by John Furgele
The NFL prefers the word parity, that every team has a chance to get it right and make a quick turnaround from a pretender to a contender. And, even though this is mainly because the league is watered down, it does make for compelling drama and Week 17 might have been the ultimate week for that to happen.
The Miami Dolphins, a 1-15 team a year ago is the AFC East champion. They did it with a new coach, a new quarterback, and a new Tuna in Bill Parcells. The Baltimore Ravens, 5-11 in 2007, brought in a new coach in John Harbaugh and a rookie quarterback in Joe Flacco and go 11-5 and secure an AFC Wild Card. Their opponent next week—-Miami.
Last year, the Atlanta Falcons quarterback was going to jail and its coach secretly bolted for the University of Louisville. So, this year, they bring in an unknown coach and a rookie quarterback and all they did was go 11-5 and secure an NFC Wild Card berth.
So, there is hope for the Detroit Lions and their fans, which despite reports that they are none, there are. In 2007, the Lions were 6-2 at the halfway point. Since then, they are 1-23. But, if Miami can go from 1-15 to 11-5, perhaps the Lions, provided they get somebody with a half a brain to run the team, could be the next Miami.
The perenially can’t-get-out-of-their-own-way Arizona Cardinals are 9-7 and in the playoffs. So, we know that in the NFL, anything can happen. And, this is why the NFL remains the most compelling major sport. Baseball is a better sport than football, but clearly, in baseball, there are the haves and the have nots.
In Baltimore, the Orioles appear to be miles away from being a World Series contender. They play in the American League East, where the Yankees just spent $421 million for three players. But, in the NFL, the Ravens, if they draft properly and acquire the right free agents can go from 5-11 to 11-5 and make the NFL playoffs.
In Pittsburgh, the small market Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992. Even with the state-of-the-art PNC Park, the Pirates remain bad, inept with no hope in sight. But, the Steelers compete and compete well. In 2005, they went from the number five seed in the AFC playoffs to NFL champions.
In Miami, the Florida Marlins have a payroll roughly the same as Alex Rodriguez’s and Derek Jeter’s, and even though they won two World Series titles in 1997 and 2003, they can’t sustain anything. After winning it all in 1997, the ’98 Marlins went 54-108. But, the Dolphins are the story of the year, and their quarterback, Chad Pennington, should be the NFL MVP this season.
In Kansas City, there is hope that the Royals can get over .500 (82-80 will suffice) in 2009, but 82-80 will more than likely keep the Royals out of the playoffs, but the Kansas City Chiefs could go from 2-14 to 9-7 in 2009 and that could be enough to get them into the playoffs. This year, the San Diego Chargers WON the AFC West with an 8-8 record, and in Week 15 beat the Chiefs by one point. At 2-14, the Chiefs were just six games behind the Chargers, so anything is possible in the topsy-turvy NFL. Even at 2-14, the Chiefs are closer to an NFL championship than the Royals are to a World Series championship.
Now, if you’re living in Buffalo, Cincinnati, St. Louis or Oakland, you may not believe this, but rest assured it can happen.
It’s the NFL.