There can be no doubt as to the benefits of starting an NFL season 2-0. All you need see is the depressing mathematics associated with a professional pigskin campaign that begins 0-2. As my jocular NFL.com compadre Nick Bakay might say, the numbers never lie:
Since 1978, when the NFL expanded to the 16-game schedule we've all come to know and love, 222 teams have started 2-0. Exactly 147 of them made the playoffs. Don't worry; you'll never have to do the math here. NFL Network has a research staff for that. Since 1978, 66.2 percent of all teams that won their first two games made the playoffs.
Makes sense. If you win your first two games, merely splitting the final 14 games on the schedule translates into - voila - a 9-7 season. And since 1978, a 9-7 record has been good enough to earn a playoff berth 41 times. (That said, the number of 9-7 teams to make the playoffs and go on to win the Super Bowl is exactly zero. Even the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, who became the first 6-seed to ever win the Big One, entered that playoff season at 11-5.)
|Ronald Martinez / Getty Images|
|If you're the Houston Texans... you want Mario Williams on that line! You need Mario Williams on that line!|
Still, starting 2-0 is a heck of a lot better than stumbling out of the gate 0-2. Since 1978, exactly 224 teams have done that, and only 26 of those teams were able to climb out of that hole and make the playoffs. Again, please. NFL Network supplied its research department with the finest calculators that Staples has to offer, expressly for this type of work. Only 11.6 percent of teams that have started a 16-game NFL season 0-2 have played a meaningful game in January.
And that makes sense, too. Last year, 11 teams started 0-2 and only one - the Kansas City Chiefs -- made the playoffs. And if you recall, they still needed Jupiter to align with Mars in order for that to happen.
So, if we plug the 2007 numbers into the same old math equation (who said algebra would never come in handy again?), we can make this conclusion: Of the 10 teams currently 0-2 - the Falcons, Bills, Dolphins, Raiders, Rams, Saints, Eagles, Jets, Giants, and Chiefs (again) - only one will make the playoffs this year. That's a very sobering piece of reality to face halfway through the first month of a season.
Then there's this. Take a close look at the last half of that 0-2 group and you'll notice something unprecedented - five playoff teams from the previous year. For the first time in the history of the NFL (forget the "1970 merger" and "since 1978" stuff), five playoff teams from the previous year have posted 0-2 starts. That's why NFL coaches mean it when they say "last year is last year" -- which, by the way, I forgot to mention in my 2007 season kickoff column as being one of my favorite coaching clichés. I’ll place “last year is last year” above “it is what it is” -- but still below the No. 1 cliché: “I don’t have a crystal ball.”
At any rate, there is further proof that 2007 has nothing to do with 2006: For only the second time in NFL history, there are seven non-playoff teams from the previous year currently standing at 2-0: the Steelers, Broncos, Redskins, 49ers, Packers, Lions (Holy Wayne Fontes, Batman!) and, for the first time ever, Houston Texans.
Good for the Texans. To use the Denny Green vernacular, Matt Schaub is who we thought he was. The quarterback who spent his first three NFL seasons in Atlanta as Michael Vick's -- if you will -- lap dog, has completed 72 percent of his passes in winning his third and fourth career starts, the most recent one coming from 14 points down on the road in Carolina. He clearly has a rhythm with Andre Johnson. the Pro Bowl receiver is out this week with an injury, but he's already caught 3 touchdown passes - or as many TDs as he had through six weeks last year. Of course, it sure helps to have a quarterback who's upright. In Houston's first two games, Schaub has not been sacked a single time. Wonder how David Carr liked seeing that up close in person as he held Jake Delhomme's clipboard while the Texans offense overcame three Steve Smith touchdowns to win.
