Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Some Light NFL Blogging

Remember 2007, when the football world was nuts over the New England Patriots? Love 'em or hate 'em, football fans were glued to each and every Patriots game to see whether or not they could do the impossible and complete a 16-0 season. This year, with only six games left in the season we've got two 10-0 teams, both of whom have decent chances of running the table, yet the discussion is not just muted, it's practically nonexistent.

The Saints have put up 369 points through their first ten games, 42 less than where the Patriots were in 2007, but technically on pace to surpass the Patriots record of 589 points by a single point. The Saints have failed to generate excitement because, at least in part, they were down in each of their previous three games before this last one to mediocre opposition. They ended up with victories against the Dolphins, Falcons, and Panthers, but I think the struggles in consecutive weeks, along with the team's seemingly growing defensive problems, put a few question marks in the heads of football fandom.

The Colts meanwhile have just continued to win, winning close game after close game . Whereas the '07 Pats manhandled opponents and ran up scores, the Colts of '09 have won six of their ten games by less than a touchdown.

The thing is, however you want to judge the Saints and Colts for their performances thus far (and I would say they are not amongst the most impressive 10-0 teams we've ever seen), they both do have achievable paths to 16-0 seasons. The Colts have a few tough division matchups left, starting this week in Houston. If they can get through Houston, they've got a revived Tennessee team at home, Denver at home, a trip to Jacksonville, and finally, games against the Jets and Bills to finish the season.

The Saints and Patriots play this Monday night in a huge game, but if the Saints can beat the Pats, their last five games are at Washington, at Atlanta, home against Dallas, home against Tampa, and at Carolina. Like the Colts, the divisional matchups will be tough, but it's not an impossible schedule. And in some ways, the lack of attention on the undefeated seasons may play to the Saints and Colt advantage. In 2007, after their 10-0 start, the Pats faced a murderous stretch of teams out for blood, barely getting out of Philly and Baltimore with wins in prime time games. Do I actually think the Saints and Colts will go undefeated? No to the Saints because I think their schedule is just a bit too tough and no to the Colts because I think that they could lose a meaningless game at the end of the year if they follow their MO of resting players. But it would be fun if we had a little more focus on these teams.

In other news, the Jacksonville Jaguars would be a playoff team if the NFL season ended today, to the disgust of football fans everywhere. With apologies to Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars are not a good football team and have only the quirks of the NFL schedule to thank for their record. Of their six wins this year, five have been by a touchdown or less, including close games against the Rams, Chiefs, Jets, and Bills. After losing their opening two games, they've lost only twice in their past eight, but those losses were to the Titans, 30-13 and to the Seahawks, 41-0. I don't think they'll wind up in the playoffs, but they've got to be one of the worst 6-4 teams I can ever remember.

And finally, I'd just like to take a moment to appreciate the show put on by the Browns and Lions this weekend. Obviously there were defensive breakdowns throughout the game by both teams, but breakdowns aside, both teams put together not just their best offensive games of the year, but their best offensive games of the last two years. I fully expected this to be some sort of a 10-6 game, not because it was going to be a defensive struggle, but because I fully expected neither team to be able to take advantage of the others mistakes. But they did and this highlighted why offensive football is so much more appealing than defensive football. It's not just that offense is more fun to watch, it's that when we see touchdown passes flying through the air, we know that someone on the field is doing something right. When you watch a 6-3 game, it's always a bit harder to tell just what your watching. I remember in 1997, the Patriots and Steelers played a tense 7-6 playoff game that was all about good defense. But more often than not, those low scoring games are a result of pure ineptitude on both sides of the ball. It's why games between bad teams tend to be low scoring and why everyone was so shocked by this Lions-Browns game. SO take a moment to appreciate the Lions and Browns and give them credit for putting on one of the best shows of the weekend.


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