clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Cam Newton, J.J. Watt battle to be the Face of NFL in the Elite Eight

New, comments

Plus, Tom Brady vs. Gronk!

Much like the real March Madness, there aren't any Cinderella stories left in our Face of the NFL competition. The league's biggest superstars have all moved on to the Elite Eight, where the ambiguity of the tournament will almost certainly come into play.

Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and J.J. Watt all marched on with blowout victories, which isn't surprising. They're three of the best players in the game and are all superstars off the field: Brady is a bonafide A-lister, Rodgers is one of the most socially active athletes around and Watt has a robust social media presence. Regardless of your definition for the Face of the NFL, each player probably fits the bill.

Cam Newton, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Russell Wilson advanced too, but by smaller margins. The fact that Newton didn't totally rout Andrew Luck is mildly surprising, considering he's the reigning MVP and one of the most polarizing players in football. His Elite Eight matchup with Watt might be the showdown of the tournament.

The closest matchup was between Larry Fitzgerald and Von Miller, which probably speaks to the gains Miller made with his impressive postseason performance. Not many pass rushers can say they completely shutdown Brady and Newton just within a couple of weeks of each other.

As expected, the Sweet 16 produced plenty of debate, but the Elite Eight should be even more hotly contested.

Voting is now closed, but come back on Tuesday to see who moved on to the Final Four.

East Region

No. 1 Tom Brady def. No. 5 Tony Romo

Brady has the advantage over Romo in, well, everything. It's no surprise he dominated this contest and is moving on.

No. 3 Rob Gronkowski def. No. 2 Odell Beckham Jr.

Beckham had the potential to be a sleeper in this tournament, considering his proclivity for acrobatic catches and ubiquitous presence on highlight reels. But like most cornerbacks and safeties, he couldn't compete with Gronk.

Elite Eight matchup

No. 1 Tom Brady vs. No. 3 Rob Gronkowski: What are Patriots fans going to do??? Well, at least we know who would win a beer-chugging contest, if it came down to that.

West Region

No. 1 Russell Wilson def. No. 4 Richard Sherman

It wouldn't be a stretch to say Wilson has enjoyed the best four-year start to his career out of any quarterback in NFL history. Sherman gave him a run -- possibly due to his tendency to sound off on league issues -- but Wilson ultimately prevailed over his teammate.

No. 2 Larry Fitzgerald vs. No. 3 Von Miller

The case for Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald is climbing up the playoff record books, which is remarkable considering he's played in just nine postseason games. He's only one of three players to have five 100-yard games in the playoffs and is third on the list in touchdown receptions as well. The 32-year-old reinvented himself as a slot receiver last season and put together his best season in several years.

Fitzgerald is on a Hall of Fame track not just for his incredible production in a uniform, but he's also one of the most respected guys in the locker room. He's known to "kill his opponents with kindness," exchanging pleasantries with the opposing corner and then blowing by him on a skinny post route. His on-field accolades combined with signature dreadlocks and gregarious personality make him a tough out for any opponent.

The case for Von Miller: Where to begin? For one, he's the reigning Super Bowl MVP and the man responsible for allowing Peyton Manning to, as they say, walk off into the sunset. He also almost single-handedly knocked Tom Brady out of the playoffs and just put together one of the most impressive postseason any defensive player has ever had. He does lots of charity. He wears sweet glasses. He's competing on Dancing With The Stars. Most importantly, though: he dances like this on Sundays.

Need more be said?

Winner: Larry Fitzgerald (51 vs. 49 percent)

Elite Eight matchup

No. 1 Russell Wilson vs. No. 2 Larry Fitzgerald: The NFL's weirdest dude vs. the NFL's nicest guy.

North Region

No. 1 Aaron Rodgers def. No. 4 Ben Roethlisberger

Rodgers might have had a down season in 2015 by his statistical standards, but he's still popular enough to have pulled off the biggest landslide victory of the Sweet 16 round over Big Ben. It is worth noting that much of the voting was done before Rodgers revealed that he's convinced he saw a UFO several years ago.

No. 2 Antonio Brown def. No. 3 Adrian Peterson

It's probably a moral victory that Peterson even advanced to the Sweet 16 given his past transgressions. Brown has put together perhaps the best two-season stretch by any receiver in NFL history, following up his incredible 2014 campaign (129 catches, 1,698 yards) with an even more impressive 2015 performance (136 catches, 1,834 yards). He's the only player in league history with consecutive seasons of at least 100 catches and 1,600 receiving yards.

Elite Eight matchup

No. 1 Aaron Rodgers vs. No. 2 Antonio Brown: This could come down to a battle of fervent fan bases. No, not the Packers and Steelers, but The X-Files devotees vs. Dancing with the Stars enthusiasts.

South Region

No. 1 Cam Newton def. No. 5 Andrew Luck

The 2015 NFL MVP prevailed in this battle of former No. 1 picks. There is no disputing the excellent season that Newton put up in leading the Panthers to the Super Bowl. Luck's struggles with injury and inconsistency last year made this an easy matchup for Newton.

No. 2 J.J. Watt def. No. 6 Luke Kuechly

Watt has won three of the last four Defensive Player of the Year awards and is widely considered the most dominant player of this generation on that side of the ball. Kuechly is not far behind -- he won the league's top defensive honor in 2013 -- but it's really hard to beat a guy that extends his awesomeness into the offseason, too.

Elite Eight matchup

No. 1 Cam Newton vs. No. 2 J.J. Watt: The 2015 Offensive Player of the Year vs. the 2015 Defensive Player of the Year. It doesn't get much better than this. Get your popcorn ready.