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SPF T. I. Poll (Week Two)

Posted: Sep 19, 2007

Time for our Week Two "Team Identity" Poll.  Things keep getting interesting, and that's how we like it. 

Let's start off with a recap of last week's T.I. Poll:

1.  Dallas 
2.  Indianapolis (tie)
2.  Washington (tie)
4.  New Orleans
5.  Cincinatti
6.  Tennessee
7.  Carolina
8.  Miami (tie)
8.  Tampa (tie)
10.  St. Louis
11.  Atlanta
12.  Jacksonville
13.  Houston

Now, on to Week Two....

1.  Dallas - Staying at #1 for the second week.  The lovefest in Dallas continues.  Cowboy fans have been waiting to root for an exciting offensive team like this squad appears to be.

2.  Washington - This year's team is starting to remind Redskins' fans of the last Joe Gibbs era.  They are playing solid defense and controlling the line of scrimmage.  The development of Jason Campbell also recalls Gibbs' own history of winning three Super Bowls with three different QBs.  He has never shied away from developing young QBs.  Neither win was pretty, but that's not what the Redskins' fans care about.

3.  Indianapolis - Their close win against Tennessee raised a few eyebrows with the Colt faithful.  That and the Redskin victory moved them down by the slightest of margin.  Considering the histories of the Redskins and the Cowboys, it is an honor to be a close third.

4.  Tampa Bay - Gruden's Bucs made a huge step forward.  Their win against New Orleans was as unexpected as it was decisive.  When Gruden's offense is taking shots downfield, it can be a thing a beauty.  All of a sudden, memories of the Bucs Super Bowl and Gruden's Raiders teams don't seem so distant.

5.  Tennessee - SPF puts the Titans just a hair behind the Bucs.  The Titans were a couple of close throws away from beating the Colts.  The TItans aren't in the Colts league yet, but they are playing the brand of football that their fans expect.  Vince Young continues to develop nicely.

6.  Cincinatti - The Bengals might have had a crushing loss to their in-state rival, but they still play with flair.  Critics are coming out of the woodwork this week, but the Bengals are an extremely talented team that few can keep up with in the scoring column.  SPF will give them a pass.  The Bengals are a lot like the Colts have been in the pre-Super Bowl years - great offense, suspect defense.  The Colts are a more mature team, but the Bengals are more fun.  Experts were always looking to bury the Colts for their defense, but the team found ways to win.  We think the Bengals will too.  They haven't lost their fans yet, and that's what matters.

7.  Carolina - The loss to Houston wasn't expected, but that's what the NFL is all about.  Once you think a team has no chance, they bite you.  Carolina is what they have always been - a defense-first team that will grind you down with its running game or its big play passing attack.  Once Houston started to score on the Panthers' D, the game was in jeopardy.  The Panthers are still an elite team.  Just consider this a hiccup.

8.  Houston - Wow!  The Texans might have had their most important victory since beating the Cowboys in their very first game ever.  The one SPF team with no credible identity is finally starting to build one.  Texas native Gary Kubiak has found a QB in Matt Schaub that can execute the WCO properly.  Going on the road and beating the Panthers is a true feat.  SPF has been very hard on this franchise, but the Texans deserve credit.  They might just be on the right track.  This is a good thing because the Houston market deserves a team worth rooting for.

9.  New Orleans - Ouch!  The Saints were throttled again.  The offense is nowhere.  The good feeling from last year is evaporating quickly.  We warned Sean Payton about the consistency issue.  It cost Jim Haslett his job. 

The perception about the Saints is that they have tons of offensive talent.  If they lost like the Bengals did scoring 40+ points, things would be better.  Getting shut down by two defenses not necessarily recognized as the league's best, surprised many.

Terry Bradshaw wondered whether the Saints read too many press clippings.  It might just be handing the ball of to Deuce a little more.  Sean Payton needs to turn this around.  His problem?  The Titans aren't necessarily the best team to be playing when you need a win.

10.  St. Louis - Every Post-Dispatch sports columnist pulled out the hot seat for Scott Linehan.  SPF doesn't think it is that bad yet.  Yes, the Rams are 0-2, but there is room for hope.  San Francisco might be the best team in the NFC West, and St Louis hung in there with them. 

Linehan does have a critical adjustment to make.  He has to figure out how to make Steven Jackson productive again without Orlando Pace.  This week's matchup in Tampa is critical for both teams.  The Bucs need to keep their momentum.  The Rams need to stop the slide.

11.  Jacksonville - Yes, the Jaguars won.  However, they only beat an uninspired and undermanned Falcon team.  Now, Del Rio is calling out Matt Jones.  There are cracks in this franchise and Del Rio isn't helping.  GM James Harris gave Del Rio several first round offensive players.  Del Rio has cut one (Byron Leftwich) and hasn't done much with either Matt Jones or Reggie Williams. 