On "NFL GameDay" this past Sunday, our man Steve Mariucci took pains to mention how impressed he is with the Texans defense, which, in fact, fields a player with more touchdowns through the first two games of the season than Reggie Bush. His name is Mario Williams, who returned a fumble for a score in Houston's season-opening win over the Chiefs. If Williams wants to quiet any remaining naysayers, this would be a perfect week in which to do the quieting: The Indianapolis Colts visit Houston in Week 3, a week that finishes up with Bush appearing on "Monday Night Football" in a suddenly must-win game against the other guy the Texans famously passed up in the 2006 draft - Vince Young. What better way for the Texans to kick up their heels in front of the TV than atop the AFC South standings at 3-0, thanks to Williams getting Peyton Manning off the spot with an unstoppable pass rush.
It's not that far-fetched, although Johnson has already declared himself out of this game with a knee injury. And that is a huge blow to the Texans chances. But, the last team to beat the defending Super Bowl champs? The Houston Texans. Sure, I know. Last year is last year. But, 2007 also is what it is. And, in 2007, the Texans appear new and improved.
Same with the Packers. Not to dislocate my shoulder by patting myself on the back, but in the aforementioned season kickoff column your humble narrator (or, in this case, I guess, not-so-humble) wrote the following about the Packers: "I like the Packers."
Alright. Nostradamus, it ain't. But, Green Bay is the youngest team in the league with the most veteran starting quarterback in the league at the controls. And everyone is playing with confidence - six straight wins dating back to last season. Youngsters are making plays on both sides of the ball -- Cullen Jenkins and A.J. Hawk on defense, rookie receiver James Jones and this week's fantasy waiver wire darling, running back DeShawn Wynn, on offense. Wynn had rushing scores of 6 and 38 yards against a shockingly porous Giants defense. Of course, it could all come crashing down in Week 3 as the Packers welcome in the San Diego Chargers, who are licking their wounds from suffering a New England beating so bad that even Ryan Seacrest had a better Sunday night hosting the Emmys. We'll get to him later.
Speaking of New England…
So much for the scandal
The Patriots whipped the Jets in Week 1 by the score of 38-14 with Bill Belichick's so-called "videotape procedure" in effect. Then they whipped the Chargers by the exact same score in Week 2 without the "videotape procedure" -- which, by the way, was the best piece of PR-speak since "wardrobe malfunction."
In other words, the Patriots don't need to Season Pass the opposition's defensive hand signals in order to smoke the competition. Which is exactly why this whole videotape episode is mind-boggling. Now, you might say the Patriots had already videotaped the Chargers hand signals last year and went to their archives prior to a Sunday night contest they wound up winning in a cakewalk. But, that's overlooking several factors, the most obvious of which is that the Chargers completely overhauled their coaching staff from last year. No previous Marty Schottenheimer hand signals caught on videotape could provide a single whit of Norv Turner insight. Plus, no amount of videotape studying any defensive signals effected how the Patriots defense befuddled Philip Rivers and bottled up LaDanian Tomlinson -- whose 68 rushing yards, by the way, are the fifth fewest by a defending rushing champ in the first two weeks of a season following his title. (Look out Green Bay; LT is due.)
Lastly, even in the Jets contest that started this whole to-do, the video recorder had already been confiscated by the time Chad Pennington was knocked from the game and Patriots return man Ellis Hobbs ran one back an NFL-record 108 yards to open the second half.
That said, clearly this video transgression could not stand. Credentialing a member of your "video staff" for the express purpose of stealing signs is nefarious to the nth degree, not to mention an arrogant (they had the guy standing in plain sight!) and flagrant violation of NFL rules. Belichick's shady "interpretation" of the rule that bans in-game taping of the opposition's coaching staff reportedly involved a very Clintonian parsing of words in which the coach felt he could tape in-game as long as he didn't use the contents of that tape in that game.
I received a handful of emails to firstname.lastname@example.org this week from folks who felt the docking of a half-million Belichick dollars and first-day New England draft pick(s) wasn't toothy enough for their taste. Personally, I thought the worst punishment Commissioner Goodell could have handed down to Belichick was to force him to wear a suit on the sidelines the rest of the year. Something straight out of the Mike Nolan Collection. You Hoodie-wink us, pal? We de-Hoodie you!
