Socrates Chimes In On The Week in the NFL
by Robert Ferringo - 10/09/2006
(Note: This article appears in the current edition of Every Edge Magazine.)
"An unexamined life is not worth living."
Socrates. Interesting guy. He was a huge fan of elenchus and the zone blitz.
He also made a point that should be constantly applied to the National Football League. We are five steps into a 21-week journey that will take us from the scorching sweat of an Indian summer to the cold sweat that accompanies a backdoor Super Bowl cover. But along the way we must be in a constant state of self-awareness.
One-quarter of the season is over and by now the general public has a fair-weather opinion formed for just about every team in the NFL. However, I think it's important to take a look back at your preseason expectations for each club and calculate where you're at compared to where you thought you'd be.
The reason for this type of retrospection is two-fold. First, check out the teams you had a read on and decide how long you can ride them. Second, decide what to do about the teams that you completely missed. You can either reevaluate and formulate a new opinion, or trust your initial instinct and position yourself for the rebound.
Two examples of why it's important to do this are the 2004 Carolina Panthers and the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2004, I felt that Carolina still had top-flight talent even after they started 1-5. They closed the season 8-2 against the spread. Last year I was touting the Steelers as my Super Bowl favorite. They began slowly, going just 3-2, but I kept the faith and was rewarded with an 11-4 ATS finish.
I've been on a 7-2-1 rush in The League over the past two weeks, so I'm not a complete fool. But that also doesn't mean that I haven't been completely off base with at least a couple of my preseason predictions. Here are some of the best and worst of my prognostications in my team previews I compiled before the start of the season:
Chicago Bears (5-0)
The Prophecy: "The No. 2 seed in the NFC brings back all 22 starters and adds depth on defense and special teams. Combine that with a cupcake schedule and you have a season tailor-made for a Super Bowl run."
The Lie: "They didn't add a tight end or another proven receiver, and those two moves will be their downfall."
The Skinny: My preseason Super Bowl selection - which Vegas posted at 30-to-1 - is right on schedule. The offense has been unstoppable, as both tight end Desmond Clark and No. 2 wideout Bernard Berrian have become big-play threats.
Cincinnati Bengals (3-1)
The Prophecy: "This defense is not good enough to win a championship."
The Lie: "I'm sticking by my original prediction that the Bengals will be a team to fade this season."
The Skinny: I still hold firm that the Bengals are nowhere near a Super Bowl-caliber team. We're going to learn a lot about the maturity of this club over the next month, as their schedule gets daunting.
Philadelphia Eagles (4-1)
The Prophecy: "After having their 2005 season hijacked by injuries and He Whose Name We Will Not Speak, Philadelphia is poised for a huge bounce-back year."
The Lie: "There's a weird kind of morph going on here, as if they're not sure if they want to rebuild or not."
The Skinny: I know that I didn't see or hear anyone jumping on the Eagles bandwagon during the preseason. Now it's a convoy. They have questions - defensive frailty, no running game - but this is the least shady of the NFC East teams.
Baltimore Ravens (4-0)
The Prophecy: "The Baltimore Ravens may be the biggest X-Factor team in the AFC."
The Lie: "It will take some time early in the season to get it together on offense and sort out some issues on defense."
The Skinny: The defense has been phenomenal, and the offense has just good enough. The Ravens are warriors but they need to find an offensive spark during this upcoming rough spot in their schedule.
Miami Dolphins (1-3)
The Prophecy: "A general rule in gambling is to beware of the Trendy Team."
The Lie: "The acquisition of Dante Culpepper gives the Dolphins offense a leader that they haven't had since some Marino guy took his Isotoners and went home."
The Skinny: The Dolphins are an unmitigated disaster, and I wouldn't hold my breath for another late-season run. I mean, Joey Harrington is their only hope. What does that tell you?
New Orleans Saints (4-1)
The Prophecy: "Like so many teams in the NFL, the Saints offense will be a function of how their young line gels."
The Lie: "Residing in a tough division and with a ruthless schedule the Saints are headed for another losing season."
The Skinny: It's still very early, but the Saints are legit. They will definitely be in the running all season because their style is portable. However, I still feel as if they are a second-tier team.
Now that we've established that my hindsight is 20/20, let's see if my foresight can be just as keen. Here's a look forward to some games that have peaked my interest as we head into Week 6 in the NFL:
New York Giants at Atlanta (-3)
This could be a painful trip to the Dirty South for the G-Men. Atlanta's defense should be back at full strength with the return of John Abraham and Edge Hartwell. What's worse is that the Georgia Dome is notorious for sending offensive linemen away with night sweats and PTSD. That looms large for a Giants line that's been about as reliable as a Times Square street vendor.
Besides execution, the Giants other weakness is toughness. Unfortunately for them, the Falcons treat opponents like Ray Lewis and his posse treat strangers in downtown Atlanta. The Falcons simply bludgeon opposing defenses for an ungodly 234.2 rushing yards per game.
Further, Atlanta is 3-0 ATS off a week of rest under Jim Mora and is 5-1 in the last six head-to-head meetings with New York. Conversely, New York is 11-5 ATS on turf since the start of 2001.
Philadelphia (-3) at New Orleans
There's no doubt that this will be a Letdown Game. The question is, which team will suffer the letdown?
The Eagles should be mentally and physically drained from their past two games. First there was the Monday Night massacre of the Packers, followed by their score-settling victory over Terrell Owens and division rival Dallas. Philadelphia is still extremely banged up, but they are 5-0 ATS in the Crescent City.
The Saints are still riding in the clouds. Besides their emotionally charged triumph over Atlanta at the re-opening of the Superdome, the Saints have beaten foes with a combined 2-12 record. New Orleans' margin of victory in those games has been just five points.
Kansas City at Pittsburgh (-6.5)
I'm torn on this one. At first, I figured that a Herm Edwards-coached team would likely wet itself under the immense pressure of the Blitzburg defense. Especially after struggling with the feeble Arizona "D" for three quarters. But then I remember that the shell-shocked Steelers are just 9-9 ATS at the home since the start of 2004. Tough call.
Clearly, a lot has to do with the health of Larry Johnson. The Chiefs are grinders but if their main man is hindered at all by the aftereffects of a dirty hit in Arizona they're due for a scalping. I just don't feel like Kansas City is talented enough to go on the road and pull off back-to-back victories.
The Steelers are desperate and enraged. But the problem is they just aren't that good, and they haven't proven that they should be laying more than a touchdown to anyone. Roethlisberger is a shadow and the running game has taken a huge step backwards. The king is not dead, but he is making out a will.
Carpe diem, my friend. And good luck.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his Insider Page here.