Already into week four of the 2008 NFL season, it has been one surprise and upset after another. In the preseason predictions, many predicted the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, and San Diego Chargers, just to name a few, to come out strong in the opening weeks of the season. Unfortunately, these early season predictions were wrong and off…way off. In a series of events that are typical of the sport of football, teams that should be at the top of their respective divisions and teams that should be at the bottom have, clearly, been switched. With teams that have, surprisingly, looked horrible and uncoordinated or even those who are, finally, starting to play like a team, it’s time to get out the game book and put some sanity into an already crazy season.
Let’s start off with the American Football Conference or AFC. The New England Patriots, with Tom Brady leading the team, were expected to cruise through this regular season and the playoffs to make another appearance in the Super Bowl. However, in week one, in a game versus the Kansas City Chiefs, Tom Brady suffered a crucial knee injury that ended his season. If you add this to an aging Patriots’ defense, the road to the playoffs and the Super Bowl is perhaps harder than they would have imagined. The Indianapolis Colts, another team racked with critical injuries to its offensive line and Safety Bob Sanders, has not started off the season on the right foot. With a 1-2 record, so far, with losses to the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars, the Colts have been, so far, slow to start the ball rolling. But don’t count this team out just yet; Tony Dungy and his team have encountered adversity before and will overcome these bumps in the road to a winning record. Another team in the same boat with the Colts are the San Diego Chargers; expected to, eventually, win the AFC and go to the Super Bowl, the Chargers (1-2) have started off on the wrong foot with back to back losses to the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. However, just like the Colts, the Chargers have overcome adversity in past seasons, including last season. Not expected to go deep into the playoffs, they made it past the first two rounds before losing to the Patriots in the AFC Championship. So in a word of wisdom, do not count this team down for the count just yet. Ironically, the teams that are undefeated so far are the Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans, and Buffalo Bills, all teams that are 3-0. So far this season, these teams have played good games and exceeded the expectations of some sports analysts. However, looking at the glass half full and half empty, I am approaching these three teams with caution; never really having to experience adversity and/or dealing with seasons with mediocre records, it is too early to say if these teams will win their respective seasons, let alone, a playoff berth in the AFC. Now we turn our attention to the National Football Conference or NFC. We start off with the Green Bay Packers. Coming off an excellent 2007-08 season but turbulent off-season that resulted in Brett Favre being traded to the New York Jets, the Packers are expected to do well this season and make it deep into the playoffs. Consequently, all this stands on the shoulders of Aaron Rodgers, heading into his fourth season in the NFL, who has never started a game before this season and is attempting to be the new leader and face of the Green Bay Packers, a position left void by the departure of Favre. How well the team does this season and how far they make it into the playoffs will depend on the development of this novice quarterback. Coming into the season with low expectations, the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, and Atlanta Falcons, all 2-1, have surprised many by storming into the 2008 season on a strong note, which can be contributed to the talent-rich rosters these three teams possess. How these teams finish the season is still unsure; but, considering the relatively weak divisions that these teams come from, they might stand a chance of having a winning record. But no conversation about the NFC can, truly, be complete without talking about the toughest division in all of football: the NFC East. For the past two seasons, the NFC East has sent three of its teams to the playoffs with just a game or so deciding the division winner. There’s no reason why this season will be any different; in the first few weeks of the season, this is the only division in football where all its teams have a winning record. And with all these teams sporting a good chance of having a good year this season, the favorites to win the division and the NFC are the Dallas Cowboys or New York Giants. We will see how this prediction will play out as the season continues. The NFL is the only major sport that has true parity; in that, one could make the argument that a lot of the teams have a chance at having a good season or even winning the Super Bowl. The observations and predictions made here have a 50-50 chance of occurring; then again, these are chances that true blue football fans, like myself, are willing to take in love of the game. So be sure to have your popcorn ready for the many plots that will unfold in a movie known as The NFL.