NFL 2014 Week 14: We’d Win It All If We Could Just Stop Losing
Every December brings three certainties: Christmas, Chanukah and National Football League teams with winning records who suddenly forget how to win. Those of us who follow the League never learn. We start proclaiming the teams sure to go to the Super Bowl just after Thanksgiving only to see many of them lose. At the top of this season’s list of winners taking a walk on the mild side is the Cleveland Browns. This is a special disappointment to all those of us who love rooting for the underdog. Since the New Orleans Saints inexplicably managed to win a championship five years ago and end their lovable loser status, the Browns stumbled into that spot in football fans’ hearts. As Clevelanders can attest, the drawback to being a lovable loser is you are a loser. It’s hard to believe it’s been only 50 years since the team from northern Ohio won the championship (before the Super Bowl – the Browns have yet to play in one).
Cleveland greats like the indomitable Jim Brown must be shaking their heads over the team’s latest loss, a 25-24 last0-minute defeat at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts. Worst of all is the way quarterback Brian Hoyer has fallen to earth with a loud thud. Although no one has been willing to say it, it looks like rookie QB Johnny Manziel will finally get his chance to start. It’s probably too late to salvage a playoff appearance for this year.
Other teams joining the Browns on this odyssey into irrelevance are the Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, and San Francisco 49ers. Unlike the Browns all three teams have won Super Bowls but none look likely to do so again this year. In each case this realization is frustrating; all looked like good bets to make the playoffs earlier this year. Miami’s 28-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens hurts because both teams are currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs but the loser is practically guaranteed to stay there. Kansas City sported a 7-3 record and could boast of having defeated the defending champion Seahawks but a three-game losing streak has done a number on their postseason hopes.
The Niners may be most dissatisfied of all. This team has played in the NFC championship the past three seasons and made the Super Bowl after the 2012 season. An embarrassing 24-13 loss to the lowly Oakland Raiders (who lost 52-0 to the lame St. Louis Rams last week) looks to have put the exclamation point on a season of discontent by the Bay. The players who sought to get rid of 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh will likely get their wish after the season; only they may be fired as well.
Some teams look good even when losing. The San Diego Chargers lost a hard-fought 23-14 game to the New England Patriots. Not a happy result, but one in which the Bolts acquitted themselves well against one of the NFL’s best teams this season. Despite a recent losing streak the Arizona Cardinals can clinch their first playoff appearance in five years with a victory next Thursday against the Rams, which means they can get ready to pop the corks in the Cards’ locker rooms now. Another team that can shrug off a loss this weekend is the Philadelphia Eagles. Philly’s loss to Seattle (rounding into excellent shape to defend their title) is not that devastating if the team can win its NFC East showdown with the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.
In the midst of so many teams slugging out for playoff advantage, one division missed the memo that the goal of the game is to win. The NFC South has seen all four of its teams (Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay) reach at least one Super Bowl; the Saints and Bucs have won one apiece. None of that seems to matter now, as all four teams are producing a series of uninspired and uninspiring performances. One thing and one thing only unites this quartet: they are all just plain bad.
Sunday’s lowlight of the week for this conference was New Orleans’ no-show performance in a home game against Carolina. Before this game, the Saints looked to finally be taking control of the division. After a surprisingly one-sided loss to the Panthers, though, it has finally become obvious that the winner of this division will become only the second team in NFL history to make the playoffs with a losing record. Considering the solid if not spectacular seasons six other NFC teams are having (Dallas, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Detroit, Arizona and Seattle), it’s a great shame that one of them must miss the postseason so the South Division winner gets in. For these reasons, the quitter quartet that is the NFC South have won the (not-so-) coveted award of the NFL WOW (Weasels of the Week). Although this honor is intended to acknowledge individual achievements of a dubious nature, it would be unfair (and downright impossible) to pick out one player or team in the division most deserving of it. Enjoy the award, guys; it may be the last thing you win all season.
– Louis Burklow (aka, Hollywood Country Boy), Senior Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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