Somewhere out there is a stat about NFL teams making the playoffs after starting the season 0-2. About 24 seconds of Google research reveals about one team a year makes the playoffs after losing their first two games. Now, this is a bit of a misleading stat. It’s like the one that says the team that wins the first game of a series wins the series “x” amount of the time. Well, that’s because the better team usually wins the first game. And, in the NFL, a lot of teams will start 0-2 because they stink, not because they haven’t figured it out yet. But, there are plenty of 0-1 teams out there that don’t want to test the math, so to speak.
Five Must Wins:
1. Tampa Bay. I’d say the Bucs are destined to be 0-2, and aren’t going to make the playoffs, but they get a nice little one-week reprieve and a chance to sort things out against Minnesota. If they lose to the Vikings, they can probably forget about the upward trend of last year. The bad news is, it’s in Minnesota, and the Vikings are also 0-1, but that’s just a speed bump before they fall off the cliff. Line: Minnesota by 3. Chance they start 0-2: 45%
2. Atlanta. Maybe they shouldn’t have gotten blown out by Chicago in week 1, because now they have to beat the Eagles at home to avoid starting 0-2. The good news is the Saints are about to pop up on this list and the NFC South is a collective 0-4. Michael Vick’s return vs. Atlanta’s desperation make this the hardest game of the week to judge in terms of momentum/intensity. Line: Philly (-1.5). Chance they start 0-2: 55%
3. New Orleans. There’s no shame in losing to Green Bay, but it still puts the Saints in a bit of hole as they host the Bears this week. Tough opening schedule for Chicago, huh? But, they’ve already got their one win, and now New Orleans needs to even their record and needs to sort out their defense, which has been shredded of late. Line: New Orleans by 6.5 (wow). Chance they start 0-2: 30%
4. Dallas. This one’s got to be for the team’s and the quarterback’s state of mind. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how they lost that game on Sunday night. I know it was all Romo, but how does he come up with these new and interesting ways to blow games? Cowboys can’t afford to start 0-2, especially in SF, with six divisional wars left. Their non-divisional schedule is pretty soft from here out, time to take advantage. Line: Dallas by 3. Chance of starting 0-2: 35%.
5. Pittsburgh. The schedule makers must have a soft spot for Pittsburgh. Getting Seattle at home after the game in Baltimore is almost like a bye-week. Especially this putrid Seahawks team, what a lifesaver. Not only do the Steelers need to even their record, they need to blow out Seattle and reestablish some momentum in the AFC, which has plenty of teams looking ready to steamroll right by them. Line: Steelers by 14. Aside: when’s the last time an 0-1 team, coming off a 4 TD loss was a 2TD favorite the next week? Chance of starting 0-2: 0%.
Five Guys Who Will Rebound or Improve:
1. Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall had a tough match-up, fumbled, and then the Steelers had to abandon the run. I don’t think there’s a worse set of circumstances, so don’t be surprised if week 1 is his lowest output of the year. Seattle in town means Mendenhall in the end zone.
2. Owen Daniels. Who cares about tight ends? Well, there’s not much depth out there, and a lot of people are counting on Daniels. Did you see what Aaron Hernandez and Gronk did to the Dolphins Monday? If Daniels can put up 1/3 of that, it’ll be a big improvement from week 1 where the Texans shut it down after halftime.
3. Michael Turner. Turner ran for 100 yards in week one, but he’s playing Philly which means there are going to be holes. Big holes. I’d conservatively expect at least 16 points out of Turner this week.
4. Vincent Jackson. Jackson just missed on a deep TD last week and disappointed with only 31 yards, but the Patriots can yield some serious ground through the air. It could be another wild shootout in terms of pure offensive stats. I imagine both QBs will spread it around, but Jackson certainly gets a nice boost.
5. Matt Schaub. If Schaub can’t do it this week, plant him on the bench for good. Somehow he put up single digit points in a game where the Texans scored 5 TDs in the 1st half. He’s got too many weapons and Miami’s defense is too atrocious for him not to come back with a 300 yard, 2+ TD game.
Five Fantasy Busts/Bubble Bursts:
1. Kevin Kolb. I haven’t given up hope that the Cardinals and Kolb will both be terrible this year. They beat the Panthers. Great. Kolb’s 300 yd, 2 TD game happened by default. In Philly we know about Kolb’s extremes. Washington’s got a much better defense than Carolina. Watch out.
2. Darren Sproles. Every time Sproles touches the ball it looks like he’s going to score 8 or 10 fantasy points on that very play. Last week, that actually came to fruition. He returned a kick, looked really dangerous coming out the backfield, but against the Bears he won’t get as many chances and certainly won’t return a kick.
3. Cadillac Williams. The popular “plug & play” option this week after Jackson’s injury and his nice performance against the Birds. But, that was the Eagles and the Giants should realize all they have to do is stop the run and St. Louis will implode. Not the 1-2 week sleeper people were hoping for.
4. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzy’s own percentage in ESPN Leagues jumped 35% after his week one clinic. That alone should scare you off a little bit. The Raiders should be a little more stingy thanks to their defensive front , but regardless of circumstances it’d be difficult to get anywhere near last week’s numbers. Is it snowing in Buffalo yet?
5. Fred Davis. I picked up Davis on waivers and I’m not even sure why I did. He didn’t score. How many 100 yards games is he going to have? Chris Cooley is still in the picture. Davis looked good, but how much of that was NY’s devastated secondary? I’ll be sending him back to the FA pool soon enough.
Commissioner’s D.A. Top-10 for Week 2:
1. Luke McCown. The Jets should help McCown find his level, which is several rungs below every other QB in the league.
2. Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson on the road, in Pittsburgh, in a game the Steelers must win? Yes, please.
3. Alex Smith. Somehow I left Alex Smith out of my rankings for week one. Several people privately and politely brought that to my attention. Not making the same mistake this time around
4. Cincy: Is Gradkow starting? Is Panama Red back? Who knows, who cares. The Bengals peaked in week one.
5. Donovan McNabb. Peter King Says, “Will he throw for more than 37 yards? Maybe. Is he done for good? I DON’T KNOW.”
6. Jason Campbell. Isn’t Campbell about due to blow a hammy and finish a game with 19 passing yards?
7. Hasselbeck. Don’t plan on the Kenny Britt show to make an appearance even in a letdown week for the Ravens.
8. Colt McCoy. McCoy was 19 of 40 last week. I don’t know how you can ignore that, even if he is playing the Colts.
9. Matt Casell. Todd Haley’s confused. He needs your help. Did I pick up the Lions defense this week? You bet your sweet ass I did.
10. Sam Bradford. Bradford got last pick in gym class. By the time he chose his WRs, the only kids left were run of the mill dodge ball fodder.