Does the NFL Preseason Matter?

Maybe if you’re a Redskins fan.  For everyone else, the conclusions are more indirect.  I made a bunch of charts breaking down each team INDIVIDUALLY and IN COLOR to compare their preseason records with their regular season finish.  After this, you may start cheering for your team to tank a few preseason games.

Let’s start with the big picture. The first chart considers the preseason record of every NFL team for the last five seasons – the blue area. The black dots layered on top indicate each team’s regular season winning percentage. If there was a strong correlation between the two, you’d see the black dots hovering around the edge of the blue area, and that’s usually not the case.

Click chart to enlarge…

Bad news for this year’s St. Louis Rams‘ 4-0 preseason.  Teams that win four preseason games, surprisingly have the WORST winning percentage in the regular season. There’s the especially curious case of the 2008 Detroit Lions who went 4-0 in the preseason only to lose all 16 in the regular season.  (Look out Lions fans, they just did it again.)  Even when we omit that extreme case, the best preseason teams seem to burn out in the regular season.  Look at last years 49ers – 4-0 in the preseason, 6-10 in the regular season (yet they only missed the playoffs by one game).  On the other hand, the 2008 Patriots followed an 0-4 preseason by finishing 11-5.

Now, what about YOUR team? Check out every individual NFL team’s pre and regular season records layered on top of each other and in color! A few teams (Washington, Denver and Tennessee) show a correlation between pre and regular season wins.  Detroit fans should cheer for a terrible preseason, since they often finish at the opposite end. And with some teams like Chicago and Baltimore, you might as well flip a coin. Check out these charts and giggle at how they vaguely look like stick-figure Kama Sutra positions:

Click it and then ZOOM in for the full experience!

For the most part, the number of wins your team tallies in preseason doesn’t translate to the regular season. The best bet for a good season seems to be going 2-2.

What can we draw from this? Maybe the best teams focus on player-evaluation in the fakeseason but at the same time have enough depth in their roster to pull off some wins. It takes a sophisticated football fan to evaluate the preseason – and I do not claim to be one. You’ve got to observe individual talent and how it’ll fit into the big picture throughout the real season. The bottom line is, the perfect-preseason is probably to win 2 games.  If your team had a mediocre preseason, things are lookin’ up!

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2 Comments

Filed under Areas of Nerdery, Jones, Lists

2 responses to “Does the NFL Preseason Matter?

  1. Cuervo Jones

    This gives me a renewed sense of hope, even though we only pulled off 1 win. Hello AFC Championship game.

  2. Kruppy

    I love charts. Charts, charts, charts!

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