The Carolina Panthers Thursday night loss to the Denver Broncos was a heart-breaker for Panthers fans. If the field goal had been good, the Panthers would be looking at a win and a record of 1 – 0. Obviously the team and fans would have preferred that outcome.
A win to start the season seems like it would have been a good omen. After all, the Panthers don’t have a lot of week 1 wins in their history – only eight opening game wins in 22 seasons. But in five of the eight years with week 1 wins, they went to the playoffs. Even more impressive, in two of those years, in 2003 and 2015, they went all the way to the Super Bowl.
Here’s a summary table of week 1 results:
- In 8 Seasons with Week 1 Wins:
- 4 Winning Seasons; 4 Losing Seasons
- Record 72 – 55 (.567) / 5 Playoff appearances (63%), including 2 SBs
- In 2001, the Panthers won their opener, but lost every other game and went 1 – 15
- In 13 Seasons with Week 1 Losses:
- 2 Winning Seasons; 11 Losing Seasons
- Record 94 – 114 (.452) / 2 Playoff appearances (15%)
Does the loss to the Broncos mean the 2016 Panthers are doomed? Of course not. In 2005 and 2013 the Panthers started the season with a loss – in extremely close games against New Orleans and Seattle – and they ended up with excellent seasons, making it to the conference championship game in 2005, and the divisional round in 2013.
But beyond the week 1 Ws and Ls and the season records, I got curious about the history of the Panthers week 1 games, and to what extent those results reflected the outcome of the full season, particularly in terms of scoring. Frankly I was a bit alarmed that the Panthers allowed Denver’s newbie QB Trevor Siemian to score 21 points. That’s quite a bit higher than the points allowed in recent season openers. Does that bode ill for the Panthers 2016 defense? It was time to do some number crunching.
Here’s what I found.
First let’s look at Points Scored totals for the week 1 games in comparison with the regular season totals. The data are presented in both table and graph format.
Being mostly only familiar with the Ron Rivera / Cam Newton Era of the Carolina Panthers, I’m used to the Panthers starting the season slowly on offense, with week 1 games being pretty low scoring. In 2011 – 2015, the week 1 Panthers points totals have always been below the season average. In this era, the Panthers averaged only 15.6 points per game in week 1, which equaled 63.4% of their average points per season.
But that’s not always been the case. In previous years it was common for the Panthers to score a higher total in their week 1 game than their season average. (Those instances are circled in the table above). For their entire history, the Panthers point total in week 1 averages about 82% of their season average.
The recent trend of week 1 scores being well below the season average shows even more clearly when you graph the data:
The takeaway here? If the 2016 Carolina Panthers follow the script of 2012, 2013 and 2015, we can expect the offense to improve over the course of the season. Returning virtually all of their Super Bowl offensive players, and given their history, it’s quite possible to think they could again score an average of 30 – 32 points per game in 2016. But 2014 shows that there are exceptions to this large week 1 vs. season average discrepancy. In that year the totals were very close. But generally, it looks like there’s room for optimism given the Panthers week 1 total of 20 points.
NEXT: A look at POINTS ALLOWED