In what has been blatantly obvious for weeks now, given the Bengals perfect 5-0 divisional record start, coupled with the Saints undefeated record, can we just skip ahead to what will likely be a very thrilling Super Bowl of firsts for these downtrodden franchises?
Sure, its chic to be a Saints fan now. But not too long ago—(1999 3-13) —finishing fifth in the NFC West was common place for them. Trotting out names like Willie Whitehead, the Billy Joe quarterbacks-Hobert and Tovollier, the team was an annual display of 4-12 disaster. Their .411 franchise winning percentage —(262-375-5)—is among the league's worst. The Bengals 272 - 354 franchise mark , good for .434 percent, isn't much better.
Nicknamed the "Aints," and known for fans showing up to the Superdump with paper bags over their heads, they played in perhaps the league's second worst stadium behind Minnesota's Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The Superdome could offer the Metrodome one thing even they could not: Super Bowls.
That's right. Not being hosted by the home team mind you, but the NFL for having a reputation of being a macho, manly league, refuses to play its Super Bowls in any Northern climate that doesn't have a roof, ahem, Dome. That's the only reason Detroit got the Super Bowl with Pittsburgh vs. Seattle in 2006.
Otherwise, it's off to southern cities like Houston, New Orleans, Miami, Arizona, and Tampa over and over again rather boringly. This time the game is in Miami but barring a miracle in the playoffs, the hometown team won't even get close.
Even sadder is Minnesota, a team that desperately needs a Super Bowl victory to help their own efforts in building a new stadium, which could and will likely finish 15-1 only to see the Saints possibly finish 16-0 and steal home field advantage away from them.
Enter the Katrina videos and tributes. Another thing Minnesota cannot compete with.
Sure, New Orleans winning will be a nice story and a media nightmare for corporate America, which wants to see the Dallas Cowgirls, New England Patriots, or (yuck) the NFL's "First Family" pretty boy Peyton Manning and his hop-throws in the Super Bowl so they can market and hype the hell out of any of them.
Even better if this Super Bowl paired them up against the upstart Bengals, who may be the Saint's closest rivals for historical NFL futility. If they weren't getting arrested in the early 2000s, they were losing. If they weren't losing in the 1990s they were, oh wait, losing more.
Bring on the Bengals
Coupled with their own cute little degrading nickname—the "Bungles" for their lackadaisical attempts at playing football and their three-hour blunders on the field of non competitiveness—this team fielded such winners as Akili Smith, Reinard Wilson, Brent Milne, Eric Bienemy, Marco Battaglia, Brad Costello, Ki—Jana Carter, Michael Bankston, oh wait, that's just the 1998 3-13 team.
You get the idea. What the heck happened?
Carson Palmer came back from injury, almost fully recovered without missing a beat. Bad Boy Chris Henry decided to stay out of trouble and Chad John, uh, Ochocinco decided to just shut up and play.
The defense, led by brilliant draft picks Jonathan Joseph (2006), Rey Maualuga (2009—my pick for defensive ROY), and LB Keith Rivers, (2008) actually worked out. Steals were found later in the draft with this year's fourth round pick, former Florida WR Andre Caldwell, who has a number of big catches and game winners.
Dead weight like troubled LB Odell Thurman were jettisoned and the loss of potential star David Pollack to a career ending injury was overcome.
So is it too much too soon? Too early to be predicting postseason success? As long as they can avoid the Pittsburgh Steelers and a Kimo Von Olhaffen like key injury situation, I believe they can hang with anyone, even if that means going to Lucas Oil Field and playing the Cowtown Colts at Peyton's place.
Or Bonehead Belichik and the methodical New England Patriots.
The Chargers? Meh. They do this every year. Start out slow (2-3) win about seven straight and win the division by a few games to go 12-4 and lose in either of the first two rounds. This year will be no exception.
As for Josh McDumbass, the hoodie-wearing, wet-behind-the-ears Belichick wannabe, he is finding out his team isn't as good as he thought. Their defense will fall apart when it matters. And they can thank their upcoming schedule, which includes two dates with the suddenly competitive Chiefs and the lowly Raiders, as their only saving grace.
Whose gonna stop the Bengals? Well considering the Cowtown Colts are gonna get the No. 1 seed boringly, it will be up to either the Steelers or Broncos to take them out. The Patriots will likely win out and get the No. 2 seed, and it will once again be the tough-luck Bengals who get the No. 3 seed and have to play an extra game, even if it will be at home.
Sure it's trendy to make a poster board with "Geaux Saints" (everyone's a Cajun now aren't they?). Sure its trendy to say Naw'lins instead of New Orleans. Sure its fun to dust off the old Saints uniforms—oh wait, the only one's I see look brand new, like HD clothing, signifying its new—and the bandwagon is in full effect.
If New Orleans wins, will it be nice? Sure. I hope they do get the No. 2 seed, but leave the No. 1 to the Vikings who need it more. The NFC must run through Minneapolis and not New Orleans for revenue creating reasons.
If you lose, big deal. If they lose, it could be off to L.A. in just two years, as the Metrodome lease expires in 2011. The team has given strong indications they have no desire to extend it and will explore other options, likely out of state.
If your team (New Orleans) loses, it will not be a big deal. You'll still have Drew Brees, Jeremy Shockey, Reggie Bush, and Marques Coltson in their prime, not to mention an emerging Robert Meechem and the stellar, but I'm-not-sold-beyond-this-year defense.
If my team loses it could be off to L.A., where they will win the Super Bowl there in their first year like the 1996 Colorado Avalanche in hockey. Just ask any Quebec Nordiques fan how that must have felt. The same could happen here again.
Oh, and just for fun, if a Vikings and Saints NFC Championship doesn't get you excited, consider the alternative. Another perennial bottom dweller, the Arizona Cardinals look primed to lock up their division soon and possibly the three seed of their own, setting up the possibility for a Cardinals and Saints NFC Championship and another NFL ratings nightmare that has to leave the purists howling.
Only in the NFL. MLB and Bud Selig: you big market idiots could learn a lot from this, the most popular league in America.