OK, so I went a little overboard on the Baltimore Ravens pick last week. The Steelers 27-10 victory Sunday showed me two things: 1) The Miami Dolphins team that the Ravens beat the week before was a joke. 2) Never bet against the Dilfer Theory.
What's the Dilfer Theory, you ask? Well, I don't quite understand it myself (which is odd since I came up with it), but let me try and explain.
In the last week of the regular season, the Seattle Seahawks needed a victory and a loss by the Jets or the Ravens to make the playoffs. I bet my friend Zeke that the Seahawks would beat the Chiefs, but also that the Jets would beat the Raiders somehow and the Ravens would beat Minnesota on Monday night, therefore keeping Seattle out of the playoffs. The theory behind these picks was, of course, the Dilfer Theory - the theory that quarterback Trent Dilfer's consecutive streak of winning games as a starter must stay intact, no matter the consequences.
For those of you not quite up to date on current NFL streaks, Dilfer has not lost a start since October 2000 when he came off of the Ravens bench to eventually lead them to a Super Bowl title. He has won 15 straight games as a starter, 11 with Baltimore last season and four with Seattle this season (including that last start against the Chiefs), and is 19-1 since 1999 when he was with Tampa Bay. Anyway, back to the story.
So, the Seahawks beat the Chiefs to keep Dilfer's streak alive. Zeke and I then watched in disbelief as the Jets kicker John Hall booted a 53-yard field goal with 59 seconds left that beat the Raiders 24-22 in Oakland, sending the Jets into the playoffs. We waited in anticipation of the Monday night game, but subconsciously I knew what the outcome would be.
The Dilfer Theory prevailed once again as the Ravens unconvincingly disposed of the free-falling Vikings, 19-3. Now, I was very pleased with the workings of my theory, but you may pass it off as coincidence. That is, until the playoffs started. And that, my friends, is where it gets interesting. That is where the Dilfer Theory takes its vengeance.
You see, while Dilfer's unbeaten streak remained intact because Dilfer did not advance to the playoffs, he felt that the Seahawks and he had a great chance to win it all and take his unbeaten streak to another level - that of legends.
"I believe more than I've ever believed anything in football that if we would have gotten in, we would have been the most dangerous team in the tournament," Dilfer said at a press conference following their exit.
Consequently, the teams that were connected with Dilfer in some way or were involved in keeping the Seahawks out of the playoffs had to suffer the effects of the Dilfer Theory.
The first team to feel the wrath of the Dilfer Theory was Tampa Bay, where Dilfer got his start in the NFL. In 1999, when the Buccaneers made the NFC Championship game and nearly shut down the eventual champs, the Rams, Dilfer went down with an injury after helping the Bucs to the playoffs. His replacement, Shaun King, played above average for a rookie. As a result of King's play and the constant criticism directed at Dilfer in Tampa, Dilfer was given his walking papers at the end of the season.
That's not a lot of respect for a guy who two years earlier, had led Tampa Bay to their first playoff win in 18 years. Naturally, the Bucs were the first team to feel the ire of the Dilfer Theory. Tampa Bay's third quarterback in three years, Brad Johnson, threw four interceptions in a 31-9 wildcard loss to Philadelphia.
Next up on the list was the New York Jets. They hit the first nail in the Seahawks' postseason coffin with their last minute 24-22 victory over Oakland. So as payback, Oakland put together its first good game in weeks, and made New York the second team knocked out of the playoffs, 38-24.
The Raiders, however, were not let off the hook by the Dilfer Theory. Oakland had the chance to get the Seahawks in the playoffs, but they let the Jets get away with one with that 24-22 failure. The reward for that monumental mishap came to fruition in the guise of an overturned fumble call and a subsequent loss for the "Silver and Black" on Saturday in snowy New England.
Coincidence? Not likely. How else do you explain a senior referee reviewing his own call and overturning it on a little known technicality in the NFL rulebook concerning forward motion of the quarterback's arm.
This brings us back to the beginning of our story. Obviously, with 20/20 hindsight, it's easy to see that the Ravens were destined to lose to the Steelers Sunday. But the Dilfer Theory did not merely lay its vengeance on the Ravens. The Dilfer Theory took particular interest in humiliating Dilfer's replacement in Baltimore, Elvis Grbac.
Grbac threw three interceptions and was sacked three times, and the Ravens were held to three first downs in three quarters as the Ravens' offense suffered a demoralizing collapse at the hands of the Steelers defense. The defense hit Grbac hard, early and often in what turned out to be a long day for the Ravens.
Now, you're asking, where does that leave us, Ben? Well, perhaps this is a once in a lifetime season where all the elements of coincidence and synchronicity in the football universe come together for one particular set of circumstances. Or maybe it really is nothing at all. It's hard to say.
But if my calculations are right, and there is something to this Dilfer Theory nonsense, then we have a good idea of who is going to win the Super Bowl. I mentioned before that Dilfer was 19-1 going back to 1999. The only blemish in three years for Dilfer as a starter was a 9-6 loss on Oct. 29, 2000. The opponent? The Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bettors, put your money on the NFC champs. Steelers, beware the Dilfer Theory.