NFL Week 1 outliers: Which surprising trends will continue?
Like a lot of other commentators and groups in the football world, Football Outsiders makes a series of predictions before every NFL season. Then Week 1 of the season comes and a lot of those predictions suddenly seem silly. On the other hand, it’s only one week. A lot of things can happen in that kind of small sample size.
You might remember the year Kevin Ogletree was everyone’s hot fantasy waiver-wire pick after he had 114 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1. Ogletree had just two more touchdowns the rest of that 2012 season. Or maybe you remember all the way back to last year, when Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 417 yards with four touchdowns while beating the New Orleans Saints in Week 1. In the long run, the Saints were fine and Fitzpatrick was back on the bench.
Let’s go through some of the outliers of Week 1 and other results that contradicted Football Outsiders’ preseason projections. Should we expect the rest of the season to look more like Week 1, or more like the forecast from the first week of September?
Baltimore’s win over Miami was legitimately one of the biggest wins we’ve seen in quite some time. How big? Based on Football Outsiders’ DVOA, it was the fifth-largest win in Week 1 since 1986. The offense, expected to be historically run-heavy, instead passed the ball for 379 yards and six touchdowns. We had projected Baltimore as a borderline wild-card team with a below-average offense. Are the Ravens better than that?
What’s remarkable about Baltimore’s huge win is that this is the third straight year the Ravens have blown out their Week 1 opponent. Two years ago, it was a 20-0 shutout in Cincinnati. Last year, it was a 47-3 dismantling of the Bills. But this year’s win is a little different because the offense was so much better. The Ravens had more net offensive yardage in this year’s win (643) than in the 2017 and 2018 Week 1 wins combined (637). Only Dallas had a more efficient performance by DVOA.
However, we also have to consider just how bad the Miami Dolphins are likely to be this year. This is not a run-of-the-mill bad team. The Dolphins ranked dead last in both our offensive and defensive projections before the season. They were the first team to fall below 5.0 mean wins in our preseason forecast since the 2010 Detroit Lions. Miami’s weakness doesn’t erase the impact of Baltimore’s huge Week 1 victory. But it does dull it a little bit.
Verdict: Baltimore’s offense is likely better than expected but not as good as it looked on Sunday.