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  1. #1
    singersp's Avatar
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    Several Unexpected Teams are 2–0, but Are They for Real?

    September 20, 2006 Edition

    [size=13pt]Several Unexpected Teams are 2–0, but Are They for Real?[/size]

    By AARON SCHATZ
    September 20, 2006


    The early NFL standings are topped by the usual suspects: The Patriots, Colts, Bears, and Seahawks are all 2-0. But so is Atlanta, which collapsed in the second half of 2005. Baltimore is undefeated after a dismal 6–10 record last year.The biggest early surprise is undefeated New Orleans, coming off a 3-13 season

    It's easy to find cautionary tales where 2–0 starts turned out to be meaningless. The 2004 Lions won their first two games, but finished the year 6–10. So did the 2003 Bills, even though their two opening wins came by a combined score of 69–17.The Redskins also started that season 2–0 and ended it 5–11.

    Here's a look for clues that might indicate if each team has really turned around, or is just enjoying fluke early-season luck.

    SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

    Last year the Chargers went 9–7 despite the hardest schedule in the league, and their 2–0 start is very clearly not a fluke. The Chargers destroyed Oakland 27–0, then embarrassed Tennessee 40–7. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson has been his usual superstar self, quarterback Philip Rivers is playing well in his first year as the starter, and the San Diego pass rush looks unstoppable.

    These two opponents are among the worst teams in the league, but that doesn't make San Diego's victories any less impressive. Historically, the best indicator of a Super Bowl champion is not the team's ability to beat good opponents in close games, but its ability to demolish inferior competition.

    In the past four seasons, 10 teams have won their first two games by a combined total of 30 points or more. Only the 2003 Bills ended up with a losing record.

    BALTIMORE RAVENS

    Like San Diego, the Ravens have won their first two games in dominating fashion, shutting out Tampa Bay 27–0 — on the road, no less — and then returning home to whip hapless Oakland 28–6.

    Veteran quarterback Steve McNair was supposed to be the differencemaker that lifted Baltimore back into contention, but he hasn't been impressive so far this year. He has completed just 55% of his passes and gained just 5.4 yards a pass. Last year, Kyle Boller, the quarterback McNair is replacing, completed 58% of his passes for 6.1 yards a pass.

    Just as in the past, the Ravens are winning because of defense. Baltimore is allowing less than two yards a carry to opposing runners and less than four yards a pass to opposing quarterbacks.

    The Chargers and Ravens play each other in Baltimore a week from Sunday. It is convenient scheduling that will tell us a lot about where each team's strengths really lie, and where each team has simply been picking on the Raiders.

    ATLANTA FALCONS

    The Falcons are not just 2–0.They're 2–0 in their division, beating Carolina and Tampa Bay. Like the Ravens, the Falcons look much improved on defense this year, particularly against the run. The Falcons are allowing just 3.3 yards a carry after allowing 4.9 yards a carry in 2005. More important, they seem to have finally learned how to utilize the unique talents of quarterback Michael Vick.

    Head coach Jim Mora has said that he watched the film from the Rose Bowl, looking to use Vick in the same way that the University of Texas used Vince Young, and the offensive playbook in Atlanta has clearly changed. On many plays, the Falcons call a college-style "shotgun option" that allows Vick to read the defense from farther back, then decide to either hand off to Warrick Dunn, run himself, or throw the ball depending on how the defense shifts at the snap. This week, Tampa Bay couldn't figure out if it should be playing the run or the pass, and the Falcons gained 306 yards on the ground.

    The shotgun option plays to Vick's strengths — confusing the defense and running — rather than his weakness, throwing an accurate short pass. If opposing defensive coordinators can't solve this scheme, and Vick can keep from being injured — a big if, considering the amount of scrambling he's doing — the Falcons are a Super Bowl contender.

    NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

    The 2-0 New Orleans Saints are a heartwarming story, but the only impressive fact about their first two wins is that both came on the road. The Saints beat Green Bay and Cleveland, a combined 10–22 last year, and neither win came by more than a touchdown. Imagine these wins coming in the middle of the year rather than at the beginning; observers would agree that they were nice games, but nothing to make you think that the Saints were suddenly contenders. The fact that these games actually were played in September doesn't change the message.

    New Orleans' front seven, perhaps the worst in the league, has yet to be truly tested, in part because the Saints have played two teams with subpar offensive lines. The Packers are starting two rookie guards, while the Browns famously lost three different centers to injury, retirement, and suspension during the preseason. When the Saints return home this week for the first time in more than a year, they face the undefeated Falcons and their spectacular ground attack. If they can stop Vick and Dunn, they will go a long way toward proving that their undefeated record is no fluke.

