The New NFL: It’s Anybody’s Game

The old rules no longer apply. If you’re anything like me, you’ve survived the sports customs of the eighties, nineties and aughties, where perennial favorites went deep into the playoffs and the lesser systems took years to build and catch up for a shot at glory.

Well, welcome to the “teens”. And, like a teenager, the unpredictable is the norm and the unfathomable routine. Consider:

Of the 12 teams in this year’s playoff field, half were lead by rookie or second-year QBs. Four of them saw thier first starts under center this year. And forget that Mr. Kaepernick with least amount of career starts, is in the Superbowl. Look at the 75th pick in last year’s draft, Russell Wilson. A whisker away from the NFC championship this year and small risk to say a fine Field General for years to come. Enough was said (and rightfully so) about the rookie year of wunderkinds Luck and RG3; Wilson passed them both in the playoff brackets. There is a sharp learning curve for Quarterbacks in the new NFL, and these kids are passing with flying colors. It will be fun to see who grabs on to the next superkids in the draft, because I assure you, they’re out there. Not just at QB, but at every position.

Now turning to the old guard. And unfortunately, in pro football years, the term applies. New England’s victory flame, once visible from coast to coast, is sputtering. They have seen their most remarkable days and will have plenty to talk about in Boston pubs for the next decade or so, so don’t weep for them- but it’s a fading light. Same can be said for Baltimore’s D and the still impressive Peyton Manning. Manning’s questionable management of their unprobable playoff loss to the Ravens isn’t the issue. He’ll be 37 going into next season and even a future Hall-of-Famer is human. I mean, he’s one of the best ever, but he pre-dates disco.

After witnessing the cheese-spitting performance of the Packers against the Niners , one might argue that the Pack might belong in that bunch, too- even giving Kaepernick his due. New Orleans booked their ticket earlier this year. Yes, amid scandal thet was dubious to some, and they still may have a playoff run or two in them, but they simply aren’t the threat they once were.

So, who’s daring enough to begin to predict next year’s playoff participants, let alone the winners? It’s anybody’s game. It’s the “teens” for the NFL: unpredictable, sometimes incorrigable, but let’s face it- an auful lot of fun, too. They grow up so fast…

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