Sunday, January 26, 2014

NFL '13 Dread News - Week 20

On January 30, 1994, the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills 30-13 at the Georgia Dome in Super Bowl 28. "And just what does this have to do with dreads?" .... you ask. Nothing, of course. But I'm mentioning this because it was the last time a team played in the Super Bowl after having lost in the previous season's Super Bowl, as the Bills had also lost in Super Bowl 27, to Dallas 52-17. Ever since then, the team losing the Super Bowl seems to always be under some sort of jinx the following season. Coming into the 2013 season, of the last 19 teams to lose the Super Bowl, only one had so much as gotten to the conference championship game the next year. That was last year, when New England - losers to the N.Y. Giants in Super Bowl 46 - was denied a return trip to the Super Bowl by Baltimore. Before that, nine Super Bowl losers didn't even make the playoffs the following year, and the other nine lost in either the 1st or 2nd round of the playoffs.

Enter the 2013 San Francisco 49ers, losers of last year's Super Bowl to the Ravens in that 34-31 thriller. Having already won on the road at Green Bay and Carolina the last two weeks, the 49ers were poised to snap the streak of futility by Super Bowl losers as they took on the Seahawks last Sunday. But instead, they found out just how powerful this jinx is.
Beset by injuries to key players, several bad calls by the game officials, and ultimately too many mistakes of their own doing, the 49ers became the 20th straight Super Bowl loser to fail to get back the next year. Much to their dismay, it was Richard Sherman and the Seahawks raising the George Halas Trophy (photo above), claiming the NFC championship after dealing the 49ers a crushing and heartbreaking 23-17 defeat at Seattle.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

NFL '13 Dread News - Week 19

The NFL world is back to normal, once again spinning on its proper axis - at least for this season, anyway. The cream rose to the top last weekend as 3 of the 4 teams that earned byes for the 1st round of the playoffs won their 2nd round games at home to advance to the conference championship round. And the one team still alive that didn't have a 1st round bye - the 49ers - certainly would have gotten one if they weren't in the same division as the Seahawks. The four winners in the 2nd round are arguably (and it would be a pretty strong argument) the two best teams in each conference, so CBS and Fox no doubt are very happy, because New England at Denver for the AFC title and San Francisco at Seattle for the NFC crown figure to be highly competitive games that draw huge TV ratings.

6 of the 8 teams in action last weekend have at least one running back with dreads. The only two that don't met at Denver, where the Broncos held off the San Diego Chargers 24-17. There were plenty of chances for the Chargers to win this game, but they didn't take advantage of enough of them to pull off the upset. For example, after the Chargers punted on their opening drive, they had a chance to stop the Broncos' first drive. But on 1st down from the San Diego 29-yard line, CB Shareece Wright dropped what should have been an easy interception, keeping the drive alive. 6 plays later Denver led 7-0. The Chargers' D did get the turnover on the Broncos' second drive, recovering a fumble after S Jahleel Addae stripped the ball from TE Julius Thomas just before he hit the ground (photo below) at the SD 45-yard line. But again the Chargers failed to take advantage, missing a FG attempt on their ensuing possession. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

NFL '13 Dread News - Week 18

In only one of the four 1st round playoff games did the team playing at home have a better record than their opponent, so I guess it's not very surprising that only one home team won last weekend. Ever since New England won back-to-back Super Bowls after going 14-2 in both 2003 and 2004, 6 of the last 8 Super Bowl winners have been teams that did not get a 1st round bye. If that trend continues this season, that means either the Colts, Saints, Chargers, or 49ers will be raising the Vince Lombardi Trophy three weeks from now. Which one will it be? 

The Indianapolis Colts were the only home team to advance to round 2, and they had to come back from the dead  before barely defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 45-44. Despite finishing 11-5, the Chiefs didn't really beat any teams that were any good during the regular season. Only one of their 11 victories came against a team that finished with a winning record, and even that victory wasn't all that impressive because the Eagles weren't very good back in Week 3 when the Chiefs beat them. Whenever they played a good team, they lost, and that includes a 23-7 home loss to the Colts in Week 16. I thought the Chiefs were certainly very capable of beating a good team; but until they actually did it, it was hard to get very excited about all their success.
Well, the Chiefs are still looking for that victory over a quality team after incredibly blowing a four-touchdown lead in the 1-point loss at Indianapolis last Saturday. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

NFL '13 Dread News - Week 17

I believe I have reached a new low. In each of the first four years of this blog I was able to do at least a couple of weekly reports on the NFL during the season. But this year? Nothing - until now, that is, with the whole regular season already finished. Yes, I'm very disappointed that I haven't done anything yet. Yes, I still very much enjoy doing this blog. But there are only 24 hours in every day; and as long as that remains true I'm not going to have enough time to do all the things I want to do in this blog. Since I have chosen to emphasize college football, the NFL has to take a back seat.

But that doesn't mean I haven't been paying attention. By now you probably know that I love watching the Falcons, Chiefs, Bears, and Jaguars every week. But there are so many commercial breaks during NFL telecasts that I'm able to switch channels often enough to usually catch at least a little action from every game. Coming into Week 17 the Kansas City Chiefs were the only team that knew its playoff fate. At 11-4, they had clinched 2nd place in the AFC West as well as the #1 AFC wild card spot. The four AFC division champions had already been crowned, but their records were so close that none of them knew how they would be seeded for the playoffs. The #2 AFC wild card spot was a free-for-all. Over in the NFC, only 3 of the 6 playoff spots had been clinched, and none of the four division champions had been determined.

It must have been exasperating being a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals as those two teams tried to earn a spot in the playoffs. Ultimately they both failed to make it, and how they failed to make it was nothing short of fascinating. The Cardinals, 9-5 after Week 15, needed to win their final 2 games AND have at least one of these three things to happen: either the Panthers lose to the Saints, the 49ers lose to the Falcons, or the Saints lose to the Buccaneers. Despite 2 interceptions by Seahawks CB Richard Sherman, the Cardinals kept hope alive with a 17-10 win at Seattle in Week 16, the Seahawks' 1st loss at home this season. But the help they needed elsewhere didn't materialize. It looked like the Panthers were going to lose to the Saints; but instead they scored a TD with 23 seconds to go to defeat the Saints. Then it looked like the 49ers, a 14-point favorite, were going to lose at home to the Falcons; but instead with the Falcons down by 3, QB Matt Ryan threw an interception (returned for a TD) on 2nd and 1 from the 49ers' 10-yard line with 1:10 remaining in the game.