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Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Why Week One Doesn't Matter--Correction

After I wrote yesterday that the NFL has wised up and given the crappier teams home field advantage I realized that I'd better check that (check first, then post!--ed). Sure enough, it turns out I was all wet on that point. The teams that had home field advantage in the first week this season were a combined 133-123 in 2003; a little bit better than average, in other words.

The real reason that Week One doesn't matter is that the NFL makes the best teams play the best teams and the worst teams play the worst teams early in the season. There were 14 teams with winning records in 2003; in their first games of 2004, they played teams that went a combined 132-92 last year. There were two teams that were 8-8 last season; they played teams that went a combined 16-16 last year. And there were 16 teams that had losing records in 2003; in their openers of 2004 they played teams that went a combined 108-148 in 2004. Note: This does not apply to every team. Arizona, which went 4-12 in 2003 played the 12-4 Rams, while the 4-12 Giants were carved up by the 12-4 Eagles. But still, on average the crummy teams play the crummy teams while the chalk plays the chalk.
Sunday, September 12, 2004
NFL Week One--Updated!

Week One doesn't matter much at all. I talked about this after week one last year. It's counterintuitive in such a short season, but last year just cemented my opinion. The 16 teams that went 1-0 last year went a combined 111-129 against the rest of their schedule, while the 16 teams that lost to start the season went, by definition, 129-111. Last year's Super Bowl champs, the New England Patriots, lost their 2003 opener 31-0 to the Buffalo Bills, who went 5-10 the rest of the way.

Why does this happen? The main reason is the NFL has wised up and tended to give crappier teams the home field advantage early in the season except for the poor Cardinals who of course never get to open at home given the guaranteed 100+ degree temperatures in Tempe. The Cardinals have been in Tempe for 16 seasons and they have never gotten to open the season at home; for most of those years the NFL never got them home before the third week.

So don't get carried away with this week's results; the history of the last several years says that your team will win more this season if they lost this weekend.

Update: Peter King has a similar take:

Lest you take the first game of the season as some indicator of January success or failure, let me remind you of these scores from opening weekend 2003:

Buffalo 31, New England 0.

Atlanta 27, Dallas 13.

New York Giants 23, St. Louis 13.

Pittsburgh 34, Baltimore 15.

And, on Monday night, Tampa Bay 17, Philadelphia 0.

The Bucs went on to win seven, Buffalo and Pittsburgh six, Houston five and the Giants four. The five losers made the playoffs. The Patriots, you might recall, had a pretty decent year. After such decisive openers, the fortunes of all 10 teams turned radically in the next four months.


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