Does the NFL Preseason Matter?

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As I watched the Giants take apart the Jets in a seemingly meaningless preseason Monday Night Football game tonight I asked myself the questions, “why am I watching this game? Do preseason games really matter?”  Conventional wisdom would say, “Of course not.”  To the casual fan, the preseason is hardly worth the time spent to watch it.  It after all doesn’t mean anything when it comes to the regular season…

To the players and coaches of course the preseason is extremely important. To the players it could mean the difference between a career in the NFL or not. One or two big plays could mean millions of dollars in their pockets, or potentially could mean they won’t reach their dream of making an NFL squad.

To the passionate and obsessive fan can we really watch preseason and get a glimpse of what may come when the regular season begins?  I examined the last three preseason’s of the NFL to see if there was any correlation between the records a team reached in the preseason, to the final regular season record.

The results I found to be quite interesting, and surprisingly there was a correlation between wins in the preseason and wins during the regular season.

After researching the numbers here is what I learned:

0 Wins=  Those teams that won no games in the preseason on average won 6.94 games during the regular season.

1 Win=  Those teams that won exactly 1 preseason game did almost exactly one game better during the regular season; They won on average 7.93 games during the regular season.

2 Wins= Those teams winning two preseason games won on average 8.37 games during the regular season again an improvement from those that won one game.

3 Wins= Those winning three games did only slightly better (than those teams winning two games) winning 8.39 regular season games.

4 Wins= Here is where it gets interesting to me. Those winning 4 preseason games only won on average 5.66 games during the regular season.

One thing that is evident is there is a correlation between wins in the preseason and regular season records.  You want your team to win two or three games (but not 4) and on average they should be at least a .500 team.   Of the teams that won AT LEAST THREE games, only two did worse than 4 wins in the regular season.  At best, teams winning three preseason games won 13 regular season games.

What to learn from all of this? As you watch and cheer for your teams during this preseason, don’t get too excited if they win all their games; in fact you should probably worry, and you should also worry if they lose all of their games in the preseason.  If your team can get three wins in the preseason, expect success in the regular season.

So ultimately the preseason does matter if you are a hard core fan and the record may indicate the direction your team will go once the season starts. If you are more of a casual fan, now you know that it’s still ok to cheer EVEN if it’s the preseason because it DOES matter.

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