By HCR Staff | September 10, 2020
Since it’s Week 1, our crystal ball is clear and clean. But as we all know about the NFL, up can be down – frequently. Notwithstanding that, we welcome the challenge of trying to provide some wise guidance as we sit down to enjoy this week’s games.
This is year 4 of the HCR project, and after 6 months of a pandemic that doesn’t seem to have an end, we’re thankful to the NFL for even giving us the opportunity to have this week’s games. None of us know if a complete season is possible, but the fact we’re even here in Week 1 is, frankly, a major miracle.
Kudos to the NBA on the success of their bubble, but putting on a football game is a completely different undertaking. So thanks to the NFL, the NFLPA, the players, coaches, and most importantly, all of the staffers behind the scenes for getting us to this point.
First, some administrative housekeeping. If you’ve read us before, and if you’ve followed our Head Coach Rankings (i.e., think QB Rating for a head coach’s performance in every game), you may know that as in every season thus far, our initial rankings won’t come out until Week 4. Why? We simply need to gather a preliminary set of data – just like players, our graders have to get into a rhythm, and we want to have as much data as possible before going public with the initial ranking.
Starting in Week 4, we’ll also make reveal our weekly betting plays, as dictated by our data and proprietary gaming algorithm. We make all our results public, and have over the course of 3 seasons. Given that HCR is a completely new algorithm, and a new variable to consider in making gaming choices, our track record is stellar. (Of course, that’s according to us).
Ok, so what do we see for Week 1? Here is what we’re keeping our eyes on:
Defenses Will Be Ahead of Offenses. Obviously, every NFL team has had to adapt to a new offseason routine this year, and they’re operating in Week 1 without the benefit of preseason games and scrimmages against other teams. Given that, we think that we’re going to see defenses ahead of offenses for at least the first couple of weeks of the season. It’s a bit similar to college all-star games; it’s well known among scouts that in those games, defenses are way ahead of offenses, and it’s because offense is based on good timing and rhythm. In an all-star game, players unknown to each other are thrown together for 3 days of practice – i.e., there’s no chance to develop any rhythm. While NFL teams have had far more time to practice than in a typical college all-star game, they haven’t been able to practice precisely how they want to practice. The only defense any offense has seen to this point is their own. That becomes predictable. An NFL game against a real opponent presents a completely different challenge. So for at least two weeks, we will see sloppy offenses. We will see penalties as offenses attempt to line up, total pass protection breakdowns, and head scratching interceptions due to miscommunication. Defensive coordinators are going to have some fun.
Officiating Will Be More Inconsistent Than Usual. The officials are no different than players – they need reps to get their timing and familiarity with one another. They’ve lost their typical preparation schedule as well, so we anticipate spotty officiating. We’ll guess that early on, the officials are going to err on the side of letting the players play.
Look For Some Early Gimmicks With Offensive Formations. We could be wrong, but we think Week 1 will have some moments similar to college bowl games, where college coaches know it’s the last game of the year, and they empty the playbook. Offensive coordinators are going to have to do something to help out their offensive line units because it’s going to take some time before those units get into a rhythm, and one of the best ways to help is by showing defenses something they haven’t seen before. Typically, offensive coordinators are more vanilla early in the season, but 2020 is unlike any year, so we think Week 1 offense is going to have some fun moments.
Fan-less Games Will Require Players To Provide Their Own Adrenaline. Yes, there’s going to be a goofy contrived fan soundtrack, but that isn’t going to come close to simulating the feel of actual, rowdy fans. Players, coaches and even officials are affected by fan interaction, but now they’re going to have to go without it, and we’re curious to see how it all plays out. For example, if you’re down 10 on the road against Seattle, that 10 – with fans – feels like 20. Now, however, with that energy gone, that 10 may not seem so daunting. We don’t know, but in our view, fan energy is a big component of football, and without it, we’re going to see some interesting reactions. Perhaps being down 10 in the 4th quarter on the road won’t be as big a hurdle as it typically is.