Let’s review the season of a mystery team from last year. This team had a pretty difficult schedule, but wound up with an average record. Here is how things broke down, starting with the good.
- Mystery team played two home games against teams in the bottom quarter of the league (all team ratings in this post are using SRS). Those are the games where an average team should do well, and in fact, those were the only two games all year that the team won by double digits.
- Mystery team had three other games where an average team would be “expected” to win based on strength of opponent and game location: Mystery team went 3-0 in those games, with an average margin of victory of 5.3 points.
But things were not so simple for our mystery team all year.
- Mystery team played five games against teams in the top quarter of the NFL. The result? An 0-5 record, with an average margin of defeat of 16.4 points.
- The remaining six games were ones where an average team would be “expected” to lose based on strength of opponent and game location, but were not against top-8 teams. Mystery team had an average points differential of -3.7 in those games, and a 2-4 record.
To recap, Mystery team blew out the bad teams, beat the below-average teams, lost to the above-average teams, and was blown out by the great teams. That, I think, is as unexciting as a season narrative can get. But if a team goes 1-7 to start the season, and then 6-2 to finish, it’s easy to spin the “tale of two halves” narrative. [click to continue…]