Monday, January 19, 2009

the river Card

SI's Don Banks says that Arizona is the most unlikely Super Bowl team ever:

Given their desultory franchise history, their years of wandering in the proverbial NFL desert, their so-so 9-7 regular-season mark, and the wholly un-competitive way they played down the stretch in the regular season, I can't think of another Super club that came out of nowhere quite like them.

My short list would include the 2001 Patriots, who were then largely viewed as a collection of blue-collar players and spare parts, led by a sixth-round quarterback; the 2007 Giants, a No. 5 seed whose title run somehow didn't even start until a Week 17 loss; and the 1979 Rams, who were a 9-7 but veteran-laden club that had been a playoff perennial throughout that decade.

I'd tend to agree. Never in NFL playoff history have the top seeds completely collapsed like they did this season. I can't remember a playoff in which both top seeds fell on one side, as happened in the NFC this year, never mind a year where 3 of 4 did. I'd throw in the Carolina Panthers' rush to Super Bowl XXXVIII a few years ago, when everyone was talking about Philly, St. Louis and Green Bay. But Banks is right, if you combine Arizona's hideous history with its inconsistent play this year, it's impossible to fathom. It's also very hard to imagine them beating a consistent team like the Steelers, particularly given Pittsburgh's excellent secondary, which should be able to at least slow Larry Fitzgerald. It's been a few years since had an old-school Super Bowl blowout. That might happen this year.

Trying to explain to my non-football-watching girlfriend, whose sportingness begins and ends with indefatigable support for the Red Sox and Mets, I put the Arizona Cardinals this way:

"It's like the Rays going to the World Series this year. Except, imagine if the Rays were the Rays, only they'd been like that for 88 years, moved cities twice, and in fact hadn't been very good this year either, just sneaking into the playoffs by winning a bad division like the St. Louis [baseball] Cardinals did a couple years ago when they won the World Series."

Meanwhile, Philly is now the early 1970s Oakland Raiders... a consistently good team, always in the mix, loses in the Conference title game. Seriously, this is the 4th one in the Reid/McNabb era. I guess Philadelphia has the Phillies. You can't have everything in sports life. Unless you're Boston.

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