Sub-plots guaranteed in other oval-ball code
For quite a few Irish sports fans the approach of winter is indicated by not just the end of the championship season but by the beginning of long Sunday evenings spent immersing ourselves once more in the mad, unpredictable, extreme world of the NFL.
Things got under way two weeks ago after an unusually active close season which saw Tom Brady fight tooth and nail against the four-match ban imposed upon him for his alleged part in ball-tampering by the New England Patriots. Reprieved, he's looked better than ever and after two impressive wins the reigning champions already look a decent bet to go back to the Super Bowl.
Their victims in last year's grand finale, the Seattle Seahawks, have opened 0-2 and you wonder if there may still be a hangover from the famous 'worst call of all-time' which cost them victory then. On the other hand, the Green Bay Packers, victims of Seattle's miracle comeback in last year's NFC title game, have opened like men on a mission and already revenged themselves over the Seahawks.
It's hard to look beyond those three when you talk about potential champions but the great joy of the NFL is the eternal plethora of sub-plots. There was a general sounding of the death knell for Peyton Manning when his form deserted him near the end of last season and though the Denver Broncos are currently 2-0 the great veteran has thrown just three touchdown passes, along with two interceptions, in those two games and looks much diminished.
On the other hand rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota has been sensational in his first two starts for the Tennessee Titans, throwing six touchdowns and amassing the highest quarterback rating in the league. The struggling Titans will hardly make the play-offs but Mariota already looks like one of those players worth watching every time he's on.
Perhaps the most intriguing team of all are the Arizona Cardinals, who had the best record in the NFL last season before quarterback Carson Palmer got injured and they faded away, making a tame exit in the wild card round. They've begun as though determined to put that misfortune behind them and have scored a league high 79 points in their first two games.
Should the 35-year-old Palmer, who's thrown seven touchdown passes already, stay fit they might surprise all the big guns and win the franchise's first ever Super Bowl.
The Carolina Panthers and the Buffalo Bills are another couple of dark horses to keep an eye on but the hopes of the Dallas Cowboys may have already gone down the drain after quarterback Tony Romo suffered a broken collarbone in week two which will keep him out for the next couple of months. You never know what's going to happen next in the NFL.
And that's why there's more than one oval ball game with claims to be the greatest show on earth.
Sunday Indo Sport