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The NFL Is Back, And So Are The Wild Comebacks (And Kicking Woes)

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maya (Maya Sweedler, copy editor): We’re prepared for some soccer! The NFL is again, and so are FiveThirtyEight’s weekly Slack chats. Common readers will see some acquainted faces and a few unfamiliar ones. (Hey! Excited to be right here.)

Josh and Neil are again, and also you’ll get to know me and our rotating group of contributors all through the season. In lieu of sharing our unhappy, unhappy tales — one in every of us is a New York Jets fan and one in every of us is a Detroit Lions fan, however we’ll let you determine who’s who — let’s dive proper into the season’s opening week, which was, uh, fairly one thing.

We had 4 double-digit comebacks, 5 missed game-winning kicks and had been yet one more doinked subject aim away from two video games tied at 20. We noticed final season’s Tremendous Bowl groups begin defending their convention titles and fall … fairly flat. And as soon as once more, Aaron Rodgers and the Inexperienced Bay Packers proceeded to put an absolute egg in Week 1.

Which shut sport shocked you guys probably the most? Are there any groups you anticipated could be good however you’re now able to promote inventory in? 

joshua.hermsmeyer (Josh Hermsmeyer, NFL analyst): Heading right into a season, I believe it’s finest to have sturdy opinions about groups however to carry them weakly. I had a fairly sturdy opinion that Inexperienced Bay could be a title contender, however regardless of Rodgers’s resume I’m able to say I’m frightened.

I additionally assume it’s time to promote on the Niners’ playoff hopes, at the least as they’re at the moment constituted.

neil (Neil Paine, performing sports activities editor): IDK, Josh — weren’t we saying the identical factor concerning the Packers final yr after a Week 1 shellacking by the New Orleans Saints in Jacksonville?

Possibly Rodgers lays an egg to start out every season simply so he can inform Packer followers to R-E-L-A-X as he turns issues round.

joshua.hermsmeyer: I noticed a stat that Davante Adams had extra yards than the Packers’ beginning huge receiver corps mixed.

neil: Which, to be truthful, was additionally true final yr. (Effectively, virtually. He was second within the league with 39.7 % of his workforce’s receiving yards whereas on the sphere.)

Ty Schalter (Ty Schalter, FiveThirtyEight contributor): It’s too early to definitively say Adams gained the divorce, particularly given Derek Carr’s 26.9 Whole QBR efficiency yesterday. However, uh, it seems like Adams gained the divorce?

maya: LOL. However aside from Davante’s stable debut in Vegas, the Raiders are very a lot wanting just like the fourth-best workforce within the AFC West, pending Russ popping out and enjoying like Russ tonight. I didn’t really feel like I noticed the perfect of Justin Herbert yesterday (he wasn’t wanting down the sphere a complete lot) however the Los Angeles Chargers had been nonetheless very a lot in charge of that sport.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Agreed, Maya. The Chargers tried to Charger issues up on the finish of the sport there, however they pulled it out!

Ty Schalter: It didn’t shock me that the Arizona Cardinals’ offense didn’t look the identical with out receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Rondale Moore. It was a foul signal for Arizona, although, that its protection made the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs’ offense look precisely the identical with out Tyreek Hill.

maya: Talking of WRs on new groups who could or could not have gained divorces … how are people feeling about Hill in Miami? The jury’s nonetheless out on whether or not Tua is extra correct than Patrick Mahomes (who uhhh did go 30-for-39 yesterday), however I’m undecided I used to be ready for a Invoice Belichick-coached workforce to lose its season opener by 13.

neil: All of us laughed when Tyreek in contrast Tua to Mahomes, however each had top-5 QBRs yesterday. 

joshua.hermsmeyer: I’m nonetheless laughing, TBH.

Ty Schalter: Can we simply throw out the outcomes of the Steelers-Bengals sport? 5 Joe Burrow turnovers really feel unlikely to occur once more, and the Steelers needing divine kicker intervention to win in additional time doesn’t really feel like a ringing endorsement (at the least, not as loud because the uprights after Chris Boswell’s tried game-winner).

joshua.hermsmeyer: I used to be studying Invoice Barnwell this morning, and he argued that we should always ignore the Bengals loss, Ty. And with the Steelers shedding T.J. Watt and maybe Najee Harris to accidents within the sport, if the 2 groups performed once more I believe we’d see a unique end result.

neil: Oh, fully. However nonetheless, that was a kind of extraordinarily, extraordinarily winnable video games that groups kick themselves for not closing out.

