|The Obvious 2 - The Obvious 2|
|Written by Mark Grey|
Page 2 of 2
At the start of every NFL season, there are a handful of teams who know they have no shot at making the Super Bowl. These teams may sell their fans the “We have a shot at the playoffs and once you’re in the playoffs anything can happen dream,” but the fact is these owners and GMs have had plans for this upcoming weekend for five months now, and they have nothing to do with the Super Bowl. The fans in Buffalo didn’t expect much from the Bills this year, which is good because that’s exactly what they got. Down in Carolina, they started an undrafted QB named Matt Moore and surrounded him with less talent than some SEC schools, and the backup plan was to let Jimmy Clausen get a crack at it. In Cleveland, they quickly found out what Panther fans already knew - Jack Delhomme is way past his prime and isn’t leading any team anywhere other than to a high draft pick. Out in Arizona with Kurt Warner retiring and Boldin leaving, it was clear the playoffs weren’t in the cards. In Detroit, Lions fans were just happy to be competitive; playoff talk is still a couple years away.
The St. Louis Rams pretty much looked like the worst team on paper to start the season. They had a much better year than expected, but were still no threat for the Super Bowl. The Raiders finally looked like they were moving in the right direction, but as long as Al Davis is still calling the shots, you won’t have to worry about them in the Super Bowl. Across the Bay in San Fran, expectations were very high as the 49ers were picked to run away with the NFC east. The problem is, you can’t win with a coach who runs his team like a bad episode of Scared Straight and thinks he is managing a baseball team. (You’re supposed to have a different starting pitcher every game Mike, not quarterback). The Seahawks can’t win a road game to save their lives (5 road wins in the last 3 seasons) so there went their chance of winning it all. Ever since the Broncos made Josh McDaniels the youngest coach in the NFL, he has done everything in his power to destroy the team and its future, so we knew there wouldn’t be any Super Bowl trips on his watch.
The Dolphins decided it was time to tame the wildcat and release Chad Henne on the league, which surely was not going to land them a trip to Dallas. The Chargers, who have been preseason favorites to win it all the last couple of years, hoped that Philip Rivers and the passing attack would lead them to the big game. One big problem was that the front office decided it didn’t want to pay the pro bowl tackle that protects Rivers and the pro bowl receiver to which he throws the ball. Both the Chiefs and the Bucs are young up-and-coming teams who had great seasons, but they are still a player or two and some experience away from taking that next step. In Minnesota, you didn’t need a crystal ball to see that last year’s fairy tale season was quickly turning into a fully fledged soap opera this year. No one can really pinpoint when Brad Childress lost his team, but I’m guessing it was on one of those trips to beg Brett Favre. After going undefeated in their division last year, the Bengals had to be mentioned as Super Bowl contenders this year. The problem is, when you bring in Terrell Owens, you can guarantee two things: he is going to get his numbers and you’re not going to win the Super Bowl.
In the nation’s capital, you already knew it was just going to be another season of Dan Synder’s version of MTV’s Real World (different cast every season but pretty much the same drama). It’s rather ironic that the Texans, Jags, and Titans are all in the same division because they are all pretty much the same team. All three are the text book definition of a mediocre team; they can beat any team on any given Sunday and they can lose to any team as well, which is only going to take you so far. In Dallas, prior to the season all the talk was about the Cowboys playing in the Super Bowl in their own stadium. By week three, the lost look on Wade Phillips' face made you wonder; even if they did play the Super Bowl at home, would he even be able to find the stadium? It didn’t take long before it was clear that Philips wasn’t going to be leading the Cowboys anywhere. The defending champs were ready to defend their title; they just didn’t have any running game to do it (at one point I swear I received a letter in the mail to try out for running back, but Ledell Betts got his letter first so he got the job). With all the talent the Ravens have on both sides of the ball, they could have easily ended up in the Super Bowl. The only problem is that it would require them to play their best football for four games in a row, which just isn’t something they do. The Bears turned out to be better than anyone expected them to be, but how far can you really go when your biggest threat is a special teams player?
No one could’ve predicted that Michael Vick was going to put on his Superman cape and carry the Eagles on his back. The only problem is, not even Superman could win a Super Bowl behind that offensive line. Of the teams not playing this weekend, the only real surprises are the Patriots and the Falcons. Although in the early going, Belicheck’s mid-season trade of the team's only deep threat, Randy Moss, looked like sheer genius, their lack of a deep threat turned out to be their Achilles heel. The Falcons just ran into a red hot Packers team that came out and punched them right in the mouth and they never recovered. If the Jets set out to be in the Super Bowl, they probably would have been, but it was pretty clear that their goal was strictly to beat the Patriots. Maybe next year they will set their goals a little higher (anyone who saw Rex Ryan running, Braylon Edwards back flipping, and Bart Scott’s post game interview knows that was the Jets' Super Bowl).
So just like that, there were only two teams, and with the help of our 20/20 hindsight glasses, it is easy to see how we got here. Now if we could only get these things to look into the future; I could be a rich man.