With the first week of National Football League action complete, there are a few obvious deductions we can make based on results. First, the Miami Dolphins are horrible. Their 59-10 home opening loss was an indicator that this team isn’t ready to compete in this league.
Or, are the Baltimore Ravens, who pasted the Dolphins in that game, the best team ever?
That is the important thing to note early in an NFL campaign. Results are two-sided. Are the Pittsburgh Steelers a bad team this year after being beaten in Foxboro by a 33-3 score, or are the New England Patriots just that good? If the Steelers turn out to be a good team this year, then the Patriots are great.
Those two extremes meet this Sunday when the Dolphins host the Patriots in a game that has the largest NFL point spread since 2013. In fact, since the two leagues merged in 1970, there have been 62 regular season games in which a team was favored by 18 or more points. In those games, the favorites are 59-3. For the record, three of those games were in 1987 when the league was playing with replacement players.
Now, here is the stats against the point spread. In those same 62 games with 59 straight-up wins by the favorite, their record against the point spread was 27-32-3. Additionally, only five road teams have been favored by 18 or more points, like the Patriots this week, and their record in those games against the point spread is one win and four losses.
I’d still side with the Patriots in this one, but not with money.
What if the Atlanta Falcons turn out to be a good team this year? If so, then the Minnesota Vikings convincing home win over them last week, 28-12, would indicate that Mike Zimmer’s team could be special this season. If the Falcons descend this year, then the win would not be a clear indicator of Vikings dominance.
This week, the Vikings travel to Green Bay to meet their NFC North Division rival Packers at Lambeau Field. The Packers opened with a road win over last year’s division winner, the Chicago Bears. Now, if the Bears prove to be good this year, then a road win in their home stadium is huge.
But, as I suspect, if the Bears are destined for a down season following a division win on the heels of four straight last place finishes, the Packers 10-3 victory is not necessarily an indicator of Packers strength.
If all my calculations made before the season began, which has the Vikings winning the Super Bowl and both the Bears and Packers enduring down years, then what we could have this week is the better team with points in Green Bay.
Starting his second season in Minnesota, Kirk Cousins was limited to ten pass attempts last week in their home opening win over the Falcons. When their running game was churning out huge chunks of yardage, only the Ravens against the Dolphins gained more yards on the ground last Sunday than the 172 picked up by Minnesota, passing can be utilized only to keep the defense honest. In fact, Cousins completed 8 of those 10 throws for 98 yards and a touchdown.
In 2019, a team that tosses the ball less than 20 times in a game is a rarity, but you know who utilized that strategy in the 1970’s? The Miami Dolphins. Not the current Dolphins, the Dolphins that won two Super Bowls behind Bob Griese and the only team to complete a perfect season, which they did in 1972.
I don’t know if Cousins will limit his passing all season, or even this week, but I do know this, if the Vikings defense plays as well as it did against the Falcons and their running game continues to excel then this team is special. Which, so far, despite their win in Chicago, I can’t declare for the Packers.
Qoxhi Picks: Minnesota Vikings (+3) over Green Bay Packers