Take A Breath Tuesday: Why it's smart to reserve judgment in NFL
I awoke Monday morning in Dallas, where the sky was obviously falling after the 1-1 Cowboys humiliated themselves with the whole world watching by losing at the last second to the Giants in their new billion-dollar ballpark. Oh, and while we're at it, what's the story with
After my flight to Milwaukee, then came a 90-minute drive home to Madison, during which I listened to a series of radio talking heads lament the Packers' Lambeau Field meltdown against the lowly Bengals. At 1-1, Green Bay clearly looks like a pretender that made the mistake of peaking in August. And about all those injuries....
To varying degrees, the same basic blood-letting exercise was no doubt unfolding in the other 13 NFL cities that experienced defeat on Sunday. To wit:
-- In Pittsburgh, they were reeling from the defending champion Steelers' first loss since Week 16 of last season, a bitter fourth-quarter collapse in rainy Chicago.
-- Patriots Nation was in shock at the thought that the 2007 version of
-- Titans fans were up in arms over a home-field loss to Houston, worried sick about the defense, and amazed their team could be 0-2 with all that talent. Ditto for the 1-1 Chargers and their annual tease when it comes to Super Bowl expectations, and I could almost hear the grumbling about the Eagles defensive shortcomings against the Saints all the way to the upper Midwest.
Starting to get the picture? If Week 2 taught us anything it's that a loss, just one loss, changes everything in the NFL.* Overnight. Instantly even. Being .500 might look like a glass half-empty, half-full scenario, but that's only if your loss came in Week 1, and you won this weekend. Last week, you see, the sky was falling in Arizona, Chicago, Houston, Cincinnati and Buffalo. But one win later, the horizon has stabilized and things look considerably brighter there.
But half the league being happy and half the league being miserable is what happens each and every week of the NFL's regular season. A win tends to disguise every flaw or potential problem, putting a band-aid, of sorts, on it, and a loss exposes every weakness and potential calamity. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground in the bipolar NFL these days. It's either way high, or way low, with no in between.
Can we possibly get past those Morose Mondays and see them give way to Take A Breath Tuesdays? I know what you're thinking: For a guy whose featured column is called
Absolutely nothing stays the same for long in the NFL. Believing that either the best-case scenario or worst-case scenario will come true is only going to make you look bad 98 percent of the time. What you think you know now, you won't know later. Count on it. It happens every season. More than we even keep track of.
Look at the Cardinals of last December, and then again in January. Look at the 2008 Jets at 8-3, coming off huge wins at New England and Tennessee in mid-to-late November. Look at the 10-0 Titans of a year ago, and the Dolphins going from 0-2 to 11-5, and the Chargers dead in the water (not really) at 4-8. Wasn't
So to reiterate, it's only two weeks, folks. We have miles and miles to go. Practice a little patience. In New England, remind yourself that the Patriots were playing on the road against a tough division opponent in a short week of work. That's always a tall task. And
In Pittsburgh, try to remember that no one seems to kick well in Soldier Field but
The Packers offensive line can't possibly give up 80 sacks this season, so something has to improve on that front, and the Titans' schedule eases up considerably if they can somehow hang in there through their opening six games. Oh, and as for San Diego, the Chargers will be there in the end in the mild, mild AFC West. You know it, I know it, and I suspect even
So let's just all wait and see what happens. Besides, there's still plenty of time to panic, if necessary. Starting the Monday after Week 3.
• You kind of saw the whole case against
I like Pennington. But the Dolphins are coming up against the same realization that the Jets did. Pennington can only take you so far.
• I'm going out on a short limb here and predicting this is the week the Lions finally win. I say the 19-game losing streak ends Sunday, when Detroit is home against Washington. Obviously the Redskins are offensively challenged and defensively strong. But I just get the feeling the Lions are about to get a breakout type game on offense from the likes of quarterback
A win and the Lions will avoid claiming sole possession of the league's second longest losing streak in history, at 20 games. Get the champagne on ice, Detroit.
• Some quick hits:
-- There's nothing better in the NFL at this point than to be 2-0 with a pair of wins in your division. That's the fate of only two teams this season: the Giants and the 49ers. If you're having trouble keeping that straight, just remember "San Francisco Giants.'' The 49ers at Vikings is somehow Week 3's only matchup of unbeatens.
-- Denver's better-than-expected 3-4 defense has allowed a mere 13 points in the first two games. But alas, the Ohio portion of the Broncos schedule is over. Denver doesn't get to play either Cincinnati or Cleveland any more.
-- Curb your enthusiasm, Vikings fans. Minnesota has beaten Cleveland and Detroit, who are fresh off a combined 4-28 record in 2008.
-- Those uncontested local TV blackouts in Jacksonville might be the best thing the Jaguars franchise could do for its fan base this season. It might win the Jags some goodwill in 2010.
-- Please don't ask me for help with your suicide pools. And sorry to the soul I told to take Tennessee over Houston last week. You know who you are.
-- If you're not keeping track, Philadelphia and Kansas City are the only two teams to have started different quarterbacks in the first two weeks. But Seattle will likely join the multiple-starting-QB club this week, and Carolina played three quarterbacks in Week 1 after benching
-- After shutting down
-- Pretty good move, so far, having Bears head coach
-- At some point in the past two years or so, I believe I've written that
-- Is this the way it's going to be every week with the Jets, in trouble with the league about something or another? From Favre injury reports to tampering charges regarding
-- That was a pretty good
-- I thought
-- Even when I close my eyes at night, I still see those 60-yard Cowboys video boards. It'll stop at some point, I presume.