The ‘Top 100’ comes down to Brady-Manning

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our king.

NFL players crowned their No. 1 on NFL Network’s “The Top 100 Players of 2011” on Sunday night, completing a 10-week voyage that generated as much controversy as it did consensus before coming down to yet another battle between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

This time, it was Brady’s hour. The Patriots’ three-time Super Bowl-winning QB edged out Manning (No. 2), with Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (No. 3) and two Ravens — LB Ray Lewis (No. 4) and FS Ed Reed (No. 5) — rounding out the top five.

Few can deny Brady’s career arc, but last season’s NFL MVP himself suggested that Manning is the game’s best passer.

“To me, he’s the greatest of all time,” Brady told NFL Network’s Lindsay Soto by phone on the “Top 100 Players of 2011 Reactions” show Sunday night.

“He’s a friend of mine, and someone that I always watch and admire, because he always wants to improve, he always wants to get better, and he doesn’t settle for anything less than the best. So, when you watch the best and you’re able to learn from the best, hopefully that helps me get better.”

NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders had Brady ranked as his No. 1 and applauded the players’ vote, saying: “This list here, the players got the No. 1 pick right. … He does it with less.”

Brady talked about his No. 1 ranking, saying it was an honor to be recognized by his teammates and the players against whom he competes.

“It’s very flattering,” Brady said. “I’ve been, I think, very fortunate over the years to play with an incredible organization and an incredible group of players. And this year was, really, a great year for our team, you know, in the regular season, and we accomplished some great things.

“The thing that I love about football and I’ve always loved, which I think draws each player in the NFL to this game, is that it’s a team sport. So, you know, every teammate that I’ve ever had, the teammates that I’ve had this year … nobody would really accomplish anything without the help of every single guy on that team and every coach.

“It’s very flattering, like I said, but ultimately, I give all of the thanks to teammates past and present. They’re what really makes this game special for me.”

Steelers SS Troy Polamalu (No. 6), Texans WR Andre Johnson (No. 7), Jets CB Darrelle Revis (No. 8), Saints QB Drew Brees (No. 9) and Bears DE Julius Peppers (No. 10) completed the top 10.

Did Rodgers deserve better ‘Top 100’ ranking?

Cracking the top 10 of NFL Network’s “The Top 100 Players of 2011” list isn’t easy. Just ask Super Bowl XLV MVP Aaron Rodgers.

The Packers quarterback came in at No. 11 on the list, as voted by NFL players. Rodgers has the statistics, and the Lombardi Trophy earned in February proves he has the results as well. Should those two factors place him higher on this list?

NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk thinks so, sharing his thoughts on the “Top 100 Players of 2011 Reactions” show Sunday night.

“When I look at the list, I base it off last year’s stats,” Faulk said. “And last year’s stats say the best quarterback in the league won the Super Bowl.”

Faulk’s opinion likely covered the postseason as well, since New England Patriots star Tom Brady put up the best statistical season for a quarterback during the regular season, winning a league MVP award for his efforts. That said, Rodgers was no slouch during the regular season, throwing for 28 touchdowns and 3,922 yards in 15 starts.

Dallas Cowboys defensive terror DeMarcus Ware (No. 12 on the list) was in-studio, where he explained Rodgers hasn’t bypassed other icons of his position just yet.

“(Rodgers) is good, but you got Peyton Manning, you got Drew Brees and you have Tom Brady,” Ware said. “He could scoot up a little bit more numbers-wise, but he’s not above those quarterbacks.”

NFL Network analyst Jay Glazer believes the combination of time and Rodgers’ continued partnership with Packers coach Mike McCarthy will eventually elevate him to the top of the quarterback pile.

“What helps him also is he and Mike McCarthy together. Those two guys are Frick and Frack, they’re a perfect combination,” Glazer said. “And that’s why I think in the next few years you’re going to see him climb up this list … within the next 10 years he’s going to make eight, nine Pro Bowls.”

Tune in next Sunday night when the final 10 players are unveiled on NFL Network at 8 p.m. ET. Who do you think will come in at No. 1?

‘Top 100’ star Foster spreads the Texans praise

In the weeks before Arian Foster was revealed as the No. 25 player on NFL Network’s “The Top 100: Players of 2011” list, the Houston Texans running back tweeted that he didn’t want to be on the list, instead insisting his offensive line deserved the recognition.

Does Foster — who called into the “Top 100: Players of 2011 Reactions” show on Sunday night — still feel that way?

“Yeah, I think I can live with (being on the list), but I’d rather have my big hogs up there right alongside me,” said Foster, who led the NFL with 1,616 yards and 18 total touchdowns last season.

Foster continued to spread the praise when NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp asked if he believed Matt Schaub should’ve been on the “Top 100” list. Houston’s strong-armed QB didn’t make the cut despite his 53 touchdown passes over the past two seasons.

