Lies, damned lies and statistics
Excuse my use of a quite mild curse in today’s headline, but Mark Twain made that phrase quite popular a century or so past.
Yes, of course, statistics can be made to bolster nearly any argument.
For instance, just two scores from the start of this season show how the Carolina Panthers are 54 points better than the Green Bay Packers.
What? Well, it’s what the numbers say, and while this may not be a banner beginning of the season for the Green and Gold, I don’t think anyone thinks 54 points measures any difference between Carolina and Green Bay.
The numbers? New Orleans beat the Packers by 35 points in Week 1, 38-3, while Carolina bounced the Saints by 19, 26-7, in Week 2.
Thirty-five points up plus 19 points down, that adds up to 54.
Absurd, but we all — I know I do — see these numbers bolstering arguments about NFL teams, players, trends in the league or whatever is hot at the moment. And so often it’s all just a whole bunch of phooey.
Onto my predictions, also known as some more ridiculous statistics:
Today, 8:20 p.m.
Carolina at Houston — Speaking of the Panthers, or at least who they’re playing, the Texans probably will be without Tyrod Taylor at quarterback after he hurt his hamstring in Sunday’s loss to Cleveland.
Houston is officially back in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 draft pick. Panthers, 35-19.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Washington at Buffalo — The Steelers showed you could control Buffalo with a stout defense. The only problem is that the “Football Team” hasn’t shown that stoutness that was supposed to be their cornerstone. Bills, 34-22.
Chicago at Cleveland — I don’t see the injured Bears QB Andy Dalton or the rookie Bears QB Justin Fields bouncing back in even a little way this week. Dalton will be hobbled and Fields is still learning. ‘Nuff said. Browns, 29-20.
Baltimore at Detroit — I can only put so much stock in the instances when the Lions have played well so far — against the 49ers, it was when San Fran played a 30-minute-long prevent defense, while vs. Green Bay, the Packers needed a half to untrack all its weapons before it completely and utterly dominated.
Besides, exactly how are any Lions players going to keep up with Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson? Ravens, 38-24.
Arizona at Jacksonville — No reason to believe Arizona QB Kyler Murray will cool off soon. The Jaguars will need at least half a season to not be considered “out of their league” when playing teams on a hot streak. Cardinals, 37-21.
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City — You don’t want to get Chiefs head coach Andy Reid angry, as Baltimore did by stealing a win from them on Sunday night.
Not because the coach will personally hurt you, but because it gets the attention of KC’s players who otherwise might nod off in team meetings knowing they’re in blowout mode 14 or 15 weeks out of 17 each season. Chiefs, 42-30.
New Orleans at New England — Think of Jameis Winston as a rookie, since he’s in his first year back as a starting QB. Now what does Patriots coach Bill Belichick most enjoy doing? Toying with rookie QBs. Patriots, 24-16.
Atlanta at New York Giants — I’m not seeing a pulse out of the Falcons yet, though playing either New York team would probably be the time you’d find it. I’ll just let these sleeping dogs lie — is that “lie” as in sleeping or “lie” as in telling fibs? Giants, 27-23.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh — Las Vegas exposed the Pittsburgh defense with T.J. Watt out, and now I’m hearing the Steelers’ offensive line is bad enough to expose 39-year-old hardly mobile QB Ben Roethlisberger, too. Bengals, 23-20.
Indianapolis at Tennessee — Both teams woke up after sleepwalking through Week 1. I’ll just take the home team and the one with a better rushing game. Titans, 26-24.
Sunday, 4 p.m.
New York Jets at Denver — NMU grad Robert Saleh is trying, but that roll of Bounty paper towels he’s stuck with just doesn’t cut it when you’re trying to clean up a foot of floodwater muck in the Jets’ locker room — a problem similar to what Detroit has.
I don’t like this New York team flying cross country and playing at a 5,280-foot altitude. Broncos, 29-17.
Miami at Las Vegas — The Raiders showed their power passing game vs. Pittsburgh, and without Tua Tagovailoa, how can the south Florida visitors keep up? Raiders, 39-27.
Tampa Bay at Los Angeles Rams — If the Packers don’t get their act together, this may very well be a preview of the NFC championship game. Well, even if Green Bay gets it together, these might be the two teams left standing in the NFC.
I see the Rams getting up for the Super Bowl champions more easily than Tom Brady getting up to play against Matthew Stafford. Rams, 27-23.
Seattle at Minnesota — So far, Seattle has won its road game and lost its home game. So much for protecting the Pacific Northwest turf. So I’ll take a flier and say Seahawks, 31-27.
Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
Green Bay at San Francisco — It looks like if the Packers implode this year, they’re going to do it front of the whole country. They had a national audience for their 4 p.m. Sunday game in Week 1, Monday night in Week 2 and now Sunday night. I don’t see Green Bay completely pulled together quite yet. 49ers, 33-29.
Monday, 8:15 p.m.
Philadelphia at Dallas — Star power brings this matchup to prime time, because if you look at the “quality” of the NFC East last season, they’d make them play all their games at 6 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Cowboys, 37-34.
Last week — 11-5, 69 percent. Season — 20-12, 63 percent.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is email@example.com.