Top 100 Mania
Well, not really. Not mania. Maybe moving the needle slightly. NFL Network last night had its fifth show of 10 featuring 10 players per week in the top 100, unveiling Nos. 51 through 60 on the list. And doing the math after it was over, this much is evident: The 413 players who voted in this exercise love them some offense. Because doing the math from the original NFL release on the top 100, the final 50 on the show will include 31 offensive and 19 defensive players (no kickers or punters). The final 50 will include nine receivers, seven quarterbacks, seven running backs, five offensive linemen (likely Nick Mangold, Jahri Evans, Logan Mankins, Jake Long and another tackle) and three tight ends (likely Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez).
As I have for the past few weeks, below I give you NFL Network's just-released list and mine. For a look at both lists in their entirety (at least, what's been relased so far), go here.
Surprised at a couple of things on the players' side here: Matt Ryan (52) and Justin Tuck (60) being so low for the players, and Andre Gurode (57) making the list at all. On my side, what might surprise you is Ed Reed, Charles Woodson and Ray Lewis so low, relatively, at 54, 57 and 60. Lewis is 36, Woodson (coming off a broken clavicle) turns 35 in October, and Reed, who turns 33 on opening day this year, has been breaking down; he missed 10 games due to injury in the last two years.
What hockey can teach us.
I attended Friday night's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final between Tampa Bay and Boston, won 1-0 by the Bruins.
A few observations:
1. Not since the U.S.-England World Cup match last June in South Africa (and rarely if ever before that) had I heard as much noise 20 minutes before the game, with no one on the field/ice. I kept looking around the arena at about 7:50 p.m., wondering if there was a reason for all the noise. But there wasn't. The crowd, anxious for the Bruins to make the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1990, was just jacked. I mean, it was noisier before this game than it was for the first game of the 2004 World Series between the Cards and Red Sox at Fenway. Easy.
2. No penalties for 60 minutes. Loved it. And you know what? It's arguable there actually were no infractions. A great, clean, hard-hitting contest between two teams that desperately wanted to win. Hockey just seems more important deep down to the players; it's hard to describe. I'm just telling you how it seems.
3. The traditions. Terrific. NFL teams absolutely, positively should line up and shake hands after playoff games. I waited around to see it, and to see the emotion on each side, and the genuine congratulations between winner and loser ... it's what sports should be. It honors the game. And Boston winning the conference championship cup and not touching it -- the superstition is if you touch that chalice, you won't be really hungry to work for the Stanley Cup. Silly, of course, but everyone around me was waiting to see if any Bruin touched the thing, and when they didn't, the real fans were thrilled. When it was over, and I took the T home (the Boston subway), you got the feel of a crowd that was hungry, but not rudely so. "We want the Cup! We want the Cup!'' was the chant. Just a tremendous event, and I'm glad I was able to be there as a fan.
4. I don't know how two teams could be more even than Tampa Bay and Boston were. Consider:
Friday night was the 100th game for each team this season. In the regular season, each won 46 with 25 losses in regulation. Each accumulated 103 regular-season points. Tampa scored 247 goals, Boston 246.
Each team won its first playoff series 4-3 and second playoff series 4-0. And, of course, this one was 3-3 through six games, and 0-0 for 52 minutes, until Nathan Horton scored the only goal of the game for Boston.
Aggregate score of the Boston-Tampa series: Bruins 21, Lightning 21.
Now for the travel note of the hockey fortnight: Say you're a hockey fan, and you live in Boston, and you're very wealthy, and you want to go to every game of this series in person. In the first half of the month of June, you'd fly across the continent six times -- Boston to Vancouver for Games 1 and 2, Vancouver to Boston for Games 3 and 4, Boston to Vancouver for Game 5, Vancouver to Boston for Game 6, Boston to Vancouver for Game 7, and Vancouver to Boston when it was done. Assuming you lived through that. Can't do that trip on John Madden's bus and see every game, I'll tell you that.