This is the first of our "problem" teams.  A win might be a win, but there is no denying the facts.  Tom Coughlin won, and the fans came out.  Del Rio wins and the game is blacked out even after covering 10,000 seats.  David Garrard had a good statistical day, but they still only scored 13 points.  Explosive is not a word we would use to describe this offense.  Few teams have burned as many high round pick on offense and gotten less from it.  Worse, it seems like the coach never wanted any of these guys in the first place.

"You can't get so consumed with the result that you forget about how you're going to get it done."  Jack Del Rio said this after the "win" against the Falcons.  The quote says it all.  The Jacksonville market signed up for an effective offense with playmakers.  That's why you drafted these guys, right?  Watching a backup QB leading the team to squeaker home wins against the worst team in the league ain't exactly what Jax fans bargained for.  (Maybe the blackout rule is a good one after all.  I would say the football fans in north Florida voted with their collective pocketbook last Sunday.)

12.  Miami - Only Atlanta's total debacle season keeps the Dolphins out of the cellar.  The nadir has been reached.  Starting with Don Shula's forced resignation/retirement to Jimmy Johnson to Dave Wannstedt to the Saban debacle to Cam Cameron, we're not sure how much lower this franchise can go. Cam Cameron is a joke - pure and simple.  There is nothing in his resume that ever screamed - hire this guy!  Was it his sub .500 record at Indiana U?

Cameron inherited a veteran team that supposedly only needed a little tweaking.  These vets aren't responding at all.  Cameron is finding out what Saban knew - the Dolphins have a severe talent deficit.  They are an old team that hasn't drafted well in years.   Look, this sort of thing happens.  The core of this team peaked under Jimmy Johnson - three coaches ago.  It shouldn't be surprising.

The problem with the Dolphins is that the team told their fans they had a playoff contender.  The fans bought it.  Wayne, you can't play the expectation game and lose without facing severe scrutiny every year forward.

The Dolphins are back where they always are - looking for a head coach with a track record.  So far, two of them (Johnson and Saban) departed on a low note.  Both were followed by proven losers (Wannstedt and Cameron) who underachieved as expected.  Wannstedt had more success because he could copy Barry Switzer's role following Johnson's departure in Dallas.  The fumes of a Johnson coaching tenure can carry any decent roster for a year or two.

Armando Salguero wrote this piece before Dallas crushed Miami.  He differentiated Jerry Jones and Wayne Huzienga.  All of Miami treats Wayne with kid gloves.  They laud him for allowing his football people to make decisions without his interference.  Let's not kid ourselves.  The football part is only a small part of Wayne's interest in this team.  Like Jones and Snyder, Huzienga purchased a legendary franchise worth millions that came with a stadium and all kinds of ancillary real estate.  The Dolphins are valuable.  Millions have been put back into the stadium so that Dolphin Stadium will remain in the Super Bowl rotation for year to come.  The stadium also added the Miami Hurricanes as a permanent tenant.

Face it Dolfans - Wayne and his "yes men" lied to you.  They knew they had a crappy roster.  The off season was all fluff.  If you bought into Cameron and Randy Mueller, shame on you!  Wayne should already be calling Bill Cowher's agent.  The Giants will be bidding for him as well.

(Irony factor - Marty Schottenheimer would be the perfect Dolphins' coach for next.  He wins consistently.  He is close to both Shula and Huzienga.  However, the Dolphins may never get him.  Marty is loyal and we can't see him taking the job from Cameron, his former assistant.  Better just break out the pocket book now for Cowher, Wayne.  You also might want to consider firing Cameron before the season is over so that you can officially start looking for a new coach.)

13. Atlanta - SPF feels sorry for the Falcons, but they are a total and complete mess.  The face of the franchise was lost.  The coach, specifically hired to help this former face succeed, looks like he wants to be somewhere else.

The AJC's Terrence Moore has had two interesting columns this week.  First, he lauded Petrino for being bluntly honest (ie openly critical of his players).  Next, he compared the recently signed Byron Leftwich to a statue.  Moore's criticism could just be the thing to light a fire under the Falcons.

SPF is suddenly getting a weird feeling about the Falcons.  The easy call is that they will keep losing and re-tool in the off season.  However, things are setting up for an improbable season that might be filled with a few more wins than expected.  

The expectations are nowhere so they can play loose.  Petrino probably is hoping he gets fired so he can get one of those Saban-styled SEC coaching contracts.   that means he might start coaching boldly by taking big risks.  Leftwich will be starting soon.  He's going to let it all hang out.  Many of the players might start playing for pride.

(Benching Harrington will be the key.  The guy is a L-O-S-E-R.)

Nevertheless, the Falcons may end up being far more interesting than we thought they would be. 


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