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NFL Playoff Chances By Record, by FiveThirtyEight


Stashed in: Awesome, Charts!, Football, So you're saying there's a chance..., Nate Silver, football, Nate Silver, @fivethirtyeight

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Woah.

Since 1995, teams who win their opening game have averaged around 9.1 wins, while teams losing their opener average 6.9. So the information a win conveys makes it worth more than double its face value.

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The first two weeks of the season alone mark the difference between having a 61 percent chance of making the playoffs (for a 2-0 squad) and a 10 percent chance (for 0-2).

Crunch Time Of The NFL Season Is Right Now FiveThirtyEight

Crunch Time Of The NFL Season Is Right Now FiveThirtyEight

Specifically:

In the NFL, every single game is important. Each one represents more than 6 percent of a team’s season, and one win is often the difference between making the playoffs and not, between getting a bye and playing on wild-card weekend, or between playing at home and playing on the road. But even within the every-game-matters paradigm, the first weeks of the NFL season are special.

For us fans, early-season games set the agenda. They reveal surprises, like the 1999 Rams, who — starting an Arena league quarterback and coming off a four-win season — won their first three games with a combined score of 100-27 (including a 35-7 romp over the Atlanta Falcons). It would be weeks before people really started taking the team seriously, but if the Rams had started 0-3, they could have been safely written off. Early-season games also reveal busts, like the 1999 Atlanta Falcons, who — coming off a 14-2 season — lost their first three games by a combined score of 76-28.

In other words, these games are doubly important because they reveal both who won and who is likely to win going forward. This new information can supplement — and often supercede — a whole offseason of analysis. Yes, we have considered opinions about who’s strong and who isn’t, who did well in free agency or poorly in the draft, but outside of a small number of sure things, predicting which teams will rise or fall from year to year can be nigh impossible. Of course, we do our best.

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