But I believe the worst punishment for the Patriots will be meted out by the court of public opinion. Rightly or not, everyone will now look at the Patriots past and future accomplishments through the prism of Belichick's Nixonian NetFlixing of the competition.
Without question, this is not the image the ultra-professional Kraft family wants associated with its sterling organization. If you notice, not a single coach from the tight-knit coaching fraternity came to Belichick's defense all last week. Not even in a back-handed compliment sort of way. Pot shots have come from all fronts, including several players from the Eagles (Donovan McNabb joking he should get a ring for Super Bowl XXXIX) and Steelers (Hines Ward wondering how New England frequently guessed right on defense in the 2002 AFC Championship Game), who have felt the pain of being sent playoff packing by the modern day Lombardi. Even the mild-mannered Trent Green had an uproarious pop-culture take on Belichick when asked his thoughts on the controversy. Said Green:
|And playing the title role in "The Bill Belichick Story"... Jack Nicholson.|
"I'm surprised this analogy hasn't come up yet. Ask me if anybody else gets this same visual, but can you see Bill Belichick and Roger Goodell in the office having the conversation, and you picture Roger Goodell as Tom Cruise and Bill Belichick as Jack Nicholson? They're sitting in the courtroom, and they're having this discussion, and all of a sudden Goodell is like, 'Did you order a code red?' Belichick is sitting there, and you know he is getting peeved that he is even in there - the audacity to bring him in and question him. When that whole thing was going on, that is the analogy and kind of the visual I have is that eventually Belichick kind of snapped and said, 'You're darn right I ordered a code red!' I don't know -- maybe I'm the only one that has that warped perception."
Classic! Who knew Trent had that in him? It's just the beginning of, if you will, a few good lines coming the way of Patriots fans who will forevermore find themselves countering an argument from the large legion of Patriot haters that their achievements should be accompanied by a Bonds-like asterisk. In the meantime, the Patriots will apparently keep pounding out statement wins, much to the delight of Patriots Nation.
What a statement the Patriots made on Sunday! Good for them!
Games I have circled on my calendar: Dolphins (thanks Trent Green for the "Jack Nicholson" analogy), Eagles (Donovan, you really think you deserved the ring?), Steelers (Hines Ward thanks for wondering) and Jets (no explanation necessary). Are these guys crazy? Do you really think it was wise to throw the Pats a bone?
What a season this will be!
Perhaps Cathy is the Kat to the Tom in this equation - Tom Brady, the chief Patriot himself, who appears to be lockstep with Cathy's notion of the "videotape procedure" as a call to arms. In an interview with a Boston radio station Tuesday, Brady uncharacteristically raised his hackles over the implied notion in this whole mess: That the Hall of Fame start to his career has been aided, in part, by the provision of an illegal blanket of protection from New England's Col. Jessep.
"By no means am I sitting here getting plays and getting defenses and checking plays based on defenses that I'm getting. That's completely absurd," Brady said. "If that was the case, I think that's just ridiculous. You know, I hear other players, based on what I've heard on television, that 'Brady's getting defenses.' I'm saying, 'That's just ridiculous.'
"That part does take away from what we have accomplished. People saying we're looking for an easy way out, which isn't the case. But like I said, we pick our battles, and the ones that we are most capable of fighting are the ones we play. Rather than respond with words, we respond through actions. It was a long week because you hear this, but at the same time: people will see."
Uh oh. If you detect an aroma of rallying cry in the air, your sense of smell may just be spot on. Fair warning to the rest of the NFL: you may not be able to handle the truth.
Just when you thought the Browns were out…
… they pull you back in. How in the world can one team look so inept in all phases and appear so completely out of answers at the quarterback position one week and then torch a division rival for 51 points the next?
