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SPF T. I. Poll (Week Three)

Posted: Sep 25, 2007

Back to our weekly gauge of how each SPF team is resonating with its fans.  First, let's take a look back at last week's Team Identity Poll:

1.  Dallas Cowboys
2.  Washington Redskins
3.  Indianapolis Colts
4.  Tampa Bay Bucs
5.  Tennessee Titans
6.  Cincinatti Bengals
7.  Carolina Panthers
8.  Houston Texans
9.  New Orleans Saints
10.  St. Louis Rams
11. Jacksonville Jaguars
12.  Miami Dolphins
13.  Atlanta Falcons

This week we see things are starting to stabilize.  Teams are starting to show what they are after three games.    Several teams have a lot still to prove, but the overall health of the SPF Footprint isn't bad right now.

Here we go....

1.  Dallas Cowboys - There's not a whole lot to say.  The Cowboys are emerging as the team that Jerry Jones pictured years ago.  Jones is at the center of this team (exactly how he insists) but they are winning, and winning with great flair.

Jones has everything - the wins, the young QB, the characters (TO), the coach, the heir apparent (Jason Garrett), etc.  The Cowboys appear ready for a long run as a top NFL team.  They might even have another Super Bowl ring ceremony to celebrate when they move into their new stadium.

2.  Indianapolis Colts - It had to happen.  The Colts moved past the Redskins.  They just have been too good all season.  The only thing that holds them back has been their lack of history in The Footprint.  The Indy Star's Bob Kravitz points out that another Super Bowl win looks achievable which will only enhance the Colts' history.  The AFC South is a good division, and the Colts have road wins in successive weeks against Tennessee and Houston.  The D is holding up and Manning has his offense clicking.

This article also shows how the Colts are becoming part of the cultural fabric.  Notice that it isn't about winning as much as it is having a coach, players, etc that connect to the fans at large.  Please take note SPF owners!

3.  Washington Redskins - The Redskins are at a crossroads.  Much like many SEC teams after Spurrier's arrival at Florida, the old style has to be shaken up.  There's nothing wrong with being good in the trenches, but offenses must be able to move the ball effectively even when the ground game isn't working.  Tom Boswell and Mike Wise, both of the Washington Post, point this out in different ways.  The Redskins showed that losing two key offensive linemen has put a crimp in their running game. 

Boswell makes it clear in a more recent column that QB Jason Campbell must continue his development or the team to become a contender. 

4.  Tampa Bay Bucanneers -  The Bucs stay at the 4 spot with a solid win against the Rams, but SPF sees one chinks in the armor.  Gruden's WCO system has to have a competent QB.  He has one now in Jeff Garcia, who is tough and resilient.  However, Garcia will miss time at some point this season.  He already did in week one, and it cost the Bucs an upset road win in Seattle.

Mike Bianchi wrote a great piece on former Gator Earnest Graham.  Graham stepped in for the injured Cadillac Williams and his effort put the game out of reach.  Gator fans know Graham so it made the victory extra sweet since there are so many crossover Buc/Gator followers.

Like Graham for Williams, Gruden must find a credible backup for Garcia.  Luke McCown looked terrified against Seattle.  Maybe the answer is Bruce Gradkowski.  Maybe they need to start talking to Jake Plummer.  Just get somebody or the bottom will fall out fast once Garcia goes down.

4.  Tennessee Titans - The Titans keep reaching for the top of the T.I. Poll.  Looking at wins and losses and overall leadership, Vince Young is already one of the NFL's best QBs.

The Titans have an opportunity to remain high atop the Poll if they can establish themselves as the clear #2 team in the AFC South.  They already lost once to the Colts in Nashville.  They must stay ahead of the Jags and Texans.

6.  Carolina Panthers - The Charlotte Observer's Scott Fowler wrote some great pieces about the Panthers this week.  Taken as a whole, SPF's points about identity issues for newer NFL franchises in the Footprint are validated.  In one piece, Fowler discusses the lack of home field advantage for the Panthers.  In another, he takes a look at David Carr subbing for an injured Jake Delhomme.

The Panthers are young and still establishing a consistent identity.  They've gone Redskin-style and so far so good.  Losing Delhomme isn't good because he's the type of gunslinger that makes everything work.  There's a huge game coming against Tampa.  Let's see if Carolina home cooking makes a difference this time.

7.  Cincinnati Bengals - The Bengals are 1-2, but SPF isn't giving up on them.  Seattle is good.  Losing to them on the road is no crime.  The Bengals are still showing that they are explosive.  They have the talent to compete with anyone.  Things just aren't clicking yet.  (Remember all of the Colts' issues on D last year?)

