NFL predictions: Are Week 1 results an indicator of season success?
The NFL’s opening weekend is always met with wild excitement and massive overreaction.
This isn’t college. If a Vanderbilt beats a Georgia in the campus game, the world stops spinning. If the Titans beat the Browns 43-13, we shrug and say “Any given Sunday.”
After all, with the spa-like conditions of most NFL training camps these days and the non-competitive nature of exhibition games, pro football teams are less prepared than ever for the regular season. They are dumped in the deep end and told to swim. There are no Arkansas-Pine Bluffs on NFL schedules.
Funky results are expected. But should they be? Are Week 1 results a terrible indicator of season success?
Let’s look. Just go back to Week 1 of the NFL season.
A few strike you as surprising. The Browns and Steelers tied, which was monumental for Cleveland, consider its recent history, but turns out the Browns were much improved. Tennessee lost at Miami, and the Titans finished 9-7 to the Dolphins’ 7-9, but that’s no big deal. The Jets routed the Lions, and though Detroit finished two games better than New York, it’s still the Lions. The Packers beat the Bears, but that surprised no one until Chicago finished 5-1/2 games ahead of Green Bay.
But three other games were more than striking. Even with rearview mirror vision, they are hard to fathom.
Cincinnati won at Indianapolis; the Bengals finished 6-10, the Colts 10-6 and won a playoff game.
Tampa Bay won at New Orleans; the Buccaneers finished 5-11, the Saints 13-3. Inexplicable.
And Seattle lost at Denver; the Seahawks finished four games ahead of the Broncos (10-6, 6-10).
So I moved ahead to Week 2 last season. And I found three results in which teams beat opponents that would finish at least four games better in the standings. One big difference is that all three winners were playing at home – Bengals over Ravens, Bucs over Eagles and Jaguars over Patriots.
Even in Week 3, quality didn’t always win. The Giants won in Houston and still finished six games behind the Texans. And the Patriots lost (and lost big, 26-10) at Detroit, which finished five games worse than New England.
The lessons of Week 1 are the same lessons every other week in the NFL. You don’t get to make your own schedule. Any team can beat you and often does. Don’t overreact to Week 1. Or any week thereafter.
Let’s get to the predictions:
Buccaneers at Panthers: Carolina 32-14. New coach in Tampa. Same old Jameis Winston.
49ers at Bengals: San Francisco 25-20. Zac Taylor’s Bengals made a great showing in Seattle, losing by one point to a really good team. But can Cincinnati sustain it?
Chargers at Lions: Los Angeles 26-17. Words you don’t see much in the NFL -- debilitating tie. But that’s what happened to Detroit, losing an 18-point lead and tying the Cardinals last Sunday.
Vikings at Packers: Minnesota 19-13. Strange team in Green Bay. Winning with defense. But the Vikes look primed.
Colts at Titans: Tennessee 27-24. Indianapolis put up a great fight against the Chargers in the wake of Andrew Luck’s retirement, but that will be hard to duplicate against the under-the-radar Titans.
Patriots at Dolphins: New England 34-3. Could be 64-3 if Bill Belichick wants it to be.
Bills at Giants: New York 16-13. Buffalo could get to 2-0 here, but the Giants showed some sparks of life at JerryWorld. They’re better than I thought.
Seahawks at Steelers: Pittsburgh 24-23. Until further evidence is presented, we have to assume the Steelers’ embarrassing performance in Foxboro was an aberration. It goes against 50 years of Pittsburgh excellence.
Cowboys at Redskins: Dallas 31-21. Washington looked good in Philadelphia before a late collapse, but no reason to believe that will continue.
Cardinals at Ravens: Baltimore 28-19. Kyler Murray. Mark Andrews. Marquise Brown. Ben Powers. Orlando Brown. Is this an NFL game or a Sooner spring game reunion?
Jaguars at Texans: Houston 30-10. Deshaun Watson vs. Gardner Minshew is the mismatch it sounds like.
Chiefs at Raiders: Kansas City 38-28. Someone please explain to me why Oakland starts out the season with two straight home games, playing in a ballpark that still has infield dirt through September? It’s an abomination that the NFL allows any team to play on dirt, but shouldn’t the Raiders have few, instead of many, September home games?
Bears at Broncos: Chicago 13-12. Two awful offenses from Week 1. Chicago has nine days between games to find a solution. Denver has five days between games to find a solution. Big difference.
Saints at Rams: New Orleans 37-30. I’ve wracked my brain, trying to find a storyline for this game, and I just can’t come up with one. Anybody have any suggestions?
Eagles at Falcons: Atlanta 28-24. Desperate teams can be dangerous, and the Falcons are most certainly desperate after a 28-12 loss to Minnesota.
Browns at Jetropolitans: Cleveland 27-13. No way the Browns are as bad as they looked against the Titans. The likelihood is, they bought into their own hype. That’s what happens with dysfunctional organizations, and the Browns are nothing if not dysfunctional.
Last week: 11-4-1. Season: 11-4-1.