Starting fast in the NFL isn’t a new concept. Listen to players and coaches after games, and they’re likely to talk about “starting fast” and “finishing strong.” The idea is tried-and-true, and so are the results. According to Football Insiders, 83 percent of NFL teams that began the season 4-0 have gone on to make the playoffs since 1983.
On a macro level, it’s important to win multiple games early in the year. Not only does it cushion against later slumps, but helps teams gain an advantage on divisional opponents at the end of the season. The Minnesota Vikings enjoyed such success, winning seven of their first nine games in 2015. Although they lost three of their next four, Mike Zimmer’s team sat comfortably in the NFC playoff race because of the favorable win-loss differential.
But on a smaller scale, how did the Vikings start each of their 16 regular season games? Did they run the football with Adrian Peterson? Or, did offensive coordinator Norv Turner allow second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to get into a rhythm early? The first play of every game doesn’t necessarily reflect that contest’s outcome, but on a team with one of the league’s most predictable, run-heavy offenses, it’s intriguing to analyze the trends.