The 49ers were one of the worst teams in the NFL over the past decade, but now they have made the past two NFC Championship Games, and they are on their way to the Super Bowl. Photo by Jeff Lewis
All offensive players, especially those who play for the Patriots, should stay away from this man. Ravens safety Bernard Pollard knocks people out. He knocked Tom Brady out for the season in 2008, Wes Welker for the season in 2009, and last week he knocked Stevan Ridley silly, which caused a key fumble that helped the Ravens make it to the Super Bowl. Photo by Jeff Lewis
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
In the NFL every team has a chance
The greatest thing about the NFL as a league is that every team has a chance to become a winner. Well, maybe not the Bills, but every other team has a shot, and the 49ers are the latest example of that.
Two years ago the 49ers were bottom feeders. After being the class of the NFL in the 1980s and '90s, the 49ers eroded under poor management. The 49ers missed the playoffs every year from 2003 through 2010, but under head coach Jim Harbaugh, they have made the NFC Championship Game in the last two seasons, and this year they are on their way to play the Ravens in the Super Bowl.
Talk about a turn around. This type of about face is typical in the NFL, but not in the NBA or MLB.
In basketball it is about the haves and the have nots, and the Lakers usually have, which is why they have played in about half of the NBA Finals ever played. Teams that can lock up super stars can dominate basketball, and usually that is large market teams. Notice that LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh all chose to play in Miami, not Cleveland.
The Thunder have built a good team in Oklahoma City, but that is an exception, and they had to get lucky through the draft to make that work.
In baseball it is all about who is willing to spend the most money. The teams who spend routinely make the post season, while the teams who cannot spend with the larger markets routinely miss the playoffs. There will be big money spenders who flounder, and teams on a budget who will put it all together for short periods of time, but the big spenders rule, while the rest of the league do not have much of a chance at a championship.
But in football, revenue sharing and a salary cap puts every team on even footing. The teams that make the sound decisions succeed, and the teams that make the pour decisions struggle. It does not come down to which teams have the most money or play in the most attractive market. Every team has the same opportunity.
As quickly as the 49ers climbed to the top, a team like the Saints fell to the bottom. In the NFL it is all about management, not out spending teams that cannot keep up, or hoarding the best talent.
The NFL is by far the best league in American sports.
The Ravens continue to defy the odds
The Ravens are not supposed to be headed to the Super Bowl. The planets certainly were not aligned, and they faced certain doom at many points this season.
Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs, who was the Defensive Player of the Year last season, should have been lost to a season ending Achilles injury that he suffered during the off-season. That injury usually sidelines a player for a calendar year, but Suggs was back at mid season.
Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis, who has been the Defensive Player of the Year twice in his career, and is the heart and soul of this Ravens team, was supposed to be sidelined for the season with a torn tricep muscle, which usually ends a player's season, but he willed himself back for the playoffs. Since he has returned to their line up they have not lost a game.
The Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron late in the season, and turned play-calling duties over to Jim Caldwell, who did not have much experience calling plays. And the Ravens reshuffled their offensive line. The changes were brought about because of a late season slump as the Ravens lost four out of five games as they stumbled into the playoffs.
With all of those issues, the Ravens found themselves in Denver, down by seven points with about 30 seconds to play in the 4th quarter, and 70 yards away from the endzone. That game was pretty much over and the Ravens were supposed to be going home.
Then the Ravens found themselves down at halftime against the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Under quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots were 62-0 at home when leading at halftime.
With all of those issues, some how, some way, the Ravens are playing in the Super Bowl. Maybe it looked like the planets were not aligning, but they obviously were.
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