“Absolutely. … He’s had back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons and we’ve been in the top of the league in offense since he’s been a Houston Texan. It’s just one of those things, this is a list where somebody has to get put off because there’s so many great quarterbacks in this league, so it’s unfortunate.”

Foster was arguably the biggest surprise of the 2010 season. NFL Network analyst Torry Holt asked Foster what he had expected from himself entering last season.

“I was fighting for a starting position initially, so I was just expecting to try to help my team compete the best (way) possible,” he said. “So when I got that opportunity, I think the hard work took over because  I dedicated myself last offseason and everything just took over.”

Ten players are revealed each week from the Top 100 list, which airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network. Next week will count down numbers 20 through 11.

Faulk: Jackson should be higher on ‘Top 100’ list

A group of 10 elite running backs have earned their place on NFL Network’s “The Top 100 Players of 2011” series. Kansas City Chiefs blazer Jamaal Charles (No. 33) and St. Louis Rams mainstay Steven Jackson (No. 38) were revealed in Sunday night’s telecast.

NFL Network analyst Marshall Faulk, one of the greatest running back to ever suit up for the Rams, thinks Jackson deserved to be higher. The rankings are based completely on votes from NFL players.

“When you look at what he brings to the table, he’s a complete back,” Faulk said on Sunday night’s “Top 100: Players of 2011 Reactions” show. “He can take it the distance, he gets the tough yardage, and yes, he carries the load for a team. Not to mention the big guy can catch the ball out of the backfield. They got this one wrong by looking at the young guys and what they do right now instead of what Steven Jackson has done over his whole career.”

Darren McFadden (98), Frank Gore (94), Ray Rice (56), and Michael Turner (42) were previously revealed. With four running backs to go, NFL Network analysts Warren Sapp and Willie McGinest debated who they thought should be the top-ranked back.

Sapp chose Titans all-pro Chris Johnson, who had another fine season in 2010 despite quarterback and wide receiver unrest in Tennessee. McGinest believes Vikings star Adrian Peterson is the game’s greatest back.

“Here’s a guy who you can start a franchise behind,” McGinest said. “This is a running back, he’s strong, it takes more than one guy to tackle him, he’s fast, he can catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s complete.”

Sapp then took to the defense of New York Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson, saying no top 100 list is complete without the future Hall of Famer in the discussion.

“I’m putting him in my backfield, I’m getting him in a one-on-one situation and somebody is going to be hurting on Sunday.”

Ten players are revealed each week from the Top 100 list, which airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network. Next week will count down numbers 30 through 21.

Experts: Big Ben better than his No. 41 ranking

Dave Dameshek is outraged over Ben Roethlisberger‘s No. 41 ranking in NFL Network’s “The Top 100 Players of 2011.” What say you, NFL Network experts?

Former Cardinals QB Kurt Warner, who lost to Roethlisberger’s Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII, points out that signal-callers such as Michael Vick, whose position on the list hasn’t been revealed, are “more dynamic, more fun to watch” for fans and players alike.

Saints safety Darren Sharper agrees with that point, but Bucs CB Ronde Barber believes Roethlisberger’s Super Bowl titles trump Vick’s athleticism. Analyst Michael Lombardi shares Barber’s support for Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger’s ranking wasn’t the only part of Sunday’s revealing of players 50 through 41 drawing reaction. Broncos CB Champ Bailey phoned in to discuss his selection as the 48th-best player, and Sharper listed his top six safeties in the game today.

Saturday: Manning at ‘a different level’ than Brady

Based purely on pedigree, Jeff Saturday might be the last player you’d expect to appear on NFL Network’s “The Top 100 Players of 2011” series.

An undrafted rookie out of North Carolina, Saturday was signed and quickly cut loose by the Baltimore Ravens before quietly catching on with the Indianapolis Colts in 1999.

The rest is history. Saturday has been with the Colts ever since, becoming one of the game’s elite centers, not to mention Peyton Manning‘s most trusted on-field confidant.

Saturday’s continued excellence landed him at No. 59 on the “Top 100” list, as voted by NFL players.

The five-time Pro Bowler called into the “Top 100” after-show on Sunday night to discuss his inclusion on the list.

“Anytime that you get mentioned up in these lists, obviously we’re moving closer and closer, you’re honored that all the players who you’re playing against feel that way about you and put you up on the list,” he said.

The conversation eventually veered toward the quarterback position, with Saturday making the case for his guy as the No. 1 signal-caller in the league.

“Listen, nothing against (Tom) Brady, obviously I got a ton of respect for him, but man, Peyton, he’s a different level,” Saturday said. “With as many MVPs as he’s had, the guy shows up each and every week ready to play and his numbers support it.”

Saturday points at Manning’s 33-touchdown season in 2010 as a great example of the QB’s greatness.

“You look at last year, we were pulling guys out of the stands at the end of the year to throw it to and his numbers are staying where they should,” he said. “As you get down closer (on the list), I think he’s got to be your one.”

Ten players are revealed each week from the Top 100 list, which airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network. Next week will count down numbers 50 through 41.

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