October 6th, 2009 10:32 EST
The NFL's Curse of the Undefeated
It happened yesterday, when I was watching the Sunday Night Football game between the Steelers and the Chargers, early Monday morning (I live in Tokyo, Japan). The announcers took a break from the limited action (it got better later) to discuss the league in general and they pointed out that the Brothers Manning are a combined 8-0 on the season. They, also, opined that at this point in the season, the Colts are probably the best team in the league.
As a Colts fan, for better or worse, `til death do us part, you might imagine that I would be pleased, yea thrilled. Unfortunately, even more than I am a Colts fan, I am the eternal pessimist.
Teams that start out strong do not win the Super Bowl. As evidence, I give none. Take my word on this one, OK?
In recent years, the Colts have made a habit of strong starts and often, by the mid point of the season, there is talk of a possible "undefeated run". Inevitably, the ever increasingly decrepit Miami Dolphins of the undefeated season are brought back to give their usual smug interpretations of why today`s teams don`t stack up to theirs.
I don`t buy that but I do have some wholly unsolicited advice for teams that want to win the Super Bowl. Lose one early and if possible, badly. Better to be motivated by a bad, lopsided early season loss than to face ever increasing pressure to achieve an undefeated season, despite the fact that this is not the point of the season, anyway. After all, the Patriots had an undefeated season and lost the Super Bowl. The undefeated season, far from being a supreme accomplishment, became an embarrassment. Put in a another way, you can`t hang an undefeated season banner from the rafters.
A fast start leads to another bane of NFL teams with championship ambitions, a first-round playoff bye. Better to fight your way into the playoffs and earn a spot on the last day of the season than to finish with a meaningless game or two and wait another week for some real action. Check it out for yourself, since I am too lazy to, but teams with first-round byes seldom go anywhere in the playoffs. The Colts` Super Bowl win was not in their 14-2, unbeaten run near miss season. It was the following year when they struggled much more, especially on the defensive end.
Some may say that it is much too early to even think about an unbeaten run, only four weeks into the season. Of course, they are right. That`s why nobody likes them. So, I like to get an early start on my worrying.
First Old Man: "I recently discovered that I`m an optimist."
Second Old Man: "You, an optimist? You worry all the time."
First Old Man: "You think it`s easy being an optimist?"