For a select few this weekend marks a chance to chase Super Bowl glory. For the majority of National Football League teams the playoffs are at least another year away.
In Cayman it’s especially disappointing as none of the three pro Florida teams made the post-season. The Miami Dolphins, who have the largest fan-base here, were a disappointing 7-9 to finish third place in the American Football Conference East. For Miami missing the 2011 post-season comes after a remarkable season last year where Ricky Williams and company claimed the division at 11-5.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the best year of the Florida teams and were one of the season’s biggest surprises at 10-6. Tampa Bay may have been third-best in the National Football Conference South but clearly they are threat with Josh Freeman at quarterback. Lastly the Jacksonville Jaguars struggled late in the year and faltered to a 8-8 mark. The Jags lost further ground among fans here with a second-place finish in the AFC South and a so-so year from QB David Garrard.
A pair of surprising clubs that missed the playoffs were the San Diego Chargers and the Cincinnati Bengals. The AFC West champions a year ago, San Diego were 9-7 and second place this time around in spite of stellar play from QB Philip Rivers. Cincinnati meanwhile were an embarrassing 4-12 at the cellar of the AFC North. For all of the hype about the arrival of receiver Terrell Owens, the offence struggled and wide-out Chad Ochocinco had a miserable campaign.
Arguably the biggest disappointments of the season were seen from Super Bowl favourites the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants. Dallas, for all of their talent, struggled mightily on offence. Losing Tony Romo due to injury half-way through the season added further insult to the side’s eventual 6-10 record and third-place spot in the NFC East.
Minnesota meanwhile saw the magic of Brett Favre disappear before their eyes as the wily vet struggled with injuries both to himself and his receiving core. The defence could do little to stop a 6-10 mark at the bottom of the NFC North. For New York what started as a promising season soon vanished with back-to-back losses in the final three weeks of the season. A 10-6 mark may look good on paper but Eli Manning should have flexed his muscles in the postseason.