NFL So Far: Birds’ Deux. And Bird Doo.

We’re barely ten percent done with the 2023 NFL regular season, but history strongly suggests that unless you’ve won at least once, the remaining ninety per cent is moot.  As SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s Vinnie Iyer expertly, well, illustrated this morning:

How important is getting a big jump in the record or digging a significant early hole? Historical numbers don’t lie every often.

Going back to the NFL merger in 1970, 256 of the 403 teams that started 2-0 made the playoffs (63.5 percent). All five teams that started 2-0 in 2022 made the playoffs, including the Chiefs, who became the 33rd 2-0 team in 57 tries to win the Super Bowl (57.8 percent) last season.

The stats are more staggering for stumbling 0-2 teams. Also since 1970, only 39 of 405 NFL teams who lost their first two games proceeded to make the playoffs (9.6 percent). That Bengals were the lone exception from five teams last season. Unfortunately, they are back at 0-2 to start this season.

And if you’re searching for something else that could be considered almost as meaningful, consider this nugget:

There are five NFL teams whose nicknames are based on birds.

Three of them make up more than a third of the unbeaten teams that remain at this point.

The Eagles, the defending NFC conference champs, are one of them, having seemingly secured their space in the “you’re a lock to defend” with a thrilling Thursday night win that, as Amazon Prime Video executives are crowing, was the most-streamed NFL game in history.  Yet even their hometown writers are dubious about exactly how good their team as, the THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER’s David Murphy penned in the aftermath:

Jason KelceDeVonta Smith, Hurts — all of them had the same thing to say after the Eagles overcame both malfunction and dysfunction to claim a 34-28 win over one of the NFC’s leading pretenders.

The opportunities don’t get better than they were in Weeks 1 and 2. The Eagles spent the first six quarters of their season dousing themselves in gasoline only to watch the Patriots and Vikings make off with the matchbook.

The defending NFC champs should be 0-2. Instead, they are 2-0.

The rest of the season pretty much writes itself, doesn’t it?

Baltimore, per the slightly more objective Iyer, seems to be as much of a lock:

The Ravens looked a little messy with their new offense for Lamar Jackson in Week 1, but they had big margin for error when facing the Texans. Losing JK Dobbins hurts and now Odell Beckham Jr. might be on the shelf, but Baltimore is plenty deep at running back and wide receiver to not skip a beat with Gus Edwards, Zay Flowers, Mark Andrews and others. Jackson is settling in well with more restrained running.

The defense will keep having issues against the pass all over the field with questionable coverage, but it can compress with its pressure and also is a consistent run-stopping force as usual. But the Ravens now have a massive early AFC North road win at Cincinnati and favorable schedule outside of tricky division play. 

But this team, remember, is now the statistical equal of a team that literally no one saw capable of winning at all, and, as Iyer contends, will soon plummet to earth and have their wings clipped:

The Falcons are a feel-good run-heavy story early with dazzling rookie of the year front runner Bijan Robinson. Their dominant rushing attack from last season also has Tyler Allgeier rolling. But it’s also clear that other than more running, they’re trying to hide shaky second-year QB Desmond Ridder. That will catch up to them at some point and keep in mind both opening games were on the road.

Trips to Detroit and Jacksonville will likely set Atlanta up for .500 soon at 2-2, while Houston and Washington back at home can continue the roller coaster toward 8-9. The Falcons’ defense is improved overall with a Saints-like scheme and personnel, but it’s not close to dominant. Trusting Ridder and Arthur Smith is hard, so, yeah, we’re going pretenders.

Meanwhile, on the other end of assured failure are the Arizona Cardinals, who allowed the New York Football Giants to achieve something they hadn’t done in 74 years–come from more than 20 points behind in the second half of a game to pull out a win (which, naturally, was done against the Chicago Cardinals–where the franchise began after a three-decade interlude co-existing in St. Louis with the same-named and far nire enduring baseball team.

But in case you happen to be like me and somehow choose to root for the Fiants and their leader named Jones, bear in mind what Iyer further reminds:

Are the Cardinals tanking? That can’t be proved, of course, but it’s just very interesting how Arizona so casually blew a 28-7 lead to the Giants at home in Week 2 by suddenly not playing well in any aspect. The Cards stopped moving the ball with Josh Dobbs and made a dead New York offense come fully to life.

The Cowboys, 49ers and Bengals are next on the schedule, so the Cards are folding right into 0-5.

So the Giants do have that win, and this Thursday night they will head into Santa Clara for a date with those 49ers, likely without Saquon Barkley.   But at this writing, they’re as alive as the only other bird-hamed team, the Seattle Seahawks.  The ‘Hawks got to 1-1 by bringing the first Thursday night game victors of this year, the Detroit Lions, down to Earth in their home opener.

How many of you FanDuel addicts had that one?

So forgive me, fellow geeks, on this particular “trend”, I’m gonna make like a bird myself.

Courage…

 

 

 

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