Opening Numbers: Pro Football Guru Tackles Week 1

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 05, 2013

By Russell S. Baxter
Cold Hard Football Facts Numerologist (@baxfootballguru)

It’s baaaaaack…

Welcome to the 2013 NFL season, highlighted by Thursday night’s kickoff extravaganza between the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos. The defending Super Bowl champions usually host the kickoff game but due to a parking conflict with the Orioles the game was shifted to the Mile High City.

Talk about for the birds.

However, let’s look at the ramifications of the game. The team that eventually wins the covered Lombardi Trophy is 38-8-1 in its first game of the season. But that has changed a bit in recent seasons. It’s worth noting that five of the last 12 Super Bowl champions came up short in Week 1.

The 2001 Patriots (XXXVI), ’02 Buccaneers (XXXVII), ’03 Patriots (XXXVIII), ’07 Giants (XLII) and last year’s G-Men (XLVI) all lost their first game and would go onto win that final postseason contest of the season. And the ’01 Patriots and ’07 Giants actually started 0-2 on their way to a title.

So how crucial is the opener between these clubs? We won’t know the answer to that for awhile.

In case you’re wondering, last season’s win-loss records are included below…

Thursday Night

Week 1

Thursday Night, Sept. 5

Baltimore (10-6) at Denver (13-3): What’s the big deal? The defending Super Bowl champions will open their season in a place where they scored 38 points in the playoffs last season.

And while the Broncos have playoff revenge on their minds, perhaps it’s Elvis Dumervil (who left the building this offseason) who has payback on his agenda as the “fax” may indicate.

Denver’s pass rush only got to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco once in last year’s postseason meeting. Now John Fox’s team is minus both Dumervil and suspended linebacker Von Miller, as well as cornerback Champ Bailey.

Sunday, Sept. 8

Arizona (5-11) at St. Louis (7-8-1): Last season, the Rams swept this series for first time since 2003.  

Elsewhere, the Cardinals allowed a league-high 58 sacks a year ago while Jeff Fisher’s club tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks, nine of those when the team hosted Arizona.

Bruce Arians takes over in Arizona after earning NFL Coach of the Year honors with the Colts last season. With the 49ers and Seahawks hogging the spotlight in the NFC West these days, it was actually the Rams who had the best record in the division (4-1-1) in 2012…

Atlanta (13-3) at New Orleans (7-9): The last time we saw these teams square off, Saints quarterback Drew Brees saw his touchdown pass streak end at 54 games and threw five interceptions in the process.

Before that, Brees was 11-2 in his last 13 meetings with Atlanta and had thrown 29 touchdown passes and only a dozen picks. You figure out the NFC South, which has never been won by the same team two years in a row. And last season, the Falcons, Saints, Panthers and Buccaneers were all 3-3 vs. each other. So to quote Nick Nolte

Cincinnati (10-6) at Chicago (10-6): Judging by last year’s numbers, could these teams be any closer? Both the Bengals and Bears won 10 games each last season.

Chicago gave up the fifth-fewest yards in the league a year ago and Cincinnati was ranked sixth in total defense. The Bears did force an NFL-high 44 turnovers and scored nine defensive touchdowns a year ago but that still wasn’t good enough to grab a playoff berth.

The Bengals totaled 51 sacks in 2012, third in the league, and figure to harass Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler consistently…

Green Bay (11-5) at San Francisco (11-4-1): Yep, the Pack is back…in San Francisco. And that is where last season ended for Mike McCarthy’s team thanks to a 45-31 loss in the Divisional Playoffs. Of course, 2012 also began with a setback to the Niners on opening weekend at Lambeau Field.

Green Bay’s defense had its issues with the running game a year ago, especially during the playoffs as Dom Capers’ defense allowed 490 yards on the ground in those two games; 241 to running backs and 249 to quarterbacks like the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick

Kansas City (2-14) at Jacksonville (2-14): How on earth does a team wind up with three times as many Pro Bowlers (6) as wins in 2012? Those Chiefs were proof that it takes much more than talent. And that’s a lesson new head coach Andy Reid learned in Philadelphia the last few seasons. The Jaguars are coming off the worst season in the franchise’s brief 18-year history. Looking for a little defense here? Kansas City managed only 13 takeaways last season, tied for the fewest in the league, while Jacksonville totaled an NFL-low 20 sacks in 2012…

Miami (7-9) at Cleveland (5-11): Remember some of the other quarterbacks that were drafted last year? With all of the emphasis on the success of Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson in 2012 you sometimes forget that Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden were first-round picks last year. Of course, that’s also easy to overlook given the recent lack of success these franchises have had. It’s hard not to like what both of these clubs did during the offseason and we will soon find out if it was enough for both to end their recent playoff droughts…