Talk about your "any given Sunday" -- the Cleveland Browns most certainly had one in Week 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Perhaps they needed to banish Charlie Frye to the Pacific Northwest sooner. But, whatever they were drinking in Cleveland last week, serve up another round, Coach Crennel. After getting embarrassed in the season opener against Pittsburgh, the Browns had a 300-yard passer (Derek Anderson), a 200-yard rusher (Jamal Lewis) and two 100-yard receivers (Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow) in a single game for first time… ever. So that's what the Browns offense can look like. It sure took a while, but Sunday marked the first game in which the Browns got a touchdown from each of their two young Turks, Edwards and Winslow.
Now comes the hard part. Doing it again, even at half the rate of 51 points per. If Anderson plays even close to the way he did in Week 2, it would be a godsend for Crennel and the Browns, who clearly don't believe Brady Quinn is ready.
On the flipside, what in the Wide, Wide World of Tim Krumrie happened to the Bengals defense? I know the touchy members of Bengals Nation don't like seeing their beloved team criticized, but allowing Derek Anderson to turn into Ken Anderson? Allowing 554 yards of total offense to a team that, as Mariucci said, "couldn't even throw a cat out of the house" during Week 1? What happened to the ball-hawking defense that forced six turnovers in the opener against Baltimore? Lewis' 66-yard touchdown rumble would have been good in flag football! There is absolutely no way the Bengals will contend for the division, let alone the Super Bowl, unless Marvin Lewis can tighten the bolts on this defense and do it fast. The Bengals visit the Seahawks this week. Getting Charlie Frye in the game may be the way to go.
What took the Falcons so long?
Two ineffective Joey Harrington starts, in which the Oregon Duck looked more like a sitting one, and here comes Byron Leftwich to the rescue. Atlanta signed the former Jaguar a good three weeks after everyone figured they should - the minute Jacksonville put him on the street nine days before the season started.
But, one must assume, head coach Bobby Petrino either believed in Harrington's ability to lead or figured the best way to bolster Harrington's confidence was to stay away from signing a former starting quarterback in this league. Now, Leftwich arrives on the scene needing to learn the complex Petrino system in a hurry. The same could be said for an offensive line that is making a huge transition itself from the Alex Gibbs zone-blocking scheme it had been playing for the last three years to a more a traditional one. Harrington got sacked 13 times in the first two losses and, with Leftwich now in the mix, it appears he's about to get sacked by the coach. On Monday, Petrino put some of the sacks on Harrington: "Right now, Joey's playing a little bit conservative, playing not to throw the interception. Therefore, it's causing him to hold the ball. He just needs to open it up, play with confidence and play to go win the game."
On Tuesday, the Falcons signed Leftwich. There goes the playing with confidence part.
But you can't blame the Falcons for finally jumping on this opportunity. Leftwich may lack mobility, to say the least, but he does have a presence about him and a warrior mentality that may just be what the Falcons need to rally around, what with their franchise player facing jail time rather than the Carolina Panthers in the home opener.
Even with the rest of the league sticking a fat fork in them, the Falcons still have time to turn this season around, certainly in a division that was once the league's most feared but suddenly appears to be one of its weakest.
We've got mail
I've got to be honest. I thought the posting of last week's rant from reader Jennifer Weimer about FOX's choice of Ryan Seacrest as host of the Super Bowl XLII pregame and halftime show would elicit more outrage from The Readership. After all, Jennifer wrote how she thought Seacrest's presence on America's grandest stage this side of "American Idol" would lead to a nationwide boycott of the National Football League and its product.
|Would Ryan Seacrest still be smiling if he took a shot from Jason Taylor?|
Alas, only two of you wrote in on the subject and both sounded like Simon Cowell on a day in which Paula Abdul didn't take her medication. The first email was entitled "Jennifer's Feelings on Seacrest":
First let me say that I am thoroughly enjoying your column on NFL.com. You never fail to tell it like it is and it makes for great reading, not to mention I learn a heck of a lot. Anyway, onto Jennifer's email.
