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SPF's Week Four Pre-Pregame Show

Posted: Sep 29, 2007

Welcome SPF fans!  Here's today's slate.  (SPF teams in BOLD)

Early Games

Dolphins v. Raiders preview
Rams @ Cowboys preview
TexansFalcons preview

late games

Bucs @ Panthers preview
Broncos v. Colts preview


Patriots vs. Bengals preview

Geography = Rivalry 

When the NFL expanded to 32 teams and made 4 divisions.  The NFC and AFC South were created.  At the time these were misfit divisions.  The AFC South brought together a team that was in the East (The Colts), two teams that were in the Central Division (Titans, Jaguars), and the expansion Texans.  None of these teams wanted to be in this new division except for perhaps the Colts who had been the red headed stepchild of the East for years.  The rest of the AFC South wished it could be with Pittsburgh since they were seen as a marquee national team.

The NFC South married three teams that were in the West (Atlanta, Carolina, and New Orleans) with Tampa Bay from the Central.  In each case, these teams had little to no history in their former divisions.  They were merely afterthoughts having one had one Super Bowl appearance in all of their existence pre-NFC South (Atlanta in 1999).

Since that time, the NFC South has emerged as a power division.  Since the Bucs won the Super Bowl in 2002, the inaugural year of the division, an NFC South team has played either in the Super Bowl or the NFC Championship game every year.  This is something that no other NFC division can boast during this same period.  Additionally, each of the four teams has won the division since 2002 so it isn't a case of just one team having a dominant run.

The NFL proved by default that geography can create rivalry.  We all know that the NFL focuses its attention on the big market teams and/or the traditional teams (Pittsburgh, Green Bay), but the NFC South shows how to make teams relevant outside those old NFL standby markets.

This week's big SPF game has Tampa Bay visiting Carolina.  Carolina needs this game more.  There is no doubt of that.  They've struggled to win at home which has made their home crowd less of a factor.  The issue for the Panthers this week will be the condition of QB Jake Delhomme.

Delhomme hurt his elbow and the injury is such that it will affect him throughout the game.  Coach John Fox describes Delhomme's injury situation as "day to day".  This makes  David Carr the game's X factor.  Carr failed as Houston's face of the franchise and is now trying to show himself to be a competent NFL QB.  Jon Gruden is talking ground game.  This means he is hoping to pound Carolina.  SPF wonders if he would be better served to try and get up by a few TDs and force Carolina to play catch up ball, something they don't like to do. 

Either way, this is the big game of the week.  These teams don't like each other.  This Scott Fowler/Martin Fennelly face off shows the bad blood.  The NFC South is to the NFL what the SEC is to college football - competitive and passionate, always a factor.

If the NFC South is the SEC, then the AFC South is the ACC meaning that the have the geography down and the pieces in place, but somehow they have yet to create a core passionate sense of rivalry amongst their teams.  The Colts are defending champs, and the Titans have played in a Super Bowl, but the division isn't quite there yet. 

This is due in large part to the fact that the Colts have been so dominant.  Jacksonville hasn't been much of a factor since the AFC South was created.  Houston has been a complete non-factor.

SPF believes that this is the year that the AFC South can make the leap.  Most argue that this is the best division in the NFL from top to bottom.  Each team has playoff potential.

The Texans lost their first game against the Colts last week and suffered some key injuries in the process.  Their game against Atlanta is a must win.  Atlanta is a dangerous team that would like nothing more than to punish their former QB Matt Schaub.  Schaub's ascension as a succesful starter has been one of the NFL's big stories so far (see him here breaking down film). Schaub would also like to show his former team  former team something as well.

The Falcons are like facing a bunch of pissed off rattlesnakes with a shotgun.  Chance are you can take them down, but they are dangerous and unpredictable.  The Vick cloud continues to hover (like a hazy cloud) and Schaub's return only adds to the story.  Petrino's first season has been trial by fire, but his  is starting to pay dividends. (Check out Joey Harrington in a "Cowboy Up" T shirt sounding surprisingly confident.)

They're a bunch of coiled snakes waiting to strike.  Don't take your eye off them.

Speaking of coiled snakes, one could say the same about the Bengals. Cincinnati is under fire right now.  They are 1-2 and many experts are jumping ship.  However, we like the Bengals after listening to  Marvin Lewis comment on RB Situation.  He's starting to sound a little chippy.  That's good.  SPF still believes in the Bengals while the rest of the NFL gurus are jumping ship.   They are undisciplined at times, and they should not have lost to the Browns.  They are still in the upper half of the AFC and have more weapons on offense than just about anyone.  SPF is predicting that the Bengals might just surprise the Pats.

Another SPF showdown pits the streaking Cowboys against the increasingly hapless Rams.  The Rams identity has taken some severe hits this season, but this is the game that might get them back on track.

