|09-14-2006, 11:26 AM||#1|
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Join Date: May 2006
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Losing in Week One doesn't always spell doom
Losing in Week One doesn't always spell doom
By Eric Edholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sept. 13, 2006
So what do you think of the Panthers and Bucs now? Peeved you bet the Lamborghini on the Redskins winning it all? I canít even imagine what Broncos and Cowboys fans are thinking right now.
Couple words of advice: Donít panic.
In fact, thereís a decent tune with the same name that fits oh-so appropriately right here. To me quoting pop songs in football columns is, at best, trite, but Coldplay seems to have a good take of the state of defeatist NFL fanatic right about now:
Oh, weíre sinking like stones,
All that we fought for,
All those places weíve gone,
All of us are done for.
All I can say is that itís Week One, and people tend to make too much of things. Itís natural ó itís our first look at all of the teams ó but things tend to go wrong on kickoff weekend. Special teams are a mess. Offensive timing is off. Defenders come out charged up and lose steam as the game goes on. Few have their sea legs yet.
History shows us that losing early doesnít necessarily spell doom. Some teams even use it as a wakeup call.
In four of the past five seasons ó 2004 is the exception ó the 12 playoff teams from each of those years have had a much lower aggregate winning percentage in Week One than they did for the entire season. Over those four seasons, the combined record for teams making the postseason was 535-231-2, for a winning percentage of .698. Yet those teamsí record in Week One was only a combined 26-22, or two wins away from achieving a .500 mark.
It was extreme in 2003. The combined record of the playoff teams was 136-56 (.708), and yet they combined to go 6-6 in Week One. Same thing in 2002: playoff teams finished 125-65-2 overall but half of them lost their first game of the season.
Remember everyone burying the Eagles in í03? They had lost their first two games, to the Bucs and Patriots, by a combined score of 48-10 and the citizens of Philadelphia started burning cars and looting stores ó well, if they actually did do this, no one would have considered it abnormal Monday behavior in the city. Point is, the Eagles went on to a 12-4 record for the season, earning the NFCís No. 1 seed. And Philly fans went on happily burning their city Ö until they lost in the NFC title game, when things turned back towards effigy again.
In 2001, the Patriots started 1-3 and won the Super Bowl. The Cowboys won it all in XXVIII after starting 0-2. Itís nice to get off to a good start, but itís not an end-all-be-all proposition if you slip up early.
This is great news for the Broncos, who dropped their opening contest last season at Miami but ripped off wins in 13 of their next 15 games. Heck, you might even think that the Eagles winning on Sunday was a bad thing; Andy Reid is only 3-5 in openers, and yet he has gone to the playoffs five times in the past six seasons.
Itís all relative, of course. Winning is never, ever a bad thing, unless it creates a false sense of security. And as most teams realize, itís more important to be playing well in December and January than it is to be world-beaters in September and October before falling off.
And you have to put things into perspective. The Jaguars looked like one very tough team to me. Has a 12-4 team that really only lost one crucial player in the offseason ever been so shortchanged coming into a season? The Bucs were embarrassed, granted ó but I was shocked at how good the Ravens looked. They are my early candidates for Team I Completely Overlooked.
Ditto for the Rams, Falcons and Vikings, all of whom I believe will be in the hunt for the playoffs. I picked the Rams to finish second, the Vikings to beat out the Bears in the NFC North (yes) and the Falcons to make the playoffs.
Doubt starts to sink in ó in the case of the Bucs, Cowboys and Broncos ó however, when there are problems at quarterback. Then all bets are off. Clearly, those teams (whose QBs combined to throw one TD to nine interceptions on Sunday) have to iron out those problems first and get more production from the passing game before you can even think about playoffs.
What you donít want, say, in Denver is for Jake Plummer to struggle and rookie Jay Cutler to gain sentiment amongst fans. Same thing with Tony Romo and Drew Bledsoe in Dallas. Hey, at least those teams have an alternative; how would you like to be Jon Gruden in Tampa if Chris Simms continues to struggle? I have a feeling that Bruce Gradkowski and Tim Rattay arenít the answers.
Now clearly, of the five teams I mentioned, all losers last weekend, some wonít make the postseason. Itís bound to happen.
If we are to go by injuries, the Panthers ó sans Travelle Wharton, perhaps Dan Morgan for a while and maybe Steve Smith for another game ó look to have a little work to do against a Vikings team coming off a big win. But John Fox wonít let this team get too far down. In fact, we might look back at Sundayís loss as a rallying point. I still like their Super Bowl chances.
I have never been the biggest believer in the Broncos, but if you looked at the numbers from Sunday, you might have thought the Broncos won the game, outrushing the Rams (161-125), having six fewer penalties (4-10, with 64 fewer yards assessed) and converting more than twice as often on third downs (5-for-12 to the Ramsí 3-for-15) ó all except that darned turnover margin, which was 5-0 in favor of the home team. Whoops. Chalk it up to early-season unsteadiness ó the Broncos should be fine.
So should most of the teams that lost. Keep telling yourself: Itís one game only. Fifteen more to go. Itís more fun to watch the games that way.