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Weekly SPF Rating #2: The Desperation Factor

We already warned everyone that 2009 looked like a down year for our SPF teams across the board.  It could be worse than we imagined after one of our better teams (Tennessee) has stumbled to an 0-2 start.  

As we look to this week, the oftentimes hidden factor in NFL performance on a week to week basis is desperation.  NFL players are professionals and they know when their season lies in the balance.  Teams fighting to stay alive as playoff contenders have usually been known to provide a better than average effort.

Right now, there are really only three teams that might be not be totally focused for this week's game.  Both Atlanta and New Orleans are 2-0 and headed off to play slightly more desperate AFC East teams (New England and Buffalo, respectively) on the road.  The Colts head to Arizona to play the Cardinals.  It wouldn't shock us if any of these teams lost today.

Then, there are those teams that are just undermanned.  The Rams, Bucs, and Jaguars just don't seem to have the personnel or the coaching to compete in 2009.  They are all 0-2 and appear to be likely candidates to go 0-3.

So who is our most desperate SPF team going into Week 3?  Let's take a look.

Houston Texans - The Texans stand as our least desperate of the desperate teams.  They are 1-1 coming off of a huge road win in Tennessee.  Considering that the Texans haven't handled success well in the past, their home tilt with the Jags seems like a trap game.

It could be, but the Jags are really, really bad.  

This is the kind of win that could announce that the Texans are finally making a playoff push after years of unfulfilled promise.

Whether or not they do, we just don't see the requisite desperation to guarantee a top performance for the enigmatic Texans.

Cincinnati Bengals - They are very similar to the Texans.  If not for a fluke tipped pass, the Bengals would be 2-0 heading into their home game against the rival Steelers.

They still have the same desperation deficiency as Houston, but they get the nod over Houston because the Bengals always want to beat the Steelers worse than just about anyone on their schedule.  Losing to them yet again keeps the Bengals as an also-ran team in most football fans' eyes.

Tennessee Titans - This team was one of our playoff locks, but they have lost two close games to start the season.  Most disturbingly, the Titans' usually reliable defense has fallen apart.  To make matter worse, they have to head up to Jersey to face a 2-0 Jets team riding high after thumping the Patriots.

There is little doubt that the Titans are desperate, but are they the most desperate?

Probably not.  

The Titans still have the horses to turn it around even after an 0-3 start.  The simple fact is that their defense needs to settle in under new DC Chuck Cecil.  Jeff Fisher's presence will also start to pay dividends.  The offense seems fine so with a few adjustments the Titans could find themselves playoff bound despite an 0-3 start.

Because we aren't sold on the Texans as a team or the Colts defense just yet, we don't think that anyone in the AFC South can pull away from them yet.  We're not sure Tennessee does either.

Even though they are 0-2, they are still less desperate than our next 1-1 team.

Dallas Cowboys - The Cowboys are entering one of their most-hyped seasons in decades with a team that is not a top caliber squad.  They proved that by losing their first game ever in the new Cowboys Stadium by losing to their division rival NY Giants.

As they face their second straight nationally-televised home game, the Cowboys do not want to lose again.  They will be pulling out every stop to make sure that they don't begin their history in this new stadium at 0-2.

(If we could put desperation factors in place for coaches alone, Wade Phillips might be near the top, but it's clear that Wade doesn't really represent the hearts and minds of the Cowboys yet.)

"Don't worry all you Cowboys' fans.  I can make this man disappear by 2010."

Miami Dolphins - This is where it gets tough to distinguish amongst the desperate.  The Dolphins are clearly undermanned, but they are also well-coached.  Despite their horrible loss to the Colts on Monday Night Football where they dominated the entire game statistically only to lose on quick strike Colt TDs, the Dolphins are still a competitive group.

Bill Parcells' brilliance comes from his belief in immediately creating a winning culture wherever he goes.  This passes down to his coach, Tony Sparano, and his QB, veteran Chad Pennington, who can hear the clock ticking on his career.

We expect the Dolphins to put up a valiant fight in San Diego today.  They might even win.  The biggest problem is that the Chargers have much more talent just like the Colts did. 

Carolina Panthers - The Panthers have been rewarded with their 2008 NFC South title by having to face two straight playoff teams.  They lost to both of them (Philly and Atlanta).

The Panthers are going into Cowboys Stadium on Monday Night Football with their season truly on the line against an almost equally desperate opponent.  This game on Monday should be absolutely physical and violent.

Neither team are finesse teams.  They both expect to run over their opponents.  Both will try and many may be hurt in the process. 

At the end, the losing team will be on the outside looking in because the NFC is too competitive.  There aren't enough playoff spots available when the NFC's East, North, and South division all have at least 2 teams that are playoff worthy.

John Fox and QB Jake Delhomme need a playoff run to save their job.  The only thing that keeps them from our top desperation spot is the fact that both have to know what a huge hill they have to climb.

Washington Redskins - The Redskins win our desperadoes of the week for one reason - they are playing to pathetic Lions.  

The Redskins are 13-2 all time against the Lions.  The Lions have lost 18 straight games since last season.  The Lions are starting a rookie QB.  The Lions are simultaneously perhaps the worst team in the NFL and one of the NFL's oldest teams - a dubious distinction indeed.

The fact that many Redskin fans are worried about this game explains why they are desperate.  

Swampland Sports expect the Redskins to show up in a big way against the hapless Lions.  Their coach and QB are under the gun.  Neither may be back in 2010 if the Redskins don't make a serious playoff push.

 "Jason, I might be the worst head coach you've ever had, but we need each other." 

related tags

North Carolina,
New Orleans,
Southern Pro Football,
Mercenary Territory,

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