Thursday, December 10, 2009

On the doorstep of history

Right now there are two teams with legitimate shots to go undefeated. They are so far ahead of the pack there is already talk about if they should play all their starters when they have homefield or rest them to avoid injuries. While they are similar in some ways (both are big offenses with great QB and pretty good run games with beat up secondaries), I think the Colts and Saints will go different routes.

The Colts I bet will rest guys. One, no team is more centered and identified with one player - who happens to play a high injury risk position. They also have a rookie coach, who is pretty quiet and not a risk taker (and doesn't have much experience in a media firestorm and would probably not like to gain more should there be a big injury). And their GM is conservative. But there is also recent history. The Colts have been good - with long undefeated streaks to start the season several times. But they have only won a single Super Bowl (and it was their only trip). I think they worry that if Manning only retires with one ring they will be remembered as an very good, but ultimately disappointing team - a la the Atlanta Braves with their great pitching staffs of the 90s. The Colts will worry about staying healthy to maximize their chances for another title.

And I'm not a believer in the idea that teams that rest players get rusty. There are plenty of cases of teams that rested their guys and did not lose (especially not their first game). The case everyone always brings up is the '07 Giants who played hard against the Pats in Week 17 with nothing to play for and went on to win the title. Now while I would argue it helped them scout the Pats when they played them again (and the fact it was close gave them confidence they could hang with them) - in their first playoff game in Tampa they got mauled in the first quarter and were not sharp at all.

Anyway, the Saints will try for history. Sean Payton is aggressive and has that touch of arrogance about him. Plus the Saints suffer from the stench of a terrible history. While they returned the opening kickoff of the first game in team history for a touchdown in 1967 it would take them 20 years to have a winning season and make the playoffs (they only went .500 one time as well). This only the tenth winning season is a 42 year history. It took them 34 years to win a playoff game they have only won two (this will be their 7th trip to the postseason). Really can you remember any great moments in Saints history? Maybe the Dome Patrol? This is not one of the great franchises in NFL history, but they have a chance to entirely change it in ONE season.

If I was a coach, I would go for 16-0. Yeah, you'll be shredded if someone gets hurt, but you are immortal if you can do it. You can't runaway in the face of history. (Could be I have the touch of arrogance too). But you know what is funny? While both have a legitimate shot (if they try), neither is a team for the ages.

As an aside. In New England Bill Belichick trying to show everyone he's still got it, especially since he didn't like the unaccustomed media scrutiny after blowing the Colts game. But the league has started to figure him and and quite frankly the D is just bad - maybe constantly trading down in the draft the figuring you can grab anyone or some stiff free agent and make them great isn't the best way to make a team huh? Plus, as if he doesn't have enough distractions now he has to deal with pouting superstar (and other pouters - Adalius Thomas), with which he has no real experience. Dynasty over.

Also I am watching the Browns game. Here is a tip to tell if your coach is good. If your team is in the wildcat (a fading fad) and gets a false start and you STAY in the wildcat at a longer distance when the defense just saw you do it, then you don't have a good coach.

Also while I am surprised to say this from that I expected when the season began, the Steelers are done.


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