Many people have a chip on their shoulder at some point.
Maybe a job interview didn’t go the way it was supposed to, or you were rejected by your preferred college after a poor entrance exam. This can provide frustration that, if channeled properly, can be focused into positive, productive long-term gains.
Since sports groups people together, teams can also experience this. We’ve all witnessed the club that sees an undefeated streak end in an embarrassing upset, only to bounce back the next week and hammer some poor opponent. Two years ago the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seemed focused the entire season on the way to winning the Super Bowl. Then, essentially, the same team played very differently in a disappointing 2003 campaign. Here’s a look at some NFL teams that may have something to prove.
Philadelphia: Time may be running out on the Eagles. Three straight trips to the NFC championship game is remarkable. Three straight losses (twice at home as a favorite) is even more remarkable. Andy Reid’s team isn’t panicking, but chances to reach the Super Bowl don’t come around often and the hourglass may be running low.
As low as the team was in January after losing to the Panthers in the NFC title game, expectations are high again with the additions of four-time Pro Bowl WR Terrell Owens and defensive end Jevon Kearse. The Eagles are 20-6 SU/ATS on the road the last three years, including 7-1 SU/ATS last season.
Green Bay: A gut-wrenching playoff loss can help motivate a team the following season. Packers fans certainly hope something good comes out of the playoff collapse in January to the Eagles, blowing a 14-0 lead and eventually losing when a fourth-and-26 pass allowed Philadelphia to keep a last second drive alive.
The key players return, which is good news for a balanced offense (4th in the NFL) behind RB Ahman Green and QB Brett Favre. The fiery Favre has never needed extra motivation to give his all, but perhaps the whole team has that extra drive with the memory of January’s heartbreak still fresh.
Seattle: The young up-and-coming Seahawks have an explosive offense behind QB Matt Hasselbeck, running back Shaun Alexander and WRs Koren Robinson and Darrell Jackson. Mike Holmgren’s offense finished third in passing and was one of only seven NFL teams to exceed 400 points.
Young teams often learn to win at home as they’re beginning to gel. The Seahawks exemplify that trait, going 8-0 SU/5-3 ATS in Seattle last season and just 2-7 on the road. There is ample room to improve away from home, as well as the memories of an overtime playoff loss at Green Bay for motivation. Seattle carries a 7-2-1 ATS run into the new season.
NY Jets: Head Coach Herm Edwards and New York were feeling pretty good about themselves after getting to the playoffs in 2001 and 2002. They had a remarkable late run to win the AFC East two years ago, but last year nothing went right.
Injuries to Chad Pennington, a porous defense and a 0-4 SU/0-3-1 ATS start doomed any thoughts of a repeat division title. You never know how important something is until it’s gone, and perhaps the Jets will be focused on regaining the division title that was taken away.
Minnesota: In a stunning collapse worthy of the stock market crash of ’29, the 2003 Vikings were a tale of two seasons. Minnesota had the No. 1 offense in pro football and grand thoughts after a perfect 6-0 SU/ATS start. Playoffs? Super Bowl? A budding dynasty?
Instead, the Vikings were dragged back to reality. Minnesota dropped seven of its final 10 games (2-8 ATS). The capper was a shocking 18-17 loss at Arizona in the finale after blowing a 17-6 lead with two minutes left and surrendering a 28-yard TD pass on the game’s final play. If Mike Tice wants to motivate his boys this fall, just pop the tape of that one in the VCR.
St. Louis: Is this the end of an era, or a chance for one last roundup for the "Greatest Show on Turf?" Mark Bulger has replaced Kurt Warner for good and there is still lots of offensive talent with Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and rookie RB Steven Jackson.
They have to replace standout defensive coordinator Lovie Smith and recover from the upset loss at home to the Panthers in the playoffs, a 29-23 double overtime defeat. The Rams are 37-8 SU, 26-17-2 ATS at home since 1999, including 8-1 SU/6-2-1 ATS last year.
Denver: Despite a playoff appearance, 2003 was not a good year for Head Coach Mike Shanahan. The Broncos collapsed in a stunning 30-26 loss at home to the Patriots and lost 19-10 to the Bears at home as a 10-point favorite, despite a 200-106 edge in rushing yards. Then came the playoffs, when Denver quit in a 41-10 loss at Indianapolis.
The Broncos will be watched closely. The pass defense was improved with the acquisition of CB Champ Bailey, but Denver had to part with talented young RB Clinton Portis. Last season ended bitterly and there is plenty to prove. Over the last three seasons, the Broncos are 4-10 SU, 5-9 ATS as an underdog.