This year's Cowboys have captured their fans hearts like never before.  It is a lovefest out in Cowboy Nation.  The biggest factor has been the success of Jerry Jones' emergence as the new breed of owner.  Jones had to take slings and arrows for "driving away" his Super Bowl winning coach.  Jones did go through a down period when he hired too many coaches that weren't ready for the job, but the Parcells gamble paid off because Jones learned from him - both what to do and what not to do.

When Parcells left, the common wisdom outside Cowboy country was "here we go again.  Jerry has driven off another winner."  However, Parcells was running a "ball control and defense" system in Dallas that didn't fit the personnel.  The offense had weapons and a young QB, and the defense was suspect. 

Jones had one of the strangest coaching searches.  He hired his offensive coordinator before he hired his head coach, but somehow it worked.  Jason Garrett's hiring put the offense in good hands.  Wade Phillips should resolve the defensive issues at some point, but regardless, Wade has been a good leader as you can watch him discussing issues like Marion Barber, the Cowboys pass rush, or last week's win against Bears.  If TO is having fun, then the Cowboys are doing it right.

So why does SPFbelieve that the Rams can get back on track?   Because the Rams have played three straight teams (SF, Carolina, and Tampa Bay) that like to play ball control with good defense.  The Cowboys like to outscore teams.  This might finally force Linehan to open things up.

Coach Scott Linehan is under fire.  The St Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeff Gordon correctly points out that he needs to start coaching to win rather than trying not to lose.  However, he might have had his Petrino moment after last week's loss.  You can see how the stress is starting to fade in both of these press conferences - last week's loss to Bucs and when he discusses losing Steven Jackson to injury.  Linehan knows now he has nothing to lose.  Isaac Bruce guaranteed a victory which puts players on notice as Torry Holt explains.  Play loose Rams!  Who knows what will happen?

Speaking of guarantees, Joey Porter made one about this week's Dolphin game against the Raiders.  Porter has been the Dolphins number one face of this season's debacle from a players point of view.  He looks like an overpaid and overplayed vet who left his career on the field in Pittsburgh two years ago.  However, in Dolphins tradition, he still talks a good game.

After listening to Porter's guarantee and the reactions it got from his fellow defensive teammates and coach Cam Cameron, every sounds ready to run for cover - maybe not a good sign, but an honest one.  Everyone on the Dolphins knows this team is a dud.  Meanwhile, Cam is already defending his job by talking about improving over the long term.  Sorry Cam, didn't you realize this was a one year audition?

The Colts have the only other SPF game this week as they go against Denver.  Dungy and Manning are all business again

Bye week teams:  Tennessee, Jacksonville, Redskins, Saints

The Colts game against the Broncos will also be a measuring stick for the Jaguars.  Del Rio spent another week patting himself on back, even though SPF has pointed out that the Broncos aren't what they used to be.  If the Colts go in and wipe them out, it makes the Jags win look even more meaningless.  As we've already discussed the AFC South is a very good and deep division.  The Jags have only faced one division opponent, and they lost to them at home (Titans).  SPF assumes Del Rio will spend the week working on his smile.  It will likely be wiped off his face when the Jags have to start playing some real teams.

It is a sad situation in Jacksonville.  The town has a great sports base as Sam Borden of the Florida Times-Union points out.  They don't deserve this team or this coach.  Wayne Weaver needs to cut the cord on Del Rio, but he might have lost his chance to make it right.  The Jags sold out games under Coughlin.  Good college games sell out like last night Alabama-FSU game.  Until the Jags pull the tarps off those 10,000 seats as a result of fan demand, the Del Rio administration will remain an abject failure.

Two of the other bye week teams, the Saints and the Redskins, are coming off of tough losses.  The Redskins blew a crucial division game against the Giants.  After a 2-0 start, the Redskins look confused about their offensive identity again.  (Watch the Redskins postgame Giants press conferenceother Redskins react,  and Gibbs talking about the last play.)  Let's hope the bye week give this team a chance to get everyone on the same page.

The Saints were hoping for the same Monday Night magic that kicked their season in high gear last year.  Instead, their loss to the Titans just showed them to be a mess.  Sean Payton sounds lost and defeated in the postgame press conference.  Drew Bress still sounds like a leader.  Payton sounds like a broken man over the announcement that  Deuce is out for the season.  Reggie Bush hasn't shown he's an "every down" back yet.    This NFL Network interview with Payton doesn't make things seem any better.  Make the most of the bye, Sean.  You need it more than you know.

The Titans will just soak up the rest during the bye week.  They are in a great position.  Vince Young keeps getting better.  (Watch Jeff Fisher on Vince.)  The Titans should take a breath and realize that they are knocking on the playoffs door.  The time is now!

related tags

Southern Pro Football,
New Orleans,
North Carolina,

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