Opening Week in the NFL: Why it may matter more than you think

Opening Week in the NFL: Why it may matter more than you think

Michael Keating

What some may consider to be the best time of the year, the National Football League opened its 2016 regular season this past Thursday with the Denver Broncos facing off against the Carolina Panthers in a Super Bowl rematch. Sunday, however, was when most fans were glued to their television as 26 other teams embarked on their 2016 campaign.

Although a win in the opening week counts the same as a win in any other week, there certainly is an importance to securing a victory to start the year. A season opening win can make even the most rational sports fan change their prediction based off of three hours of play.

Take the Philadelphia Eagles, for example. Many sports experts and writers predicted the Eagles to win at most seven games this season. After opening up the year against the Cleveland Browns with 29-10 win, many of those same people are mentioning the Eagles and playoffs in the same breath.

This may seem a little ludicrous. It’s the Browns; the same team that only has one winning season in the past 13 years and has become the laughing stock of the NFL. How can the fate of the season be determined by a win over such a lowly team? Well, one might be a bit surprised as to how important an opening day win can actually be.

According to playoffstatus.com, a website that uses statistical analysis based on a variety of factors to give NFL teams playoff odds, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently have the highest percent odds make the playoffs at 61 percent. Prior to the season, ESPN predicted that the Buccaneers would only have an 8-8 record and not make the playoffs. Why the sudden change in odds? One has to look at historical data to see why.

Over the past ten seasons, teams that have made the playoffs have a record of 81-39 in week one of the season, which equates to a win percentage of .675. If you take out playoff teams that played other playoff teams in week one, since one team would have to win and the other would have to lose, that winning percentage goes up .747. In fact, 80 percent of Super Bowl winners have won their opening game; the most recent anomaly being the 2014 New England Patriots.

There are many explanations as to why week one is important. Statistically speaking, a win in the first week does give you an advantage over your opponents, but it should not be as large as what we are seeing. There must be some sort of intangible benefit an opening week victor receives. I believe that the answer lies in the media.

On Sunday night, the Arizona Cardinals lost to the Patriots on a missed field goal by Chandler Catanzaro in the final minute. They were within just a few feet of avoiding the harsh scrutiny an NFL team receives following a loss. Now, they are faced with questions as to how they could lose to a team without its starting quarterback and all-pro tight end.

This week, the Cardinals must face off against the Buccaneers under extreme pressure to secure their first win. They realize that with a 0-2 start to their season, there will be many unanswered questions following their game.

To the fans that brush off a week one loss like it’s nothing, think again. Your season is most likely on the line this week. And although it may seem unreasonable to think the Eagles and Buccaneers could make the playoffs, history certainly suggests otherwise.