Saturday, September 11, 2010

How predictive is the preseason?

One last NFL-related post before the season gets underway (okay, the NFC championship game rematch that have guys who love field position contests like yours truly hoping the Saints' win is a sign of things to come means the regular season has officially started). Playing poker at a friend's house, someone turned on the Royals' game just a few minutes before the Chiefs were to play the Eagles in preseason. My protests were met with assertions that the preseason is meaningless and thus not worth watching. I responded with the opinion that the NFL is always worth watching because, well, it's the NFL. I wasn't going to argue that the preseason was of little use in predicting how the regular season would turn out.

Still, I've heard forever that the preseason is not a portent of the regular season following it and want to make sure the claim is justified. has preseason standings going back to 2006. I'm sure digging through the sports archives, I could find results going back much further than that, but four years is enough to determine, at least in the contemporary NFL, the preseason doesn't predict much. The correlation between a team's preseason and regular season winning percentages for 2006-2009:

2006: .02
2007: .16
2008: (.13)
2009: .05

Nothing approaching statistical significance in any of these seasons. Over the last four years, the Colts, arguably the top team over that span of time, won a total of four preaseason games--one per year. Hilariously, in 2008, the Detroit Lions were the only team to go undefeated through the preseason and also the only team to go winless during the regular season of the same year.

I hate to break it to Niners' fans, but there won't be any glory reclaimed in 2010. And for those counting the Colts out because they went without a win this preseason... okay, they are the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl this year, so I'll stop trying to act as though anybody puts stake in what transpires during exhibition games.


OneSTDV said...

Colts are the favorites? Don't know about that. I'd say the Packers (the sexy pick) and the Saints are getting just as much love.

Audacious Epigone said...


Here's where I'm pulling from.

Best odds:

1) Colts
T2) Packers
2) Saints
T4) Cowboys
4) Chargers
6) Jets

The Saints and Packers are both getting a lot of love though, no doubt. I think the Cowboys and Chargers are better teams that either of them, though I'm comfortable speculating that Indy will end at something around 13-3, probably top of the league.

Audacious Epigone said...

... than* either of them ...