It was a popular topic yesterday, and I saw variations of it in two major newspapers: The Wall Street Journal declared, “Started 0-1? Your Season Is Basically Over,” while USA Today’s story, promoted on the front page, was “Week 1 losers: 0-1 often a sign of what’s to come.”
The idea being: NFL teams that lose in Week 1 have an uphill climb ahead of them if they want to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
It’s a comfy narrative, and the Journal includes a chart that seems to back it up with the fact that seven of the last 10 Super Bowl winners won their Week 1 match-ups. Seems like winning your first game portends well. But it turns out — surprise! — championship teams tend to perform well all season long.
Here’s a chart showing those 10 teams’ week-by-week win-loss records.
By the Journal’s (somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I’ll admit) logic, your season’s also “basically over” if you don’t win your eighth game of the year — every Super Bowl winner in the last 10 years has done so. Meanwhile, if you happen to lose your 14th game, you’re in good company: Super Bowl winners are just 4-6 in their 14th games of the season, and five of the last six champs have lost that one.
Still, the point is: If you want to win the Super Bowl, it’s a pretty good idea to win every week. Super Bowl winners since the 2003 Patriots collectively went 115-45 (.719) in the regular season, and most weeks of the year saw the eventual champion win, predictably, 70 percent of the time.
We like NFL storylines that feel right, so it’s probably too much to hope we don’t see stories every year suggesting Week 1 games are more important than any other games — like that eighth one, where the last 10 Super Bowl winners have been perfect.
(By the way: the Bears’ eighth opponent this year? The Packers, at Lambeau.)