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Monday, September 20, 2010

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Biggest NFL Surpises After Week 2

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0)
The Tamps Bay Buccaneers are off to a hot 2-0 start.  Are they for real?

The answer is no.  Sure, they have surprised many people by winning their first two games.  However, they beat the Cleveland Browns (0-2) and the Carolina Panthers (0-2).

The Browns may well be one of the two worst teams in the NFL (along with the Buffalo Bills) and the Panthers cannot generate anything on the offensive side of the ball, causing head coach Jim Fox to bench their starting quarterback for rookie Jimmy Clausen.

A quick glance at the statistics is also alarming for the Bucs.  They are ranked 15th in rush defense, 25th in pass defense, 23rd in total yards and 18th in points.  In order to win football games, you, obviously, must score more points than your opponents.  With both a sub-par offense and defense, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to win football games, unless you are blessed with a schedule that begins with the Browns and the Panthers.

To consistently win in the NFL, you must have a solid run game in order to control the clock. The Bucs' leading rusher is currently Cadillac Williams, who has gained 126 yards, but averaged just 2.6 yards per carry over the first two weeks of this season.

The Verdict:  Sure, the Bucs' 2-0 record is surprising, but they are not for real.  Their next three opponents are the Steelers, Bengals and the Saints.  They will be under .500 before you know it.

Minnesota Vikings (0-2)

This is a bit of a surprise to me.  Sure, Sidney Rice is out for half of the season, and Brett Favre is playing on a bum ankle, but the Vikings are just so talented all around.  They have arguably the best running back in the NFL and, in my opinion, easily the best defensive line in the league.

The Vikings have scored just 19 points in their first two games.  Brett Favre has thrown four interceptions (sure that juggling interception by Vontae Davis may not have been entirely his fault).  He also had an interception called back.

Favre simply does not look like the quarterback he was last year.  The offensive line cannot protect him.  The defensive line is not getting to the quarterback.

The Verdict: The Vikes lost a tough game to the Saints, but the loss to the Dolphins is inexcusable, particularly for a team as talented as the Vikings.  They should pick up a win next week, but their four opponents following are the Jets, Cowboys, Packers and Patriots.  If the Vikings don't step up their game (I think they will), they could be staring at a 1-6 record.

Dallas Cowboys (0-2)

I am not sure where I stand on the Cowboys.  They have so much talent, but have been consistently inconsistent the last five years.

I really thought this was the year for the Cowboys, but watching them play just makes me a little sad.

The 'Boys made Jay Cutler look like Peyton Manning. Sure, they held a players only meeting, but from my experiences, all that those meetings involved was players telling each other the team must play better and play as a team.

The Cowboys play the scorching-hot Texans next week.  Uh-oh...

P.S.  Dez Bryant should be cracking the starting lineup any week now.

The Verdict:  The outcome of this season has nothing to do with the Cowboys' physical skills.  This is simply an issue of leadership and character, and whether or not they can actually play to their potential.  Football is supposed to be fun!  It appears the Cowboys need to find some of that excitement again.

Miami Dolphins (2-0)

The Dolphins beat the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings in the first two games, but just by four and five points, respectively.  Sure, a win is a win, but averaging 14.5 points per games (14 against the Bills!) is not promising.

If the Dolphins want to contend for a playoff spot in the tough AFC East, they will need to produce more on the offensive side of the ball.  The Dolphins have scored two offensive touchdowns in their first two games.

Luckily for them, they were scheduled to play the Bills week 1 and faced a surprisingly futile offense from Minnesota in week 2.

The Verdict:  These are the Dolphins' upcoming opponents, in order: Jets, Patriots, Bye Week, Packers, Steelers, Bengals, Ravens, Titans, Bears.  Yikes.  The Dolphins will not win more than three of these games, bringing them to 5-5, at best.

Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)

Definitely a surprise to me.  The Chiefs managed to take down the Chargers and the Browns.

The Chiefs do not have much consistency at the quarterback position and lack a legitimate number one wide receiver.

What they do have, however, is a running game and playmakers on special teams.  Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones provide a great 1-2 punch in the backfield, regardless of the strength (or lack thereof) of the offensive line.  Javier Arenas and Dexter McCluster have already shown their explosiveness in the return game.

The Chiefs feature an overwhelming amount of underachieving talent on the defensive side of the ball, but is this the year that they play up to their potential?

The Verdict: Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel are back together, and it looks as if good things are to come.  I am not sure how great things will be for the rest of the season, but if the offensive line can play well and keep Cassel on his feet, there could be great things from the Chiefs this year.

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0)

I picked the Steelers to lose to the Falcons and the Titans.  I figured that without Roethlisberger in the lineup their offense would be too one-dimensional to pick up victories.  However, two injured quarterbacks later, they are sitting pretty at 2-0.

It seems the Steelers are able to win, even without much production on the offensive side.  The Steelers have one offensive touchdown in two weeks, coming on a 50-yard scamper by RB Rashard Mendenhall in overtime of week 1.

The Verdict:  The Steelers will be a playoff team.  If the Steelers can pull off their third Roethlisberger-less win of the season next week against the Bucs or in week 4 against the Ravens, they will likely win the AFC North.

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