Going Against the Grain: Top 5 Inexplicable Results of 2013 NFL Season So Far
We Never Saw That One Coming!
Any given Sunday — a phrase so famously coined in relation to the football world that they made a blockbuster movie about it.
Yet, it still rings true year after year and it is the optimum reason why most of us will openly say we "love" the game of football. It’s the upset, the giant-killing, the result that nobody saw coming and defies any reasonable statistical logic.
The heartbeat of the NFL is its statistics; it relies on trends, numbers, facts and figures more than any other sport in the world. They may be mind-boggling at times, especially when we start moving into multiple decimal places to justify our predictions, yet you cannot help but get wrapped up in it. Let’s face it; the majority of us football fans fancy ourselves as statistical masters. We believe we have the ability to manipulate the numbers, to make reasoned judgements on the outcomes of games and fantasy football performances -- and why not? After all, they are numbers; hard factual evidence of player and team performance unaffected by relationships, DUIs and other environmental hazards that may come into question in the build-up to a particular game.
We all have a dabble on weekly pick ‘ems, some of us even use our statistical analysis to our supposed advantage for gambling purposes. We take all kinds of factors into account: recent form, home versus road records, head-to-head analysis, injuries, offense/defense rankings, etc … The list goes on and on. We pool all of our knowledge together and taking everything into consideration, we ascertain what is a seemingly fool-proof result prediction loaded with supporting evidence.
Let me throw another common phrase your way – there’s always one. It is the beauty of the game we all know and love so well, that more often than not, there is always that one result which beforehand seemed utterly inconceivable. It is a result that goes against anything we’ve been taught; it goes against all the trends and numbers; it simply defies any previous belief. It’s that result on a weekly pick ‘em where you see that three percent of people have backed it and you just think, why?
The 2013 season has not been without these frustratingly unpredictable moments. Here are five results from the first half of the season that have played out heavily against the grain.
Week 2: San Diego Chargers 33-30 Philadelphia Eagles
We shall begin fitting, at the beginning, with our earliest shocker of the season.
It was hardly a giant-killing of epic proportions, and I'm not suggesting that there is an obvious gulf in class between the Eagles and Chargers, but their differing fortunes on the opening weekend had this one in the opposite direction.
The Eagles and new head coach Chip Kelly exploded onto the scene showcasing their new uptempo offense, leading us all to believe that they were set to win the NFC East after an opening-day victory against the Washington Redskins.
All the x-factors in this one fell in Philly's favor. It was the first game of the season in front of their home fans and they brought with them all the momentum of an opening-day victory, on the road, against a divisional rival. You'd have thought this was enough to see them through a game against opposition that had crossed a time-zone and were 0-1 after losing their opening home game to the Texans. Apparently not.
The impression given off by the Eagles in Week 1 now seems nothing more than a fallacy as we cross the halfway point.
Week 9: Cincinnati Bengals 20-22 Miami Dolphins
From earliest to latest we go and out Thursday Night Football action to open Week 9.
Once more it wasn't an implausible result in the grand scheme of things; it's hardly the Jaguars winning on the road in Denver, but all the recent signs pointed toward the traveling team in this streak vs. streak contest.
The hosts Miami were slumped in a four-game losing-streak, including their past two at home. They'd shown that home advantage was little more than a myth after being humbled by the Buffalo Bills, a loss that was even more sapping given the divisional consequences.
At 6-2, the Bengals had a grip on the AFC North for the first time in years. As a direct contrast, the Bengals had won their last four games, two of which were included in the Bills' losing streak. They were also riding high on the crest of a wave after putting up a whopping 49 points in Week 8, defeating the New York Jets by 40 points.
The game culminated with an overtime safety in favor of the hosts, proving that all streaks do come to an end eventually.
Week 7: New England Patriots 27-30 New York Jets
Introducing the first installment of the New York Jets and another of those games in which they entice their own supporters into thinking they've turned a corner.
One week prior to their first meeting with their fiercest divisional rivals of 2013, the Jets prepared by scoring just two field goals in a 19-6 loss that was also a previously-hopeless Pittsburgh Steelers' second victory of the season.
Once more, the opposition build-up to the contest could not have been more contrasting. The Patriots achieved the impressive feat of delivering the New Orleans Saints' first defeat of the season with a momentum-inducing game-winning touchdown with just seconds to spare.
Momentum is another of those sporting terms that is often used far too frequently to give it any real substance. It proved a non-factor in this one as the Jets added 24 more points than they could muster the previous week going blow-for-blow with, and eventually outscoring, Tom Brady and his Patriots.
Week 3: Cleveland Browns 31-27 Minnesota Vikings
With both teams at 0-2 and starting the season without as much as a whimper, you might be wondering how we can determine a clear favorite in this one; though, I bet we could fit everyone that backed a Browns victory in a porter potty.
It's just common knowledge that you don't take the Browns on the road, full stop. In 2011 and 2012, Cleveland finished up 1-7 away from the confides of Ohio. The fact they had just shipped their first-round draft pick Trent Richardson to pastures new in an eyebrow-raising decision did little for their cause heading into Week 3, nor did the fact that were relying on their third-choice quarterback in just his second-ever start in the NFL.
Even at 0-2, the Vikings were at least showing signs of life having scored 54 points in total, whilst only narrowly missing out in what was a very respectable 30-31 trip to Chicago.
The Browns won the game, which was the first surprise; they scored 31 points in the process to further the amazement. It was their inexperienced quarterback Brian Hoyer who drew the biggest unforeseen event of the day, passing for 321 yards and three touchdowns. Who'd have thought it.
Week 5: New York Jets 30-28 Atlanta Falcons
Those Gang Green rebels are at it again, upsetting the odds with their topsy-turvy form.
After a Week 4 capitulation that saw the Jets go on the road to allow the Tennessee Titans their highest points total of the season (38), although they had a day longer to prepare, nobody gave them a sniff on Monday Night Football in the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons were uncharacteristically 1-2 on the season by this point, though, they had won their only home game and the Jets were 0-2 on their travels.
To add to the list of previously unthinkable circumstances, Geno Smith outscored Matt Ryan in touchdown passes as the Jets used Atlanta as the breeding ground for their highest total of the season. Coupon-busting personified by Rex Ryan and company.