As of now, it’s entirely possible that the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins will meet in the NFL finals on February 12; and this is interesting for two reasons. It’s not particularly likely as of now, though, and that’s interesting too, for the same two reasons, by the way. All of this is because the Packers surprisingly won 26:20 at the Dolphins on Christmas Day – and because many other games in the American snow chaos went in such a way that hardly anything is the way it was before Christmas Eve. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, “What had to happen happened exactly that way.”
It should come as no surprise that things are the way they are now; the NFL is a league as of now, and with two games to go before the end of regular time, it’s worth taking a closer look at this situation using the example of Sunday’s two competitors.
First the Dolphins: as of the beginning of September, everyone would have declared you clueless if you had counted them among the favorites to take part in the Super Bowl; the TV station ESPN led Miami to 19th place out of 32 teams at the start of the season. New head coach Mike McDaniel, 39, has never played pro football; he was a passee at the elite Yale University, where he, incidentally, earned a degree in history. He had never been in charge of an NFL team prior to the Miami job, after which he said at his first press conference, “Well, no head coach was a head coach before his first head coaching position.”
Dolphins head coach McDaniel is a quirky, funny guy
It’s an experiment with McDaniel, who isn’t a gnarly bones but an intelligent, self-deprecating, and quirky-funny guy; Type startup founder. It’s an experiment with playmaker Tua Tagovailoa, sitting preseason in the quarterback rankings where the Dolphins were. And it’s an experiment to see if Tagovailoa resonates with wide receiver Tyreek Hill; who had come from Kansas City where he had been catching passes from Patrick Mahomes – who ranks at the top of pretty much every quarterback ranking.
It worked initially, the experiment, the Dolphins defeated the Buffalo Bills (season start ranking: one) and later won five games in a row. As of late November, Miami was considered one of the strongest teams in the NFL. Who cares what happened in September?
Well, that’s the first peculiarity of the NFL: Of course, in the end only the number of wins counts – but other factors are important in evaluating the true strength of a team. In a sport that is characterized by injuries like no other, these are, for example: How healthy is your own team, how fit is the respective opponent? And anyway, against whom did you actually manage the five wins in a row? The Dolphins were all franchises that lost more games than they won. That means: Just because you defeated the Bears (3 wins:12 losses), Browns (6:9) and Texans (2:12, one draw) in November doesn’t mean that you’ll be in the playoffs in January Bills will hit. They are now at 12:3 – who cares about the defeat against Miami in September?
Namely, what happened in December: four losses in a row, on Sunday against the Packers, in which Tagovailoa threw the ball into the arms of the opponents three times – and already it is said that the weaknesses of McDaniel and Tagovailoa are now being exposed by the opponents. What may sound quirky and funny after victories seems helpless after the fourth defeat in a row. McDaniel said on Sunday, “You can’t let the past dictate the present too much.” Adverse circumstances are always an opportunity: “That’s why I’m confident that Tua will master this difficult time.”
That leads straight to the Packers, because all of this, and this is the second interesting finding, can also go completely the other way around. As of the end of November, everyone would have declared you clueless if you had counted them among the favorites – especially playmaker Rodgers, who has been complaining since the beginning of the season (in the ESPN ranking: sixth place) that his pass recipients would not receive any passes, but all of them let throws slip through their hands.
But then the Packers won three games in a row, and suddenly everything is different: If Christmas Eve had gone differently and the Packers had lost against Miami, they would have been mathematically eliminated themselves – now, with a favorable constellation, they can go into the game with two wins against Minnesota and Detroit move in playoffs.
The Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills would already meet in the semifinals due to the NFL structure
“The pack is back,” said defender Jaire Alexander, who stole a pass from Tagovailoa intended for Hill – and who usually added grumpy Rodgers, which in his case can be considered downright euphoric: “It’s good that we’re now in games are involved in which something is at stake.”
In the end, it’s not always the best team that wins the title in the NFL; very often it’s the team that stays injury-free and harmonizes at the right time – right now, at the end of the regular season and then in the playoffs. It should therefore be noted that both the Kansas City Chiefs (24:10 against Seattle) and the Buffalo Bills (35:13 against Chicago) managed convincing victories at Christmas.
Both have been the undisputed favorites for the title since the start of the season. However, due to the NFL structure, they would already play each other in the semifinals. Plus, just after the New Year’s Eve (the Bills are playing last year’s finalists Cincinnati Bengals, who just won seven games in a row) things can be very different in the standing-now league.