|GOLDBERG ON FOOTBALL: NFL streaks stem from parity.|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 12 November 2007 11:36|
Three hours later, the Lions, winners of three straight, were beaten by the Cardinals, who had lost three in a row.
That's standard in the NFL, where 26 of 32 teams have had winning or losing streaks of three or more games this season. New Orleans, San Diego and Buffalo have had both.
It's another facet of parity.
Yes, the unbeaten Patriots, the Cowboys, the Colts and the Packers have been able to run off long streaks because they are simply better than the opposition. And the Giants won six straight until they lost Sunday to Dallas in part because they were in a lengthy a soft spot of their schedule, which included another consistently bad team, the Jets, who are 1-8.
But the streaks are not only at the top and bottom of the NFL, they are also in the middle, as with the Saints, who lost four, won four and then lost at home to a winless team.
The Lions, who had a three-game winning streak snapped Sunday when they fell 31-21 in Arizona, are a good example.
Their six wins are the most they've had in a full season since Matt Millen took over as team president in 2001, but they are streaky in a way typical of teams that play indoors: 4-0 at home, but 2-3 on the road, where they have allowed 121 points in the three defeats.
In other cases, streaks are determined by the schedule, or by injuries or the lack of them. The Colts, a top-end team, went into San Diego without seven starters and lost four more players, one reason they lost their second straight after seven wins to open the season.
The Giants can beat bad teams, but not good ones. Their six straight wins were over teams with a combined record of 15-38; Washington (5-4) was the only victim currently over .500. Their three losses are to 8-1 teams, Dallas twice and Green Bay.
``We had a couple of big plays called back because of penalties,'' Giants center Shaun O'Hara said after Sunday's 31-20 loss. ``Against mediocre teams you will be able to overcome that, but not against teams like these guys.''
A capsule look at some of the streaks:
-New England (9-0). Why cheat when you have talent that's a level above everyone else and the league's best coaching to boot? There's a decent chance the Patriots will be the first team ever to go 19-0.
-Miami (0-9). Lack of talent, plus injuries to Trent Green, Zach Thomas and Ronnie Brown, among others. Add awful personnel decisions over the last decade that drop the Dolphins below parity to parody.
-Dallas (8-1). Only loss is to the Patriots. Tony Romo might be up there with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Brett Favre among the top QBs, making the Cowboys the NFL's second-best team right now.
-Buffalo (5-4). Four straight wins on pure grit. Two quarterbacks, subs for subs as injury replacements, but the luck to be in the AFC East, where the Jets and Dolphins, a combined 1-17, are two of their victims during the three-game winning streak. New England, a streak buster, is next.
-Indianapolis (7-2). Seven straight wins, now two straight losses, the second in the game against the Chargers that included two eye-popping improbabilities: six interceptions from Manning and a potential game-winning 29-yard field-goal attempt missed by Adam Vinatieri, the best clutch kicker in NFL history. The injured players include Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark, plus Dwight Freeney, who went out during the game.
-St. Louis (1-8). Talk about injuries. The Rams spent the first half of the season shuffling and reshuffling the offensive line, which lost Orlando Pace, its best player, in the first game. QB Marc Bulger missed two games and played several others with broken ribs, and Steven Jackson, the league's fifth-leading rusher last season, missed four games with a back injury. ``They had four or five games that could have gone their way,'' Saints coach Sean Payton said after Sunday's game. Fair comment.
-New Orleans (4-5). The loss to St. Louis was a typical letdown by a hot team playing a loser. With four straight wins after four losses to open the season, Payton was spreading rat traps around the practice facility last week to warn ``trap game.'' Didn't work, demonstrating that an average team can sustain a streak only so long.
-Cleveland (5-4). Clearly one of the league's most improved teams, the Browns won three straight going into Pittsburgh and took a 21-6 lead, threatening to tie the Steelers for the AFC North lead. The Browns finally lost because of Ben Roethlisberger's heroics and very strange clock management late in the game by Romeo Crennel. They probably proved they will remain a playoff contender, but the improvement may also simply get them somewhere around .500.
-Baltimore (4-5). Started 4-2 and now has lost three straight. Injuries are a factor, but quarterback is a bigger problem. The Ravens finally scored with 1:56 left against a Cincinnati team that entered Sunday's game tied for first in points allowed at 30.4 per game. Steve McNair seems done, Kyle Boller has never been the answer and the Ravens cut Derek Anderson, their sixth-round draft pick in 2005, hoping to sneak him onto the practice squad. Instead, he was claimed by Cleveland and has thrived. On the other hand, given the Ravens' history at QB, Anderson probably would have failed had he stayed.
-San Diego (5-4). Lost three straight, then won three straight with talent that is among the best in the NFL. Then gave up 296 yards rushing to Adrian Peterson in an unexplainable loss to the Vikings. Would be 4-5 if Vinatieri had done his usual. Major disappointment after going 14-2 in 2006, but still should win weak AFC West and could be straightened out by playoff time.
-Oakland (2-7). A league-worst 2-14 last season. Now have lost five straight after a 2-2 start. Decent defense, no offense. Time to start JaMarcus Russell, the first pick in the draft.
``Obviously the kid's here for a reason, and they picked him No. 1 for a reason,'' acknowledged Josh McCown, the current starter. ``At some point, he's going to have to play. Obviously for us we hope that's not this year, because we want to get on a roll here and start winning some ballgames.''
Seven straight? Why not?