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Monday, October 7, 2013

Zero-oh! Oh, Oh, Oh, Ohhh-ohh!

Through five weeks of play, the NFL has a total of seven teams with a zero in either the win or the loss column. Some are not surprising. Some could not have been predicted by anyone not owning a DeLorean with a Flux Capacitor. Today, we discuss some of those teams.

There is finally something to cheer about in Kansas City. 4
Five and O

The New Orleans Saints, Denver Broncos, and Kansas City Chiefs all won impressively on the road against teams that are either leading their division or have winning records as of this morning. The Saints beat a very good Chicago Bears team in a well-coached game on both sides at Chicago’s Soldier Field, where Saints Head Coach Sean Peyton was winless before yesterday. The Chiefs went to Nashville and rallied from a 4th quarter deficit to beat the Tennessee Titans. The Broncos went to Jerry World and narrowly outlasted the Dallas Cowboys in a thrilled of a shootout, 51-48.

The unbeaten starts of the Saints and Broncos should not be shocking to anyone. The Saints have had the most potent offense in the NFL during the tenures of Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees. Broncos Payton Manning has as more lengthy unbeaten starts to his seasons than the average NFL player has seasons in his career. The notion that these two teams could be on a collision course in the Big Apple in February is not far-fetched.

The Kansas City Chiefs could not do anything but improve after the 2012 season, in which they had the worst record in the NFL. The hiring of Head Coach Andy Reid, who was a regular in the conference finals during his 14 year tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles, and the acquisition of quarterback Alex Smith, who has experience winning in the regular season and the playoffs, through a trade with the San Francisco 49ers were two giant steps in the right direction. In addition, the Chiefs had substantial individual talent. They had three times as many Pro Bowl players last season, six, as they did wins. While it should surprise nobody that the Chiefs are better, no honest person outside of the Chiefs’ organization believed this team could win its first five games to start the 2013 season.

He's planning to win a new one, anyway. 3
Oh and NO!

That the Jacksonville Jaguars are 0-5 surprises nobody, including Jaguars fans. Earlier this year, an Orlando CBS affiliate television station apologized to its viewers for having to carry a Jaguars road game instead of The Manning Bowl between the Broncos and New York Giants in Week 2. An 0-16 finish is not out of the question and would only be a moderate disappointment to fans whose team is living up to low expectations.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are winless at 0-4 and the New York Giants are winless at 0-5. Both of these teams have noteworthy weaknesses and have suffered some tough breaks at key moments in ballgames. However being completely winless at this point of the season is nothing less than unbelievable to any NFL fan with reasonable expectations. Both teams can’t run the ball and can’t stop the run: a recipe for certain weekly doom in the NFL.  

The Giants have the tiniest slivers of a silver lining in the dark gray cloud raining a deluge upon its season. First, three of their five losses can be explained by very careless and costly mistakes, usually unnecessary turnovers and penalties. Mistakes, especially the dumb ones, can be identified and corrected. Second, this roster is littered with proven talent on both sides of the ball. Sloppy play can be corrected, especially with a two time Super Bowl winning Head Coach, Tom Coughlin, in charge; lack of talent is uncorrectable. Finally, most importantly, and almost comically, the winless Giants are only two games out of first place in the bumbling and stumbling NFC East division, led by the Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles with 2-3 records.

The Steelers have bigger problems. Their aging secondary is offering no help to a front seven that cannot stop a runny nose on the ground, let alone a running back. Their thus-far absent running game has forced the Steelers to be a pass-first team. That doesn’t fit into Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s game plan or quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s strengths. They are already 2.5 games back of the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens in a highly competitive and hotly contested AFC North division. Stick a fork in the Steelers; they’re done.

Back when rapey times were happy times for Ben Roethlisberger and losing to a playoff underdog would be a desirable outcome. 1

While no team clinches a playoff spot five weeks into the season, the first five weeks often begin to pull back the curtain on what fans can expect to see in January. Barring injuries to Drew Brees or Peyton Manning, the Saints and Broncos will win their divisions. The Chiefs have a lot of growing to do, but they are doing it quickly. They should expect to reach the postseason and barring an injury to Alex Smith, will have nobody to blame but themselves should they fail to clinch a Wild Card spot, given their 5-0 start.

The Jaguars were never in the playoff discussion and the Steelers have to come to terms with the dreaded “R” word: rebuilding. The Giants…I am not ready to write anyone off in the NFC East, with only two games separating first and last place. But the turnovers and penalties have to stop immediately before the G-men join the Race for (South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon) Clowney.

All of these teams have their fans talking about them. Three of these teams would rather be on the back page of the sports section. The other three are enjoying football nirvana, for now.

Peyton Manning, and his brother Eli, got a little help from their old pal Tony Romo yesterday. 2
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