Preseason Prodigies

There’s some buzz in Cleveland because the Browns won all four of their preseason games. This coming off a 1-15 season and just 38 wins in the nine seasons since they last posted ten wins.

Is this buzz rational?

It’s easy to dismiss the preseason. Established starters see about 4-5 quarters’ worth of action in four weeks. Playbooks remain vanilla. Youngsters are fighting for jobs and a third of the players won’t play a single down during the regular season. Wins and losses aren’t that important.

I’ll also point out that the 2008 Detroit Lions, the only 0-16 team in NFL history, were 4-0 during that preseason.

Studying the issue going back to the beginning of the eight-division format, 30 teams have gone undefeated in the preseason and 32 teams have gone winless. How have they done?

The undefeated teams are more-or-less average during the regular season, with 7.97 wins per team.

How did they fare the previous season? These teams averaged 8.29 wins. So there was a slight decline – nothing too exciting given the small sample size.

What about teams that won six or less games the previous season? They averaged 1.8 wins more, on average. The Lions even made the playoffs in 2011 after an undefeated preseason following a 6-10 mark in 2010.

I’m not convinced Browns fans should be ecstatic about their 4-0 preseason, but it’s certainly not a negative.

The flip side of this argument is more interesting. Of the 0-4 preseason teams, their average record was only 7.34 wins that season. That’s a bit concerning. It gets even more concerning when you consider that the average wins for these teams the previous season was 8.77. While I’m not certain this is significant with the sample size, either, that’s potentially a study.

The average decline, season-to-season, of teams with ten or more wins the previous season that went winless in the preseason, is 3.9.

Atlanta and Oakland fans, maybe there is something there to worry about this year.

Author: Jim Gindin

Founder and Lead Developer, Solecismic Software