Introducing The SSW

For years — OK, a couple of days — Slate writer Robert Weintraub has been tinkering with a concept called The SSW. He might have finally mastered it. This morning, we allow him to introduce his invention to the planet.

The SSW. Or, as it's known in longhand, the Sean Salisbury Wisdom. The SSW represents the I Formation I Ching, the consensus of the football punditocracy, the "Let me tell ya something about this here game" obviousness that the Pigskin Pee-Wee Herman and the rest of the phony-tough, kicker-hating, horse-laughing "experts" who conspire to build the consensus of the SSW bark from the teevee 28 hours or so a day during the week.

Only to be proven wrong on Sunday.

See, the best thing about the NFL is its sheer unpredictability, especially for the nation's bookmakers. Things we take for granted in Week 1 are usually rendered absurd by Week 4, because no league adapts and changes so quickly, thanks to injury, overcoaching and the essential mediocrity of most teams.

Think about the number of iterations the Colts went through in the SSW before winning the Super Bowl and earning Peyton Manning the occasional commercial opportunity. There were the opening night questions about the offense when they struggled to beat the Giants, then the 9-0 start when their ass was essentially crowned, then the stretch when seemingly every fullback dive play went for 60 yards against their porous defense, then the playoff run when they were supposed to be sledgehammered by the Chiefs, then the Ravens, then the Pats. Then came the Big Game™, when they would pass the Bears silly. Of course, none of it turned out as the SSW would have it.

The SSW isn't always entirely wrong — it gets thrown the occasional apatosaurus bone like the one Fred and Wilma dine on at the end of the opening credits. Take the Raiders last season—once the initial SSW (Art Shell is a "real Raider" who will install some discipline to Moss, Porter and the rest of the wild bunch) was shown to be fatally flawed on opening night, the SSW corrected to "they suck," which was an understatement, if anything.

So the mission of this season is to track the whiplash of the SSW as the season progresses, and to ensure those triumphant declarations from Friday aren't flushed down the memory hole on Monday. So without further ado...

PREVIOUS SSW

The Colts Super Bowl win was a mirage; their lack of depth on defense and at running back will cause a Super hangover.

NEW SSW

Hey, how come the Colts defenders get to play with jetpacks? Does Manning have an endorsement deal for those too?

PREVIOUS SSW

Sexy Rexy Grossman is the only thing holding back the Bears from another Super Bowl run.

NEW SSW

Maybe they shouldn't have let Thomas Jones go. At least Mike Brown got in his annual quarter and a half before going back on IR.

PREVIOUS SSW

Drew Brees + Reggie Bush > NFC South + Army Corps of Engineers.

NEW SSW

Did The Man blow a hole in the Saints secondary as well as the 17th Street Canal levee?

PREVIOUS SSW

Vince Young is a Madden cover jinx waiting to detonate.

NEW SSW

Just give VY a few live bodies and he'll get you a W.

PREVIOUS SSW

Tony Romo will be spending a long season looking back fondly at the bobbled PAT in the playoffs as a high point in his career.

NEW SSW

Romo seen intently watching MTV Awards in the locker room to scout next celebrity babe conquest

PREVIOUS SSW

Baby Bro Manning likely to come apart under Cyclops-like intense stare of Tiki Barber and the rest of the NYC media.

NEW SSW

Baby Bro Manning likely to come apart under 300 pounds of brute force on his shoulder.

PREVIOUS SSW

The ManGenius will scheme and study and strain and scarf Skittles on his way back to the playoffs.

NEW SSW

Sure could have used Pete Kendall against that Pats front seven. And didn't you ever practice against a guy returning a kick from eight yards deep?

PREVIOUS SSW

Joey Harrington's manage-the-game style ("white guy") of QBing will prove more effective than the wild freestyling style ("black guy") of Michael Vick, at least enough to get the Falcons 7-9 wins.

NEW SSW

Joey's actually worse than Tarvaris Jackson?

PREVIOUS SSW

Donovan McNabb is healthy, Bryan Westbrook is healthy, Jevon Kearse is healthy — look out, NFC.

NEW SSW

Is Vai Sikahema still active?

PREVIOUS SSW

Brett Favre isn't finished by a long shot — now that he has a solid defense behind him, the Pack are a dark horse in the NFC.

NEW SSW

If the solid Packers defense can overcome Brett Favre, the Pack are a dark horse in the NFC.

PREVIOUS SSW

LaDanian Tomlinson is by far the number one fantasy running back.

NEW SSW

LaDanian Tomlinson is by far the number one fantasy quarterback.

PREVIOUS SSW

Brady Quinn will be the starter in Cleveland by the end of the season, ready or not.

NEW SSW

Brady Quinn might petition the league to head back to Notre Dame.

PREVIOUS SSW

Powerful Bengals were unlucky to miss playoffs last season.

NEW SSW

The Bengals are unbelievably lucky to be 1-0.

PREVIOUS SSW

Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm will bring professionalism and an old school pound it out style to the desert.

NEW SSW

Denny Green couldn't coach worth a damn either, but at least he offered comic relief.

PREVIOUS SSW

The 49ers could make the playoffs in a poor conference.

NEW SSW

Patrick Willis can't do it all himself. At least Mike Nolan looks good in that suit.

PREVIOUS SSW

The Patriots combine the best elements of the 1962 Packers, the 1975 Steelers and the 1989 49ers, all in one supposedly humble, team-oriented mass.

NEW SSW

Bob Griese to Nick Buoniconti: "Uh-oh. Our annual celebratory champagne toast/mutual jerk-off session might not happen this year. Don't worry — we can always say that we didn't have to steal signs to go unbeaten."