Can you make predictions based on one week of play? Maybe not, but that won’t stop us from trying.
Week 1 of the 2020 NFL season is in the books and it has a lot of people speculating about who is going to win this year’s Super Bowl. Yes it may be a bit of an overreaction to judge who is going to win the Lombardi Trophy after the first week of play, but there may be some serious statistics to back up these uncanny predictions.
During the 2020 offseason, the NFL world witnessed the great quarterback carousel. Tom Brady to Tampa Bay, Philip RIvers to Indianapolis, Teddy Bridgewater to Carolina and Cam Newton to New England. After the first week, all of these quarterbacks suffered losses except for one. Newton and the Patriots were the only team who acquired a new QB during free agency to start the season 1-0.
Coronavirus offseason restrictions have also had an impact on teams. A lack of practice, plus new players on squads predictably produces a lack of chemistry. Football is a team game and it takes 11 players for one play to go right, with only one to mess it up. Week 1 showed us that no matter how good a player personally is, he still needs to be in sync with his teammates.
For example, when looking at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers-New Orleans Saints game, the greatest quarterback of all time in Tom Brady overthrew Mike Evans, who is one of the top receivers in the league, on a read route. Brady thought Evans was going vertical while Evans read that he should sit on his route. The pass ended up being intercepted from a lack of communication and chemistry.
Another issue with the 2020 season are the players who have decided to opt out due to concerns of the virus. Only three teams have not had any players opt out of the season: the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Los Angeles Chargers and the Atlanta Falcons. By not losing any impactful players, these teams were already at an advantage coming into Week 1 and the Steelers and Chargers both obtained victories.
This unconventional season and the hoops that many of these teams have had to jump through has seemed to make it clear who is going to rise to the top of the league. These are the teams that have the most continuity and talent after exiting Week 1, and have the greatest chances of winning their conference.
AFC Championship Game: Pittsburgh Steelers vs Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are defending Super Bowl champions with almost an identical roster coming back for this season. With weapons like Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and rookie sensation Clyde Edwars-Helaire, Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes should be able to tear up any defense that comes his way.
The Chiefs pick makes sense, but the team in the AFC that is going to surprise a lot of people this season are the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2019, the Pittsburgh Steelers ranked first in the league in takeaways, quarterback hits, passes defended, forced fumbles and fumble recoveries. That Steelers squad went 8-8 last season, barely missing the playoffs with Devlin “Duck” Hodges at quarterback for the majority of the season. Head coach Mike Tomlin knows how to win with what he’s got, and in 2020 he has the same defense plus future Hall-of-Famer Ben Roethlisberger coming back from injury.
NFC Championship Game: New Orleans Saints vs Green Bay Packers
The Saints showed the world in Week 1 who is still the juggernaut of the NFC South when they embarrassed the “super team” of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady. The Saints are a well-rounded football team. They excel on every phase of the game, including one of the best special teams units in the NFL. The offense, led by future Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees, looks like a well oiled machine because of the established chemistry on that roster. Players like Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and the swiss army knife Taysom Hill allow the Saints to come out in multiple different personnel packages.
The Green Bay Packers have a lot in common with the Saints. They have a future Hall-of-Famer under center as well, talented running backs and lots of pre-existing chemistry that was incredibly consistent last Sunday. Aaron Rodgers was able to do whatever he wanted against a talented Minnesota Vikings defense last week. With this established chemistry, the Packers are going to continue to get better every week which should push them further along than the other teams in the NFC.