The Saints and Vikings opened the 2010 NFL regular season Thursday night, a rematch of last year's NFC championship game which the Saints won 31-28 in overtime. Thursday's game was nothing like last year's shootout, as the Saints prevailed 14-9. The defending Super Bowl champion has now played host to the last seven Thursday night openers and won them all. Some may find it hard to believe that the Saints are actually defending Super Bowl champs. After all, this franchise which entered the NFL in 1967, has previously best been known as the "Aints!" However, in the Payton/Brees era (2006-to-present) New Orleans has won two NFC South titles, appeared in two NFC championship games and after last year, owns a Super Bowl win.
No team has ever repeated as NFC South champs since the NFL went to its current eight-division set up in 2002, so the Saints have that history to overcome. Of course, the Saints also want to avoid joining the 13 teams which have failed to make the playoffs the following year after winning a Super Bowl. The first team to join entrance into the club which no team wants to be a part of was the Green Bay Packers of 1968. The Packers, as most real NFL fans know, won the first two Super Bowls but in the first year of the club's post-Lombardi era, finished 6-7-1 and out of the 1968 NFL playoff field, which included just four teams. The most recent member of the club is last year's Steelers, who after winning Super Bowl XLIII following the '08 season, finished 9-7 last season, missing out on the postseason due to the league's tie-breaking rules.
The Colts own the longest active postseason streak with eight straight playoff appearances, as the 2010 season opens. The Giants saw their five-year playoff streak snapped last year after going just 8-8, which leaves the Chargers (who own four straight playoff appearances) with the second-longest active postseason streak. At the other end of the 'food chain' we find the Bills and Lions, who each own 10-year postseason droughts. Indy ended the 2008 season with nine straight wins and opened last year 14-0, as the Colts set an NFL record with 23 consecutive regular season wins. The Lions suffered through the NFL's first-ever 0-16 season in 2008 and opened '09 on a 17-game losing streak. Detroit would lose its first two games of 2009 (19 straight losses) but would beat Washington 19-14 in Week 3 last year, falling seven games shy of Tampa Bay's record 26-game losing streak.
The 2010 season opens with no such overall winning or losing streaks but the Lions do enter the new year having lost 20 straight road games (7-11-2 ATS). Detroit opens in Chicago vs the Bears, one of just two teams to go winless this preseason (is there hope?). The Rams were the lone NFL team to go winless at home in 2009 and will open the 2010 season with a home game against the Cardinals, owners of a 13-game home losing streak (6-7 ATS). No team has a significant winning streak on the road as the 2010 season opens but both the Patriots and Vikings went 8-0 at home in 2009. Both teams enter the 2010 season with nine-game home winning streaks, the Vikings going 5-3-1 ATS and the Patriots going 6-3. The Vikings opened Thursday night on the road with that 14-9 loss to the Saints and have their home opener in Week 2 against the Dolphins. The Pats open Sunday at home vs the Bengals, last year's Central Division winners.
Here's a few things to keep in mind as the season opens. It's somewhat ironic that 2010's first game fell "right on the number." The Saints opened a 4 1/2-point favorite over the Vikings, climbed as high as 5 1/2 and closed at most places at minus-five. Garrett Hartley missed two FGs for the Vikings, including a 32-yarder with just over nine minutes to go in the game which would have given the Saints the ATS win. However, one should keep in mind the following percentages. My long-time friend, and fellow Las Vegas Handicapper Andy Iskoe, provided me with the following numbers.
The pointspread matters in only about 17 percent of all games. In roughly 83 percent of the games, the team that wins the game also covers the spread. Favorites win and cover just under 48 percent of all games while underdogs win outright (and thus obviously cover), just over 31 percent of the time. About FOUR percent of games either end in pushes or are pick 'em games, which leaves the 17 percent of all games in which the favored team wins but by less than the pointspread.
Have a great Week 1.