SPF feels that Marvin Lewis will find the answers and that the Bengals will make the playoffs come year's end.    Depending on how they do Monday Night against the Pats, the Bengals should be 3-3 or 4-2 when they face the Steelers.  This will be their key test.

8.  Houston Texans - Ouch!  The Texans played well against the Colts, but they suffered several key injuries. 

As Richard Justice points out, winning in Atlanta will tell the true grit of this Texans team.  Houston is down having lost their first game and several key players.  Atlanta is playing loose with a hint of anger.  Atlanta also knows Schaub.  Schaub should also have an advantage having been a member of the Falcons.  Atlanta may be a must win for this young Texans team if they want to keep making steps along the road to respectability.

9.  New Orleans Saints - The Saints reflect their city a little too closely.  Last year, New Orleans wanted to let everyone know they were back.  The Saints rode that wave into the NFC Championship Game.  This year, the city seems a little down because there hasn't been enough progress.  The Saints seem to be picking up on that sentiment as well.

The Saints are still part of the Gulf Coast's regional fabric, but they are also looking like the "up and down" Saints of old.  Both John DeShazier of the Times-Picayune and Larry Holder of the Sun Herald are losing faith in Drew Brees, and Brees is the Saints most important player.  Duece is out for the season.  The bye week is upon them.  We shall see how they respond.

10.  Jacksonville Jaguars - A road win at Denver!  This team is turning the corner!  SPF remains completely unconvinced.  Denver and the rest of the AFC West is overrated.  The Broncos are rebuilding their offense around young Jay Cutler to be a true Super Bowl contender in a year or two.  They barely beat two AFC bottom dwellers, Buffalo and Oakland, in the first two weeks.

If you listen to hype up in Jacksonville from Gene Frenette (who gave them fantastic grades) or Sam Borden (who declares that the Jags are David Garrard's team), you can hear the effort of wanting to like a team without actually liking them.

Looking at the Jags vs their division, it doesn't stack up too well.  Garrard has to be ranked behind Peyton Manning and Vince Young.  Garrard is probably behind Matt Schaub as well.  The Jags defense is good, but it probably isn't better than the Colts or the Titans D.  It might not even be better than the Texans.  Facts are facts.  The Jags are 0-1 in the division losing at home to the Titans.

From a football standpoint, the Jaguars should be concerned.  From a identity standpoint, they are nowhere.  Del Rio ball isn't winning the fans over.  Short of a true Super Bowl run this year, it won't.  As SPF mentioned before, the Jags are playing Redskin-style football in a market that wants Cowboys-style ball.

Anything less than a deep playoff run and the removal of the tarp that covers 10,000 seat at the former Alltel Stadium won't get the Jags out of the lower half of the Poll.

11.  St. Louis Rams - Last week's Tampa Tribune sports section Throwdown featured a face off between the Trib's Martin Fennelly and the St Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeff Gordon.  Their writings happened before the Bucs throttled the Rams.

Gordon picks up SPF point - the Rams are just boring.  The coach and the QB aren't exciting anyone right now.  We now know that Bulger has injured ribs and Steven Jackson is out for next week's game.

If teams could only reshuffle coaching staffs like coaching staffs reshuffle depth charts.  The Rams would probably be better off making current DC Jim Haslett their head coach and have Scott Linehan move to OC.  Haslett has an attacking mentality that would shake up this team's approach which has grown stale and conservative, while Linehan could reign him in at critical times.

12.  Atlanta Falcons - AJC columnist Jeff Schultz agrees with SPF - the Falcons aren't that bad.  They could actually get damn near interesting if Bobby Petrino can harness this season's Vick issue and channel that frustration towards better team unity.

Their upcoming games against the Texans will be a huge test for both franchises.  It won't surprise SPF to see the Falcons come out on top.

13. Miami Dolphins - Dan LeBatard agrees with SPF - the Dolphins are a pathetic franchise right now that seem to find ways to lose.  It is a sad indictment of this team to see how far they've fallen.  In other news, Brett Favre broke Dan Marino's TD record.  Miami's history of dominating the NFL is slowly fading.

Back to the idea of reshuffling coaching staffs - if only the Dolphins could hire Marty Schottenheimer to take over the team and put Cam Cameron back at OC where he was under Marty in San Diego.

related tags

Southern Pro Football,
New Orleans,
North Carolina,

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