No doubt it makes good business sense to hype and over hype the early games of the season. With parity, hope is understandably and legitimately high across the entire league. Memories are short enough in most cases that few people recall that we have been through this dance before, in fact, pretty much every September we are encouraged and conned into reading a greater meaning than is justified on to these early games.
It is really heartwarming that Buffalo, Detroit, Washington, Cleveland and San Francisco can nurture legitimate playoff dreams at this point where, more often than not, they have usually been reduced to fantasizing over possibility of landing Luck or some other promising talent in next year’s draft by now. But, after a mere three games none of these teams are guaranteed a playoff spot at this point. Does 3-0 give a team an inside track to Indianapolis? Let’s see. The Steelers were actually 3-0 this time last year, but nobody was exactly penciling them in to go to Dallas. The only team of consequence that they beat was the Titans (this based upon 2009 performances). As it turned out both Atlanta and Tampa Bay were much stronger teams than were predicted early on (the Titans would disappoint). The actual Super Bowl champion, the Packers would not qualify for the playoffs until the last day of the season at 10-6, and weren’t really part of the discussion in September.
Then there are the Patriots. For two weeks they were one of the greatest teams of all time. Brady, like the Prophet Elijah was going to ascend directly into heaven after the five year waiting period for induction into the Hall Of Fame and the requirement that a player be actually retired were waived so that we could worship at the feet of Saint Thomas as soon as possible. Unfortunately, four turnovers and a defense that appeared to be in a competition to relinquish as many yards as St Brady produced threw a monkey wrench into this particular narrative.
The Ravens tore the Steelers a new one and are on their way…Oops. Those pesky Titans.
How about the Colts? They’re dead because no team that started 0-3 has ever won the Super Bowl, right? Of course, they were declared dead a week ago. Last time they were seen they had their hands wrapped securely around the Steelers collective neck. Yeah, they’re probably dead, but does anyone remember when it was an article of faith that no #6 seed would ever win a Super Bowl?
Green Bay. They’re on their way to a repeat appearance in the Super Bowl. In 2009 things looked pretty good in that regard for the defending Champion Steelers. And then November happened.
And now the Steelers. Are we having bladder control problems in Steeler Nation? We begin with the Fiasco by the Chesapeake. The commentary after one game is summarized as ‘Old, Slow, Done’. Uh, excuse me. With seven turnovers they should have been blown out by Robert Morris. They follow up by shutting out Seattle. Well, they were supposed to do that. Never mind that there aren’t a whole lot of shutouts in today’s high octane NFL. It’s still possible that they are Old, Slow, Done. Then there are the Colts. Never mind the numerous playoff appearances over the past decade. Never mind the two Super Bowl appearances in the last five years. Everyone knows that the Colts are Peyton Manning and 52 slugs. And now there is no Manning. The Colts? Small and Done. We didn’t blow them out. Does that mean we’re almost as done as they are?
Let me suggest that if you quizzed the membership on, say, August 1st that after three games the Steelers gave up seven turnovers and lost to the Ravens, shutout the Seahawks and edged the Colts for a 2-1 record the prevailing sentiment would probably be: Cool! We’ll take it.
Let me further suggest that championships are not won in September. Perhaps a more plausible case could be made for championships being lost in September, but I don’t think it will be a shock that eventually there will be a team that starts out 0-3, maybe even 0-4 and manages to win a championship. But that kind of sober minded thinking doesn’t sell a lot of beer. And what would all those analysts have to talk about as we sit around waiting for the winter solstice and a real resolution to these issues? Kinda reminds you of the daily handicapping of the Presidential Election which is only, oh, over thirteen months away.
I couldn’t resist having some fun with my Redskins friends this week given their rough treatment of Steelers fans in the wake of our loss to the Ravens. Their response was to point out how bad Pittsburgh looked in beating the Colts. I pointed out that given a choice between looking good (and the Skins looked pretty good against the Cowboys) and losing as opposed to winning even though you sucked, that I would choose winning every time.
A review of Tomlinisms 101: this is not about style points. September is about surviving until you sort out who and what you are as a team. It is usually the teams that peak around Halloween that are the ones making noise in January and February.