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Random notes through two weeks

Posted by Chase Stuart on September 17, 2007

  • The NFL realigned the divisions following the addition of the Houston Texas in 2002. The 2007 AFC East is the first one to feature a 2-0 team and three 0-2 teams.
  • The 2002 NFC East, 2002 AFC South, 2004 AFC North and the 2005 AFC East were the only divisions with four 1-1 teams; a Rams win yesterday over the 49ers would have allowed the '07 NFC West to join that group.
  • The '07 AFC East obviously is 2-6, which is the second worst record over the six year span. The '07 NFC South is also 2-6, with none coming from pre-season favorite New Orleans. The '02 AFC North was 1-7, with the lone win coming in a Browns victory over the Bengals. That division would rebound, though, and send two teams to the playoffs. The '03 AFC North, the 2002 NFC West and 2005 NFC North were the only other divisions with just two wins after two weeks.
  • Best divisions? The 2002 AFC West went 7-1 through two weeks, and never slowed down: none of the four teams finished with a losing record, and the Oakland Raiders won the AFC crown. Only two other divisions have even six wins. The 2002 AFC East was 6-2, with both losses coming in intra-division games, and no team finished with a losing record that season. The 2005 NFC East was the other six-win division, and would send two teams to the playoffs. One team finished with a losing record, along with a wide receiver that didn't like his QB or coach very much.
  • Until yesterday, that is! The NFC North and AFC South are both 6-2, thanks to surprising 2-0 starts out of Green Bay, Detroit and Houston. Both the AFC South's losses were intra-division, and I don't think there's a weakling in that bunch. That could be a problem for Indianapolis as they battle New England for home field. The Patriots' division rivals are 0-5 outside the division, while the Texans and Jaguars are 3-0 outside the AFC South.
  • How good is New England, anyway? They won both games 38-14, which is pretty good. Only seven teams from '02 to '06 had outscored their opponents by 48 or more points after two games. The '06 Chargers (+60, 14-2), '03 Seahawks (+55, 10-6), '06 Bears (+53, 13-3), '02 Patriots (+53, 9-7), '03 Bills (+52, 6-10), '06 Ravens (+49, 12-4) and the '02 Chargers (+49, 8-8). Not only is this not the best Patriots start in the past six years, it's not even the best NFL start in '07: the Steelers are +50, after allowing just ten points in two games.
  • But perhaps something is to be said of consistency. I wondered when was the last time a team won its first two games by at least 24 points each? I guess my memory's going, because it happened twice last season, in San Diego and Chicago. It's still pretty rare, though. The 1997 Patriots (10-6), 1996 Packers (13-3, SB), 1981 Bills (10-6), the 1975 Redskins (8-6) and 1970 Detroit Lions (10-4) are the only teams to have done it since the merger. If you make it two 23+ point victories, you can bring in the 2007 Steelers and the 1991 Houston Oilers (11-5).
  • The 2007 New Orleans Saints haven't played very well so far, being outscored by 17 and 31 points in two games this year. Twenty-one teams from 1970-2006 were outscored by at least 17 points in their first two games, with the '06 Raiders being the most recent example. That's not a very good sign. On the other hand, the Saints don't have to look too far back for some hope. The 2002 Eagles lost in the NFC Championship game and then started the '03 season with 17 and 21 point losses at home. They'd make it back to the NFC Championship game again that season.
  • Twenty teams from '70-'06 were outscored by 48 or more points in their first two games, with the Colts and Saints having each done it three times. While the 2007 Saints broke that tie, this is far from the worst start in franchise history. New Orleans was outscored by 92 points in their first two games of '73, and by 59 and 49 in '75 and '76. That's not a misprint -- the Saints lost 62-7 on opening day, 1973, to the Falcons. Atlanta would get shut out 31-0 the following week to the Rams. Remarkably, that Saints team managed to still win five of its last eleven games. The Colts had their three pitiful starts in '78, '85 and '86.
  • How about the best start? The '70 Lions were +75 and the '75 Skins were +74. Only two teams have been +60 in the past quarter-century, the '06 Chargers and the '89 Browns. None of those teams won the Super Bowl, but one of the linebackers had a pretty cool sack dance.
  • Dallas has 80 points, which is a lot. The Cowboys are the 10th team since the merger to score over 80 points after two weeks. But while Tony Romo and company may have outscored every team in the league, it's not the biggest offensive explosion in Big D's history. The 1971 Cowboys scored 13 TDs in its first two games, led the league in scoring and won the Super Bowl. In the past fifteen years, only the '01 Colts (87 points), '99 Redskins (85) and '98 49ers (81) have scored over 80 points, and all of them but the 2001 Colts at least made the playoffs.
  • Atlanta has 10 points, which is a little. The Raiders and Bucs had fewer last year, and the '03 Eagles had just ten points after two weeks, as well. In the past decade it's only happened two other times: the 2002 Ravens (7 points scored, ended the season ranked 24th in points scored) and the 2001 Redskins (3, 28th).
  • As noted earlier, the Steel Curtain has been in full effect in Pittsburgh this year, having surrendered just ten points after two weeks. The Chargers, Bears, Ravens and Falcons all allowed fewer than ten points after two weeks last year. The '05 Colts and '03 Seahawks were the only teams to do that in the prior three years.
  • While the Bengals allowed 51 points yesterday, the Giants are last in the league with 80 points allowed to date. The Browns aren't much better, having allowed 79 points. That's really bad; in the past decade, only the '03 Cardinals and '02 Lions have allowed 79 or more points after two weeks. Those two teams finished with 12 and 13 losses, respectively, and both ranked in the bottom two in points allowed that season. The '89 Steelers (92 points allowed) were the second worst since the merger (behind the '73 Saints), but Pittsburgh would rebound and even win a playoff game that year.
  • Finally, while yesterday's Browns-Bengals game was the highest scoring game of the past 20 years, it's not even the highest scoring Browns-Bengals game in the past four seasons! Here's a list of the eleven games to hit the 95-point mark:
    year	htm	hpts	rtm	rpts	tpts
    2007 cle 51 cin 45 96
    2004 cin 58 cle 48 106
    1995 phi 58 det 37 95 (playoff game)
    1986 nyj 51 mia 45 96
    1985 sdg 54 pit 44 98
    1983 sea 51 kan 48 99
    1983 gnb 48 was 47 95
    1966 was 72 nyg 41 113
    1963 rai 52 oil 49 101
    1950 ram 70 bcl 27 97
    1948 nyg 35 crd 63 98