The 2014 NFL season is finally here!  Kickoff Weekend begins tonight, September 4th on NBC prime-time with the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks hosting the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field, better known as the ‘Klink’ to the 12th Man.

 

I projected both of these teams as divisional winners.  Like every year, there will be peaks and valleys with in the season, outrageous individual performances and few team dominating finishes.  But in the end because of coaching, team depth and overall talent the same teams will be in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy again this season.

 

NFL history shows the best way for a team to gather strong momentum toward the playoffs and a chance to play in the Super Bowl is to get a victory in Week 1, you never want to start in the hole.  Among the 48 Super Bowl winners they earned a 39-8-1 record in the first week of the season.  The Super Bowl XLVIII Champion Seattle Seahawks have a 15-1 record at home the past two seasons. The Seahawks are also tied for the third-longest active winning streak in home openers (5).

 

Since 1978, when the NFL adopted the 16 game schedule and excluding the abbreviated season of 1982, teams that are victorious in their season opener are more than twice as likely to reach the playoffs as losers of their opening game:

 

Of the 523 teams which won openers, 274 went to the playoffs (164 won division titles).

Of the 524 teams which lost openers, 124 went to the playoffs (70 won division titles).

Note: There are a different number of winning and losing teams in season opening games due to the fact the NFL had 31 teams in each season from 1999 to 2001, which creates an odd number for the total number of results.

 

Below are my predictions for each of the eight NFL divisions and the playoff picture through the Super Bowl.

 

AFC North
Cincinnati 10-6   Baltimore   9-7   Pittsburgh    8-8   Cleveland    5-11

 

AFC South
Indianapolis  10-6    Houston   9-7   Tennessee     8-8    Jacksonville   6-10

 

AFC East
New England  10-6   New York   8-8    Miami   7-9   Buffalo    7-9

 

AFC West
Denver  11-5   San Diego  9-7   Kansas City   8-8  Oakland   6-10

 

NFC North
Green Bay   10-6   Chicago  9-7  Minnesota  8-8  Detroit  7-9

 

NFC South
New Orleans  10-6  Tampa Bay  9-7  Carolina  7-9  Atlanta   7-9

 

NFC East
Philadelphia  9-7  New York  8-8   Washington  7-9  Dallas  6-10

 

NFC West
Seattle  11-5  San Francisco  9-7  St. Louis  8-8  Arizona  7-9

 

 

NFL Playoffs

 

AFC Wild Cards:  Baltimore and San Diego
NFC Wild Cards:  San Francisco and Chicago
AFC Championship:  Denver over New England
NFC Championship:  Seattle over Green Bay
Super Bowl:  Denver over Seattle

(NFL Communications provided some of the statistical analysis and playoff history in this blog)