Today’s Sportstat: August 8, 2019

NFL 2018: Did preseason success predict regular season success last season?

I think most NFL experts would agree that the NFL preseason is mostly about teams finding out which players will ultimately fill out their 53-man rosters. While teams would say they “want” to win, winning a preseason contest seems to be less of a focus than playing a lot of players and evaluating talent.

That having been said, they do keep score and there are still winners and losers in these preseason games. So we must ask the question: Does having success via a win-loss record in the preseason predict regular season success?

To answer this question (at least for the time being) let’s look at the 2018 NFL season to see how the preseason records compared with the regular season records. Here are a few bullet points:

  • Of the 12 playoff teams in 2018, nine won at least two preseason games. In fact, each of the six AFC playoff teams won at least two preseason games.
  • The Baltimore Ravens were the only team to go undefeated in the preseason last season. They made the playoffs with a 10-6 record.
  • There were four teams that did not win a preseason game in 2018: Dallas, Atlanta, Tennessee and Seattle. The Cowboys and Seahawks, however, did make the 2018 playoffs.
  • The 13 teams that won three or more preseason games in 2018 won an average of eight regular season games.
  • The nine teams that won two preseason games in 2018 won an average of 8.6 games in the 2018 regular season.
  • The six teams that won only one preseason game in 2018 won an average of 6.2 games in the ’18 regular season.
  • The four teams that did not win a preseason game in 2018 won an average of nine regular season games last year.
  • The 12 2018 playoff teams won an average of 2.2 preseason games last season.
  • The 20 teams that did not make the 2018 playoffs won an average of 1.95 preseason games last season.

Not very conclusive evidence either way, is there? It is interesting to note that five of the 12 playoff teams last season won three or more preseason games: Baltimore, Houston, Indianapolis, New England and New Orleans.

But I’m not ready to claim there is a clear link between preseason success and regular season success in the NFL. As I stated earlier, the focus on the preseason contests seems to be less about winning and more about getting reps for younger players and evaluating talent. Winning these preseason games seems to be secondary.

 

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

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