9.21.2006

Rocky's Football Corner #3

by Rick Rockwell

This week we return to Panic City.

Last week, one of the football entries in this blog noted fans in Dallas, Denver and elsewhere were already questioning whether their team was doomed for the season. Consider, this was after just one loss.

Now, that Dallas and Denver have notched a win, the hyperkinetic fans and the media that beat them into a frenzy seem calmer. For the moment. But they nervously await the total breakdown of their favorite team any second. Such tension must be the fuel that keeps fans addicted throughout the season.

Of course, they are also spurred on by the ranting of sports talk radio where it is often difficult to figure out who is the rabid fan and who is the half-crazed host. Most of these talkshow hosts seem to know very little about football, although they profess to know everything about all sports. They are just part of the gaggle of shouters and spouters who seem to entertain some folks these days. Whether it’s sports, politics, or some other topic, these instant pundits overpopulate the media landscape. If they can articulate at high decibels and come up with a great put-down then they are cool. For all of 15 seconds. But given the attention spans that the media foster today, that’s all the time they seemingly need.

Panic keeps the fans tuning into these shows, so each week these programs are the Return to Panic City. Don’t believe them.

Even teams that are winless this season still have a shot at a very good year. The Carolina Panthers, a playoff team last year, are just one example. Of course, they were jinxed when Sports Illustrated picked them to win the Super Bowl. My Hero Team, the Miami Dolphins are in the same boat: hexed by the preseason picks. But they should improve quickly. Washington, another winless team, is better than the new season’s record too, especially in the NFC East, another division that is a true dogfight.

The flipside: some of the undefeated surprises of the new season are just hype. First, there’s the New Orleans Saints. Sure, no one wants to criticize the Saints: many members of the team faced the same calamity that befell the rest of the residents of New Orleans. And they have picked themselves up out of the devastation. They have a new coach, new talent and a new attitude. So the fact the team is 2-0 for the first time in history is worthy of a smile. But look at the teams the Saints beat. Truthfully, this team is still a rebuilding project.

Also consider the undefeated Bears. Last year, that team was exposed as one-dimensional when it got to the playoffs, a caricature of a playoff team that snuck in based on a weak schedule. Sure the Bears have a strong defense, but the offensive statistics are suspect. Likewise, the Baltimore Ravens, a team I want to embrace. Despite that team’s undefeated record, the offense is not in gear and the defense will need to continue to carry the load.

So don’t believe the talk radio and sports pundits. Two games are not enough to see where this season is going.

But three just might be. In the past 15 years, only three teams have gone winless in the first three games and still made the playoffs. So the reality for some teams, next stop: Panic City.



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