The Oakland Raiders, almost to a man, keep telling anyone who will listen that there is no reason to panic despite a 2-3 record following an AFC Championship season.
The Raiders are also quick to point out that the team lost four straight games to fall to 4-4 last season. Then, Oakland rebounded by winning nine of its next 10 games before getting slaughtered by Tampa Bay 48-21 in the Super Bowl. The Raiders also continue to say that loss has no bearing on their current struggles.
Some people might say that injuries have played a role in Oakland's problems. For Sunday's road game at Cleveland, there are two players listed as doubtful and another 11 as questionable. Keep in mind, however, that the Raiders were without their top three cornerbacks (Charles Woodson, Tory James and Phillip Buchanon) at one point in last season's second-half surge.
Perhaps, however, there is at least a grain of truth to the "Super Bowl Hangover" theory.
Oakland, which visits 2-3 Cleveland Sunday, is only a couple of plays away from being 0-5 and was fortunate to beat Cincinnati and San Diego (two teams that are a combined 1-9). If a team struggles for one or two games in a row, perhaps it's an aberration but more than that amount would have to be considered a pattern.
"Everybody's got their opinions," Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon said. "I don't know if that's the case. We're five games into the season, and I don't think anyone's pouting or crying about what transpired last January. I think that's over and we have a new set of problems in front of us. Now, it's just a matter of how we're going to overcome them."
Gannon is the one most people seem to mention when talking about the Super Bowl Hangover. Gannon enjoyed an NFL MVP season in 2002 before throwing five interceptions in the Super Bowl. Gannon has completed less than half of his passes in three of Oakland's five games this season.
"People make too much of it," Oakland left guard Frank Middleton said. "We've got a great plan on offense we just have to stick to it. It's like when we get something going we want to get something else going. I want to go back to the bread and butter. Whatever works for you, just do it until they stop you. I don't think we do that anymore."
Here's a stat that falls into the "what gives" category. The Raiders have not won a game away from the Coliseum since beating San Diego 27-7 on December 8th. The Browns are 9-25 at home since the franchise returned to the NFL in 1999.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com