Analysis  

 

NFL Hunger Games: League's version of survival of the fittest

Associated Press
Peyton Manning vs. Tim Tebow on the football field would be one thing. But what about in a battle to the death?!

If you're like me, you can't wait to see "The Hunger Games." Done much better than "Twilight," with a story that's riveting from the jump, I was a huge fan of the book.

Now that we've passed Peyton Manning's decision and the Saints' bounty punishment (sans players), we're looking for something more to talk about NFL-wise as we await next month's draft. You think THG and NFL don't go together? I beg to differ.

I present to you, the inaugural NFL Hunger Games.

(If you're unfamiliar, here's a Cliffs Notes version for you: "The Hunger Games" takes place in a dystopian future where the United States is divided into 12 districts and ruled by The Capitol. Each year, two children are chosen from each district to compete in a battle-to-the-death-last-person-standing-wins event called The Hunger Games. The competition takes place in a large, enclosed area and is televised across the country. The contestants (called "tributes") are given tools to help them win, but are also battling surprises from the landscape, as well as each other. We don't catch all of the action, but at the end of each day, the Panem national anthem is played and an image of each tribute who died is projected into the sky.)

First, let's choose our tributes. I divided them up into districts according to where they play geographically in real life, as it pertains to a "Hunger Games" map of the new United States (called "Panem").

District 1: Larry Fitzgerald and Philip Rivers
District 2: Tony Romo and Jerry Jones
District 3: Peyton Manning and John Elway
District 4: Drew Brees and Arian Foster
District 5: Dwayne Bowe and Sam Bradford
District 6: Jay Cutler and Brian Urlacher
District 7: Alex Smith and Marshawn Lynch
District 8: Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson
District 9: Aaron Rodgers and Adrian Peterson
District 10: Andrew Luck (who we're already placing on the Colts for the purpose of this exercise) and Ed Hochuli (born in the area -- hey, District 10 is tough sledding)
District 11: Matt Ryan and Chris Johnson
District 12: Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow

Jerry Jones (left) and Tony Romo give District 2 a strong 1-2 punch.
Jerry Jones (left) and Tony Romo give District 2 a strong 1-2 punch. (James D. Smith/Associated Press)

(Just an FYI if you've read the books and/or are wondering where Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are ... They're in the mysterious District 13. We'll see them in the second NFL Hunger Games.)

Let the Games begin!

DAY 1

Rex Ryan guarantees Mark Sanchez will win The Hunger Games, but he does say Peyton Manning is the best tribute he's ever seen as the action begins. Chris Johnson, known for being able to run away from trouble for most of his career, grabs a big pile of money from the cornucopia and inexplicably keeps running into Urlacher, who dispatches him easily. Fitzgerald and Rivers are instantly enamored with each other -- one finally has someone to throw him the football and the other has someone to throw it to (after losing Vincent Jackson in free agency). Unfortunately, they begin diagramming routes and fail to notice Arian Foster, who runs both of them over. When the national anthem begins at the end of the day, we're not surprised to see Bowe and Bradford's faces joining the others, as no one thought they could win anyway. 19 tributes left.

DAY 2

Calvin Johnson is so impressive on this day: First he lays out poisonous Skittles that claim Lynch. Luck begs for mercy because he's enduring hardship with the Colts, but Johnson is merciless. He induces Matt Ryan to slip on ice (irony) and fall down a thousand foot crevice, just like the Falcons annually do in the playoffs. But Megatron gets too cocky. In a field, he finds a bag of cash that totals approximately $130 million, but when he tries to pick it up, he doesn't come away with the full amount -- it's more like half. He doesn't notice where he is as he chases some of the money over a cliff. Jerry Jones laughs because that was his "walking around money," and he laid the trap for Johnson. The anthem begins and we learn that Drew Brees is gone, having been "Franchised." It's a very painful end for him. Tebow's pretty quiet, and no one takes him seriously. 14 tributes left.

DAY 3

The landscape comes alive on this day to throw the players a curve. Sanchez and Cutler fall victim to the scariest thing The Capitol can throw at them: the media. It's not pretty. Urlacher eats an out-of-date can of Chunky Soup and falls into a stupor in which he believes it's 2005 again and the Bears are in the Super Bowl. He collapses under a huge yellow flag thrown by Hochuli. But it's ruled that Hochuli blew his whistle before throwing his flag, hence the play is ruled dead, and Hochuli is finished in addition to Urlacher. Adrian Peterson picks up a weapon that could help him, however he drops it two or three times and is defenseless when he comes face-to-face with Foster. The anthem begins and Stafford, who had been healthy up to this point, is startled by the loud music and injures himself beyond repair. 8 tributes left.

Matthew Stafford (left) and Calvin Johnson make sweet music on the gridiron, but how well would they represent District 8 in The Hunger Games?
Matthew Stafford (left) and Calvin Johnson make sweet music on the gridiron, but how well would they represent District 8 in The Hunger Games? (Kevin Terrell/Associated Press)

DAY 4

Alex Smith is eliminated when it's learned his district has been trying to replace him in the Games. He's so upset he leaves for the area previously known as Miami, but finds out he's not wanted there either and simply disappears. Rodgers, who has been playing the Games incredibly well so far, collides with a cardboard cutout of Eli Manning placed in the Games by The Capitol and trips into a pit of melted cheese, which consumes him. It's revealed that Elway isn't really a tribute, but a killer robot sent into the games to simply eliminate Tebow. But the killer Terrell Davis robot that was supposed to help him when he couldn't get the job done by himself malfunctions and they destroy one another. The anthem begins and Romo is excited to learn he's made it nearly to the end of the competition. But once he realizes it's crunch time, he literally falls apart, and those parts are swept away by heavy winds. 4 tributes left.

DAY 5

Only four tributes are left, and they are the most powerful. Well, except for Tebow -- no one can figure out how he's lasted this long. Jones makes some great moves to get away from a hard-charging Foster, but he smashes directly up against the salary cap, and is knocked out of the competition. Just when it looks like Foster is invincible, he tears his hamstring. His district puts pictures of it up on Twitter, seeking advice on how to repair it, but rest is the only treatment. He is immobilized, and thus eliminated. The anthem plays. 2 tributes left.

DAY 6

It's down to Peyton and Tebow, who meet in the middle of a huge field. They slowly advance toward each other -- the final battle upon us! But a surprise is lurking. The robot Elway isn't dead! It comes lurching out of the woods behind Tebow. It's barely functioning, but has enough power left for one final act. Tebow doesn't see him, eyes locked on Manning. The robot Elway pulls out a football with razor spikes on it and hurls it towards Tebow. It's a pretty good throw, considering the robot has been out of practice for a while. It is the robot Elway's final act, as it crumples to the ground after it lets the ball go. But what a throw! The razor ball hisses through the air. Tebow appears doomed. But just before the ball reaches its target, Tebow decides to Tebow, for one final moment of reflection before grappling with Manning. The ball passes harmlessly over his head, and instead strikes down a shocked Manning. Tebow is victorious. Manning's final words are "How the heck did he win this?"

Hey, sometimes the champion is the guy you least expect and underestimated all along. He's also my favorite to win it again, should the winner have to compete in another Hunger Games for some crazy reason ...

Jason Smith writes fantasy and other pith for NFL.com daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks that you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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