There may not have been any exhibition games, training camps may have been scaled back and many stadiums may be empty but it is sure nice to welcome the NFL back after a seven-month absence.

The Kansas City Chiefs started this season where they left last season, with a victory.

Unlike their playoff game in January of this year, the Chiefs did not have to recover from a 24-0 deficit in knocking off the Houston Texans 34-20.

Kansas City has continuity and that’s the main reason they are again favoured to repeat.

The Chiefs have a staggering 20 of 22 starters and 20 of their 21 coaches back.

In a pandemic year, home field likely won’t mean as much since many teams will play without fans while others will only have some, but far from even half of the seats occupied.

The NHL and NBA are well on their way to completing their season, in part because they are playing their post-season in a bubble.

MLB has had many postponements due to players and other team officials testing positive for COVID-19, but it is starting to look like they will complete a shortened season with playoffs to follow.

So what about the NFL?

Just like the game results, we really don’t know.

It is nothing more than a guess whether the NFL season goes right through to the Super Bowl without a hitch or whether it will be interrupted or possibly completely halted.

Let’s look at the positive and go on the assumption that all the games get played in one form or another.

Did you know that in each of the past 30 years at least one NFL team has increased its win total by five or more games from the previous season?

Last year, for example in the NFC, the Green Bay Packers went from a 6-9-1 record in 2018 to a 13-4 mark in 2019.

The Packers reached the Conference championship game against San Francisco.

The 49’ers had an even bigger improvement winning nine more regular-season games, going from 4-12 in 2018 to 13-3 last year.

In 15 of the last 17 NFL seasons, there has been at least one team go from worst to first in its division, although that did not happen in 2019.

(While San Francisco and Green Bay had dismal records in 2018 they both jumped from third out of four in their division to first in 2019).

The last-place teams in 2019 were Miami, Cincinnati, Jacksonville and LA Chargers in the AFC plus Washington, Detroit, Carolina and Arizona in the NFC.

In this group, I give Miami the best chance of climbing from worst to first in its division while Cincinnati has the least chance of going from the cellar to division champions.

Since the 12-team playoff format was-adopted in 1990, a minimum four teams have advanced to the playoffs in every season that was not in the post-season the year before.

This year Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh would appear to be best bets.

There will be more teams in the playoffs with each conference expanding from six qualifying teams to seven.

In the AFC, I will go with K.C., Baltimore, Tennessee and Buffalo as division champions with Pittsburgh, Houston and LA Chargers as the wild-cards.

In the NFC, I like New Orleans, San Francisco, Dallas and Minnesota as division winners with Tampa Bay, Green Bay and Seattle as the wild-cards.

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Amidst the culture of the NFL, many fans compete in a growing trend, where participants speculate and pick weekly winners in a popular contest widely referred to as THE FOOTBALL POOL.

Prince George is no different than most cities as interest in the NFL elevates by competing in a pool.

Some, like the one hosted by 94.3 the Goat is free.

The link is right here.

Others have a token entry fee.

There’s a wide spectrum of pools that include:

  • Time frame: weekly winners or season-long chase.
  • Elimination pools: pick one team each week to win, keep going until the last player is left alive.
  • Survivor pools: pick one team each week to lose, keep going until the last player is left alive.
  • Team-win pools: draft certain teams whose wins count for you during the season.

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  • Here are some guidelines that I try to follow when picking winners:
  • Know the line: Vegas odds-makers are professionals when they establish a line. Use that as a gauge.
  • Past reputations: Avoid picking teams living off previous reputations that have not been successful recently.
  • Key to Success: The blueprint for winning a pool is “nailing” the games that are close on the spread (three or fewer points). In this realm, upsets are common. Still, it is important to have some basis for believing the so-called better team will lose.
  • Have an even keel approach: Do not get discouraged about having a bad week. Standings fluctuate and it only takes a few games to change the direction of the leader-board.

Week one is usually difficult picking a team in both an Elimination and Survivor pool. I generally don’t like taking a road team as a lock but this year may be different with crowds either mostly or completely gone.

My best guess for a sure-fire win in week one would be Baltimore over Cleveland.

My best guess for a sure-fire loss in week one would be New York Jets against Buffalo.

NFL week one odds can be found right here.

FROM THE QUOTE RACK:

The crowd number at Arrowhead Stadium (capacity 76,000) for Thursday’s game was capped at 17,000. There were so many echoes that by halftime, representatives and scouts of the World Yodeling Championships had arrived.

*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California

Five on-field officials — line judge Jeff Bergman, back judges Steve Freeman and Tony Steratore, and field judges Greg Gautreaux and Joe Larrew — have opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to coronavirus concerns. Whether they decide to come back in 2021, of course, is under further review.

*Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times http://www.seattletimes.com/author/dwight-perry/

In an Instagram post, Olympic Gold Medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings says she didn’t wear a mask to the store in an “exercise of being brave.” This proves again that neither incredible athletic ability nor gender protects you from arrogant stupidity.

*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com

IN CASE, YOU MISSED IT:

Three reasons a Brazilian prison reduced jail time for each book an inmate read:
3. It’s a novel idea;
2. Poetic justice;
1. Prepositions could end sentences.

 *Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com

Hartley Miller is the news and sports supervisor and morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97.
He also is the 94.3 the Goat radio colour commentator for P.G. Cougars home games.
His column appears Fridays on myprincegeorgenow.com.
Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to hmiller@thegoatrocks.ca