With the NFL Hall of Fame game and ceremony set to take place on Saturday, it brought to mind who the future Hall of Fame players in the AFC West are. The Hall of Fame is the most prestigious recognition a player can receive. Although all the teams have quality players, all do not have guys on their way to Canton. The AFC West will be full of talent this season, but only a select few playing today will have a real shot at immortalization.
Manning probably will not be remembered primarily as a Denver Bronco, but if he wins a Super Bowl there, that could change. There’s no question Manning should be a first-ballot entry. He is just 9-11 in the playoffs, but has played in two Super Bowls and won one. When his playing days are over, he may just hold every regular season passing record there is.
2) Champ Bailey
Bailey had a rough day in the AFC Divisional playoff game last year against the Baltimore Ravens and Torrey Smith, and that has overshadowed a regular season when he only gave up one touchdown. Bailey has been one of the best cornerbacks in the league for years. He has slowed somewhat, but there are not five guys in the league that anyone would take at cornerback over Bailey, even at his advanced age. Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman are the class of the league at the position now, but Bailey was one of the top guys in the league for a decade.
To put Gates’ numbers in perspective, one needs to only look at Tony Gonzales, who is considered the greatest of all time at the tight end position. Gonzales entered the NFL in 1997 and his receiving touchdown total is 103. Gates, who entered the league in 2003, has 82 career receiving touchdowns. That means in six full seasons more than Gates, Gonzales has just 21 more touchdowns. That is not to diminish Gonzales in any way, but to show how dominate Gates has been in his career. Teams have tried to create new types coverage to stop Gates and it hasn’t worked. When he has been healthy, he’s been unstoppable.
On the bubble
Rivers has slowed in recent years and needs a big season to get back on pace. However, if you look strictly at his career numbers he has a solid shot of making it. He will always be compared to Eli Manning, and their numbers are pretty close, especially considering Rivers did not play much his first two years in the league. Manning leads him in touchdowns 211 to 189. Manning leads in passing yards 31,587 to 27,891. Although Rivers has turned the ball over more in recent seasons, he still only has 93 interceptions to Manning’s 144. If he can shape back into form, he will certainly be in the Hall of Fame conversation when his playing days are done.
Of course no kicker in the NFL has made it to the Hall of Fame, but outside of Adam Vinatieri, few have a stronger argument than Janikowski. His numbers do not exactly lineup with some of the top scorers in league history but that is not due to his ability, it has more to do with the lack of ability of some of the offenses his team’s had over the years. If the kick is within 60 yards, he has a realistic chance of hitting the field goal.
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Photo Courtesy David Szweduik