Tale O' The Tape: Week 1 matters

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 11, 2007



By Mark Sandritter
Cold, Hard Football Facts Oracle of the Northwest
 
As the Pro Bowl came to an end some five months ago, NFL fans hung up their jerseys and stored away their nacho sombreros in preparation for the offseason.
 
They watched the draft, couldn't wait for mini-camps, scoured the waiver wire for potential third string quarterbacks and celebrated the arrival of training camp. All in anticipation of the kickoff weekend, the time when every fan has hope and every team has a shot. 
 
That is until after the first games, when half the teams find their preseason buzz killed and we hear more clichés than we see Peyton Manning commercials.
 
Losing coaches seemingly have cue cards on hand to give players and fans words of wisdom: the season is a marathon not a sprint, you have to take it one game at a time, there is still a lot of football to play.
 
True, an opening day loss is just one loss, it should be no different than a week nine or any other non-playoff loss. A good team can rebound and run the table at 15-1.  But more likely, losing the opener is a sign of things to come .

How big of a deal is Game 1? For the answer look no further than the Cold, Hard Football Facts.
 
TALE OF THE TAPE: 1-0 vs. 0-1 

Advantage

 

0-1 teams

 

Category

 

1-0 teams

 

Advantage

 

 

570-710 (.445)

 

Overall record over the past five seasons (2002-06)

 

710-570 .555

 

X

 

 

548-732 (.428)

 

Week 2 win % (2002-06)

 

732-548 .572

 

X

 

 

20

 

Made playoffs (2002-06)

 

40

 

X

 

 

12

 

Division champions  (2002-06)

 

28

 

X

 

 

3

 

2006 playoff teams

 

9

 

X

 

 

3

 

Teams to make the Super Bowl (2002-06)

 

7

 

X

 

 

6

 

All-time Super Bowl champions*

 

34

 

X

 

 

25

 

Teams finishing 9-7 or better (2002-06)

 

47

 

X

 

 

48

 

Teams finishing 7-9 or worse (2002-06)

 

24

 

X

 

 

7

 

Teams with a top 10 draft pick in 2006

 

3

 

X

 

 

48

 

Teams picking #1 in the draft (all-time).

 

18

 

X

 

* 1967 Packers started season with a tie.
 
CONCLUSIONS:
1. 0-1? Don't plan those trips to Arizona just yet.
If your team suffered a week one loss and you already have your travel plans set for Glendale in February you may want to call your travel agent and ask for a refund.
 
Over the last five seasons only one-third of playoff teams suffered an opening day loss, and only three of those went on to play in the Super Bowl. Even more telling, just six of the 41 Super Bowl champions started the season 0-1, with the 1967 Green Bay Packers starting off the season 0-0-1.
 
Not only do most 0-1 teams not make a run at the Lombardi Trophy, 58% finish the season under .500. At the same time 1-0 teams have a 57% chance of at least nine wins. The chances at a division championship also diminish greatly after an opening loss, with 28 of the last 40 division's winners starting the season off with a win.
 
The 2003 New England Patriots were the last team to win the Super Bowl after losing their first game.
 
2. Week 1 losers are draft-day winners.
Of the teams making up this past draft's top-10, seven started the season in defeat including five of the "top" six teams. This means nearly half of the teams who lost on opening day found themselves picking in the first 10 selections.  
 
Unfortunately for those teams who started this season 0-1, 2006 wasn't a fluke. In the past 72 drafts dating back to 1937 and excluding expansion teams, 48 of the 66 teams using the No. 1 overall draft pick started the season 0-1. Judging by history, there is a 73% chance one of 16 Week 1 losers will take to the podium first in the 2008 draft.
 
3. We may be in for a shakeup in 2007.
Each year there are talks of parity in the NFL, mainly due to the fall of a thought to be contender and the rise of what used to be a hapless organization. After week one, 2007 may prove to be no different.
 
Seven playoff teams from a year ago started out the season with a thud including four 2006 division winners. Philadelphia, New Orleans, Chicago and Baltimore all lost their openers, not a good sign for their chances of repeating as division champs.
 
Twelve of the last 40 division winners did so after starting 0-1, but all eight division champs in 2006 won on opening  day. If the trend holds true there could be substantial change in the playoff picture -- especially in the NFC.

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