It was late July when the lockout ended, and as grown men were getting emotional about the NFL season being saved, burly Jeff Saturday hugged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Almost two months later, it's the Indianapolis Colts' Pro Bowl center who needs a hug. Saturday never could have imagined the Colts would perform so miserably on the season's first Sunday.
But when training camps opened, Peyton Manning was expected to be the quarterback once he healed from neck surgery, and Las Vegas sports books posted Indy's regular-season win total at 9½ and 10.
The Colts are more than a man down. Without Manning, and with Kerry Collins doing a poor imitation of him, they're down and out. Even if Manning returns in November, his team will be hopelessly out of the playoff picture.
Some sharp analysts are even whispering Indianapolis could be the NFL's worst team. But there are several candidates in the chase to be ranked No. 32, and the Cleveland Browns are among them.
The Colts host the Browns in a Sunday showdown between teams that fell behind in the first half by a combined score of 47-0 last week. Oddsmakers opened Cleveland as the favorite by default.
It's not easy to bet on either team, so I'll take the 2½ points and bet against the Browns, who did nothing impressively in their 27-17 home loss to the lowly Cincinnati Bengals.
Cleveland has a tough running back in Peyton Hillis, a below-average quarterback in Colt McCoy and not much else. McCoy is 2-7 as a starter, and the Browns have failed to cover in eight of their past nine games.
Collins, who looked clumsy as the Colts were drubbed 34-7 at Houston, is a proud veteran embarrassed by his play. He has had another week of work in a new offense, plenty of mistakes to learn from and is highly motivated to turn in a better showing.
Indianapolis has issues on defense, but Dwight Freeney is still a force, and the offense still has Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne. It won't be a snap for Saturday to help get Collins turned in the right direction.
But the desperate Colts should win this one. If not, they are even worse than we thought, and those whispers will turn into screams.
Four more plays for Week 2 (Home team in CAPS):
■ BILLS (-3) over Raiders: Buffalo's defense is much stronger with the additions of Nick Barnett and Shawne Merriman, and it can contain stud running back Darren McFadden and an Oakland offense that won't get a lot through the air. The Bills finally appear competent offensively. The spot is a negative for the Raiders, who won a sloppy game at Denver on Monday.
■ Cowboys (-3) over 49ERS: For three quarters in the opener, Dallas looked as good as any other team in the league. But will Tony Romo finish or flop again? San Francisco's defensive front seven will put the heat on Romo. First-year coach Jim Harbaugh will win with the 49ers, but the Cowboys have more ways to score and more talent across the board.
■ DOLPHINS (+3) over Texans: Chad Henne and the Miami offense showed potential against New England. The lessons the Dolphins' defense learned from Tom Brady could pay off.
■ FALCONS (+2½) over Eagles: On the list of teams that looked terrible in Week 1, Atlanta was near the top. But the Falcons went 13-3 last season and have been almost unbeatable at home with Matt Ryan at quarterback. Michael Vick is in for a fight with this home 'dog.
Last week: 2-2-1 against the spread
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts the "Las Vegas Sportsline" weeknights at midnight on KDWN-AM (720) and thelasvegassportsline.com.