Do NFL preseason records give any indication as to how the teams will fare when the games begin for real? Let’s take a look at some examples and see if there’s anything to glean as the NFL season looms.
Flawless Preseasons but Winless Regular Seasons
In the 2017 preseason, the Cleveland Browns gave hope to the hopeless when they finished their preseason with a 4-0 mark and punctuated it with a 25-0 shutout of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Even the most ardent member of the Dawg Pound would not be completely fooled that this was the foundation of a championship season, but after a 1-15 record in 2016, in which the Browns lost each and every one of their preseason contests, things were only looking up.
We all know now that the euphoria of a flawless preseason didn’t amount to anything but another role as the clown in the dunk tank for Cleveland as it ended 2017 with the league’s second-ever 0-16 mark. No one remembered or even cared what they had accomplished in the preseason as the games meant nothing except to those brave few who actually wagered on these contests, and the only excitement surrounding this moribund franchise was the anticipation of having the No. 1 pick in the draft … again.
Let’s shift gears. The year is 2008, and the Detroit Lions are rebounding off a 7-9 season with a view towards getting back into the playoff hunt. The team delivers a perfect 4-0 preseason and Motown is beginning to believe that winning is A-B-C, as easy as 1-2-3, as simple as Do-Re-Mi – well, you get the message and you’re welcome for what will be a Jackson 5 internal serenade for the rest of your day. But a not-so-funny thing happened when the regular season kicked off because all of the optimism amongst Lions’ fans was smacked silly by a reality check when they dropped their first four games by double digits and proceeded to lose the rest of the way. Their undefeated preseason proved to be nothing more than an illusion because when Detroit’s starters met the rest of the league’s first-stringers, the Lions were toothless.
Super Bowl Winners Preseason Tough Enough
Based on what we have discussed above, winning in the preseason doesn’t portend greatness in the regular season. As a matter of fact, Lions and Browns fans will tell you quite the opposite. However, over the last 10 seasons the eventual Super Bowl winners ended the preseason with at least a 2-2 record. The 2013 Seattle Seahawks tore through the preseason with a pristine 4-0 mark and ended the regular season 13-3 before they vanquished the Broncos in the Super Bowl that season. The conventional wisdom is that the championship-caliber teams not only boast elite starting units but their backups are talented enough to patch the holes when the injury bug bites during the regular season. That would give credence to those who point out that because the preseason is the domain of the second and third stringers, Super Bowl-caliber teams will field better backups than their opponents.
Over the last 50 years, only one Super Bowl winner has gone 0-4 in the preseason and not surprisingly that aberration came in the strike-shortened season of 1982-1983 when the Redskins bucked the trend. Only the 1990 Buffalo Bills and the 2000 New York Giants went winless in the preseason and made it all the way to the Super Bowl before falling in the big game.
So what’s it all mean? Well, we can surmise that blowing through the preseason doesn’t mean much but if your team has any chance of getting the Super Bowl then a registering at least a .500 exhibition record is worth something. That’s bad news for a team like the Tennessee Titans, who finished with a losing preseason record this year.
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