2009 NFL Week 1 Picks

Hello everyone and welcome back to Beatpaths! We’re getting the first post in, just in the nick of time. We also have an upgraded wordpress installation, we’re on a new server, and I’ll be able to generate the rankings and graphs on the actual server now, rather than on my local system – all of this will remove some minor obstacles that made last season a little extra annoying.

The other thing that made last season annoying, I’ve decided, was Brett Favre. You’ll remember that the NY Jets were atop the beatpaths graph (if not the rankings) at the end of last season. The Jets looked rather powerful early in the season, with some quality wins, but as the offseason wore on, it became clear that Favre had been playing injured and had effectively driven the season into the ground in the closing weeks. It was also clear to any human that the Jets were far worse at the end of the season than the totality of their season would have indicated – after all, if their wins and losses had occurred in a different order, they would have looked stronger at the end. This is one of the flaws of looking at only wins and losses, and not the order in which they occur.

It’s not the only flaw, of course. We had quite a bit of discussion last season about alternative algorithms, and I’m hoping to be able to code in support for some of these algorithms in time for Week 4, when things get interesting. I’m also curious to look at full-season projections from early on – as always, there are a lot of ways to look at data limited to wins and losses.

And so without further ado, here are the picks for Week 1. For Week 1, as we did last season, we’re basing the picks off of the previous season’s final rankings.

Tennessee at Pittsburgh: According to last season, this is a close game, and quite likely one of the top games of the entire season, if you go by their rankings heading into the game. Tennessee is ranked #3, and Pittsburgh is ranked #4.

Jacksonville at Indianapolis: Indianapolis was ranked the top team in the league at the end of the season last season, so this is a clear pick.

Detroit at New Orleans: Another easy pick, given the spread in rankings.

Philadelphia at Carolina: I imagine this pick splits a lot of prognosticators. Carolina was ranked comfortably ahead of Philadelphia at the end of last season.

Dallas at Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay was ranked in the bottom half of the league at the end of last season; Dallas in the top half.

NY Jets at Houston: I’ll stick with this pick, just in honor of it being a new season – if it’s way off, the Jets’ ranking will correct itself soon enough.

Kansas City at Baltimore: Another very wide spread in rankings, another easy pick.

Denver at Cincinnati: Worse offensive personnel, an offensive system with better potential, and a better defense… that’s my sense of Denver. My gut says Cincinnati will win and Denver will have a long year, but Denver ended last season #12.

Minnesota at Cleveland: Cleveland was very low last season, this is another wide spread in rankings.

Miami at Atlanta: Miami had some high quality wins last year and finished the season in the top ten. Atlanta isn’t too far behind, though – this is a relatively close pick.

Washington at NY Giants: Washington ended last season far down in the lower half of the league, an easy pick for the Giants.

San Francisco at Arizona: Arizona did finally manage to break the top ten from their postseason run, but it wasn’t a great regular season for them. This is a moderately straightforward pick over San Francisco, although the preseason would indicate Arizona might be in trouble.

St Louis at Seattle: According to last season, this is #32 at #30.

Chicago at Green Bay: Green Bay ended the season ranked very low. I’m not sure what has changed for Green Bay that has people so optimistic.

Buffalo at New England: A clear pick in the NFC East – plus it seems Buffalo has been self-destructing in the preseason.

San Diego at Oakland: San Diego was ranked #23 at the end of last season, but the media sure has their love affair with them again. They like their bright shiny baubles. I don’t get it. They’ve been more talent than team for years, kind of like Philadelphia.

8 Responses to 2009 NFL Week 1 Picks

  1. Kenneth says:

    First off, I think a lot of people felt Green Bay was better than their record last year–and I feel that way too. Plus, their big problem last year was defense. They switched from 4-3 to a 3-4, which I would think would make them worse. But they have looked really good in the preseason.

    Also, good luck with those Broncos. I think McDaniels is a clown who is going to humiliate the franchise, no disrespect.

    Glad the NFL–and Beatpaths–are back!

  2. JT says:

    Glad to see Beatpaths back. I look forward to another season of fun analysis from everyone here, most of whom appear to be much smarter than me.

    Any thoughts on which team might be a surprise this season (much like Miami last season)? I’d pick Atlanta, but have no real basis for doing so

  3. ThunderThumbs says:

    Well, it sounds like Denver will be a surprise in many people’s eyes if they win more than 2-3 games. 🙂 Have you seen their strength of schedule number over at football outsiders? No one else even comes close. I personally think Cincinnati will be better than expected, and the Jets… well, they’ll be worse than their current ranking, but better than conventional wisdom. I can’t help but think that Sanchez might be weirdly competent.

  4. Tom says:

    I’m not surprised the Eagles did better. I thought they were underrated at the end of the last year (as I recall, their loss to the Cards in the NFC Championship knocked the struts out from beneath their ranking). Hopefully McNabb isn’t too injured… I don’t think Kolb or Vick are able to fill the hole if he’s out for too long.

  5. ThunderThumbs says:

    That was definitely Bad Jay for the Bears game. Peter King has a good insight about Hines Ward being hard on himself after the Pittsburgh game – that it means the player cares. This is the other thing that frustrated me about Cutler over and over again at Denver – they’d give him props for shaking off bad plays and going right back out there to the huddle, but to me he was taking it to this blithe extreme. Always struck me as not caring enough, particularly in postgame commentary. It’s the kind of thing that can put a ceiling on a talented player’s growth.

    On the other hand, this was SO bad – and the Chicago press is laying into him so harshly – that maybe it’ll finally impress upon him that he seriously has to work on some things. Denver press and fans were always too worshipful – I don’t think he ever really would have realized it there.

  6. Moridin says:

    Well, the MNF games were a lot more fun than I thought they’d be. Pretty good pick ratio for using last year.

  7. Kenneth says:

    Man, it was awful. The first half, it was like he was trying to hard to make plays. The second half he calmed down, directed things better, and took sacks when there was nothing there. Too bad he reverted for the last drive…but that happens, I suppose.

    I’m trying to stay positive.

    FWIW, Chicago is not going to treat him with kid gloves. People are already ready to bury him after that night.

  8. The MOOSE says:

    I’ve had some trouble getting my things up and running since I lost my source code, so my apologies for the delay getting up the first season’s graphs. I’m sure nobody’s too disappointed though as well all know what Week 1’s graphs look like. As expected, the Standard and Iterative method show a 16-way tie for first, while the Weighted method lists the teams in order of point spread. Things will look more interesting next week.

    View the graphs at http://www.beatgraphs.com.
    ~The MOOSE

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