Or at the least, they might kick themselves, however the snap was excessive.

maya: As everyone knows, an important place within the NFL is lengthy snapper.

The Bengals weren’t the one convention champions with a bit Tremendous Bowl hangover … is anybody prepared to tug the plug on the Los Angeles Rams after their Thursday drubbing by the hands of the Payments?

neil: I’m frightened about Matthew Stafford. I do know the Rams spent all offseason downplaying his elbow damage, and we all know this man will play by something. (Like, actually, he performed by a damaged again a number of years in the past.) However I believe that nagging damage may harm his effectiveness greater than anybody was letting on.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Stafford could certainly be harm. His common depth of goal within the sport was 5.3 air yards. He was not firing downfield a lot. However to be truthful, he was below a number of strain — from solely 4 rushers.

Ty Schalter: Yeah, despite the fact that the Rams had been blitzed on simply 2 % of Stafford’s dropbacks (second-least-often in Week 1), they allowed strain on 30.6 % of them (Thirteenth-most-often).

maya: To place that in uncooked phrases — Stafford confronted a single blitz that whole sport, second-lowest within the league. If Buffalo’s entrance 4 is getting strain all on their very own, I’m undecided whether or not the league must be terrified or if the Rams O-line must determine some stuff out.

neil: Possibly it’s a bit of each. I believe we already felt just like the league must be fearful of the Payments typically, in order that sport simply confirmed it. Josh Allen had the bottom price of off-target throws (6.5 %) of any QB in Week 1. Mixed with every thing else he brings, that’s SCARY.

joshua.hermsmeyer: The Payments appeared each bit the Tremendous Bowl favourite this week.

maya: And that is regardless of three first-half and 4 whole turnovers!

neil: In response to Professional-Soccer-Reference.com, that was solely the thirty third time within the Tremendous Bowl period — and fifth time this century — {that a} workforce:

  • Had at the least 4 turnovers
  • Misplaced the turnover battle 
  • Received by 20+ factors

You may learn that because the Payments being so good that even turnovers can’t sluggish them down,  however it’s additionally a commentary on the Rams’ incapability to capitalize. Right here’s how L.A.’s drives after forcing these turnovers went: Punt-INT-FG-Downs. 

maya: The Payments have been favorites within the AFC since we relaunched our mannequin for the 2022 season. Our present favorites within the NFC are the Bucs, who began out because the convention’s co-favorite to win the Tremendous Bowl with the Packers (the Packers usually are not favorites anymore). Whereas there was an extenuating circumstance final night time within the type of Dak Prescott’s damage, are we feeling good about our projections within the NFC?

neil: There’s no motive to vary our priors for the Bucs. Certain, it wasn’t Tom Brady’s sharpest sport, although he was adequate to win. Largely, the Bucs protection dominated. Tampa had probably the most defensive anticipated factors added of any workforce in Week 1. 

joshua.hermsmeyer: The Philadelphia Eagles appeared just like the workforce many hyped them to be for like, three quarters. Then the protection let the lowly Detroit Lions again into the sport late (type of, win likelihood by no means actually moved under 70 % for Philly). Nonetheless, I’m shopping for a playoff run from them — particularly after what occurred to Dallas final night time.

Ty Schalter: I agree, Josh — Jalen Hurts is eighth-best in QBR to date this week, and it seems like they’ve built-in A.J. Brown, et al. into what he does nicely.

neil: Philly’s playoff odds went up north of 70 % once we put within the information about Dak’s damage.

maya: And what are the opposite choices within the NFC East? Is Carson Wentz the man to take the Washington Commanders to the playoffs? Is contract-year Danny Dimes the Danny Dimes of New York Giants followers’ desires?

neil: Josh stated Daniel Jones would enhance this season!

