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In the shadows: Flacco, Forte among guys who deserve credit

As the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to say, "I don't get no respect." The same holds true for certain players around the league.

Last week, I had to react to the fact that Eli Manning didn't make the Top 100 Players of 2011, and it got me thinking about perception of other overlooked players. Whether it's public or media-driven, there's simply not enough attention paid to certain guys. We recognize they're good, but we don't always see them as really good.

Some players deserve recognition for just how good they are, and hopefully this will shed a little light on what they bring.

Freeman or Flacco?

The debate between picking Josh Freeman or Joe Flacco comes down to weighing potential against results. Elliot Harrison examines the case for both young quarterbacks. **More ...**

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens

While Flacco came in at No. 90 on the top 100, there's a case he could have come in higher. He's led his team to the playoffs in each of his three seasons. In that time, Flacco has thrown 60 touchdowns, 34 interceptions and has an 87.9 passer rating.

Tell me how much different people perceive Matt Ryan, who, in the same amount of time, has thrown 66 touchdowns, 34 interceptions and has an 86.9 passer rating? Ryan is 0-2 in playoffs as compared to Flacco's 4-3 postseason record. This past season, Flacco threw 25 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. Even though those numbers compare favorably to Ryan's 28 TDs and nine picks, try and find a fan who thinks the two quarterbacks are in the same class.

There seems to be rumors floating around that Flacco doesn't do the extra work required to be great, something I find hard to believe after discussing his preparation with him a number of times.

Kirwan's RB rankings

Pat Kirwan breaks down the best running backs in the NFL today, a look that acknowledges Matt Forte is not flashy, but is really solid in all phases of the game. **More ...**

Matt Forte, RB, Bears

Forte is an all-around back who lives in the shadows of greats like Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Michael Turner. To appreciate Forte, you really have to look at the total yardage picture and not just the rushing totals. Over the past three years, Forte has gained 4,731 total yards with 25 touchdowns. Steven Jackson has 4,783 yards and 18 touchdowns over the same period of time. Turner has 4,102 yards and 39 scores. Jamaal Charles has 3,981 yards and 17 TDs. Darren McFadden only has 3,050 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Point being, Forte is every bit the weapon other backs are around the league. However, for some reason, he isn't on the tip of anyone's tongue when the great runners are discussed.

Osi Umenyiora, DE, Giants

Who forced a league-leading 10 fumbles last season? Umenyiora achieved the feat to go along with his 11.5 sacks. In fact, he has 19 forced fumbles and 31.5 sacks over the past three years. Compare those numbers to John Abraham with 35 sacks and seven forced fumbles or Dwight Freeney's 34 sacks and 10 forced fumbles.

The next closest player to forcing fumbles over the past three seasons is James Harrison with 18. Sacks are great, but getting the ball jarred loose and creating a potential turnover is more important to most coaches. Not many can hang with Umenyiora in that regard.

Santana Moss, WR, Redskins

Santana Moss is a free agent, but you wouldn't know it with all the speculation about Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Plaxico Burress and Chad Ochocinco. Santana Moss finished fourth in the NFL last year with 93 receptions and 10th in yardage. He hasn't missed a game in three years, you never hear a peep out of him and he's younger than the guys mentioned above. His six touchdown receptions tied him with Larry Fitzgerald, Santonio Holmes and DeSean Jackson. Santana Moss also had 61 of his 93 receptions for a first down, which was tied for fourth best in the league and more than Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Marques Colston or Dwayne Bowe.

The Giants' offensive line

Three years ago, the unit was talked about as one of the best in the NFL. However, the perception changed as the line began to be described as an aging group that needed to be rebuilt. Even though the line dealt with a number of injuries, it still graded out as one of the best, if not the best, in an overall view.

The Giants finished sixth in rushing yardage, tied for sixth in yards per attempt and sixth in rushing touchdowns. Things were even better when it came to pass protection. They were tied for the fewest sacks allowed with 16 and third in hits allowed on the quarterback with 52. Eli Manning was sacked an average of once a game and hit three times.

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