Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Sep 2011

ESPN: Don't Overreact to Week 1 Blowouts

Getting slaughtered in the first week of the season isn't a good thing, but it's not a guarantee that your season will end poorly -- especially if you're coming off a good season the year before.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 15 Sep 2011

10 comments, Last at 17 Sep 2011, 11:38am by dmstorm22


by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 09/15/2011 - 3:33pm

As a for instance: The 1991 Detroit Lions, who lost in week one 45-0 at Washington in a game that wasn't even that close. They went on to go 12-4, won the NFC Central, and reached the NFC Championship game, where they faced Washington again in a rematch.

And lost 41-10...

by Anonymous Coward (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2011 - 9:23am

FWIW those '91 Redskins are one of the top 5 teams of the last 30 years, so not as bad as it sounds.

by jebmak :: Fri, 09/16/2011 - 1:28am

I hear that the Pats did pretty well in the year they were blown out in week one...

by NJBammer :: Fri, 09/16/2011 - 12:24pm

Getting blown out in week 1 is not a good thing, indeed. Sometimes I think we overlook the fact that you did, indeed, get blown out. In an effort to not jump to conclusions about week 1, we devalue what our eyes are telling us, and immediately cite examples of teams which got blown out and still won the Superbowl, etc.

Last year, 4 teams lost by more than 10 points:
NY Giants 31, Carolina 18
Tennessee 38, Oakland 13
New England 38, Cincinnati 24
Seattle 31, San Francisco 6

Of those, only Oakland had a non losing record at 8-8. The other teams just stunk.

Back in 2009, 7 teams lost by more than 10:
Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21
Philadelphia 38, Carolina 10
NY Jets 24, Houston 7
Atlanta 19, Miami 7
Minnesota 34, Cleveland 20
New Orleans 45, Detroit 27
Seattle 28, St. Louis 0

Of these, only Houston (9-7) and Carolina (8-8) managed to not have a losing season. Note in neither year did any blow out loss teams manage to make the playoffs, and many of them managed seasons that not even their mothers could love.

I'm not saying it's time to hit the panic button, but to me, the results of the 1st week is far more indicative of what the season will end up looking like than any preseason forecast, especially given the nature of this offseason. I think Atlanta is headed for a hard year. Kansas City will stink. Pittsburgh might be ok, but a great team does not get blown out like that hardly ever, so 1 out of 1 times is not a good sign, and I look for them to likely miss the playoffs this year. Indy, Giants, Seattle, and Miami - I don't see a single winning season among all of them.

by Balaji (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2011 - 3:26pm

Regarding Pittsburgh, I think you are indeed overreacting to a week 1 blowout. If you look at their recent body of work, the fact that they have a similar team to last year, their projected strength of schedule, and factor in the shorter-than-normal training camp/practice period, it's more likely that this was a statistical anomaly than a predictor.

I mean, if you want to compare this team to last year's Panther/Raider/Bengal/49er fail-fest, be my guest. But I'm guessing the smart money is not on your side, much like when the Patriots were embarrassed by Buffalo that one year and still did quite well.

That all said, I could be totally wrong and the Steelers could end up 6-10 or something. Who knows? That's why we watch. :)

by dmstorm22 :: Sat, 09/17/2011 - 11:38am

Everyone brings up the 31-0 Pats loss, but that was nothing like this Steelers loss, because those Pats weren't coming off a 12-4 season, with a 38% DVOA, and projected to go 13-3.

At that time, the Pats were coming off of a 9-7 season, and most people were probably inclined to think that their win in Super Bowl XXXVI two years earlier could be written down to controversial calls, special teams touchdowns, and flukey turnovers. The Pats became that dynasty after that game. As for Pittsburgh, I would have to go somewhere in the middle. I think that that performance is a good indication that they aren't going to be a power-house in the way they were last year, but they are not going to turn the ball over 7 times again. I will say that the defense did look old.

by Hank (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2011 - 2:45pm

Strength of schedule is hugely important. It is extremely difficult to look at the Steelers' schedule and see enough loses to miss the playoffs.
And forgetting week 1, many of the teams that make the playoffs, and even teams that win the super bowl have bad losses where fans despair, pundits assume and predictions are made.
People shouldn't overreact to a Week 10 blowout either.

by NJBammer :: Fri, 09/16/2011 - 3:59pm

When people see a team getting blown out, there is always some cause for concern, since great teams very, very rarely get blown out. It's true that many teams which make the playoffs have a bad loss somewhere on their schedule, but how many have 2 or 3? These teams already having one are skating on thin ice already. Also, when a team gets blown out in week 10, there is 9 other weeks showing the true ability of a team, while now 100% of Pittsburgh's games in 2011 are blowout losses. A stistical anomoly? Maybe, but maybe is also maybe not...

I generally read "let's not jump to conclusions" kinds of articles every year after week 1, and I have come to the conclusion over the years that far more often than not, a bad week one loss is a huge red flag of serious problems which will usually not be overcome. Of all the bad loss teams, I say Pittsburgh has the best chance of having a good season, but the fact remains that last year their regular season losses were by a combined 31 points, while Sunday they lost by 28. I cannot see how that's a sign of a team playing as well as they did a year ago, and while they have a good shot at the playoffs, I think their odds of making it are far lower now than I thought a week ago.

by Balaji (not verified) :: Fri, 09/16/2011 - 4:54pm

I amend my previous comment. You are completely overreacting to this loss.

"100% of Pittsburgh's games in 2011 are blowout losses."

Well, I can't argue with logic like that.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Fri, 09/16/2011 - 7:12pm

Actually the fact that their combined losses last year were by a total of 31 points and their one so far this year was by 28 is a hugely positive sign. It means that the Steelers will either go 14-2 with a 3 point loss during the season, 13-3 with one 2 point loss and one 1 point loss, or 12-4 with four 1 point losses. Any of those records would be pretty good.