(And that Trey Lance may battle. Double vindication in Week 1!)

joshua.hermsmeyer: #profitable

maya: He did! And credit score the place credit score is due. However I’m not prepared to surrender on the triple possibility fairly but. There have been like two or three performs involving Lance and Deebo Samuel yesterday the place I believed. After all, this was earlier than Soldier Area became Chicago’s largest public pool.

neil: Haha. Sure, to be truthful, the circumstances had been horrid. However everyone seems to be on “Break Glass In Case Of Jimmy G Emergency” watch proper now.

Ty Schalter: As thrilling as Jahan Dotson’s rookie debut was, that is just like the third yr in a row we’ve all presumed the Commanders protection shall be a prime 5-10 unit, and it certain didn’t seem like it towards Jacksonville.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Man, Wentz appeared actually, actually dangerous, after which he had some unimaginable passes yesterday.

neil: You’ve simply completely described the Carson Wentz Expertise.

maya: Talking of actually, actually dangerous, then occasionally unimaginable — how ’bout the kicking yesterday? 

neil: It was a tough week for kickers, notably on shorter kicks. They made solely 85.7 % of subject targets below 40 yards, in contrast with the common of 94.1 % in Week 1 of the 2015 by 2021 seasons, and so they missed a number of further factors as nicely. The one current opening week that basically contended with this for inaccuracy was within the bizarro pandemic yr of 2020.

NFL kickers missed Week 1 gimmes … however they normally enhance

Leaguewide kicking accuracy charges in Week 1 (and subsequent weeks) of NFL seasons since 2015

Yr Week(s) All FGs <40 YDS 40-49 Yds 50+ Yds XP
2015 1 82.8% 96.9% 70.8% 62.5% 94.7%
2016 1 82.1 91.9 82.4 53.8 93.1
2017 1 88.1 91.2 86.7 80.0 93.1
2018 1 82.5 100.0 57.9 66.7 98.7
2019 1 84.2 96.8 75.0 60.0 96.3
2020 1 71.6 85.3 66.7 41.7 93.7
2021 1 85.5 96.4 88.2 50.0 96.3
2022 1 81.8 85.7 76.2 84.6 91.9
15-21 Avg. 1 82.4 94.1 75.4 59.2 95.1
15-21 Avg. 2+ 84.3 94.6 77.4 63.4 93.7

2022 stats by Sept. 11.

Supply: ESPN Stats & Data Group

The excellent news, although, is that kickers have a tendency to enhance their accuracy over the remainder of the season from Week 2 onward.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Whew 

Ty Schalter: I’d thought of composing a snotty pro-vs.-college-football tweet when that Texas kicker missed a fateful 20-yarder towards Alabama on Saturday, and I’m glad I didn’t.

neil: How concerning the Chris Boswell kick that modified course thrice in midair and nonetheless ended up hitting the upright with a THUNK?

maya: Justin Reid would’ve made that, simply sayin’.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Little doubt. Man is a machine.

neil: When the kickers get dangerous sufficient (or injured), carry on the non-kickers to kick, that’s what I at all times say. (Lou “The Toe” Groza was a left sort out!)

Ty Schalter: In my son’s first NFL sport, he witnessed Ndamukong Suh try (and miss) an additional level.

maya: Of all of the missed kicks yesterday, although, I’m most fascinated by the Tennessee Titans one, which got here out of a name so gutsy, so fascinating, that I virtually forgot Sean McVay went for it on fourth down thrice this week. What did everybody else make of Brian Daboll’s resolution to go for the win, not the tie, after the Giants’ last rating?

neil: I beloved it — and it helped Da G-Males (31.2 % to win) pull off the largest upset in our mannequin for Week 1, knocking off the Titans in Nashville. The Titans left the door open, and the Giants snuck by it!

(Additionally, don’t look now however Saquon Barkley had 194 yards from scrimmage and appears just like the participant everybody hoped he’d be when he was drafted…)

joshua.hermsmeyer: So, the mathematics doesn’t like going for two on the finish of a sport with sufficient time left for the opposite workforce to drive down the sphere. It incentivizes the shedding workforce to play extra aggressively.

BUT I believe it was an excellent name on Daboll’s half, primarily as a result of the gamers rallied behind the choice. And in addition, Daboll knew the kicking gods had been offended yesterday, and the mathematics didn’t.

neil: Does that math change in any respect for the underdog on the highway, Josh?