I have to say that as a female fan of the NFL (diehard Eagles Fan) I totally agree with her. To have Seacrest doing anything that has to do with football is tantamount to dumbing down the Super Bowl's pregame and halftime shows. Whether your team is in the SB or not, every fan watches that game.
To have to listen to Simon Cowell's sidekick is at its best fodder for the uneducated in football. If it is a come-on to get ratings I believe it will backfire as Jennifer says. And since the SB is not a tryout for American Idol, I can only think that the reasoning behind this is to draw attention to the new season of AI, not to make the pregame and halftime shows more enjoyable.
Thanks for listening and let's hope that the powers that be at FOX get their collective heads out of their collective butts.
Cindy in Kentucky
And then came this e-missive with the warm and fuzzy subject heading of "If Only Seacrest takes blindside hit by NFL Defensive Player of The Year." As if the title wasn't self-explanatory, the first line took care of that:
Ryan "Overkill" Seacrest should only be allowed to be involved with any form of pigskins if he agrees first to take a blindside hit by the reigning NFL Defensive Player of The Year!
I don't think Ms. Weimer, or any other football fan, would mind that. I know you would love to see it Rich. I mean you do overexposure in a classy way, you stay in one genre. This Seacrest guy bites on any half dead, already been nibbled on, worm he sees. I would also be sorry to see him add the Super Bowl to the list of things people say, "Why did they let him host it?"
Let me get this one straight, Jason. I do exposure in a classy way? Is that… a compliment? If so, I'm blushing. Just call me the Cary Grant of NFL Network.
Poor Seacrest. There was one email in which he wasn't blasted, but then again… the email in question was entitled "Ryan Who?"
I guess I must be spending too much time watching the old 212 on DirecTV... Who the heck is Ryan Seacrest?
Glad to have your column back and look forward to your book. I vote for guessing which HD game Ian and Solomon will call.
Thanks for the well wishes, Wanda. And I love that you watch so much 212 on your DirecTV dial, but I must ask the rest of the good people who populate Roanoke: You do get "American Idol" there, right? I'm not a big fan of American Idol (proud to say I've watched a complete episode only once), but even I know it's the second-biggest ratings draw on American television after the Super Bowl -- which, for the moment, will also feature the snarky mug of Ryan Seacrest. Unless, that is, you people speak out. Now, I don't care that Seacrest will be part of this gig. I just want this blog to flex enough muscle to make a difference in this world. About something.
|Special to NFL.com|
|See Rich run ... and read about his NFL Network adventures. Click here to order his new book on NFL Shop.|
Well, actually, come to think of it, you already have. A good number of you kindly folk have emailed in well-wishes concerning my book (which comes out in six weeks) called Total Access: A Journey to the Center of the NFL Universe.
Congrats on the soon to be released new book. I know I can't wait. Just the look of sheer determination you have on the cover should be enough for passers by to stop and take notice at the bookstands. You are either running the 40 or Siragusa just read your last blog on NFL.com. Didn't you pull a hammy on that run? All kidding aside, keep up the great work and Go Michigan.
Fred from the Ozarks
To be exact, Fred, the photo on the cover is of me running the 40-yard dash in my suit at the 2007 NFL Scouting Combine for a second of three times. The third time was, in fact, the charm. I pulled my right hamstring on the third run for glory. It's still on YouTube, viewed an astonishing 13,000-plus times.
Good to see that you are back in form. And your whole site even got a nice refurbishing over the summer. Now, after having seen the cover of your new book, one question keeps returning to mind: What did they clock you in at the 40? I'm guessing you are more of a tight end/safety when it comes to 40-times. However, one interesting detail... How fast would Calvin Johnson have run that famous 40 if he had borrowed your suit instead of those sneakers? I'm guessing he would have slipped a couple of rounds.
