Some Clarification is in Order: The Preseason

John Fox watches this game much more closely than we do, and because of that, he's hoping to learn about his team, looking for weaknesses that he needs to improve. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

We just finished an impressive preseason, finishing with a decent record. We've got a lot to be happy about and some areas of concern as well. But as this preseason was going on, I was wondering what records in the preseason tell about the team in the regular season, and what coaches look to learn from the preseason.

Now many fans think we should do away with the preseason, it makes sense, it's not nearly as entertaining since the starters don't play. There's no benefit to winning games and it can be a cause of injuries for some star players. But I am taking the opposing stand point. The preseason is one of the most important parts of the NFL. Take it away and you lower the quality of the game. Peyton Manning said the preseason was among the most important factors in building a good team. He said that without the preseason, All-Pro Jeff Saturday wouldn't be in the NFL, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon wouldn't have been a starter, and Pro Bowler Antoine Bethea would lucky to see a roster spot. Players need the preseason  and training camp to prove their worth, let's not take that away.

Okay with that behind us, let's take a look at what the preseason records show in terms of performance in the regular season.

Preseason Plan:

Great NFL coaches enter the preseason not looking for wins, they are looking to test their teams. Since 2002, the NFL has allowed teams to decide their own schedule, and because of this, great coaches like Reid, Coughlin and BB all look to play teams that play to their teams weaknesses. They do this because by looking to play teams that outmatch them, they can have a whole games worth of film to study that will allow them to play better against that type of team. Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy would regularly play 3-4 teams early in Manning's career because Manning struggles against pass rushes out of a 3-4, so he'd play and study 3-4 defenses in the pre-season to try and improve.

So when coaches are previewing, or reviewing, the preseason, they have a plan, the teams they play have meaning, the players they use have meaning, coaches put a lot of work into the preseason, and they have a goal, at least they should.

The Method:

I decided to go back five years, and to record each teams record and then compare that to their regular season records. I recorded their winning percentage for the preseason and compared it to their winning percentage in the regular season. Then I looked for an increase, decrease, or no change in winning percentage. I put these into categories, teams that had winning records, losing records and even records in the regular season, as well as playoff and Super Bowl teams. So lets get to the tables:

The Tables:


5 Year Totals
   
  Increase No Change Decrease
Teams with winning records 51 4 15
Teams with .500 records 9 6 9
Teams with losing records 15 3 48
Playoff Teams 43 10 7
Super Bowl Teams 8 2 0

 


5 Year Averages
   
  Increase No Change Decrease
Teams with winning records 10 1 3
Teams with .500 records 2 1 2
Teams with losing records 3 1 10
Playoff Teams 9 2 1
Super Bowl Teams 2 0 0


Summery:

A few quick notes about this:

- The best preseason team during the five years I looked at was Miami.
- The worst preseason team was Indianapolis, who only won four games in five preseasons.

Winning doesn't matter in the preseason, what matters is you learn from your games. It seems great teams and coaches try and learn from the games. A few other quick things to take note of:

- No Super Bowl team has regressed from their preseason winning percentage to their regular season.
- Only seven of the 60 playoff teams since 2006 regressed, but those decreases don't tell the whole story, since those teams either decreased from 100% or 75%.
- On average only one playoff team per year decreases their winning percentage.

So there's just a quick review of preseason, but I hope it provided some helpful info, as with most of these articles, I do this for my own study, but I felt since the preseason just ended, it might be helpful for anyone who wanted to know.

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