Usually it takes at least a month of the new season before the hype and exaggeration comes into play. Not this year. Two weeks is all it took before we're ready to name our Super Bowl teams; two games for two unbeaten outfits to be anointed as The Chosen Ones.
And the verdict is...Denver v Seattle in New York for XLVIII on February 2.
That's not my prediction, of course; you already know I expect it to be Green Bay against Houston (although I'm prepared to revise that at any time!).
No, having sifted through the vast array of coverage of a totally riveting Week Two, I have discerned two increasingly strong narratives in the US media that have developed around the Broncos and Seahawks with astonishing speed.
Mind you, when one team out-scores its opponents 90-50 in those first two outings (take a bow, Peyton Manning and Co) and the other produces a thunderous rout of its main rival, and is now 71-16 in its last two home showdowns with San Francisco, Colin Kaepernick and all, then it's easy to see why some of the pundits are excited.
Seriously, there is already speculation that Denver can complete another 14 wins for the rest of the season and sweep into New York in a snowstorm of Manning touchdown passes. Yes, we know he has nine already, but let's get real here.
Quotes of the week
Indeed, the hyperbole of expectation has started most emphatically, with the headline 'Can Denver go 16-0?' So, no pressure there, then.
Seriously, there is already speculation that Denver can complete another 14 wins for the rest of the season and sweep into New York in a snowstorm of Manning touchdown passes. Yes, we know he has nine already, but let's get real here. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick did achieve that very feat only six years ago, but it's distinctly daffy to suggest we're open to prognostications of perfecto just yet.
Let's get to 8-0 and we can start to discuss their place alongside the Patriots and 1972 Dolphins. In the meantime, though, we CAN enjoy two truly remarkable all-round performances by John Fox's men and anticipate a lot of fun whenever they take the field.
Their next six games certainly don't feature a major challenge, with the likes of Dallas, Philadelphia and a trip to Indianapolis (the return of the not-so-prodigal son?) being the toughest-looking games on the slate, hence an unbeaten first half of the season is an intriguing possibility. But it's no more than that just yet.
The REAL juice in the cocktail of this Mile High Mix is the fact the Broncos are currently charging at full tilt without their top two defensive stars in Von Miller (suspended through the first six games) and Champ Bailey (still no timetable for his return from a pre-season foot injury), which suggests there is still room for improvement from these Broncos, and which would make the idea of another Sweet Sixteen extremely plausible. If they get to 8-0.
Seattle's rapid rise to Super Bowl favouritism is slightly different. I said, SEATTLE'S RISE IS SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT!!
Excuse me if I'm shouting but really that's the only way to be heard after the Sunday night slugfest at CenturyLink Field that featured arguably the loudest crowd in recent history. It certainly had the 49ers going "Huh?' and "Whaa?" for much of the game as they tried to decipher the offensive play-calls and other basics of communication.
In fact, it was so strident, at one point the decibel count was measured at 131.9db, which is higher than the take-off level of the average jet aircraft - just 100 yards away (and yes, the fans are claiming a Guinness World Record for "loudest crowd at a sports stadium").
At times, Kaepernick and the offence seemed so discombobulated, you wondered if they had been physically whacked around the head as they lined up for each play, and that's probably not far from the truth.
You also have to wonder if the average Seattle resident actually talks at more 100db on a normal basis. I SAID, YOU HAVE TO WONDER......but you get the idea.What that means in footballing terms is that if the road to XLVIII goes through the Pacific north-west (and it may not be a huge 'if' on the strength of what we witnessed on Sunday), the visiting teams are going to be at a major competitive disadvantage due to the '12th man effect.' And, if the 'Hawks keep playing defence like demented banshees from the Planet Tharg, they will A), get home advantage, and 2) Be practically impossible to dislodge from CenturyLink.
And that, my friends, is how we arrive at Denver v Seattle at MetLife Stadium on February 2.
Unfortunately, this coming round of games isn't likely to put this theory to much of a test. With the Seahawks entertaining the truly toothless Jaguars - and it's already rumoured that the Mercy Rule will be invoked for this one and the officials will be ready to call a halt if it gets TOO one-sided - and the Broncos at home to the Raiders, both teams should stroll to 3-0 (of course, if they don't, the big theory is heading for an almighty bang - are you with me on that one, TV followers?). So we will have to look elsewhere for our edge-of-seat excitement in Week Three.
