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fooddaman
09-07-2005, 08:08 AM
http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050907/SPORTS03/509070435

Winning in openers sets a tone in NFL
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<!--RELATED PHOTO GALLERIES--> <!----> <!--RELATED PHOTOS GALLERIES AND MULTIMEDIA ASSETS--> <!--MAIN FACTS BOX--> <table border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="0" width="100%"> <tbody><tr> <td bgcolor="#cccccc"> <table border="0" cellpadding="10" cellspacing="0" width="100%"> <tbody><tr> <td bgcolor="#eeeeee"> SUNDAY'S GAME
Who: Colts at Ravens.

When: 7:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN, WNDY-23.

Radio: WFBQ-94.7 FM.

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<!--ADDITIONAL FACTS --> <table border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="0" width="100%"> <tbody><tr> <td bgcolor="#cccccc"> <table border="0" cellpadding="10" cellspacing="0" width="100%"> <tbody><tr> <td bgcolor="#eeeeee"> Why 1-0 is a good sign
Here is why winning an NFL season opener is usually a positive indicator for a team:

The combined record of Super Bowl teams in season openers has been 66-10-2. Last year's finalists, New England and Philadelphia, each won.

Since the 16-game schedule was adopted in 1978, and excluding the strike-shortened 1982 season, 199 of 378 opener winners (52.6 percent) reached the playoffs.

Last season, 11 of the 12 playoff teams won in Week 1. The Colts were the only eventual playoff team to start 0-1.

Since 1978, 110 of the 378 opener winners have won division titles. Last season, the Colts were the only eventual division winner who did not win their first game.

</td> </tr> </tbody></table> </td> </tr> </tbody></table>
<table border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="0" width="100%"> <tbody><tr> <td bgcolor="#cccccc"> <table border="0" cellpadding="10" cellspacing="0" width="100%"> <tbody><tr> <td bgcolor="#eeeeee"> Best, worst in openers
Here are the best and worst teams in NFL season openers, based on winning percentage. The Indianapolis Colts rank 21st at 30-30-1 (.500).

BEST

1. Jacksonville 7-3 (.700)

2. Dallas 30-14-1 (.682)

3. Houston 2-1 (.667)

4. Denver 29-15-1 (.659)

5. N.Y. Giants 40-28-4 (.588)

WORST

1. New Orleans 11-27 (.289)

2. Seattle 9-20 (.310)

3. Baltimore 3-6 (.333)

4. Arizona 27-43-1 (.386)

5. (tie) Buffalo 18-27 (.400), Carolina 4-6, Philadelphia 28-42-1.

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</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <!-- STORY TEXT --> <!--ARTICLE BODY TEXT--> By Phillip B. Wilson
<script language="JavaScript"> <!-- document.write( ''+'phillip.wilson'+'@'+'indystar.com'+' (+)'); //--> </script>phillip.wilson@indystar.com

Ambitions are seldom more believable than before an NFL season opener, when each team has Super Bowl dreams.

The Indianapolis Colts are again a title contender and on the road. The Sunday night opener at Baltimore is the Colts' sixth consecutive season opener away from the RCA Dome.

The first in this string of five previous road openers was one of the more memorable ones for Colts offensive tackle Tarik Glenn and center Jeff Saturday. The Colts started out at one of the league's loudest venues, Arrowhead Stadium at Kansas City, and won 27-14.

"They did the whole Derrick Thomas tribute and had the airplanes flying over the stadium," Glenn said, recalling a ceremony honoring the late Chiefs linebacker in 2000.

"It marked the year for us to really come out and play well as a team. I think it changed . . . how we went out and played games when we went to a hostile environment."

The Colts have won four of the past five road openers. They've had winning seasons and reached the playoffs in four of those years.

Glenn anticipates a similar environment against the Ravens.

"Baltimore is going to be just as hostile and just as sweet," Glenn said of his ninth season-opening start. "It's always fun to play in different stadiums to get a different feel."

Saturday, making his sixth consecutive start in a season opener, recalls the intensity of running out to face the Chiefs.

"They were predicted to be a great team. We were up and coming at the time," he said. "The crowd was unbelievable. It was a sea of red. It was a perfect setup to the game, when you walk out of the tunnel and the place is going crazy.

"At the end of the season, (the opener) is just another game, but you always want to start with a win and get your season started the way you thought about it throughout the offseason. It may be only one game, but it's a real ramp up."

The Colts are 30-30-1 in season openers, the league's only .500 team in first games. After moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984, they lost their first eight openers before beating Cleveland 14-3 at the Dome in 1992.

Since the arrival of quarterback Peyton Manning in 1998, the Colts are 5-2 in openers. Tony Dungy is 5-4 in first games as a head coach, 2-1 with the Colts and 3-3 while with Tampa Bay.

Dungy recalls an ominous opening as head coach with Tampa Bay in 1996.

"We had the stadium issue coming up. The vote was going to be the next day, and we lost 34-3 to Green Bay," he said. "Everybody said, 'Oh, you've driven the Buccaneers out of town.' "

And then there was his debut with the Colts, his first look at Manning and coordinator Tom Moore's powerful offense in a 28-25 victory at Jacksonville in 2002.

"I said, 'Boy, this is going to be a lot of fun,' " Dungy said.

This season's opener is special for Colts safety Gerome Sapp, who played for the Ravens in 2003, then was cut at the outset of 2004 in a move that divided the team's decision-makers. Sapp said the Ravens intended to cut Corey Fuller, but Fuller talked them out of it by reminding them how he got Deion Sanders to sign with Baltimore.

"I don't think guys can really imagine what kind of atmosphere it's going to be on a Sunday night in Baltimore," Sapp said. "I'm sure they're going to introduce their defense, Ray Lewis will do his (pregame) dance and the excitement in the air will be amazing."

Sapp says he has no hard feelings about being cut. He still keeps in touch with many of his former teammates.

"I was thinking about my rookie year and opening at Pittsburgh and thinking, 'Damn, this is the Steelers.' That was my first game. I was like, 'This is for real now,' " he said.

"I remember seeing the logos on their helmets. And one side doesn't have a logo. I had never looked at that closely on TV, but being out on the field, I was like, 'I'm really playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is the NFL.' "