No matter how smart you are, or how much you think you know about football, there's just no predicting what's going to happen during the NFL season. You can analyze and plan all you want, but there will always be some team that comes out of nowhere or some powerhouse that falls flat to mess up your predictions. And anyone who actually picks things right can only attribute it to dumb luck. I can pat myself on the back all I want for my Jaguars pick, but I happened to miss the Chargers, Steelers, and Giants. And that's the beauty of the NFL. Whoever had those four teams penciled in for the playoffs nine weeks ago would have looked like an idiot. As of right now, it's not out of the question. The only thing you can be sure of in this league is that you can't be sure of anything. It's a league where you can smash the Vikings on the road one week and lose to the Bears the next (Giants); where you can out score the Colts one Sunday and get outscored by the Buccaneers the following (Chiefs). It's a league where anybody can lose to the Cardinals and everybody thinks they can beat the Patriots. And that's why the NFL is the premiere sports league in the world. Because as much as we love a touchdown bomb or a bone-crunching sack, fans love surprises even more.
Earlier this season I labeled the Patriots "predictable". And to a point, they were. After 21 consecutive victories, you start to know what to expect from your squad. However, game number 22 yeilded plenty of big surprises when Corey Dillon was unable to play, and Ty Law broke his foot only minutes into it. The results of these unexpected injuries were all too predictable - the Patriots record breaking winning streak would come to an end. All in all, it wasn't a bad way to have it end. We lost to a quality team because we were under-manned, not because we choked under pressure. The Patriots have gone 22-3 the past two seasons and all three losses came during games where the Patriots were just never in it at all. Bad games aren't anything to savor, but at least when the pressure is on, the Patriots won't have that game where they choked in the back of their head. And an added bonus is that the Steelers have now become the proverbial "team to beat", taking a lot of unneeded attention off the Pats. Over the past few weeks it seemed as if everybody forgot the Patriots were the defending champs and focused on ending the streak. With the record out of the way, opponents have a lot less motivation to take the Patriots down. It's time to get back to the place the Pats thrive in - under the radar, poised to strike come January. The injuries are mounting, but the Patriots aren't to be overlooked by any means. If you told me that in order to beat the Rams, Troy Brown would have to defend their world-class receivers, Mike Vrabel would have to make a diving catch in the endzone, and Adam Vinatieri would have to throw a touchdown pass, I'd guess we'd be 6-2 right about now. Surprise! - We're 7-1. Who's predictable now?
Can the Vikes avoid the late-season fade?
Mike Martz called the Buccs a playoff team. He made the same surprising comment about the Patriots in 2001.
Tick... tick... tick... That's the T.O. timebomb who officially started its countdown during Owens' chat with McNabb on the sidelines yesterday.
I don't know if the Patriots win this week was due to their exceptional rising to the occasion, or an exceptional collapse by the Rams. I'm guessing it's somewhere in between.
Buccaneerss over Falcons, Giants over Eagles
Vikings over Buccaneers, Giants over Seahawks
Vikings over Giants
Colts over Jaguars, Chargers over Jets
Patriots over Chargers, Steelers over Colts
Patriots over Steelers
Patriots over Vikings
Nine weeks in, my Super Bowl pick still looks reasonable. Maybe you can predict things... nah.