As the old cliche goes: you can’t win the Super Bowl in September. That’s never been more true than it is today. Late-season runs by Green Bay and New York in recent years have diminished the importance of winning early on in the schedule. Look at the last three seasons: In 2009, playoff teams went 10-2 in week one. In 2010, they went 8-4. In 2011, that record dropped to 7-5.
But even if winning the first game of the year does little to dictate the rest of the season, there are still several key statistics to consider to help determine this weekend’s results.
Here are five facts to keep in mind. Also, check out my 2012 over/under projections for the AFC North right here.
1. Cincinnati can hold its own against Baltimore. The success of the Ravens far outweighs that of the Bengals in recent years. Since 2000, the former has won 10 playoff games to the latter’s zero. However, the discrepancy hasn’t intimidated Cincinnati. The Bengals have won nine of the last fifteen contests between the teams, with four of those wins coming in Baltimore.
2. Joe Flacco is in good company. The Baltimore quarterback has his faults, but no one can say he isn’t a winner. He simply doesn’t know what it’s like to start a season 0-1, having won every week one start of his career. His active streak of four consecutive week one victories is tied with Aaron Rodgers and only bested by Tom Brady.
3. Brandon Weeden has history on his side. The Philadelphia Eagles are heavy favorites as they travel to Cleveland on Sunday, but Weeden should enjoy the home cooking. Recent results show that the local crowd can help alleviate the pressure rookie quarterbacks feel in their first start.
Flacco’s prolonged history of week one success may put him in rarefied air, but he is one of five quarterbacks since the realignment of 2002 to win the first game of his career. The overall week one record for rookie signal callers is 5-5, but they fare much better at home, going 3-1.
4.The Steelers vs. Peyton Manning: An unstoppable force meets and an immovable object. The setting is different, but Peyton Manning still has the ability to take over football games, especially early on in the season. In Manning’s last four week-one starts, he averaged 320 yards passing per game and threw for eight touchdowns to only one interception.
However, Pittsburgh’s stingy passing defense could cause him to struggle to find rhythm with his new teammates. Last year, the Steelers were near the top of the league in a number of quality statistics, finishing third in Defensive Real Quarterback Rating and first in Defensive Real Passing Yards per Attempt.
But that doesn’t mean the Steelers will necessarily win. After all...
5. Pittsburgh is out for blood, but they might not get it. Some of the key players from last January’s crazy Wildcard match-up may be gone, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Steelers’ season ended too soon at the hand of the Broncos. Pittsburgh is the ninth franchise since the 2002 realignment to face the team that knocked them out of the previous postseason in week one, but in the eight previous contests, the team that won in the playoffs went on to win five times, while revenge was exacted only three times.