Happily, there are plenty of other possibilities for footballing cliff-hangers that will be worth getting in the popcorn for.
First up is Andy Reid's return to Philly as head coach of newly re-energised Kansas City (live on SS1 HD at 1am on Friday), where the locals will have the most mixed of emotions for their former head coach. There is also the little matter of whether the Chip Kelly Express has been permanently derailed after hitting the San Diego buffers, hence there is a lot at stake at The Linc.
A second successive Eagles defeat to a supposed AFC West lightweight will spell serious doom and gloom in the Land of the Cheesesteak, while a reverse for the Chiefs will throw a significant wrench in Reid's shiny new machine.
The wobbly reigning champs will also welcome back one of their own when they entertain Houston - Ed Reed and all - in what could easily be a make-or-break outing for Joe Flacco after two less than stellar outings since he signed his $120.6million contract. The pressure is definitely on Not-So-Smoking Joe, and the Ravens will be expecting him to deliver a bit more than three touchdowns and three turnovers, as he has to date.
Another pressing conundrum centres on The Player Who Used To Be RGIII. Washington have so far played more like the Generals than the Redskins and Robert Griffin III's seeming inability to run and actually be RGIII is a growing concern. Sunday's game at home to the less-than-formidable Detroit defence (live on SS3 HD from 5.30pm) will go a long way to telling us one thing or the other.
In this case, 'the other' is that he has returned from his major knee surgery way too soon, and more fingers will be pointed in the direction of head coach Mike Shanahan and his medical advisors, who, if you remember, were at least partly responsible for the player being reduced to a shambling, knee-wrecked casualty in the first place.
And then we have two snake-bitten teams eager to put recent defeats behind them as Indianapolis head to San Francisco (also on SS3 HD from 9pm). The Colts slipped to a surprising home defeat at the hands of equally surprising Miami, when Andrew Luck's uncanny ability to engineer fourth-quarter comebacks suddenly left the building.
Going up against an angry and embarrassed 49ers outfit fresh from that CenturyLink ear-bashing is tantamount to sticking your hand in the hornet's nest, but it will provide a key litmus test of where these two teams are likely to be headed for the rest of this season.
Finally, for Week Three intrigue, we also have the little matter of those 2-0 Dolphins. Wins at Cleveland and Indy are certainly not to be taken lightly, especially with the brand of defence now being wielded by the Browns (if only they had an offence, ANY kind of offence), but taking on Atlanta is definitely a step up in the gridiron scale of things.
The Falcons have urgent post-season ambitions this year and will be keen to ensure New Orleans do not go marching off into the NFC South distance, but Miami have a bit more about them this term that suggests some kind of south Florida renaissance may not be out of the question.
Linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler are tackling like demons; defensive linemen Cameron Wake and Derrick Shelby have half of the team's nine sacks to date; and the backfield already have four INTs. It is a prime-time 'D' and the Falcons will have their hands full on that side of the ball.
Ryan Tannehill and the Miami offence have been possibly one of the quietest success stories of the first two weeks, with an efficiency and strike rate that will also keep Atlanta on their toes. Tannehill already has 591 yards passing, at a 65.3 completion percentage and with four proven receivers in Mike Wallace (first week tantrum notwithstanding), full-back Charles Clay, ex-Rams wideout Brandon Gibson and early team MVP candidate Brian Hartline, who is on course for 112 catches and 1,456 yards receiving.
The one weak link in the 'Fins arsenal at the moment is the running game, which is averaging a miserable 2.4 yards per carry. But there is plenty of scope for improvement from Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas hence, if Miami are sitting at 3-0 on Monday morning, it will be more than the AFC East that sits up and takes notice.
Stat of the Week: Of the first 32 games, fully 22 have been decided by seven points or less, the most ever for the opening fortnight. If this trend continues, most fans will have no nails left by Week Eight!
Post to your View!
Be the first to post a comment on this story