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Joe Nelson - Blogs

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BETWEEN THE LINES - SEP. 20

By Joe Nelson
Posted 09/20/2010 at 07:15 PM

It may just be two weeks but in a 16-game season two weeks means a lot. As it is often emphasized, starting 2-0 is not as important as not starting 0-2. Since 2000 only seven of 69 teams that started 0-2 made the playoffs, or just above ten percent. Last season nine teams started 0-2 and not one of them made the playoffs. Looking back on the 2009 0-2 teams there were three 2008 division champions in Miami, Tennessee, and Carolina. Of the nine teams that started 2-0 in 2009, only five would go on to make the playoffs so it is more important not to read too much into the hot starts while the poor starts can be telling.

 

Among the 0-2 teams this season there are two 2009 division champions and both Dallas and Minnesota were projected to not just be playoff teams, but legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Both of those teams have week 4 bye weeks and don’t rule out a few serious moves if either gets to the off week at 0-3. Dallas appears to have the tougher journey this week, heading to a big game with 2-0 Houston while Minnesota hosts the 0-2 Lions. No one can be too shocked at the other 0-2 teams with Detroit, St. Louis, Buffalo, and Cleveland expected to struggle this season. Carolina is perhaps a minor surprise to be on the list but the Panthers are a team in transition with an unproven QB and injuries have not helped the cause. We don’t have Monday’s result but should the 49ers fall into the 0-2 hole they would join the Vikings and Cowboys on the list of serious disappointments that could be in for a long season. Ironically Dallas and Minnesota will play in a few weeks and needless to say the loser of that game will face a serious battle to even consider being back in the NFC playoff picture.

 

The 2-0 starts are commendable but don’t expect all these teams to make the playoffs. Last season Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco, and the New York Giants started 2-0 only to miss the playoffs. At worst those four teams all won at least eight games so for teams like Tampa Bay and Kansas City, the 2-0 start is huge step towards a respectable season. Tampa Bay certainly looks the most suspect with wins over two 0-2 teams that were also lousy last season and the next three games are against 2009 playoff teams. Kansas City is a team that we trumpeted for success in our Annual and with the schedule ahead a winning year is possible for the Chiefs. The only 2-0 team that has really been dominant in its two wins is the Packers as all the other undefeated teams have played close games. Green Bay faces off with fellow 2-0 Chicago for the early NFC North lead this week. The Packers were projected as serious Super Bowl contenders so this start is no surprise but the schedule will stiffen significantly in the coming weeks especially in a brutal mid-season stretch.

 

Going 2-0 may not make for a playoff lock but keep in mind that all four teams from the conference championship games last season started 2-0 last year. In the early going home teams have gone 20-11 S/U and 18-11-2 ATS which makes Miami’s 2-0 road start carry a bit more weight. None of the teams that opened with two home games has won both however. In 2009 the season ATS edge was solidly with the road teams last year and road underdogs covered in nearly 55 percent of the games. The early 2010 numbers are a bit of a departure from recent seasons when it has seemed like the home field edge has been diluted. The Packers covered as the first double-digit favorite of the season last week but it looks like there will be three big favorites on the board this week.  None of those teams is a 2-0 squad although all three are facing 0-2 teams. A more surprising 2-0 vs. 2-0 match-up is Pittsburgh heading to Tampa Bay this week. The Steelers have survived without Ben Roethlisberger although back-up Dennis Dixon was hurt last week. This will be a big measuring stick game for the Buccaneers.  Best of Luck, and on to this week’s slate…

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