By Flint Wheeler
Generally, I’m not a big surprise guy. I don’t really see the point in it. I don’t particularly like surprise parties. Simply tell me you want to throw me a party; I’ll pay for it, help plan. Let’s try to stay away from any trickery or sneaky stuff. I’m not a fan of people hiding behind the sofa and waiting for me to get home then yell “Surprise” and we all eat cake.
Then inevitably I spend the rest of the night apologizing for not keeping in touch with most of the people in the room. My point is surprises, more often than not, lead to disaster. No one gets a warning when their being audited, arrested, divorced, or attacked by a shark. Wouldn’t we like to have seen that coming? I’m just not a big surprise guy. Yet, I love football! And all it has done so far is surprise me.
This season has been unbelievable as much as you can predict it will be unpredictable. You know Peyton Manning won’t win the Superbowl this year. That story is to perfect. What makes the NFL equally maddening and captivating, it’s one surprise after another. Only 20 of 74 number one seeds have ever won a Superbowl. Want a better one? That same20 out of 74 number one seeds have lost in the first round of the playoffs.
Last year Baltimore was a wild card team. Nobody outside of the city of Baltimore thought they were going on to win the Superbowl heading into the playoffs, nobody. They shouldn’t have won it. Peyton had them beat in Denver, Brady and the Patriots were heavy favorites and should have taken care of the Ravens. Even in the big game itself, they were 4 point underdogs to the 49ers.
Three years ago, the Giants were 7-7, they won the Superbowl. In the last 13 years only two number 1 seeds have won it. Peyton can’t win it this year. Predictability isn’t an ingredient that goes into the recipe for winning it all. In fact, predict the unpredictable, find that 50-1 underdog and mortgage the house on it.
History proves that at this time of year, more often than not, we have no idea who’s going to win it. Remember the 18-0 Patriots? Even as a two touchdown favorite they lost to Velcro on their helmet Giants. Remember the year Arizona went to the Superbowl? In that year, 2008 regular season, they lost 4 out their last 6 games. They gave up 56 points to the Jets while getting humiliated. Then they lost 47-7 at New England, followed by losing 48-20 in Philly.
The Cardinals went 9-7 that year and won the Superbowl. I’m sure we ALL saw that coming, right? Denver running the tables and winning it all is too perfect of a script. As fans, we very rarely have perspective on sports. We love this Sunday, last Sunday, and what’s for dinner. That’s about as wide a perspective as we cast. It’s at this point in the season we need to take a look at who we may be missing. This morning I wrote down 7 teams, that if they were to win the Superbowl, I wouldn’t be surprised. In no particular order they are; 9ers, Seahawks, Saints, Broncos, Chiefs, Colts, and Patriots. Then there’s 5 “Keep your eye on” teams; Lion, Bears, Packers, Cowboys, and Bengals. You can’t tell me that on any given Sunday, one of those 5 couldn’t’ beat one of the 7 best.
Then there’s the rest of the NFL, roughly 20 ‘thanks for playing’ teams that don’t matter. But I guarantee you that somebody in that elevator music group will end up shocking everybody. What is known about this great sport is that the NFL is anti-happily ever after, its anti-Disney. In fact, I’d argue, the NFL is anti-everything falling into place just the way we think it is supposed to. The NFL loves the romance and marriage then a week later the catastrophic divorce. Their product lives and dies on the trials and tribulations of our expectations. Anybody see Denver take on the hapless Jaguars this week. Vegas had Denver favored by 27 points, the highest spread in almost 30 years. The Jags kept it close the whole game and even through the 3rd quarter I was saying, “Wow, the Jaguars have a shot”. The Jaguars covered easily. History, over and over tells us, the only thing predictable is the unpredictable. Enjoy the ride.