Minnesota (10-6) at Detroit (4-12): Talk about a pair of heavy hitters in terms of individual performances? A year ago, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson ran for 2,097 yards, the second-highest single-season total ever. Conversely, Lions’ wideout Calvin Johnson rolled up a league record 1,964 receiving yards. But that’s about it in terms of similarities. Last season, the Vikings finished 10-6 after going a combined 9-23 the previous two seasons. Meanwhile, Detroit is currently riding an eight-game losing streak and was 0-6 within the division a year ago…

New England (12-4) at Buffalo (6-10): Talk about a one-sided series. The Patriots are a gaudy 23-2 in their last 25 meetings with the Bills, who are looking to avoid a sixth straight year of finishing in the AFC East basement. But despite the fact that everything may point New England’s way in this tilt, keep in mind that it was 10 years ago (2003) that the team let go of safety Lawyer Milloy a few days before the start of the season and the Pats proceeded to be pounded at Buffalo in Week 1. For that reason only, it’s Bills 31, Patriots 0 this Sunday…

Oakland (4-12) at Indianapolis (11-5): The Silver and Black have opted to make a Pryor commitment and will once again open the season with a new starting quarterback. But can Terrelle Pryor (who started the season finale a year ago) jump start a franchise that is a dismal 49-111 the last 10 years? Perhaps it’s not about commitment but rather Luck as the Colts found out last season when rookie signal-caller Andrew Luck spearheaded an amazing turnaround and helped get the team in the playoffs. By the way, just for old times’ sake

Seattle (11-5) at Carolina (7-9): Talk about two quarterbacks that closed the 2012 season in style? Seattle’s Russell Wilson threw for 21 scores (4 interceptions) and ran for five touchdowns in his last 11 outings, which included two postseason performances. Carolina’s Cam Newton threw 10 touchdown passes, was picked off only twice, and rushed for 347 yards and four scores during his team’s 5-1 finish. Of course, the Seahawks were in the playoffs and the Panthers were busy shaking off a second consecutive 2-8 start. This one could be very interesting…

Tampa Bay (7-9) at N.Y. Jets (6-10): Let’s see. The Bucs stopped…winning, as in last season when a 6-4 start was wiped out by a five-game losing streaks. The J-E-T-S are somewhat of an M-E-S-S, especially when it comes to the starting quarterback job. Cover corner extraordinaire Darrelle Revis returns to MetLife Stadium where unfortunately, he didn’t get to play a lot last season due to a knee injury. For what it is worth, the Buccaneers have beaten the Jets once in 10 tries and their lone win came in head coach John McKay’s last game…in 1984…

Tennessee (6-10) at Pittsburgh (8-8): Remember the Titans? Opponents sure do from a year ago as the team allowed a league-high 471 points, most in the franchise’s 53-year history. Inconsistency was the most consistent aspect of the Steelers in 2012 as Mike Tomlin suffered through his first non-winning season as head coach since coming to the team in 2007. Tennessee has revamped the interior of its offensive line and added safety Bernard Pollard to the secondary. It’s safe to say he usually makes a big impression on opponents…

Sunday Night

N.Y. Giants (9-7) at Dallas (8-8): If it’s the Giants and Cowboys, it must be primetime as the teams will meet in front of the NBC cameras for the fourth time in the last five meetings. But not sure why the Cowboys’ home is now named AT&T Stadium instead of EL&I Stadium? The Giants’ current quarterback is 4-0 lifetime at these Dallas’ digs and his name/signature is in the building somewhere (I think). Here’s one that defies explanation. The Cowboys totaled 29 turnovers last season and 20 came at home, 15 of those by quarterback Tony Romo…

Monday Night, Sept. 9

Philadelphia (4-12) at Washington (10-6): Here are two examples of why that “if the season ended today” thing never makes any sense. Last season, the Eagles won three of their first four games and then went 1-11 the rest of the way. The Redskins sat at 3-6 but would win their final seven games and first division title since 1999. New Eagles’ head coach Chip Kelly’s biggest challenge is to fix the Eagles’ penchant for mistakes. The Birds have totaled 75 turnovers over the last two years, better than some bakeries. It’s season No. 2 for RG3…

Houston (12-4) at San Diego (7-9): Gary Kubiak’s team has gotten into this crazy habit of winning the AFC South, losing to the Bengals in the wild card game and getting knocked out of the playoffs one round later. Here is some disturbing math: the Chargers have committed 54 turnovers in their last 32 games, 47 by quarterback Philip Rivers and just seven by the rest of the team. For what it is worth, the Bolts are 4-0 lifetime vs. the Texans. For what it is worth, it’s uncertain just who on the San Diego offensive line can block Texans’ defensive force J.J. Watt…



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