Pro Football Reference is Corey Dillon, someone the media did not love and is unlikely to make the Hall of Fame. However, Bettis does compare favorably to the likes of Ollie Matson and Larry Csonka, who are both Hall of Famers, and I think an entire body of work is important in a football Hall of Fame vote. He’d have my vote.
Tim Brown – The fact that Brown’s Pro Bowl credentials are even being debated seem like a joke to me. A nine-time Pro Bowler with the fourth most receptions of all time, the fourth most receiving yards of all time and the sixth most receiving touchdowns of all time. Brown’s biggest problem was timing because he played his entire prime during the prime of the greatest wide receiver of all time, Jerry Rice. I don’t know when Brown will get into the Hall of Fame, but he certainly has to eventually, and I would absolutely vote for him.
I don’t know if you’re good at math or not, but you may have noticed that I put seven guys in the last category and there will be a limit of five who get in. I couldn’t take any of those seven off, but if I were actually lucky enough to get to vote and HAD to take two off, it’d be the last two, Bettis and Brown. Hopefully, they’ll get in next year.
On to the predictions:
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3)
This drives me crazy because the Ravens were my Super Bowl pick, but I can’t see Joe Flacco beating Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu in Pittsburgh in a big playoff game. I may not bet this way, but here’s my level-headed prediction with no bias. Steelers to win and cover.
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons (-1.5)
Here’s my not-level-headed prediction with an incredible amount of bias. Packers to win outright.
Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears (-10)
I’m pretty sure this will be the easiest bet to make of the week. Bears to win, Seahawks to beat spread.
New York Jets at New England Patriots (-9)
I’m staying far, far away from this game for gambling purposes. I have no idea what could happen. Patriots to win, Jets to beat spread.
Playoff Record – 2-2 overall (2-2 against spread)