There is an old Japanese proverb, "Fall seven times, stand up eight."
Perseverance is the key to success, just as frustration and failure can prove excellent motivating factors in sports. We see quality teams get beaten badly all the time, then bounce back the next game with a terrific performance. This can also take place with teams that are off disappointing seasons.
It may seem a distant memory now, but the Bears ended the 2005 season with a blowout loss at the Vikings (34-10) then a home loss to the Panthers in the playoffs, 29-21. The next season, the Bears were a very motivated team, going 15-3 while winning the NFC. They were on a mission all year.
Two years ago in this column I pointed out, "The spotlight is on N.Y. Giants coach Tom Coughlin. He was a cinch to be fired after the team went 2-7 SU, 3-5-1 ATS in 2006. They were sloppy, undisciplined and fractured after a 6-2 start. There are plenty of big-names with something to prove."
Well, they proved it, all right, rolling to a surprising Super Bowl title. When channeled properly, frustration can be focused into positive energy. Here are some NFL teams that may have something to prove in 2009.
Packers: Green Bay began last season with a new quarterback in Aaron Rodgers after jettisoning Brett Favre, the longtime face of the franchise. The Packers finished 8th in total offense, 20th in defense. Yet, they flopped in close games and finished 6-10 after a miserable 1-5 SU/ATS end to the season.
Rodgers put up great overall numbers (28 TDs, 13 INTs), but had no late game magic like his predecessor as Green Bay was an astounding 0-7 SU/3-4 ATS in games decided by four points or less! For this season, Rodgers is a year older and the run defense adds nose tackle B.J. Raji (Boston College) and USC linebacker Clay Matthews in the draft.
Panthers: You might not recall, but the Panthers had a great season in 2008, going 12-4 and finishing as the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Yet, the sting of a shocking 33-13 home playoff loss to Arizona left a bitter taste. QB Jake Delhomme flamed out in the game and should have plenty of motivation. Plus, defensive end Julius Peppers is signed for this season, while the defense adds rookies DE Everette Brown, Corvey Irvin and CB Sherrod Martin. Carolina is on an 8-3 over the total run.
Saints: Ever since the Saints reached the 2007 NFC Championship game with the top offense in football, the public has been waiting for this group to reach the next level. They have flopped since because the defense is still weak. Despite leading the league in scoring offense again, New Orleans was last in the division. The secondary adds rookie CB Malcom Jenkins (Ohio State), but the run defense is still a concern. Did you know the Saints carry a 10-3-1 ATS run into the new season? New Orleans is also 29-16-1 over the total its last 46 games.
Cowboys: What a flop! Dallas was one of the most talented teams in the NFL but failed to even make the playoffs. A humiliating 44-6 regular season defeat at rival Philadelphia was a stinging indictment of this coaching staff. Wade Phillips is clearly on the hot seat. His first season they were the top seed in the NFC, yet lost their first playoff game (at home) to the Giants, followed by last season’s train wreck finish. Shipping out Terrell Owens and asking more of WR Roy Williams makes a lot of sense, but one has to wonder how competent this coaching staff is.
Patriots: The Patriots don’t have coaching staff concerns, though there is a new offensive coordinator. The real story is the health of QB Tom Brady, who was injured in the opening moments of Week 1. The team is 25-2 his last 27 starts. It also could be the last hurrah for LB Tedy Bruschi and NT Vince Wilfork.
Giants: Like several high-seeded playoff teams last January, the defending champs were upset by the Eagles, 23-11. This team has outstanding depth, balance on offense (ranked 7th overall), a defense that ranked 5th and strong play on both lines. They went into an offensive funk when WR Plaxico Burress went AWOL. He is gone and the offense wants to show it can win without him. A guy to watch is rookie WR Hakeem Nicks, a first-round pick from North Carolina.