Are You Ready for Some Football? During one of the games this weekend, Fox Sports asked fans to log onto their website and vote on the question of whether winning the first game was important in the NFL. This may seem obviously so; after all there are only 16 games in the season, so that one game is the equivalent of 10 games in baseball.
However, a different picture emerges if you look at the record of teams winning their first game. In 2002, 16 teams went 1-0 to start the season. Their combined record was 137 wins and 119 losses. If you take away the 16 opening day wins, they combined for the remainder of the season to go 121-119; basically .500 football.
Oddly enough, the picture was even worse for teams starting the season 2-0. There were eight teams that went 2-0 to start the 2002 campaign; they combined for a record of 66-62. After removing the 16 wins, the 2-0 teams were a combined 50-62 from week 3 on, substantially worse than .500 ball.
This does not appear to be a one-year fluke. In 2001, 15 teams that started off 1-0; for the remainder of the season they went 111-114. There were eight teams that started out 2-0; for the rest of the season they were 52-60.
What's going on here? I suspect that the schedule-meisters at the NFL have been making an effort to have the good teams play the good teams and the bad teams play the bad teams early in the season. Note the Raiders-Titans game last night and the Philly-Tampa Bay matchup tonight for examples of the former, and the Arizona-Detroit game for the latter.