If the NFL season were to end today Kurt Warner of the St. Louis Rams would probably end up MVP. Your first question may be "Who the hell is Kurt Warner?" and your next "The Rams are in St. Louis?" This is just the start of the craziness in the NFL this season. Not only are the Rams in St. Louis, they've clinched the playoffs with four weeks to go. They sport the NFL's best offence, led by Warner, who in 1998 played for the Amsterdam Admirals in NFL Europe. He now leads the NFL with 32 passing touchdowns and has his Rams set to win the NFC title.
The Rams are just the tip of the NFL's surprise iceberg. There are the Indianapolis Colts, who are 10-2 this season after a 3-13 finish last year. There are the Atlanta Falcons, who are a dismal 3-9 after playing in the Superbowl last year. Their Superbowl opponents from Denver are not faring much better. The defending champions are 4-8 and seem lost after injuries and retirement decimated their offence The Detroit Lions are leading their division despite losing Barry Sanders and the city of Los Angeles still doesn't have a football team. The NFL awarded its only expansion team for at least the next 10 years to Houston.
Of the four teams that played in last year's conference championships only one has a chance to make the playoffs Many of these surprises are due to injuries or retirement which have affected some of the game's biggest stars. The Denver Broncos will not have a chance to defend their Superbowl crown partly due to the absence of their two best offensive threats in recent years. Quarterback John Elway ended his illustrious career with a championship last season and running back Terrell Davis is out for the season with a devastating knee injury. With those two gone, so are Denver's hopes of a successful season. The New York Jets lost quarterback Vinny Testaverde in the first game of the year and lacking a competent backup, they are struggling with a 4-8 record. The Falcons lost their best player, Jamal Anderson. The only member of last year's final four that holds a winning record is the Minnesota Vikings who are holding on to a wildcard spot in the NFC Central. Other teams are also affected by the loss of key players. Barry Sanders decided to retire rather then play for the Detroit Lions. Michael Irvin of the Cowboys may be forced into retirement due to a neck injury and Steve Young of the 49ers has barely played due to concussion problems. Thanks to all the injuries, the once powerful teams are now toiling in the loss columns.
The 49ers poor performance may be the biggest shock of them all. It was in the early 1980s that the 49ers last had a losing season. Between then and now the Niners won five Superbowls, the last win coming in 1995. Today they can be considered among the worst in the league. A 3-9 record has not impressed the San Francisco fans and neither has the wide array of off-field problems the team has been experiencing. Steve Young's loss exposed all the weaknesses the 49ers were able to mask before. The fact that they have neither a secondary nor an O-line is now painfully obvious. Those areas of the Niners were once average or maybe even good, but they now lose games for the once-proud franchise. A loss to basement-dwelling Cincinnati just put an exclamation point on the most painful season in the last two decades.
There are still some islands of sanity in the NFL In the "some things may never change" department we still have the Oakland Raiders choking one week only to come out and play amazing football the next. The Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore, became the Ravens, and still suck. So do the Cincinnati Bengals, who may be the worst team of the decade. Dan Marino is still playing well, so is Emmitt Smith. Mike Ditka is with New Orleans but he's still psychotic, and with the Saints' recent play, that is probably not going to change. Dan Reeves and Dick Vermeil are still coaching and Miami's Jimmy Johnson puts enough stuff in his hair to make it unmovable in any weather conditions. There is one more fact which is constant week after week this season. No one knows who will win or how. My only advice is don't bet on Sports Select. It doesn't get you "into the game," it only gives the government more tax revenue. And keep watching, maybe you'll see some guy named Kurt Warner lead a team from St. Louis into the Superbowl.