The first game doesn’t mean more than the eighth, 12th or even the 16th game. After all, each game matters, right? But when it comes to predicting who will make the playoffs, perhaps the first game does carry more weight.
The Elias Sports Bureau has interesting numbers that promote this belief. Since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, teams that win their season opener have a much greater chance of earning a playoff spot.
Here are the numbers: of the 490 teams that won openers, 258 went on to make the playoffs (and 152 won their division). Of the 490 teams that lost, only 111 made the playoffs (and 66 won their division). Seven of the 12 playoff teams in 2011 won their first game, a good number but hardly a massive edge.
Of course, the Redskins haven’t always followed this trend. Since winning the Super Bowl after the 1991 season, the Redskins have won their first game 11 times and made the playoffs only twice following those wins. Steve Spurrier won both of his openers, as has Mike Shanahan. The Redskins failed to make the postseason in all four seasons.
And since 1978, they’ve won their opener 17 times and and made the playoffs eight times. Under Joe Gibbs — in both eras — the Redskins made the playoffs seven of the eight times in seasons where they won the opener.
Of the 16 times they lost their openers, they’ve made the playoffs four times (the last time: 1999 under Norv Turner).
Take it for what it’s worth. It’s not a death sentence if they lose and as the Redskins have shown the past two years, there’s a long road ahead even if they win.
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