The NFL Has Returned

Last time I used a very straightforward model to predict who would win their week 1 games in the NFL.  As it turns out, the model leaned pretty heavily toward the home team; the only home squads it didn’t give a 50% or better chance of winning to were the Bills and Carolina.  Neither of them won, so that part went ok.  In the other 14 games, the home team won 9 times for an overall record of 11-5.  Not too shabby, especially when you consider what happened in some of the other games.  Random thoughts below.

UPDATE: I forgot to check on my ‘top picks’ from last time, for people who like randomly guessing at who will cover in week 1.  I went with the four home underdogs, which were the Chargers, Panthers, Jaguars, and Jets, and I added in the Browns as the smallest home favorite.  At the Hilton SuperContest, those picks were right (Chargers +4), wrong (Panthers +3.5), wrong (Jaguars +4), right (Jets +3.5), and wrong (Browns -1).  So a 2-3 start to the season, which is probably about what you should expect. 

I saw most of Broncos-Ravens, although not the whole thing since the game started late and I’m an old man who has to go to bed.  But the Broncos obviously looked pretty good.  It’s hard to say what that means, which should be a recurring theme at this point in the season.  Bill Barnwell made this point when talking about the Raiders hanging in with the Colts: if you thought the Colts were good last year and should be good again this year, then maybe the Raiders are better than we thought.  If you thought the Colts were on the right side of an easy schedule and a decent amount of luck, then maybe the Raiders are still crummy.  In other words, unless you really think you have the Ravens pegged down (and given the turnover in their team from last year, I don’t see how you do), it’s hard to say if the Broncos are good, really good, or great.  Also, it’s just one game.

I didn’t see very much else on Sunday because I was at an all-day concert (it was fun, thanks).  But of course I didn’t leave until after seeing the Lions drive the field, flub a field goal, and immediately give up a 78 yard run to Adrian Peterson.  On the plus side, after that they only gave him another 15 yards, which is pretty impressive.  On the whole you could say that the Lions shut Peterson down: one big touchdown in a game is not going to make up for less than a yard per carry the rest of the game, especially when your QB is Christian Ponder.  Whether or not the Lions can cut down on the stupid penalties this year remains to be seen, but I’m optimistic that this year will be more like 2011 than 2012.

Probably the closest miss for the predictions was the Chargers, whom the model had at 55% to win.  San Diego was well on their way to winning until they decided to stop playing in the fourth quarter.  The Steelers also laid one heck of an egg against Tennessee.  Of course, if you point out the near misses you should also point out the near hits.  That list would include the Rams, Jets, and Patriots, who all won with late field goals.

Another close miss (that wasn’t super close if you watched the game) was the Redskins losing to Philly on Monday night.  This one had the extra drama of being the return of RGIII, who didn’t have a great night.  It led to (surprise) some knee-jerk reactions like maybe Griffin should have played in the preseason or maybe they should have gone with Kirk Cousins at least part time.  This popped up on Grantland and they were talking about it on at least PTI as well.  I don’t understand the sentiment at all.  First, and probably most important, Griffin wasn’t cleared to play until the 30th (or a bit earlier, going by Griffin’s tweet on the evening of the 29th).  The Redskins played their last preseason game on Thursday the 29th.  So…. how exactly would Griffin have played in the preseason?  He wasn’t medically cleared!  Then the question becomes, should Griffin have played in the opener, either in part or the whole game?  If you assume A) he’s healthy and B) he should be playing the team’s important games, then I think you have to play him the whole time.  This is a home opener against a division opponent.  If you think you have to ease him in, you have to play him this game.  It’s a home game against the Eagles, who weren’t overly great last year.  Chip Kelly is known for his offense, not his defense.  Next week is an away game at Green Bay, where Clay Matthews is threatening any running quarterback he sees.  If you hold Griffin out this game, you have to hold him out next week too.  Does that seem like a good idea?  If you think practice isn’t enough and he needed preseason time to be ready, when do you want him to play at this point?  Saying Griffin should sit for Cousins is silly.

And with that big rant, I think we’ll pack it in for tonight.  I spent some time last night and this morning tweaking my scripts to catch up with the changes Yahoo always makes to its webpages, and the predictions are about ready for this weekend’s games.  Get ready for the real thing!

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