The Tennessee Titans were weird last year. On paper, the toughest game of the season would have been a week 15 contest in Arrowhead Stadium. And, on paper, the easiest game of the year would be a week 6 home game against the Browns. And yet against both Kansas City and Cleveland, the Titans won by 2 points.
The Titans won one game by more than 14 points last year: would you have guessed it was a 22-point win over the NFC North Champion Packers? Perhaps even more surprising: Tennessee lost one game by double digits in 2016, a 38-17 thumping put on them by… the Jaguars?
It should go without saying that teams tend to play better against bad teams and worse against good teams. But the Titans were a pretty big outlier last year. The table below shows each of the Titans games last year. The table is sorted by the “SOS+HFA” column, which shows the home field adjusted team rating of each opponent. The Chiefs had an SRS rating of +5.6, so playing at Kansas City goes down as a +8.6. The Colts were at +0.2, so playing in Indianapolis is a +3.2, while hosting the Colts is at -2.8.
|15||@||Kansas City Chiefs||8.6||19||17||2|
|9||@||San Diego Chargers||3.1||35||43||-8|
|10||Green Bay Packers||-0.2||47||25||22|
As you can see, the margin column in the far right isn’t all that correlated with the “HFA+SOS” column. In fact, the correlation coefficient between the two columns is just -0.18. By comparison, the Houston Texans played very much to expectation last year. The correlation coefficient between Houston’s “HFA+SOS” column and the margin column is -0.77, meaning the Texans’ margin of victory was negatively correlated with the strength of their opponent.
Houston lost three games last year by double digits, and it came against three of the four toughest tests on the Texans schedule. Houston won just three games by a touchdown or more, and it came against 3 of the 4 easiest tests on Houston’s schedule. Again, that’s how things *should* happen:
|3||@||New England Patriots||12.3||0||27||-27|
|13||@||Green Bay Packers||5.8||13||21||-8|
|2||Kansas City Chiefs||2.6||19||12||7|
|12||San Diego Chargers||-2.9||13||21||-8|
The table below shows the correlation coefficient for each team last year, measured from “closest to expectation” to “least predictable.”
|3||New Orleans Saints||-0.69|
|7||San Francisco 49ers||-0.65|
|9||New York Giants||-0.61|
|14||New York Jets||-0.50|
|23||Green Bay Packers||-0.39|
|24||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-0.38|
|25||San Diego Chargers||-0.35|
|28||New England Patriots||-0.31|
|29||Kansas City Chiefs||-0.29|
|31||Los Angeles Rams||-0.20|
In addition to the Titans, the Rams are another team that seemed to really play to their opponent. Los Angeles won in Arizona and in Tampa Bay, and beat the Seahawks… while also getting swept by the 49ers.