Is the NFL season already over?

We are entering the sixth week of the 2018 NFL season. And though we’re only a third of the way through the season, is your team’s fate already sealed? Quite a bit may have been decided in the opening game.

How predictive could that opening game be? Analytics has shown again and again that the result of the first regular-season game offers genuine insight into the outcome of the season. To look at the impact of the opening game impact, we will look at facts and figures from the opening week of 2002 to the opening week of 2018 of the NFL. Why 2002? The NFL added the Houston Texans that year and has had the current 32 teams since.

So, what does the data say? In terms of making it to the big game, teams who won their opening game were significantly more likely to make an appearance in the Super Bowl. The ratio of teams who won their opening games and then appeared in the Super Bowl compared to those who lost their opening game and appeared in the Super Bowl is 3:1 since 2002. Did your team lose its opening game this year? They still have a chance of playing in the last game of the NFL season this year. However, your team is likely to face an opponent who won theirs. Since 2002, no Super Bowl has featured two teams that both lost their opening games.

How often has your team won its opening game? How often have they played their opening game at home? Has your team played its opening game on the road or at home in its more successful season? We leave these questions for you to explore with the interactive Tableau visualization below.

The visualization of this article was created by Scott Teal, Sr. Data Artist at Tableau.

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