I like to call Week Two in the NFL the “are you for real or not” week. An initial loss in Week One doesn’t mean too much, usually you have a few matchups of possible contenders (Saints/Packers, Bears/Falcons, Cowboys/Jets) and someone has to come out of those games with an 0-1 record. But if you come out of Week Two with another loss and an 0-2 record the numbers are pretty clear that your season is effectively over.
Since the league went to a 16 game schedule, a paltry 11% of teams that started 0-2 went on to right the ship and make the postseason. The number is a little misleading, mainly because most teams that go 0-2 are just plain old bad, like Indy and Seattle, and they weren’t going to make any serious runs at the playoffs no matter how they started out.
We also saw this Sunday what makes that number so low, and it’s because the good teams, the ones that are going to make a serious run at double digit wins and games in January, aren’t going to let themselves lose two games in a row to start their season. Those same teams that lost tough games in Week One, New Orleans, Atlanta and Dallas, all came out and took care of business in Week Two. They came out and showed us that they’re for real.
So let’s take a look at why Week Two was so great, and make sure to come back on Friday for a preview of the Week Three games.
Because sometimes all the experts are wrong: This one has to go to Baltimore this week, a team that we all thought would completely rough up their week two opponent, a Tennessee team that gave us nothing to believe in after Week One.
The Ravens were coming off a dominating performance against their arch rival the week before, and it made sense to us all that if they could destroy the defending AFC Champion Steelers they wouldn’t have any trouble against the lame duck Titans.
But what we all forgot to realize is that this was a clear cut example of that long known phenomenon, the “trap game”. For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, a trap game is one where a good team is facing a weak opponent either the week before or the week after they have a big game, bonus trap game points if they have to go on the road.
Baltimore must have spent this past week telling themselves how great they were and just assuming that they would walk all over the Titans. Well, we all know what happens when you assume. Actually, more truthfully, we all should know by now that nothing in the NFL is a foregone conclusion.
Because Stats Don’t Lie: Last week I used this section to talk about big numbers in the 400’s and 500’s. This week I want to talk about a smaller number, but one that made the difference between winning and losing.
That number is 3 and it’s the amount of touchdowns scored by Dallas receiver Miles Austin. The Cowboys win was one of the most exciting and impressive of the day, and much of the praise has been heaped on the gutsy comeback from Tony Romo and the Hollywood type story of a receiver catching the pass that led to a game winning kick in overtime. But without Austin and his 3 big scores, none of that would have been possible.
What made Austin’s touchdown catches most meaningful was when they came in the game. His first score came at the end of the first half, when if the Cowboys didn’t put points on the board they would have been faced with a 14-0 deficit at the half of a game that if they lost would have put them in the aforementioned 0-2 category.
Austin then came out with his team’s opening score in the second half, tying the game and giving his team the confidence it needed to believe they could win. Then, just when the Cowboys finally had some wind in their sales the 49ers came out with another 10 unanswered second half points to seemingly take control of the game.
And this is where Austin’s performance gets really good. With his quarterback playing with a broken rib or two he got open in the back corner of the end zone and scored the touchdown that, for the second time that afternoon, got his team back in the game.
While Romo and Jesse Holley deserve all the praise they're getting this week, let’s not forget it was Austin who stepped up and deliver at three crucial moments when his team needed him.
Now that’s a leader.
Because We Didn’t See it Coming:
This may be the biggest surprise of the year, and it’s that Dallas receiver Jesse Holley made what was essentially the game winning catch against the 49ers.
In case you didn’t know, or haven’t heard yet, Holley was the winner of a reality TV show hosted by Michael Irvin a few years ago. His prize? An invite to the Dallas Cowboys training camp that summer.
What should have been a short lived fantasy camp experience turned into the opportunity to hang on via the taxi squad for a couple years, then to actually make the active roster this year.
The story is something straight out of a Hollywood movie, and certainly was something that we didn’t see coming.
Because College Was the Most Fun of My Life: This weekend was dubbed road test weekend, mostly by ESPN because it was catchy, but also because we had many of the top 25 teams playing on the road, culminating with #5 Florida State hosting #1 Oklahoma in primetime on Saturday night. The game was good, but what I took away from it was that neither of these two teams is good enough to win the national championship.
Florida State isn’t deep enough, and Oklahoma is like that pretty girl in your office who starts to look like a 10 because there are no real 10’s around her. All I heard leading up to this game was how much talent and speed that Oklahoma had on both sides of the ball, and after watching them I think they would be a middle of the road team in the SEC.
I’ve watched both Alabama and LSU play this year, and both of those teams are more talented and athletic than the Sooners. When Oklahoma plays either one of them in the national championship game, and it’s going to happen because OSU plays a triple A schedule in the now defunct Big 12, it’s going to be like that 10 in your office standing next to a fashion model, all of a sudden all their flaws will become magnified.
Thoughts on Sports Outside of the Football Universe: Let’s take this opportunity to talk about the NBA lockout. What a debacle, and the worst part is you can’t truly blame either the players or the owners.
The players have a good argument that it was the owners themselves who got the league into the mess it’s in now. It was the owners that gave out so many ridiculous contracts, so now that they want to change the system so drastically why should the players back down and give back so much of what they’ve successfully bargained for over the last four decades?
The players may be right that the owners did this to themselves, but they can’t argue the basic premise that the financial system is totally broken.
