In both victory and defeat the coaches of both last week's winners and last week's losers must remind their players and their fans, "Let's not get ahead of ourselves."
Since the 16-game schedule was instituted in 1978, teams that won their openers have made the playoffs more than twice as often as week one losers. 53% of week one winners, as the Saints were, have made the playoffs. Only 24% of week one losers -- as the Bucs were -- have made the playoffs.
But it was whom the Saints beat and to whom the Bucs lost along with whom they must face in the immediate future that makes Sunday's game so important to each team's psyche.
Fans of the Bucs look at last week's defeat by the Jets and conclude "We just lost to the worst team on our schedule. And with the Saints this week and a road trip to New England next week, we're looking at an oh-and-three start to the season."
Fans of the Saints look at last week's victory over the Falcons and gloat, "We just beat one of the toughest teams on our schedule and with home games against Arizona and Miami the next two weeks, we're looking at a 4-0 start to ours!"
Coaches abhor the fans' tendency to dwell on the past in victory or defeat and to forecast the future beyond the immediate challenge that awaits this week's kickoff.
But should the Saints win in Tampa on Sunday it will be virtually impossible to prevent Saints' fans from thinking, "here we go" and Bucs' fans from thinking, "here we go...again."
Jim Henderson, FOX 8 Sports.
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