"At the end of the day, breakout preseason performances must be judged individually; there are just too many variables that go into teams and players. Even with eye-popping stats or unexpected play, some of these standout players get stuck behind an established superstar or starter and rarely see the field after making waves in the preseason. Some can't live up to the hype and reproduce that same level of performance. Some shoot to the top of the depth chart and never look back. Some don't even make the team. Bottom line? Don't feel bad about getting overly excited about a player in the preseason, because anything can happen once the real games start."USA Today:
In 1978, the NFL added four "preseason" games that have no bearing on each team's eventual win-loss record ahead of the 16 regular-season games. Preseason games are widely seen as a chance for coaches to practice plays, scrubs to make the team and veterans to risk injuries [and for owners to charge high-priced tickets while the players don't get paid regular season game money].
Coaches are reluctant to play their best players or show off their offensive and defensive schemes. No one wants to get hurt. The end result looks like football, but without consequence or passion.
A study in the current Journal of Sports Economics by economists Nancy Ammon Jianakoplos and Martin Shields of Colorado State University raises questions about whether the games offer fans any insights into their team's Super Bowl chances.
"Our main finding is that, although we confirm the significance of preseason winning as a predictor of regular season winning previously found in the 1970-1991 period, we are unable to find any statistical evidence that preseason winning percentage or winning the third game of the preseason provides any preview of NFL team performance in the regular season in the most recent 2002-2010 seasons."
The team extended its analysis to bridge seasons from 1970 to 2010 and account for schedule strength. They find that, "preseason NFL performance lost its impact beginning with the 1994 season."
"These results serve to confirm the view of many fans and even the commissioner of the NFL, who have expressed discontent with the quality of preseason NFL performance. Although preseason games may provide opportunities for players new to the NFL to experience game-time experience and offer the coaching staff more information on the performance capabilities of new players, winning preseason games does not directly translate into better overall team performance in the regular season. The preseason does offer the owners additional revenue and put the players at added risk for injury."
Kirk Cousins, Washington
Preseason: 35 of 54 (64.8 percent) for 370 yards, 4 TD to 1 INT, 101.6 QB rating
Season: 126 of 204 (61.8 percent) for 1,710 yards, 10 TD to 9 INT, 86.4 QB rating
Cousins had a very promising preseason, including a 14-of-20 effort with 122 yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens that fueled the argument that Cousins should be starting over Robert Griffin III. However, when he grabbed the starting job in Week 2, after RG3 dislocated his ankle, he wasn't able to hold on to the job because of too many turnovers (nine picks and two lost fumbles). Colt McCoy took over in Week 8; Cousins didn't throw another pass all year.
Since 2003, nine teams wrapped up the August schedule 4-0 and only four of them produced winning record in the fall. There have been 24 division winners in three years (2004-2007) and the number of those teams that had a winning record in the preseason: 4.
The Colts won four straight AFC South titles, and their preseason record during that four-year run is 5-12. The Eagles have won the NFC East three of the last four years; during those championship seasons, they managed to deliver a combined 4-9 summer record. The Panthers have gone undefeated in the preseason in three of four years and only once in those three years (2003) did it translate into a division title. The only year they didn't go undefeated in the dress rehearsal season was 2005 when they finished at 2-2. And they made the playoffs that year as a wild card.
Enjoy the third weekend of preseason football but don't draw any conclusions about the regular season from what you see on the scoreboard. Did the Saints' 1-3 record in the 2006 preseason leave anyone thinking they would be the story of the year in the NFL?
We decided to compare the winning percentage of the preseason of the team to the performance of that team in the regular season for every team over the last 10 season, which gave us a sample size of 320 team seasons.
When comparing the records, we found that there was no correlation between the performance of the preseason to the regular season. Statistically, the correlation between the winning percentage of a team in the preseason and their winning percentage in the regular season is 0.0944 - values between -0.1 and +0.1 suggest no correlation between two variables.
In conclusion, based on the analysis above, the preseason record of a team, provides very little insight into the performance of the team during the regular season - when it counts.
New York Times:
A strong preseason performance in the N.F.L. not only does not predict a good season, it could actually be a sign of a bad one. In the last 10 years, 18 teams have been unbeaten and untied in preseason play. Those teams went on to post a combined regular-season record of only 130-158.
The teams that were perfect in the preseason also did not improve from the previous season, declining by a total of 23½ games, dropping more than one win per team.
In some cases, a good preseason did herald a successful year. The Broncos parlayed a perfect preseason in 2005 into a 13-3 record, and the 2013 Seahawks won the Super Bowl after a 4-0 preseason.
But more often, the preseason wonders flopped when the games started to count. In 2013, the Redskins, who had won 10 games the previous season, fell to 3-13. The 2011 Rams won all four games in the preseason, then went on to win just two regular-season games.
The most egregious case was the 2008 Lions. They swept through the preseason, outscoring their four opponents by 80-32. Among their victims were the Giants, who would go 12-4 that year. The Lions fell apart in the regular season. Trying out Jon Kitna, Dan Orlovsky and Daunte Culpepper as starting quarterbacks, Detroit staggered to the league’s first 0-16 record.
In contrast to the summertime highfliers, eventual Super Bowl champions generally had undistinguished preseasons. Even with the 2013 Seahawks’ 4-0 record, the winners of the last 10 Super Bowls have posted a combined preseason record of only 23-17.
Preseason games have value to fringe players, coaches, and teams’ bottom lines. And FiveThirtyEight.com last year showed that the preseason can indicate whether a new quarterback is likely to succeed. But in general, the prevailing wisdom about the preseason is correct. A great record is not a great sign for the future.