Undefeated or winless in the preseason: Does it matter?
Last Thursday saw the final games of the 2014 NFL preseason. Ten-man practice squads are being announced, just a day after teams made decisions on their 53-man rosters. It’s on to the regular season as the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers kick-off the 2014 campaign on Thursday.
Before we leave the ’14 preseason, there’s one question… does having a great (undefeated) preseason give us any insight to how well a team will play when the real games begin? Conversely, if a team goes winless in the preseason will that spell disaster when they play their 16-game schedule?
First, let’s look at this year’s preseason. Three teams went undefeated: Baltimore, Minnesota and the New York Giants. Two teams were winless: Dallas and Indianapolis. Again, is this any precursor to how these team will fare in the regular season? Time will tell.
But take a look at the last five NFL seasons. From 2009-13, 10 teams went undefeated in a preseason. They compiled a collective 70-90 record in the regular season, a .438 winning percentage. In that same timeframe, 13 teams did not win a game in a preseason. Their collective record in the regular season was 99-109, a .476 winning percentage.
In the last five years, four teams that went undefeated in the preseason went on to make the playoffs that year. The last two teams to do so were the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins last season. The ‘Hawks went on to a 13-3 record and won the Super Bowl. The Redskins? A dismal 3-13 record.
Of the 13 teams that were winless in a preseason from 2009-2013, four made the playoffs. The last time was in 2011 when the Atlanta Falcons went 0-4 in the preseason but were 10-6 in the regular season and made the playoffs.
Does the preseason tell us much about what will happen in the regular season? I think we say safely say, “No.” Sure, teams want to win and especially with new head coaches, these first-year coaches are looking to the preseason to help establish a new mindset and winning ways. But the reality is that starters rarely play, and players looking to gain roster spots, many of whom will not make an NFL team, play a majority of the preseason games.
We’ll see how the Ravens, Vikings and Giants use this preseason’s undefeated schedule to parlay success in September and beyond. And, will the Cowboys or Colts find a dreadful 2014 preseason was just the beginning of a dreadful 2014 regular season? It all begins Thursday.
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