Four weeks in -- 2015 NFL season


Two games stood out to me during week four of the NFL season… and in both games it was a result of issues with home field getting my attention.

First up… The Buffalo Bills.

They lost to the New York Giants.

Second… The New Orleans Saints.

They beat the Dallas Cowboys.

More on both of those games in a second. Right now… some ideas about why four games into an NFL season marks a good measuring stick.

Like any sport, you can’t go getting too excited about things game-by-game. That’s a bit different in the NFL, where the difference between home field throughout the conference playoffs and heading home after the regular season can be one game.

Just one game between home field and an early start to the offseason vacation.

Seems a bit extreme… but remember that the Matt Cassel Patriots went home after registering an 11-5 record… losing tie-breakers to Miami and Baltimore for their division and wild card possibilities. 10 wins is usually enough to be in playoff consideration. Patriots… 11 wins didn’t cut it.

Every game is important… but week one, or even weeks one and two, are way too early to use as confirmation for each and every team of things to come. At times, divisions are in such chaos that a team might be able to take a month or two off and still make a run at the postseason. Last year… Panthers… 7 wins took a division title.

Generally speaking though, at the beginning of the season, 10 wins is a guideline of sorts… fall below it, the season is almost certainly over… hit it or better, and you likely have a chance at moving on. Best way to take care of anything? Win your division.

Moving on…

Get to 6-0 and things look outstanding, since a .500 record for the rest of the season will put you at 11 wins… and let’s face it, a 6-0 start generally means looking right at a top seed for the conference.

So… 10 wins is a nice marker… six wins is a nice marker… and four weeks kind of works as well.

Four games is a nice point because if you are going to batch together any strings, then month by month (or essentially a quarter of the season) is a good place to start. Go 3-1 in each quarter and you hit 12 wins. Stay even in each batch of four and you generally have avoided losing streaks while positioning yourself for one good run.

And after the first four games, most teams have played at least one, and likely two, division games. Every team will have played at home and on the road. Just one good game… everyone take a look at Marcus Mariota, thank you… may be a nice sign for years to come. After four games though, the league tends to shake itself out a bit from the momentary excitement of a single victory to the realities of the season in play.

Here’s one more thing about the NFL… defending home field. Probably a bit exaggerated, but let’s consider. If you have a winning record at home… say 6-2 or better… suddenly just splitting road games gets a team into the range of those magical 10 wins. And generally speaking, teams that lose at home do not turn their fortunes around and win on the road. You don’t need to go undefeated at home… you had better win at home.

So… as I begin finishing up looks at each division, I find myself drawn to these two noted games in particular. And while it doesn’t say anything specifically amazing about the Saints for the year to come, I think it speaks volumes for the Bills and provides and nice jumping off point for the other essays.

It took overtime, but on October 4th the Saints beat the Cowboys. First win of the year for the Saints. But it was more than that… because the last time the Saints won at home was October 26th. Yeah… their eighth game last season. New Orleans won in a game with Green Bay, and then went on a run of 6 losses at home. So, a win at home for them did catch my attention.

Now let’s flip it to that first game I mentioned, way back at the start of this article. The Bills lost to the Giants this week. Defend it and say it’s worth excusing since the opponents are decent, but both of the Buffalo losses have been at home. Yeah… yeah… New England and New York. Whatever. They are 2-2 on the year and 1-2 at home. Remaining home games include Cincinnati and Dallas… and Dallas late enough that they could be healthy and still in playoff contention. Good teams do not go 4-4 at home.

And so while there are a few teams at 4-0… and several teams with 1, 2 or 3 wins that seem inconsistent… and lots and lots of questions… we can take the pulse of the league and begin shaping opinions that have some evidence as support.

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