Friday, November 11, 2016

DUAL PERSPECTIVES: Top 10 Underdogs in the NFL, According to C.A. + Stik Braxton

Already mid season, approximately 8 weeks away from NFL play off season, some would question my level of commitment for to wanting to bring a new ongoing sports series to the blog, but it's better to start somewhere than not at all. I've decided to collaborate with Stik Braxton, who just so happens to be one of the few good friends I've met via the internet, and is also a sports fanatic and music connoisseur like myself. I don't dabble much in the realm of blog collaborations, but this is one that I certainly hope won't stop here. 

For the past couple of months, fall has officially been commenced with regular season football. During this time, I've paid close attention to those individual players that don't gain as much media attention, but put in just as much, if not, more, work as players who are constantly in the spotlight. Most of the time, these are the ones who aren't necessarily worried about the spotlight, but more concerned with their weekly performances and how their individual contribution builds a team. So without further ado, here are the TOP 10 UNDERDOGS IN THE NFL, according to moi and my honorable co-host, Stik Braxton.

Photo cred: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Chymere's Top 5: 

1. CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Tampa Bay Buccaneers I’ll start my list off with a 2016 draft rookie, because “freshmen” automatically fall into the underdog category. When it comes to sports, we rarely give the new boys enough credit and there are a few players who challenge that notion; one of those players being Tampa’s rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves. He snaps as if he knows he belongs there and isn’t intimidated by big name rivals. In Sunday’s season opener on October 16th, he stood his ground against NFL heavyweight, Julio Jones in Atlanta, he did the same on the field opposing Larry Fitzgerald, and both instances speak volume about his long and short-term potential. 

image source

2. RB C.J. Anderson, Denver Broncos For the sake of reliving the high emotion surrounding Super Bowl 50, I wanted to briefly take a look at the key players on the Denver Broncos’ 2016-2017 roster. After last year’s Super Bowl, I was way more attentive to a team, who were underdogs themselves at some point. I wouldn’t necessarily say this is the same team we saw last season, but I can gather that Anderson has been a core component of Denver’s O-line. The 2 games that started the season were led by Anderson with a total of 437 yards and four touchdowns on 110 carries by game 7, still playing the remainder of the game against the Houston Texans in pain. Having been recently placed on medical leave, he's still optimistic to return to the game post-recovery better than ever and I believe he will too. 

Photo cred: Tim Heitman

3. C Weston Richburg, New York Giants If only I could get inside the helmet of Weston Richburg while he's on the O-line, because he appears to have this laser focus mentality on the field. Notoriously, off field, he's one this quietly confident, NFL hot-head that has really developed a way to activate the perfect strategies that  help guide his teammates down the feel smoothly and successfully. Although he's been recognized as one of the best centers in the league, he often falls in the shadow of teammate Odell Beckham, Jr., which doesn't seem to hinder how well he performs on a consistent basis. 
Photo cred: USA TODAY Sports/ Bob DeChiara
4. WR Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints Another 2016 draft pick, Thomas showed extraordinary potential during his college football days at Ohio State University, whose football program itself is still a great stepping stone to the competitive edge needed to perform on a higher level. Even then, he went from redshirt to starter in his sophomore year, yet managed to lead in receptions with 54 for 799 yards and 9 touchdowns by the close of the season. As a Cowboys fan myself, it's painful to mention anyone from the Saints' (or Giant's for that matter) roster. However as a sports fan in general, it's difficult to overlook individual players who stand out effortlessly. Although I'd give it a few more years before comparing him to more seasoned teammates, Michael Thomas absolutely has what it takes to emulate, if not surpass, the likes of magical athletes like Marques Colston and Reggie Bush in their prime. 

Photo cred: Frank Victores/AP
5. K Cairo Santos, Kansas City Chiefs Besides rookies, kickers don't get enough credit for the role they play on the team. Brazillian born Cairo Santos signed as an undrafted free agent back in 2014 and has shown impressive ability to be an asset to his team. Known primarily for long yardage kicks, averaging out at around 54 yds., it's no surprise that his athletic background is soccer, which is something that is pretty common amongst kickers in the league. In Chiefs' loss against the Texans back in September, Santos provided the points for a 19-12 score, which proves as a stand alone example, he's descent and probably even deserving-dare I say it-for a spot on a better team.

Photo cred: Getty Images

Braxton's Top 5:

1. WR Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders Odell Beckham gets all the headlines and is probably the highest profile receiver in the game but that seems to be more about the antics than his game recently. Meanwhile, Amari Cooper is third in received yards going into week 6 and third in YAC amongst all eligible wide receivers.  Most importantly, he’s helping the Oakland Raiders to a 7-2 record and the AFC West lead.  Yes, I said the OAKLAND RAIDERS.
Photo cred: Cary Edmonson / USA TODAY Sports

2. RB Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers Despite his team’s dubious record, Carlos Hyde has put together a nice start to his third season in the NFL.  After two less than stellar seasons, including a trip to the Injured Reserves last year, he’s tied for the league lead in rushing TDs with 6 and is top 10 in the league in and has scored a total of 38 points.

Photo cred: Jonathan Dyer, USA TODAY Sports

3. QB Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders I had the Raiders making a big push this year to make some serious noise this year but I’m shocked that I was actually correct. Derek Carr isn’t a shiny name like Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger (at least before the season) but he’s been performing like an elite QB this season.  He’s got 11 touchdowns versus only three interceptions with the seventh best QBR rating.  A Pro Bowl invitation is definitely in the cards if he keeps this up and maybe more.  Also a special underdog nod to the offensive line, who’ve been able to keep him upright early in the season (only 11 sacks on Carr, well below league leader and potentially overrated Andrew Luck’s 33)

Photo cred: Mark Mulville/The Buffalo News

4. LB Lorenzo Alexander, Buffalo Bills Who says you can’t make your biggest impact in your 10th season?  Something of a journeyman, the Bills linebacker is having a career year amongst the big names of Von Miller, Terrell Suggs and Brian Orakpo.  Fletcher has 10 sacks this season, which is good enough to lead the league.  Other Bills linebackers may have more combined tackles, but none have been as effective as Alexander at getting to the quarterback this season.  

Photo cred: Rich Schultz/Getty Images
5. QB Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings Now I know what you’re thinking. Sam Bradford has been in the headlines more than most underdogs, he’s a former number one overall pick…how can he be considered an underdog?  It’s simple: we were all ready to write Bradford off.  People were ready to label him a bust. He couldn’t stay healthy, he barely beat out Mark Sanchez for the starting job in Philly but lost it when the Eagles drafted a new QB. 

When the Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater and traded for Bradford, everyone laughed.  They laughed even harder when Adrien Peterson went down and they realized that the pressure was all on Sam Bradford.  But who’s laughing now?  The Vikings, although in a midst of a rough patch, are leading the NFC North with a 5-3 record and Bradford has been in control throughout season with only one interception to his name. Even with everything going against him, he has found ways to succeed and put his team in positions to win.  He truly embodies what an underdog is.

Next up, Top 10 Underdogs in the NBA...stay tuned...

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