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Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson worthy of Thanksgiving praise

I had a list of the nine biggest turkeys in the NFL this season, but I opted instead to be super positive heading into the holiday. Below you'll find the nine things I'm thankful for in the NFL this year.

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1) Adrian Peterson

As a sports fan, there's nothing quite like watching a supreme talent achieve greatness, knowing you're witnessing something special.

I've been mesmerized by what Peterson has accomplished with the Minnesota Vikings this year. For him to come back after major knee surgery and look "better than ever," as Vikings coach Leslie Frazier put it on SiriusXM NFL Radio, is just incredible.

Peterson was supposed to be on a snap count. He was supposed to work his way back into shape. Instead, he's the best runner in the NFL, carrying the Vikings to a surprising 6-4 record. He's currently a top candidate for a slew of awards, including MVP, Offensive Player of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year.

2) Peyton Manning

As great as last season was, something was missing. Manning's absence from the game loomed large. The iron man, one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history, didn't take a snap.

After the season ended, the Indianapolis Colts rightly said good-bye to Manning and ushered in the Andrew Luck era. Nobody knew if Manning would play again, let alone get back to his iconic clip, given the severity of his neck injury and the subsequent surgeries.

Manning worked out in the offseason, and a classic free-agent chase began, with the Denver Broncos winning the sweepstakes. But there were still skeptics, myself included, who wanted to see Manning throw, and take a hit, and round into shape.

He mastered it all. I'd argue that the Broncos' Manning-led comeback against the San Diego Chargers in Week 6 was the sequence of the year. Manning won the AFC West for Denver in that game, proving he could resume playing at a Hall of Fame level. Bravo.

As the injury to Baltimore Ravens veteran Ray Lewis shows, you never know when a legendary career might be interrupted or cut short, making Manning's comeback all the more special.

3) Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III

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The NFL conversation in 2012 has been dominated by the first two picks taken in April's draft, and the neophyte quarterbacks haven't disappointed. Stunningly, they've outpaced expectations, and that says something.

Luck is the real deal, a true football junkie who has led the Indianapolis Colts to a surprising 6-4 start. RG3 has incredible smarts, an incredible arm and an incredible knack for creating jaw-dropping moments with the Washington Redskins.

I can't wait to watch them develop into megastars together.

4) Andy Reid

Andy Reid is going to lose his job at the end of the year. Sadly, for him and Philadelphia Eagles fans, he's earned that fate.

But I want to take the opportunity to note how great it was to watch Reid coach the Eagles. I hope fans choose to remember the good times, like all those seasons with double-digit wins, or how they used to know the Eagles had a chance to win the Super Bowl every year.

I know Philly never won the big game under Reid, but the title was always in play. Remember, also, what the Eagles were before Reid came on board as the coach. Reid loves Philly, breathes Eagles football, and was a major success. Hopefully, history judges him fairly.

This Thanksgiving will mark the first major family holiday since Reid lost his son, Garrett. I will be thinking of the Reids. I hope the day goes as well as possible.

5) "The Legion of Boom"

I cannot get enough of the Seattle Seahawks' defensive backs. They are tough, nasty and aggressive playmakers.

I love their attitude. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor lay the wood. Richard Sherman is cocky, talking trash to the likes of Tom Brady and Calvin Johnson.

When I told Brandon Browner on SiriusXM Blitz how I much I loved his unit's approach, he replied, "Thanks for noticing, and spread the word." How can you not love these guys?

6) Dick LeBeau

The NFL's oldest defensive coordinator is still the best in the business. I have as much appreciation for LeBeau, who has gotten the Pittsburgh Steelers' injury-riddled defense to overachieve, as I do for Peterson and Manning. I hope LeBeau never retires.

7) Bob McNair



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I'm not sure the Houston Texans owner gets enough credit for being one of the best in the game. He stayed the course with coach Gary Kubiak when the media was calling for him to be fired. He hired Rick Smith to be his general manager.

Now McNair is being rewarded with the best team in the AFC.

The owner does amazing charitable work in the Houston community. He also brought football back to the area. It would be special to see him win a title.

8) Daryl Washington

Yeah, that's right. I'm thankful for Daryl Washington.

I'm a sucker for players who don't get picked in the first round, out-perform their contracts and then get smartly rewarded with big money.

That has all rightly happened to the Arizona Cardinals' do-it-all linebacker, one of the best defensive players in the NFL. If Washington were on a better team, we'd be talking about him as a candidate to be named Defensive Player of the Year.

9) Thanksgiving football in Dallas and Detroit

Interleague play. Conference realignment. My head is spinning.

It's nice to know that we can always bank on football in Dallas and Detroit every Thanksgiving.

Remember the dopey conversation about moving Thanksgiving football out of Detroit when the Lions were bad? That was nonsense, and should never be discussed again.

These teams bring history and tradition into our homes. I look forward to watching them play on Thanksgiving every year.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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