This article marks the fifth season that I've done an NFL Week 2 Update. Back in 2003 the lack of perspective and foresight displayed by the so-called NFL "experts" was completely appalling. If you remember, the Buffalo Bills shut out the Patriots 31-0 in the first game of the season and proceeded to win their next game. Suddenly, the 1-1 Patriots, who were the pre-season favorites to go to the Super Bowl, had been reduced to a "bubble" playoff team, and the talking heads at ESPN were touting the 2-0 Bills as the kings of the AFC. We all now know that the Patriots finished 13-1 the rest of the way and captured a championship that year, while the Bills are still waiting for a playoff berth. It just shocked me how short-sighted the media had become with 14 games left to go. So I broke down the first two weeks to explain why the 2-0 Redskins who had feasted on easy opposition weren't a lock to overthrow the 0-2 Eagles, and other common-sense observations.
Wouldn't you know, after four seasons of being mocked, the "experts" have finally caught on. They finally realized that you can judge a 16 week season by its first two games. ESPN.com ran a column this week in which their analysts looked at the 2-0 and 0-2 teams and discussed which teams are truly good or bad and which are faking it. I don't want to overestimate the importance of this site as I'm a very small fish in the sea compared to a media giant like ESPN, but do you think there's a chance somebody in Bristol has been reading DeROK.Net? I mean, it is the exact same concept I've been discussing annually on the exact same week of the season. Is this simply a coincidence? Anyway, I'm not here to argue over the originality of the idea. If anything, I'm just happy these guys have finally gotten their heads on straight. Now for my analysis and predictions...
1. The Skins are a playoff team.
I don't really want to believe this one because I feel like history says they're a bad team who's pretending to be good, but I'm getting a nice vibe from Washington. Sure they beat up an awful Miami and an Eagles team that's playing very poorly, but that type of play is probably enough in the NFC. Can you name me six other teams in the NFC who are playing well enough to consistently beat the bad teams? Right now I'd say Dallas, Chicago, and San Fran can. Detroit and Green Bay have been consistent as well. Consistency is all it takes to make the post-season in this conference.
2. The Packers are not.
The Packers beat the Giants and Eagles - two teams that are playing some horrible football right now. Like I said, consistency is the name of the game here. At this point in his career, I don't trust Brett Favre to bring it every week.
3. The Saints will come marching back.
New Orleans has looked down-right horrible this season, so I'm not nearly as convinced as most that these pre-season NFC favorites will stage a return to their 2006 form. That being said, they've yet to play a game at home and are a measly one game back in the standings. I can't imagine this team has collapsed so much that they won't even put up a fight for the wild-card. I think the Saints will comeback, but they won't comeback too strong.
4. The NFC West is a four-sided coin flip.
I couldn't begin to tell you which team will walk away with the NFC West division title. The Seahawks were the favorite but they lost to the Cardinals, who lost to the Niners. 2-0 San Fran snuck past 0-2 St. Louie by a single point. With fourteen games to go, there's just no way to predict which of these four mediocre teams is going to be the least mediocre. But I don't think we'll be seeing a wild-card come out of the division.
5. Detroit is on the bubble.
I'm giving one wild-card spot to Washington. The other is going to be fought for between the two losers of the Panthers/Buccaneers/Saints battle and the Lions. If Detroit can master the consistency angle like I've beaten to death so far, they'll be the ones in the playoffs. I just feel that the NFC South participants are far too erratic.
6. The Steelers are frauds...
Pittsburgh will have to do more than crush two extremely bad teams before I'm going to start taking them seriously. Especially considering how underwhelming they've been the past two seasons (Super Bowl year included) and that Bill Cowher is no longer the coach. If the Ravens can get any sort of stable QB situation, I think they'll win the AFC North again this year. But no matter how much their two impressive wins have exaggerated their true talent, I do think this team will be in the post-season.
7. ...But not as big of a fraud as the Broncos!
Pittsburgh demolished two bad teams. Denver barely survived two bad teams. You can tout the undefeated record all day, but when you need a last-second kick to avoid a loss to Buffalo and you need overtime to dispatch the Raiders, I'm not too confident that you're going to beat enough good teams to make it to the playoffs. I liked Denver as a wild-card in the pre-season. I'm not touching them now. San Diego will be the only playoff team from the West.
8. The Texans aren't frauds, but still won't make the playoffs.
Houston could potentially be one of the top six AFC teams. The problem is that they're probably only the third beast team in their division. The AFC South is clearly the most difficult division in the conference, as there isn't a "terrible" team to be found. I think Vince Young and the Titans are going to finish second and take one of the wild-card spots. This still leaves the window open for Houston, but in all likelihood having to play Indy, Jacksonville, and Tennessee twice will probably damage the Texans' record to where either Pittsburgh or Baltimore will overtake them.
9. The Jets will make a run, but come up empty.
New York is in an uproar because the Jets are 0-2. However, if you looked at who the Jets have played, they should be 0-2. New England and Baltimore are two division winners from last year. If the Jets beat the teams they're supposed to beat and lose to the teams they're supposed to lose to, they will be in the running come playoff time. However, all this means is that I'll get to enjoy watching that turncoat Eric Mangini get mathematically eliminated on Week 16!
10. The Patriots are going to finish 19-0.
I realize that this is taking a huge leap and looks extremely biased, but I think I'm being very objective. I just can't see a situation where this team is healthy and another team beats them. Seriously, how do you stop Tom Brady and those receivers? If you cover Randy heavily, then Wes Welker and Co. will tear you up on the short stuff. If you don't cover Randy heavily, he'll be pulling in 30-yard receptions all night. Tell me, how do you stop that offense? And with the Pats' stacked defense, there's absolutely no way a team would ever be able to keep up in a shoot-out and then steal one at the last second. Even if things get to 13-0 and the division is wrapped up, I'm guessing Belichick won't rest the starters much. He's going to want to send as loud a statement as possible to silence the doubters after the video camera incident. He couldn't shove anything larger down the throats of the critics than a 19-0 record. I've been running scenarios through my head, and I just can't figure out how another team would beat the healthy Patriots.
Hey, maybe I'm kidding myself and this actually is my bias talking. That could very well be the case. But like I said in the "Evil Empire" article, I'm going to run my mouth about this team until somebody shuts me up. The way I see it is two down, fourteen to go, followed by two playoffs wins and a victory over the Cowboys in Arizona!