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The NFL: Top Ten Stories of the 2012 Season

Sensational failures and successes.

by James Leroy Wilson
January 29, 2013

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The NFL: Top Ten Stories of the 2012 Season

As I write, there may be a developing story on Ravens legend lb Ray Lewis using a banned substance. That might be the first of several crazy things about the Super Bowl. There are already story lines buzzing, from Joe Flacco's legacy and contract, to Alex Smith's future. The Harbaugh Brothers is one, but that's been talked to death. Frankly, I'm more impressed that both the Ravens and 49ers overcame two of the unluckiest losses in conference championship history to make it to the Super Bowl.

If the Super Bowl week and game are worth writing about, I'll do it next week. What I'm writing about today are the most memorable stories of the NFL season to date.  

10. Commissioner Roger Goodell vs. Saints players suspended over Bountygate. After a lawsuit and Goodell's impartiality were questioned, former Commissioner stepped in and ultimately vacated the suspensions. One of the most embarrassing rebukes of a sitting commissioner I've ever seen, and I'm surprised Goodell didn't resign.

As for concussions generally, I don't consider this a particularly memorable story from this particular year. It's been around for a couple of years and is ongoing.    

9. The Officials Strike. The strike ended after four weeks, when it became apparent the replacements could not adjust to the speed of the game and were blowing too many calls, ending with the "Fail Mary" call in which the Seahawks beat the Packers.

8. Collapses: Eagles, Cardinals. The horrible seasons after winning starts led to the end of the Andy Reid era with the Eagles and the firing of Ken Wisenhunt from the Cards. What will become of aging Eagle quarterback Michael Vick?

Also, the Jets soap opera. Signing Tim Tebow and then never playing him. Poor quarterback play. Ugly performances on national television. A team that got steadily worse since reaching back-to-back NFC Championship Games two years ago. Tebow's gone, as is the General Manager. Sanchez may be gone, but head coach Rex Ryan remains. For who knows how long?

The Giants and Steelers also underachieved, but they frequently do that when they're not making Super Bowls. The Cowboys remain a soap opera, but they haven't been good in a long time.

7. Megatron: Lions wr breaking Jerry Rice's 18 year-old single-season receiving yardage record. The collapse of the Lions, however, is also part of the story, and calls into question how dominant over the game can one wide receiver be.

6. Firing of Ravens Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron. It was a gutsy move from head coach Jon Harbaugh, as the team was seemingly headed to the playoffs at the time. But qb Joe Flacco is having a great playoffs under new OC Jim Caldwell.

5. Colin Kaepernick. Head coach Jim Harbaugh was similarly gutsy for benching Alex Smith even after he recovered from injury. While it seemed "unfair" to Smith, Harbaugh saw more potential in Kaepernick and it's working out great so far.  
4. J.J. Watt, Houston DE. Here's how Gregg Rosenthal explains one of the great seasons anyone has ever played:

Football Outsiders defines a "defeat" as a forced turnover (or tipped pass that leads to turnover), a tackle for loss, or a tackle or pass defensed that prevented a conversion on third or fourth down. Essentially, how many times did a defensive player completely dominate the play?

Watt had 56 defeats this season. The previous all-time high was Ray Lewis with 45 defeats in 1999.

3. Peyton Manning's comeback from four neck injuries. To lead the Broncos to a 13-3 record and sit near the top of the quarterbacking stats.  

2. Adrian Peterson. He came nine yards short of the all-time NFL rushing record and led his bad Vikings team to the playoffs. Clearly the player of the year, but all the more amazing is it comes after a serious knee injury late the previous season.

1. The Three Rookie QB's. Wilson, Griffin, and Luck led their teams to the playoffs and each finished in the top eleven of ESPN's QBR rating. http://espn.go.com/nfl/qbr. They weren't just good by rookie standards, but by any standard. Rookie quarterbacks have made the playoffs before, but they had talent around them and didn't really "lead their team as these three did.

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