Has this been a crazy football season or what!? Chock filled with drama and suspense, heartbreak and victory, adversity and injury… this has been a season where nothing has gone the way it was supposed to. The mighty have fallen. Teams have risen from the ashes. Upstarts abound. For some, trades made the difference and for others it was the math. One major league starting quarterback discovered a tie isn’t worth as much as a win. And a 8-8 team can make the playoffs while an 11 -5 team can’t.
The regular, regular season... the one everyone was expecting... officially started and ended when Tom Brady went down with a knee injury. After Brady’s injury the NFL entered into a highly irregular season as far as what was to come.
The NFL’s best quarterback on what many felt was the NFL’s best team was gone for the season. For New England Patriot’s fans, the sports world was turned upside down. New England went from being highly favored to highly unlikely in one afternoon. The ripples were felt across the NFL… the odds makers were suddenly checking their bets. Teams across the league who were low on the list of Superbowl prospects suddenly had a reason for hope.
The Patriots were done when Brady got hurt. Everyone knew that. Without Brady they were largely dismissed as far as their playoff hopes. Their season was over before it started. The entire AFC East conference was suddenly wide open. Miami, New York and Buffalo were practically salivating with anticipation, having suddenly been granted true parity. The Patriots were proven mortal. Anything was possible.
In New York, Brett Favre had come out of retirement once again. The Jets bet the team’s farm and near future when they signed him, believing that Brett Favre would take them into the playoffs and beyond. Mangini’s future as coach of the Jets was also on the line because of his support for the Farve deal. They sent Chad Pennington to Miami and to a starting job with a team that nearly went winless last year.
In Miami, as quarterback for the Dolphins, Pennington had the chance to put his experience with the Jets behind him and start fresh. The Dolphins couldn’t get any worse than they were. There were a lot of new faces starting with the great Bill Parcells. It wouldn’t be on his shoulders if things didn’t improve immediately. But if they did, Pennington would get a lot of the credit and a chance at redemption. In addition he would get the chance to prove the Jets wrong.
Buffalo wasn’t expected to do much and was the dark horse in many preseason predictions.
In the West, hope sprang anew with the specter of the Patriots removed. The New York Giants and Eli Manning were looking to prove their Superbowl victory was no fluke. Green Bay had a new QB at the helm and the chance to put Brett Favre behind them.
The Dallas Cowboys and Tony Romo started the season with some high expectations of their own. They had the media spotlight trained on them. Terrell Owens was past his tendency for drama and controversy. The Cowboys looked ready to take control of their destiny. If the season went as expected there was a very good chance of seeing Dallas in the Superbowl.
But that was then…
This is now...
Incredibly… with one game left in the regular season, after all that has happened to all those teams, when it comes to who will win and who will go home... nothing has been settled.
With Matt Cassel taking over for Brady, the Patriots were considered a long shot. But to everyone’s surprise, except Belichick’s, Matt Cassel has more than met the challenge. The consummate backup who believed in the system and had paid his dues, seized his moment and gave a performance that stunned and impressed the entire NFL. He set a couple of NFL records on the way to growing from an untested backup to a battle proven starting quarterback.
Because of an unbelievable performance from a guy who hadn’t started a game since High School the Patriots still have a chance to make the playoffs. But now, in a season filled with unexpected twists and turns, Cassel now needs one more stroke of luck to keep his magical season going. In a crazy twist of football fate they will need help from an unlikely source!
If the Pats win their last game they will end up with an 11-5 record. In keeping with their record setting tradition the Patriots may still set another record of a somewhat dubious honor. They could be the first team win an 11 -5 record that doesn’t make the playoffs.
After a fast start, Buffalo came out strong and went 5-1 before their flaws caught up with them. They faded fast while the NY Jets gradually took control of first place early in the season. Favre looked reborn. Suddenly the team was making the kind of plays that made Favre the legend he is. They were 8 -3 and in control of their destiny. All things being equal, they would finish the season in first place and be looking forward to going deep onto the playoffs.
But, in another unexpected development, the Jets experienced a late season swoon and no longer control their destiny. Brett Favre fell victim to another, less flattering part of his legacy and threw a few passes at the wrong time as he has been known to do. Now, It has come down to where, in their last game, the Jets not only need to win, they need the Patriots to lose. Even worse… if the Jets beat the Dolphins and the Patriots win, then the Patriots will win first place and head to the playoffs. The Jets victory will have no value to them and could prove invaluable to the Patriots if New England wins their final game.
Meanwhile, in Miami, the last have become first in a season of total reversal and redemption. Chad Pennington has performed beyond Miami’s wildest dreams. They have gone from dead last and hopeless, to being one game away from the AFC East title. Their fate is in their own hands. No matter what the Pats or Jets do, they only have to win their last game… against a hungry Jets team fighting for its life and they take the division title and head to the playoffs on a roll.
Dallas has seen it fair share of misfortune and TO has again proved to be a lightning bolt for controvery when it come to his relationship with the media. Dallas csan make the playoffs with a victory in their final game. But it is now way a given anymore like it was at the start of the year.
The Giants stormed through the first 10 games but have stumbled a bit as they approach the seasons end. They no longer look like the juggernaut people thought they were. At this stage of the games any number of teams have a chance when no one ever thought they would. It's anybody guess as to who will make it to the Superbowl.
Of course as a Patriots fan I’m rooting for them and until they are eliminated they have my full support. But if things don’t work out I’m going to root for Chad Pennington. I'll be pulling for Dallas to beat the Giants if they make it in. If the Jets make it I’ll be rooting for anyone who has the chance to defeat them during the playoffs. In reality... right now... I have no idea who I’ll be cheering for in the playoffs or the Superbowl and that has made for a very exciting year of football.
What a crazy year! What a wonderful country!