The League

Michael Kun
Author

Michael Kun

Co-author of The Football Uncyclopedia. He is also the author of six other books and is a practicing attorney.

Too early to tell

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It's awfully easy to look at the first couple weeks of the NFL season and jump to conclusions.

And often those conclusions will prove to be wrong.

Two games is only a small portion of the season. It's just too small of a sampling, as they say. Just because a team starts 2-0 doesn't mean that they're suddenly a powerhouse headed for the playoffs. In fact, just last year the Denver Broncos started the season 2-0. Then they went 3-0. Then 4-0, 5-0 and 6-0, even landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Then they missed the playoffs altogether, going 8-8. The 2-0 start proved to be just an illusion. (Sorry for the reminder, Broncos fans.)

At the same time, just because a team starts 0-2 doesn't necessarily mean that the season is lost or that it won't make the playoffs. Yes, it's an uphill road. But in 2003, the New England Patriots started 0-2. Last time I looked, they ended up winning the Super Bowl that season. (Hope that makes your day, Patriots fans.)

Of course, as a matter of pure statistics, a team that starts 2-0 has a significantly better chance of making the playoffs than a team that starts 0-2. You don't need an advanced degree in statistics to know that. But the NFL season, while short, is still long enough for teams eventually to find their true levels. A great team that gets off to a bumpy start can still find its way into the post-season. And a mediocre team that somehow starts off 2-0 -- easy opponents? A couple fluke plays? -- still has plenty of time to sink to the bottom of the standings.

Is it surprising the Bears are 2-0? Or the Bucs? Or the Chiefs? Or the Dolphins? Absolutely.

Is it surprising that the Cowboys and Vikings are both winless? Absolutely.

Of course, there's also a correlation between these "surprises." The Bears couldn't have gone to 2-0 this week unless the Cowboys fell to 0-2. Why? Because they played each other. The same for the Dolphins and Vikings. If the Cowboys had beaten the Bears, and if the Vikings had beaten the Dolphins, all four teams would be 1-1, and we wouldn't be talking about any of them being surprising, would we?

That said, it's still a surprise to see those teams where they are positioned right now because few, other than diehard fans, would have predicted 2-0 starts for Chicago, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Miami. And only the staunchest Brett Favre and Tony Romo haters would have predicted 0-2 starts for their respective teams, which most fans and most publications saw as Super Bowl contenders.

Are the Bears, Bucs, Chiefs and Dolphins suddenly Super Bowl contenders? Probably not. They are all flawed teams. They all have plenty of time to come back to the pack, like last year's Broncos did. One or two may sneak into the playoffs though, and it's certainly possible one of them will prove to be a much more formidable team as the season wears on. Lately, one team seems to come out of nowhere every season. And if I had to pick one of these teams as a dark horse based on the first two games, I'd pick the Dolphins. They could run the table on the overrated Patriots and Jets squads, as well as the Bills, and finish with 10 to 12 wins.

Are the Vikings and Cowboys done just two games into the season? That's a different question with a different answer. It's not impossible to turn around an 0-2 start. But have you seen anything in either team's first two games to suggest that's going to happen? Anything at all? It's not that either team is going to go winless. That won't happen. It's just that neither team looks like they're a playoff team momentarily disguised as an also-ran. The Vikings suddenly look too old (Favre), too ineffective (Favre) and too injured (Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice) to do much this year. And the Cowboys look like they have no running game, a limited passing game, and a penchant for drive-killing or game-killing penalties. But if I had to pick which of these teams is going to turn it around and sneak into the playoffs, I'd pick the Vikings. Not because they necessarily are the better team, but because they should have a couple of built-in wins against the continually rebuilding and perhaps Matt Stafford-less Lions, while the Cowboys don't have an easy game in their division.

But I could be entirely wrong. And if you disagree, you could be entirely wrong, too. Because two games is just too early in the season to be jumping to conclusions.

By Michael Kun  |  September 21, 2010; 10:04 AM ET  | Category:  Chicago Bears , Dallas Cowboys , Kansas City Chiefs , Miami Dolphins , Minnesota Vikings , NFL , Tampa Bay Buccaneers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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