    MINNESOTA VIKINGS

    The Vikings have been the worst of the 2–0 teams so far. Both wins were essentially ties — decided by just two or three plays that happened to go Minnesota's way. In the final quarter against Washington, the Vikings benefited from two facemask penalties, an unnecessary roughness call, and John Hall's missed field goal that would have sent the game to overtime. This week, Carolina was leading by a touchdown, then absurdly called a trick lateral play on a punt return, resulting in a fumble that gave the Vikings the ball just 21 yards from the game-tying touchdown, which they scored on a fluke play themselves, a 16-yard touchdown pass thrown by kicker Ryan Longwell on a fake field goal.This is how an average team wins games, not a great team, and the Vikings won't beat undefeated Chicago this week if their game plan is to wait for the Bears to make similar mistakes.

    Mr. Schatz is the editor in chief of FootballOutsiders.com.



    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  2. #2
    singersp's Avatar
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    Re: Several Unexpected Teams are 2–0, but Are They for Real?

    The early NFL standings are topped by the usual suspects: The Patriots, Colts, Bears, and Seahawks are all 2-0.
    The Bears are usual suspects for being the top in the standings? LMAO! Where does he come off with that?

    They only had 2 winning seasons in the last 10 years!

    [size=11pt]Chicago Bears Season-by-season log[/size]


    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  3. #3
    NordicNed is offline Jersey Retired
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    Re: Several Unexpected Teams are 2–0, but Are They for Real?

    Just another Non-Believing writer, but hey, I kind of like when people look at and think about us the way this guy does.....Because every time we win, they refuse to give credit where credit is due....This kind of writing will make other NFL Team players non-believers also, and thus they may take a lightly...





    That is till they get on the field with us and we lay the smack down on them..





    Let the non-believers, keep on , not believing......





    What matters a great deal to me is the fact that....








    I DO BELIEVE
    ;D


    I LOVE THE SMELL OF VICTORY IN THE MORNING AIR.

  4. #4
    Del Rio Guest

    Re: Several Unexpected Teams are 2–0, but Are They for Real?

    Great teams find a way to get it done against great opponents. The Bears are going to be a great opponent.

    You should beat the teams that are obviously worse then you by a large margin, the teams that are solid, you get a win anyway you can.

    Watching film, seeing an opportunity to take advantage of a fake field goal, practicing it during the week, looking for the opportunity in the game, executing that opportunity to perfection is not a fluke it's football.

  5. #5
    Prophet Guest

    Re: Several Unexpected Teams are 2–0, but Are They for Real?

    The Ravens D with McNair at the helm on O makes for a good team.
    McNair is one tough bastard.
    The Ravens are a solid contender this year.

  6. #6
    Del Rio Guest

    Re: Several Unexpected Teams are 2–0, but Are They for Real?

    I like how he uses the fact that one of the games won for the Saints was against the Packers as a reason to hold him back and yet the Bears could say the same damn thing lol.

    I need to get paid to write somewhere.

  7. #7
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    Re: Several Unexpected Teams are 2–0, but Are They for Real?

    "This is how an average team wins games"........

    Hmmm. I can think of a couple well respected teams that have played that way for the last 20 years. Ugly wins are still wins.


    Personally, I don't think there is intelligent life on other planets. Why should other planets be any different from this one?

  8. #8
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    Re: Several Unexpected Teams are 2–0, but Are They for Real?

    He's somewhat right, but the Vikes' last two opponents were better than all the other teams that the other 2-0's played. We'll know after this sunday when the overconfident Bears get a Dome style surprise.

  9. #9
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    Re: Several Unexpected Teams are 2–0, but Are They for Real?

    "Del" wrote:
    I like how he uses the fact that one of the games won for the Saints was against the Packers as a reason to hold him back and yet the Bears could say the same gol 'darnit thing lol.

    I need to get paid to write somewhere.
    I imagine Webby paying you with "Pretzel Stix" for doing the "Pillage & Plunder" show hardly qualifies for getting paid for your vast football knowledge & points of view.

    Are they even salted or did he suck the salt off them 1st?

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  10. #10
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    Re: Several Unexpected Teams are 2–0, but Are They for Real?

    "Prophet" wrote:
    The Ravens D with McNair at the helm on O makes for a good team.
    McNair is one tough bastard.
    The Ravens are a solid contender this year.
    Right up until the point that Air McNair is grounded because of fog in his helmet or a broken (pick-a-bone).
    Tough bastard, perhaps, old and easy to break-down, for sure.

    =Z=

    Thanks to Josdin for the awesome sig!

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