The proof can be seen in the teams that have come to the fore—and faded from the scene—in the last few years. The season before the St Louis Rams won Superbowl XXXIV, they had won only four games and finished last in their division. The Baltimore Ravens had gone 8-8 the season before they won Superbowl XXXV while in 2001–2002 the New England Patriots came off a 5-11 losing season before landing the championship title. In 2003, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the franchise who lost their first 26 games, the only side ever to lose every game in a season and with the record for longest run of consecutive losing seasons, won SuperBowl XXXVII. In the NFL, every dog does have its day.


Just as teams can suddenly become winners, so they can just as easily become also-rans. Denver won the Superbowl in January 1999, but failed to make the play-offs the following season. Baltimore won in 2000–2001, but started the 2002– 2003 season as 66-1 outsiders after being decimated by the salary cap system.


In 2002 the supposed champions-elect, the St Louis Rams, who were expected to blast their way into the play-offs with their high-powered offence, lost the first five games of the season and failed to make the post- season play-offs.