Heading into week six, there are zero undefeated teams and three winless teams. Last year after five weeks, there were five undefeated teams and four winless teams.
Is this significant? Well, it may be. Sure, the NFL is a league that can — and does — fluctuate from year to year, but I can’t remember being this surprised at early-season results, especially from perennially dominant teams.
The season is not even a third of the way over, and many of the best teams from a year ago are underachieving and well on their way to a decline in winning percentage.
The Indianapolis Colts are currently 3-2 after losing only two games — with Peyton Manning playing only minimally in both — all of last year. Is the Manning Magic wearing off? The answer is no. Anytime you have Manning on your team, you will make the playoffs, as history shows.
New Orleans is 3-2 after going 13-3 last year. The Saints are missing safety Darren Sharper on defense, and eagerly await his return from injury. The Saints’ offense — ranked #10 after finishing last year at #1 — may be missing Reggie Bush more than you think.
After going 12-4 last year with Brett Favre in charge, the Minnesota Vikings are 1-3. Even with the newly acquired Randy Moss, the Vikings may be in trouble. Moss will catch some long touchdowns, but ultimately it will just lead to a lot of jump balls thrown by Favre. It’s hard to be skeptical of Favre’s ability to get it done because he has always done it, but the man is 42 fucking years old. After throwing 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions all of last year, Favre already has seven picks to go with his five touchdowns.
Dallas, coming into the season with 8-to-1 odds to win the Super Bowl (tied with New Orleans and only behind the favorite, Indy) is a dismal 1-3 after an 11-5 record last year. I have to say, I enjoy few things more than the Cowboys’ failures. Is it me, or does Wade Phillips just stand on the sideline (probably daydreaming of eating cake) and just make either really happy faces or really sad faces? Does the man do any coaching? If the Cowboys don’t turn it around fast, Phillips will be gone — presumably with a sad face on.
The San Diego Chargers are 2-3 after finishing the season 13-3 last year. There is really nothing to worry about here. Traditionally slow starters, the Chargers will be fine. It seems safe to say that they are missing LT and Vincent Jackson on offense but others have stepped up. San Diego’s offense is ranked #1 in the league, and its defense is ranked #2. The Chargers will end up winning the division as always.
The strange thing about these dominant teams underachieving thus far is that no teams have stepped up to take their place among the elite. The playing field is seemingly much more even this year. Every team has a weakness, and there are fewer pushover teams just as there are fewer juggernauts that can be penciled in for a win every week.
So, is this good for the league? Maybe not if you are a betting man, but I say “yes.” With most teams in the middle of the pack, many games will be determined based on matchups. Strategy, coaching, and execution may turn out to be more vital than in years past, where there has been a much wider gap between the better and the worse teams.
Will this trend continue throughout the year? It is almost impossible to say, but hey, that’s why we love football.
Daily Nexus Staff Writer Ryan Porush swears it only took him a few seconds to come up with that lead. Honest.