Kudos for not even loosening up on the tie. Stiff upper lip as they say.
Keep up your sharp pen. You make journalism students like myself reach higher.
Well, Johan, I was clocked on this particular run at a blistering (for wearing lace-up Zegna crocs) 6.43 seconds. And, secondly, I'm touched that such nonsense can be seen as journalistically inspirational in Norway. I feel like I'm Robin Williams in the Scandinavian football version of "Dead Poets Society." Keep up on your desk, Johan. And you too, Lars! Carpe Diem, Sven! Everyone on top of your Norwegian tables and let it out from deep within: "Yawp!" and "Cover Two!"
Alright, then. Enough of this madness. Down to brass tacks. Here's how you can let your mouse do the talking and make a difference.
Just thought you'd like to know, my book ranks higher than yours on Amazon.com. Granted, yours isn't published yet, but hey, it had to be said.
Now, I was as pleased as you were that the season is finally under way. Whew, what a crappy preseason. Your "Goose" observations and quips were hilarious. Keep up the good work.
By the way, I'm headed to my first Steelers home game this weekend at Heinz Field. Been a fan since I was but a wee child. Can't contain my enthusiasm. I'll be the one waving the Terrible Towel that was used to wipe up the barf after Bettis nearly fumbled away our Super Bowl run two years ago. Go Steelers!
Rodney J. Moore
Author, Journalist & Copywriter
Once I got past the jarring appearance of the word "barf" in an e-mail written by a copywriter, I hit Amazon.com and immediately looked up Rodney J. Moore, just to see what book of his was ranked higher than mine. And the result was even more jarring. It's a book about graphic design projects. No doubt it's an important tome for those seeking to break into the graphic design industry. But at the time, Rodney J. Moore was right: it was out-selling my not yet sold-in-stores book on the most popular sport in America. Clearly, it was an error that could not stand. Thankfully, it didn't. Some of you were kind to pre-order my book and relegate Rodney J. Moore to an object closer than it might appear. I thank you all for making a difference.
One last item of great importance to pass along. Despite my grand prediction that his offseason hiatus was coming to an end, there was still no sign of the great Horatio Cane or any of his CSI: Miami forensic crime-fighting brethren on the six CBS broadcasts of Week 2 contests. Normally, the sight of David Caruso whipping off his sunglasses dominates the commercial breaks of an NFL broadcast on the Tiffany Network, but apparently the folks in the CBS promotions department felt it was still too early to start pumping Caruso for the figurative Heisman.
Without question, the inundation of Horatio Cane will happen this Sunday on CBS. It must. The season premiere of CSI: Miami is set for Sept. 24, just eight short days after Week 3 of the NFL season. Plus, we have inside information from a trusted reader that Horatio is already on the case:
I'm glad to see you're writing again and back in your old form! (I'll leave that up to you to determine whether or not that's a compliment.)
Anyway, I know where Horatio Cane is... He's right behind my hotel! I am currently on business travel in El Segundo, CA, and my hotel is next door to the building where CBS films outside shots of the Miami-Dade police department for CSI: Miami. Periodically you can see Miami police cars, gray Hummer SUVs, and red-haired, sunglass-wearing, cheesy-line-spouting fake detectives prowling around. (The actual building is a credit union, so I sympathize with customers who come on filming days hoping to make a deposit or open up a checking account.) I'm a big fan of CSI: Miami (as well as this column), so I was excited when I discovered how close I was to the action.
Sorry for the long email, but I was excited to see that you're back in print. I no longer get to see you on TV, as my cable carrier (who will remain *cough* Comcast *cough* nameless) removed the NFL Network from my basic cable package.
Fort Wayne, Ind.
Well done, Joshua. An excellent Peter Arnett-like report from the front. And as for Comcast ditching NFL Network from your lineup, it's an outrage. Or maybe (insert putting on sunglasses here)… it's murder.