Every football season brings a handful of teams that win their first two games and dreams of postseason crop up in places that were just hoping for a .500 record before the season started. According to the Houston Chronicle, since 2002 41 teams have started 2-0 but only 24 of those teams have gone on to make the playoffs. That's 58.5% which means that two wins to start a season doesn't guarantee anything more than not finishing 1-15. Take the 2002 season, for example. Carolina, Chicago, Denver, Miami, New England, New Orleans, Oakland and San Diego all won their first two games but only Oakland, the eventual Super Bowl loser, ended up playing more than 16 games. With that in mind I thought I'd take a look at this year's hot starters and see which of them were likely to keep up the good play in coming weeks.
New England Patriots - I'd say they are very likely to keep up the good play and will end up shy one first-round draft pick next April. The New York Post might be putting an asterisk next to their record but it has about as much of a place as it does next to Omar Vizquel's career home runs. The wins count, the team is loaded and a run at the '72 Dolphins probably isn't out of the question. However unlikely an undefeated season might be the Patriots will make it at least 25 playoff teams since 2002.
Pittsburgh Steelers - It's hard to know just what to make of the Steelers after two blowout wins. Cleveland, even after their 51-point outburst, isn't going to be a double-digit winner this season and Buffalo's defense is riddled with more potholes than a Baghdad highway. That said, the offense has been moving the ball well and the defense looks as sturdy as ever. Their schedule doesn't get tough until week seven when they embark on back to back roadies in Denver and Cincinnati followed by Baltimore at home. It might be some time before we can confirm how good the Steelers are but all signs point to the positive.
Indianapolis Colts - The defending champs have won a blowout and a squeaker thus far and that makes sense because they are probably somewhere in the middle. When their offense gets the chance they will blow teams out but the Titans revealed some ongoing problems against power running games. Their schedule isn't fraught with too much danger, though, and, again, the offense is loaded so count the Colts in the for real column.
Houston Texans - Beating the Chiefs doesn't mean much but beating the Panthers in Charlotte is a sign that the Texans might be better than anyone thought this season. Outside of their problems stopping Steve Smith, the defense looked fantastic this weekend and the Matt Schaub-Andre Johnson connection is making the name David Carr as much a memory as the Oilers. They are young, though, and a bit thin so let's put them in the wait and see department.
Denver Broncos - The Broncos could be 0-2 just as easily as 2-0 which is usually not a good sign. One problem is that Jay Cutler is playing like a young quarterback. He's putting up good numbers but the team is having problems turning yardage into points and red zone failures fall at the feet of the QB, fair or not. A bigger problem is a defense that's giving up 156 yards a game on the ground while trying to integrate six new starters. They are at the Colts and home for the Chargers in weeks four and five and if they are anything better than 3-2 at that point you can start getting excited.
Dallas Cowboys - Their offense sliced through two bad teams with ease so this weekend's game with the Bears should go a long way in terms of making a judgement about the Cowboys. You have to be impressed with what Tony Romo has done, bad teams or not 531 yards and six touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at, and Marion Barber looks like he's the go-to guy on the ground. Now it's just up to Wade Phillips to get the defense operating at a similar level. Signing Tank Johnson will keep them armed, we'll see about dangerous, but the offense should keep them in the mix for the rest of the year.
Washington Redskins - Jason Campbell is the flavor of the moment and the defense is playing back to form after a terrible 2006 but the Redskins are lacking the pizazz of a playoff team. That might not stop them from being 6-0 when they travel to New England in the eighth week of the season. Their schedule doesn't get much more difficult after that game, either, so if Campbell continues progressing and the defense continues producing the 'Skins should find their way to their best record since Joe Gibbs returned to the sideline.
Detroit Lions - I'm not a believer in a team that needs overtime to beat the offense-less Vikings nor am I a believer in a team with a defense as bad as the Lions. And god help them if Jon Kitna gets hurt again because J.T. O'Sullivan is a much better name for a chain of family-friendly pub-style restaurants than it is for a starting quarterback.
Green Bay Packers - The lack of a running game is going to be a problem for them all season which means that Brett Favre is going to have to throw a lot. That means he'll have those multi-interception games and the defense will be under a lot of pressure each and every week. It's a good defense but those are long odds, even in the NFC.
San Francisco 49ers - At Pittsburgh, home vs. Seattle and home vs. Baltimore. That's the upcoming slate for the Niners and I will be an impressed blogger indeed if a team rolling up 190 yards a game can navigate that minefield to the tune of anything better than 3-2. I came into the season liking San Francisco but that was based on their offense and it's not working thus far. They might be the only team in this roundup that's been disappointing through the first two weeks. 2-0 is 2-0 though and for a few more days at least they can enjoy their place at the top of the NFL food chain.