What were the NFL’s biggest disappointments this season? The Lions, Pats, and Plaxico, if you ask me. The Detroit Lions finished 0-16, the first winless season in NFL history. Despite an 11-5 record, the New England Patriots missed the playoffs, thanks to the season-ending injury Tom Brady sustained in the season opener. The New York Giants with Plaxico Burress went 11-1; after Burress accidentally shot himself in the thigh, the Giants lost four out of their final five games. Without their talented wide receiver, the reigning Super Bowl champions and top seed in the NFC lost 11-23 to the sixth-seeded Eagles.
Add to that list: the Titans.
As the field of NFL teams competing for a spot in Super Bowl XLIII narrows to four, the playoff picture no longer contains the AFC’s top seed. On Saturday, the Tennessee Titans’ season ended with a 10-13 loss to the wild card Baltimore Ravens. Matt Stover, the forty-year old veteran kicker, made the game-winning 43-yard field goal with less than a minute on the game clock. Earlier in that drive, referees missed an obvious delay of game call on the Ravens 3rd and 2; on that play, Joe Flacco completed a 23-yard pass to Todd Heap. The no-call was a “costly error” according to Jeff Fisher, Titans head coach. The ref claimed the play clock at the stadium in Nashville is located higher up than at other stadiums.
As tempted as I am to incorporate “officiating” into the disappointments list, I will not. The Titans could have played better against the Ravens. Despite gaining more total yards (391 to 211) and more first downs (21 to 9), the Titans gave away the game with three costly turnovers in Raven territory, including a fumble within the red zone. After starting out the season 10-0, Kerry Collins and the rest of the team fizzled toward the end of the season and did not bring their best offense, defense, or special teams against the Ravens.
So that leaves Baltimore and Pittsburgh to duke it out in the AFC Championship while Arizona and Philadelphia play for the NFC Championship. Who will compete in Super Bowl XLIII? I predict the Steelers and Cardinals, with the Steelers coming out on top.