Zach Thomas looks like Brett Favre

Delirium of bliss

For fans of those football teams who had nothing more to win or lose, it was simply an extremely gripping finale of the regular season with surprising twists and turns, action-packed dramas and more slapstick interludes than you would usually find on a normal day of the National Football League (NFL). The trouble was, there were very few teams that had nothing left to gain or lose. Ten teams were still fighting for three remaining play-off places, and their supporters experienced a roller coaster ride between triumph and tragedy. The end of the day saw fans of the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints and Super Bowl champion New England Patriots devastated, while those of the Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets took at least one week to the Wild Card games will be spent in a delirium of bliss.

The decision in the AFC East Division was particularly spectacular. The Miami Dolphins only needed a win at the New England Patriots and seemed to have it in their pocket five minutes to go with a 24-13 lead. But a true orgy of strange ball losses, failed kicks, botched punts, bad passes and stupid penalties deprived them of the reward for all their efforts. "We just can't win the big games," lamented linebacker Zach Thomas after the Dolphins lost to a field goal in extra time.

Now the defending champion from Boston was suddenly ahead, but even his joy did not last long. Almost two hours later, the New York Jets had done the trick of clearing the already qualified Green Bay Packers 42:17 and instead of the Patriots qualifying for the wild card match against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. This despite the fact that the Jets only won two of the first seven games of the season. "This is a season of perseverance," said Jets fullback Richie Anderson, and he sees no reason why one should not consider the main prize, the Super Bowl, now. The Jets' victory was all the more remarkable given that Green Bay still had something to gain. Instead of having the next weekend off, the team around quarterback Brett Favre will now have to play against the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday, and they could have secured home rights to their dreaded icy Lambeau Field on Lake Michigan for the rest of the play-off matches.

The New Orleans Saints learned on Sunday that home games do not necessarily have to be an advantage. Since the Cleveland Browns - opponents of the Pittsburgh Steelers next Sunday - defeated Atlanta, they only needed a ridiculous win against the Carolina Panthers, who were weak this season, to push the Falcons out of the play-offs, and their audience was still consistent booed. Above all, the unsettled quarterback Aaron Brooks felt the displeasure after two defeats against low-rated opponents. Accordingly, he and his colleagues played catastrophically, losing 6:10 in a horrific match. “How can you boo your own quarterback in a situation like this?” Scolded Safety Sammy Knight and coach Jim Haslett also quarreled with the faithless spectators: “When you play at home, the crowd usually tries to support you and help you win help. This is called home advantage. "

According to the chaotic course of the season, there are no clear favorites in the play-offs, especially since the teams from Oakland, Green Bay, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay recently suffered embarrassing defeats. “We're not that strong a team,” says Brett Favre of the Packers, “anyone can win,” says Rod Woodson of the Oakland Raiders, which, like the Tennessee Titans, Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, won't be in the action for two weeks have to intervene. As usual, the biggest mouths are the teams from New York, both of which made it into the play-offs for the first time since 1986. The Giants will compete in the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, and coach Jim Fasel is already sounding: “It's only over when we say it's over.” The unusual situation is probably best characterized by Safety Sam Garnes from New York Jets, the team that made it into the postseason the closest and happiest: “We're as good as any other team in this league, if not better.” Exactly the attitude that another underdog took on last season: the later Super Bowl winners New England Patriots.

MATTI LIESKE