Is it better to start or finish strong? It may depend on the sport at hand


For football, a strong finish may matter more

Brandon Paz

With the Washington Nationals, Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros having already clinched their respective divisions and the NFL season barely through week two, it’s only right to ask… Is it more important for a team to start or to finish strong?

Many factors play into it, one could be as simple as which sport is being played. Major League Baseball teams each play 162 regular season games while National Football League teams each play 16 regular season games.

In long seasons, such as with the MLB, the only time a strong start could go a long way is if it is accompanied by a strong finish. As of Sept. 17, the four 90-win teams in the MLB are Cleveland (93-57), Houston (91-58), Washington (90-59) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (96-53).

The most interesting of the four have to be the Astros and the Dodgers. The Astros started the first two months at 38-16, while the Dodgers started off at 33-21. At the beginning of the season, it seemed that the Astros were the team to beat, as if there was no other team in the MLB that could possibly do better.

Yet, here we are in the final two full months of regular season baseball with both teams posting a 22-22 record for August and September and the Dodgers sit atop with the best record.

Not to mention the Cleveland Indians, who after an okay start at 27-24 have finished the past two months with a 36-10 record, which included a 22-game win streak and currently own the second best record.

While a strong start may help with a rough bump along the road, a good or bad baseball team is by far best determined by their overall record. Consistency plays a bigger role in a 162 game regular season compared to a 16 game regular season like the NFL has.

The best recent argument against a strong start comes from the 2016 Minnesota Vikings. Through the first eight games, they posted a 5-3 record and seemed destined to win a second consecutive NFC North title. However, a 3-5 record down the stretch left them at .500 with Detroit and Green Bay leapfrogging them to advance to the playoffs.

On the flip side, the 2015 Kansas City Chiefs began the season with a 3-5 record and seemed to be on a downward trend from the year prior. However, a flawless 8-0 record the second half of the season saw them make the playoffs as a wild card team from the AFC West, only one game behind eventual Super Bowl 50 champions, the Denver Broncos.

At the end of the day, it all depends on the sport. With baseball, a strong start or finish is not as important because of how long a season is, with the same probably to be said about the NBA at 82 regular season games. However, with a league like the NFL where each game carries significance, it seems more beneficial to finish strong as a strong start can be disregarded once the ninth game of the season comes around.