By Steve Silverman
(CBS) — We are a society that overreacts to everything.
If Miley Cyrus puts on an offensive dance at the Video Music Awards, society is about to get flushed down the toilet.
The stock market goes down 100 points before lunch, and your IRA will be worthless before dinner.
Win your first football game of the year and you are going to the playoffs.
None of these things are likely to happen, but if you heed the advice of the experts at ESPN, you will find that they will tell you with a straight face that 54 percent of the teams that win in Week One make the playoffs.
This information comes straight from the ESPN Stats and Info department and it was repeated by NFL host Trey Wingo, who should be hosting The Price Is Right instead of Drew Carey.
The stat takes nothing else into the equation. The biggest factors that impact playoff contenders are injuries, quarterback productivity, defensive ability and coaching. What happens in Week One can be an indicator of how the season will play out, but it can also mean nothing if a slew of injuries follow.
A 16-game NFL season is the most grueling of marathons. When Jimmy Johnson’s Cowboys won the Super Bowl to cap a stellar 1992 season, they were clear favorites to repeat as champions in 1993 since they had a magnificent trio of stars in Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin leading the offense.
But when Smith held out because he didn’t care for the salary Jerry Jones was paying him, the Cowboys got off to an 0-2 start. When Johnson was asked if he was worried about his team’s start, the coach laughed and said that as soon as Smith came back, the Cowboys would be the best team in football.
The holdout ended after the second loss and the Cowboys reeled off seven straight wins and went on to win their second consecutive Super Bowl title.
The Ravens won the Super Bowl last year, and they won their opener over the Bengals. However, they lost the next week against the Eagles. Is the second week unimportant? The Giants lost their season opener to the Redskins in 2011. Why did they even bother to play the rest of the season? Well, it’s a good thing they did because they went on to win the Super Bowl in a memorable duel with the Patriots.
In 2010, the Packers won their first two games, but they lost in Week Three to the Bears. Shouldn’t their spirit have been broken by losing to their archrivals?
It was just one game and they moved on to the next. The sting of losing to the Bears, no matter how troubling, was in the rear view mirror by the time they got past film review the next day.
The point is that one game in a 16-game season means very little in the NFL. Denver blew out the Ravens at home in the NFL season opener. Good for Peyton Manning and the Broncos. They play in a weak division and could clinch the division shortly after Thanksgiving.
It doesn’t mean that Manning is going to be MVP or the Broncos are going to the Super Bowl. They have to survive all the attrition that comes with an NFL season. Manning is 37 and is two years past neck surgery. If you believe the hype, his arm is much stronger now than it was a year ago. See me in November on that one.
If the Bears come up with a win over the impressive Bengals on Sunday, that’s a solid achievement. But then the focus becomes the Vikings in Week Two. If they get blistered by Cincinnati, it’s not the end of the world, either. It will be a test for new coach Marc Trestman not to let his team wallow if it gets trounced, but it is the kind of test that all coaches must pass if they are going to be successful.
Early-season wins are nice, but they prove nothing. Teams have to sustain success over four-plus months in the regular season and do the same thing in the playoffs.
Don’t overreact to one win or one loss. When experts start passing out stats that have no significance, smart fans should let them go in one ear and out the other.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.