It’s typically been stated that when a workforce has an opportunity to tug the upset outright (relatively than merely extending the sport), they need to take it.

joshua.hermsmeyer: I believe it’s extra about how the (now) shedding workforce performs with the remaining time left. They may cross extra and go for broke, and as we noticed, it virtually price the G-Males.

However for Daboll, even in case you lose, it’s a win in my opinion.

maya: These ain’t Tom Coughlin’s Giants anymore!

Enjoyable truth, that is the Giants’ first season-opening win since Barack Obama was president.

Ty Schalter: I’m irrationally excessive on the Baltimore Ravens this yr, partly due to the approaching return of injured gamers like J.Okay. Dobbins and Ronnie Stanley. However even with out these two, they dominated the Jets yesterday. Is that this higher information for the Ravens, or worse for the Jets?

maya: I’m gonna default to worse for the Jets. Whereas Lamar Jackson and Rashod Bateman had some enjoyable yesterday, I battle to see a world wherein the Jets win greater than just some fortunate video games once they ask their quarterback — be it Flacco, Wilson or (gasp) Mike White — to throw 59 occasions.

neil: Solely Chris Streveler may effectively shoulder that load.

Ty Schalter: For what it’s value, Robert Saleh’s protection was sixteenth in defensive effectivity this week … fairly good for a 15-point loss, However at this level in his tenure, I’d assume Jets followers would hope for higher.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Elo thought the Ravens’ win was adequate to maneuver them up 18 factors — tied for eighth-most this week. So despite the fact that the Jets actually stink, the Ravens nonetheless beat expectations.

neil: Elo actually simply doesn’t know what to make of the Ravens — or of Jackson — after the way in which final season went for them, notably within the second half.

joshua.hermsmeyer: QB Elo had Trubs forward of Lamar coming into the video games!

neil: Was that fallacious?

maya: 😂

However yeah, I do know that some people observed that on-line. Can one in every of you shed any gentle on why our QB Elo rankings have guys like Trubisky ranked greater than Jackson coming into the season?

neil: In all seriousness, I believe it’s as a result of Lamar had a very tough ending to final season (when he even performed), and Trubisky was surprisingly environment friendly to finish his tenure in Chicago. As a result of it’s a rolling ranking, QB Elo locations a number of emphasis on the way you’ve accomplished in your most up-to-date pattern of video games.

Now, I believe this edge case is an argument for us to penalize QBs like Trubisky who had been inactive for a very long time between begins, which might change issues some. (They try this in different Elo techniques, like how esports gamers’ rankings decay in the event that they haven’t performed for some time.)

joshua.hermsmeyer: I believe that’s truthful. But in addition, the Steelers did win. So it’s doable Biscuit was too low on most different techniques’ rankings.

maya: Wow, Josh. 🔥

neil: Proper, however Lamar did outplay Trubisky by QBR.

(After all, Trubisky outplayed Burrow. And Rodgers, for that matter! Lol.)

joshua.hermsmeyer: I did NOT say he belonged above Lamar!

Ty Schalter: To your level about him being inactive, Neil, I believed Trubisky’s time away from the sphere really inflated his free-agent worth as a viable bridge/cusp starter. Errors out of recent-game-film sight, out of thoughts.

maya: I additionally assume our Elo system, which does take operating under consideration, takes operating under consideration lower than the perceived worth of operating. It’s just like measuring gravity in basketball; it’s arduous for Elo to measure the flexibility of men like Lamar to freeze defenses, which relies partially on the specter of him taking off.

neil: Yeah, speeding worth in QBs has at all times been robust to pin down. We base our values on QBR, however there’s an opportunity we might be off. Thank goodness we weren’t attempting to price Michael Vick circa 2006 — I keep in mind the QB speeding worth wars from again then.

Ty Schalter: Yeah, Neil — and talking of gravity, fantasy soccer’s development at the moment had an enormous pull on how soccer followers had been enthusiastic about participant efficiency. Working was simple so as to add!

neil: Both method, I can’t wait to see how excessive Kenny Pickett’s ranking goes when he inevitably is put in as starter for the Steelers.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Hopefully Pickett can seize the chance and maintain on, given his small arms.

Take a look at our newest NFL predictions.

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