Another regular season down the drain. Some are rejoicing the extension of their teams' lives by one more week, such as Philly fans, who had everything fall into place through their trifecta of success (beating Dallas and watching Chicago and Tampa lose). Others cried foul, such as New England's faithful, who watched their team secure an 11-5 record, yet be denied a playoff berth thanks to Baltimore's victory and Brett Favre's crapulence. Regardless, this was a season to remember ... if not for the football, then for the garbage officiating :-)
1. Year of the Falcon
If your team missed out on the postseason, I really don't see how you can cheer for anyone other than the Atlanta Falcons. (And if you're still too busy sulking, then I invite you to go back to Ft. Worth and continue crying over spilt popcorn). I understand that the Miami Dolphins finished with a far worse record last season, and therefore finished with a 10-game turnaround compared with the Falcons' 7-game positive swing. However, the Fins coach stayed with them through their 1-15 season, and their turmoil was entirely based around poor football decisions. Now, I generally can't stand the Falcons, and I cheered against them most of the time, for no good reason really, but I still didn't like them. But this team watched its "quarterback of the future" get sent to prison for heinous crimes against animals. And then, as if being led by Joey Harrington wasn't bad enough, faux-savior/faux-coach/faux-human Bobby Petrino quit on his team with 3-games left in the 2007 regular season. This poor team basically had a gigantic turd laid on it's head both at the onset of last season and near it's end. What Mike Smith, Michael Turner, Matt Ryan and Roddy White have done there is nothing short of miraculous and awe-inspiring. And as much as it pains me, I'll be cheering for these guys starting this weekend.
2. Year of the Psych-Out
The Washington Redskins record through Week 8: 6-2. The New York Jets record through Week 13: 9-3. The Tampa Bay Bucs record through Week 13: 9-3. San Diego through Week 13: 4-8. Guess which ONE of these teams actually made the playoffs ...
Okay, so San Diego did squeak in despite not finishing with a winning record (8-8) thanks to Denver's choke job over the final three weeks of the season, but that doesn't take away from the fact that in the NFL two cliché rules ALWAYS apply:
A) You can never count a team out, and
B) There's no such thing as a sure thing (not even Norv Turner losing in December).
Now, the Redskins were never as good as their 6-2 record implied, nor were the Bolts nearly as bad as their 4-8 record claimed. Regardless, both teams psyched-out their own fans and those of their rivals, and thereby helped create a very intense and important Week 17 of the NFL season.
3. Year of the Bad Calls
Normally I do not re-use a blurb from my intro to the FourCast again as an item, but this was a big one. Starting with Ed Hochuli's terrible blown call in the Week 2 Denver/San Diego matchup, and ending with Walt Coleman's irresponsible overturning of the "No Touchdown" call in the Pittsburgh/Baltimore game, this was a poor season for the NFL's officiating crew. (NOTE: I do believe that Santonio Holmes scored on that play against Baltimore, HOWEVER, there was no conclusive evidence to overturn the call of "No Touchdown." Therefore, Coleman overstepped his bounds as a referee ... regardless of what the NFL's resident douchebag Mike Pereira says). Unfortunately, these bad calls decided games that ultimately decided playoff scenarios (Baltimore could have become the #2 seed rather than the #6 seed), yet nothing could be done after-the-fact.
Poor officiating has dogged most professional and collegiate sports since their inception, this is a fact of life which we must face and accept. However, when the officiating raises to blatant irresponsibility and horrendous calls which determine the final outcome of games, then action must be taken. The NFL must institute some form of an in-game review of its officials in extreme situations ... such as when referees blatantly ignore the standard by which they blow their whistles and overturn calls.
4. Year of the "Evening Out"
There would have been an embeded youtube clip of the Seinfeld "evening out" or "even steven" episode here. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a short clip of it on youtube or anywhere else on the web. But in essence, in the episode, Seinfeld always manages to break even. Whether it's on his trip to Vegas, or when he loses one gig, but finds another one for the same weekend for the same pay, Jerry believes that things always even out. As he told Elaine, when she was down on her luck, "Elaine, don't get too down. Everything'll even out, see, I have two friends, you were up, he was down. Now he's up, you're down."
Well, this law applies to the NFL and it's extreme parity. In the 2007 regular season, the New England Patriots became the first team in history to finish 16-0 in the regular season. Even though they did not win the Super Bowl, such dominance over the course of the regular season seemed to fly in the face of the great parity which the NFL preached. Enter the 2008 Detroit Lions.
Just as there was an undefeated regular season team before the Pats (the 1972 Dolphins finished 14-0), there was once a winless team in the NFL as well (the 1976 Bucs finished 0-14). But Lions had to go and out-do the Bucs and lose 16 games in one season. While this sucks for the Detroit fans, it's for the greater good. Hopefully the powers that be in the Motor City will take note of the fine folks in Miami, Atlanta and Baltimore, and turn this around for the league's first 0-16 team.
Thanks for another season. Breakdown of each individual playoff game begins on Thursday morning!