History has a way of helping shape the future. Although the past doesn’t always act as a good predictor of the present and beyond, it is undeniable that certain trends tend to repeat themselves time and again.
For the Green Bay Packers, one of those trends is based on the result of the regular season’s opening game.
Let me elaborate.
For the past 20 years, the result of the Packers’ opening game—whether a win or a loss—has generally set the tone for the entire season. The result of this one game isn’t a good predictor of the ultimate regular season record, but it does give a pretty good idea of whether or not the Packers will go to the post-season.
Since 1991, the Packers have visited the post-season 13 times. They only lost the first game of those seasons, twice (in 1995 and again in 2003).
In the same time frame, the Packers have missed the playoffs seven times. In those years, the team won the first game of the season only twice (in 1999, and again in 2008). Keep in mind that the 2008 season represented the first year in over a decade that QB Brett Favre did not start for the Packers.
In other words, over the past 20 years, there have been 16 season openers that were predictive of the Packers’ eventual postseason presence. At 80 percent, that’s a pretty good record.
This trend has unfolded despite all of the turnover and change that occurs in football between seasons. New players, new management, new coaching, and new offensive and defensive schemes may have an impact on the team’s performance over the course of the entire season, but they don’t account for the link between first game wins and postseason appearances.
In fact, for each coach that has taken the helm for the Packers over the last 20 years—Mike Holmgren, Ray Rhodes, Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy—there has been one (and only one) season apiece where the first game’s outcome didn’t accurately predict the Packers’ place in the postseason.
So Packers fans, cross your fingers and cheer your hearts out tonight against the New Orleans Saints. The first game trend isn’t a sure thing, but a win at this point will serve as a good omen for the rest of the season.