Tuesday, October 01, 2013

If Races Ended at the Quarter Pole, I'd Be Too Rich to Waste My Time Doing This

Jumping to hasty conclusions is America's REAL national pastime, and the long spaces of time between games just custom made for such leaps ares why pro football is our country's most popular sport. But every time I am tempted to generalize on the meaning of the first month of the 2013 NFL season, I can't help remembering that on October 1, 2012, the most impressive team in the league had been your Arizona Cardinals.

Another reason to eschew the power ratings, straight-line projection forecasting and all the other sophistries of pro ball punditry is their crushing banality. The sad truth is, there's very little we've learned about the NFL in September 2013 we weren't all pretty sure we knew in August 2013.

Oh, there have been a few unexpected team disasters (Hi, Ben!, Hi, Eli!), but they were far outnumbered by the expected ones. By and large, what logic said should have happened, has.

On the macro level, let's take the big thumb-sucking think piece question of the offseason -- could NFL defenses come up with a way to stop the fearsome read-option offense and all its stirring young running quarterbacks? Logic and history said the answer was "sure, of course." All NFL tactics are recycled old ideas or variations on old ideas. Therefore, there are recyclable old ideas about thwarting them.

Lo and behold, we haven't read much about the read-option this season. Colin Kaepernick and RGIII aren't vaporizing defenses. Score one for football's refreshing lack of originality.

And with the possible exception of the Kansas City Chiefs (I say possible because really, is it so amazing that a team with six Pro Bowlers on its roster should improve dramatically after big upgrades at coach and quarterback?) there have been no upside surprises which weren't of the extremely mild variety.

Take the local franchise. The Patriots were thought to be a good team whose offense might have an early struggle to adjust to a raft of new players. This came to pass. That New England went 4-0 during the coping process speaks very well for the team, but things are really upside down if we have come to see Patriots victories as surprises.

Pick a team, find the conventional wisdom holding up. Seattle was expected to be good, and has been. The Jaguars were expected to be terrible, and have exceeded (or failed to reach, I'm not sure which) those expectations by many, many lengths. The Broncos offense was seen as formidable in August. So far, so formid.

In fact, there has been only one development this past month that I find startling as an NFL observer. So far, one of my most confident preseason assertions has been utterly inaccurate. The non-Patriot section of the AFC East has not been a symphony of suck by discordant and dysfunctional football teams. Quite the contrary. The Dolphins are 3-1, with one outstanding road victory over the Colts. No one would go so far as to say the Bills and Jets are good teams just yet, but they've each been a competitive 2-2. That's sure better than I expected. I suspect it's better than their head coaches expected.

Come to think of it, seeing as the Patriots have two of their four wins against the non-suck versions of the Bills and Jets, this surprise speaks well of the local franchise, too.


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