Not broken for all the owners, but broken for the ones that bought their franchises in the last decade and overpaid for them. These owners took on too much debt to buy their teams, and now they can’t afford to make the payments. The purchases made sense at the time because it didn’t matter how much you paid for the team, it was just going to go up in value. That was the investment, the appreciation of the asset, not the yearly profit.
Now these newer owners are left with assets that aren’t either going up in value or making a profit on a yearly basis, and because of the debt they took on to obtain them they’re now upside down on the investment.
It’s essentially the same thing that has happened in the real estate market these last few years, except instead of talking about families upside down on houses that are worth in the hundreds of thousands we’re talking about really rich men being stuck upside down on pro sports teams worth in the hundreds of millions, and no one feels bad for them.
What we’re left with are players who don’t want to set a precedence of caving into owner demands and enough owners who need real, drastic change to justify continued investment in their teams.
So how does this all end? Well, we have the blueprint. The NHL faced many of the same problems in 2004 and lost an entire season trying to figure it out. Hockey took a hit with the fans, but now that a few years have passed we have a better version of hockey and the league is quickly regaining its popularity.
In the end the NHL players realized that they would rather take a pay cut then face life without an NHL paycheck. Eventually the NBA players will get to the same points, but much like the NHL it will take at least a half season lost, most likely a whole one.
The one wrench that could really throw this whole thing on it’s head? That the NBA players could actually have careers playing overseas. Don’t believe me? Check this out.
Thoughts on the World Outside of Sports: All right, this is going to be a section where I get to rant about something other than sports. If you don’t care what I have to say about the rest of the world, tough.
No, really, I’ll try to keep it short and fun.
This week I want to talk about two ads I saw over and over again this weekend while watching sports, both of which fall into the “let’s trash on men who watch too much sports” category.
The first is the McDonald’s commercial where the girlfriend asks her man what he thinks about some other random guy saying that Sundays are for watching football. He thinks about how she’ll kick him out of the house if he agrees, then decides the “smart” response is to call the football watching guy a “pig”. Check out the ad here
That one I had seen plenty of times before, so I am only mildly confused by its message at this point, but I also saw a new one this weekend. It was on of those “you can surf the web and talk at the same time on an IPhone” ads. You may remember they already had one where a husband sheepishly tiptoed his way around telling his wife that he was working late on their anniversary and had forgotten to make dinner reservations.
In this one a new father gets a call from his buddy while taking care of his kid and deftly hides the fact that he didn’t watch that weekend’s game by looking up the highlights on his phone. Then his wife walks in, gives him a disapproving look for having the audacity to talk about sports around their impressionable young child, so the new father quickly hangs up the phone on his friend.
Now, I won’t even get into all the ramifications of the message that guys who care about sports are nothing but pigs and bad fathers, what I really don’t get is why these ads are being run on a Sunday during a football game!
Who are they targeting here? Anyone watching the ad is also watching football, on a Sunday no less! Do they think that all of the men, and women for that matter, who are spending their Sundays watching football are going to be impressed by the guy who has no backbone failing to tell his girlfriend that he actually has the ability to think for himself and have his own opinions?
I am thoroughly perplexed as to why these ads are running during these games. The only guess I have is that they figure there are enough men out there watching them who identify with these guys and will feel better about their situation if they see it being portrayed positively on the television, and therefore have positive feelings towards the products being advertised.
The Playoff Picture:
This is a section that we’ll do every week from here on out. While records certainly matter, it’s not just a list of who’s leading in the standings, it’s a list of who’s most likely to make the playoffs after each week.
AFC: 1 seed – New England (2-0). Easily the most impressive team of the first two weeks.
2 seed – Baltimore (1-1). Should have beat the Titans, but still one of the more complete teams in the league.
3 seed – Houston (2-0). Good start for the Texans so far, but yet to be really challenged. We’ll see if they’re for real this week when they go into the Super Dome to take on the Saints.
4 seed – San Diego (1-1). The best team in a mediocre division. They showed their flaws against New England this week, and will have trouble against good teams. They aren’t very deep, so a few key injuries (especially at wide receiver) could once again keep them under 10 wins.
Wildcard – Pittsburgh (1-1). A good team with a tough schedule. They would take a lot of the other divisions in the league, but will still get the 10 or 11 wins it’ll take to get a spot in the tournament.
Wildcard – NY Jets (2-0). The defense is too good to keep them from being below .500. Too bad to NY fans that the offense is too weak for them to be much better.
NFC: 1 seed – Green Bay (2-0). The offense is just too good. They showed against the Panthers that no lead will be safe against them, and that will keep them from notching too many in the loss column.
2 seed – New Orleans (1-1). This may be the most impressive team in the league to me so far, if it wasn’t for the fact they already lost to the Packers they’d be in the number one slot.
3 seed – Philadelphia (1-1). Tough call over Dallas here because if they lose Vick for any significant amount of time their season is over. Until we know that’s the case, I’ll stay with them.
4 seed – San Francisco(1-1). Because someone has to win the NFC West.
Wildcard – Atlanta (1-1). Still not top tier material, but when you can run the ball like they can you’ll be in line to win plenty of games.
Chicago Bears (1-1). Again a tough call because the Lions look so good, but if I have to choose I’ll take the veteran team over the young one, until Detroit proves they're for real at least.