There is an old adage in the NFL that says “You are what your record says you are.” But let’s face it, in a league with such a small sample size (16 games) and unbalanced schedules, some teams are just luckier than others.
Wins are wins. But do they give us an accurate picture of how good a team is and how well that team will play in the remainder of the season? Not always.
A better predictor of future performance is simply looking at how good the offence and defence has been. To do that, all we need to do is apply the Pythagorean Win Percentage formula to get an idea of how many games a team should have won based on their points favouring (PF) and points allowed (PA).
So let’s take a look at how all the NFL teams have performed through 12 weeks and who may be expected to come back to earth a little and those that may play better down the stretch. In the table below, “Luck” is simply the difference between actual wins and expected wins…
What we see is that the Patriots have been the luckiest team in the NFL this season. Their points scored and points allowed only translates to a 7-4 record, two wins less than their actual record. Still good, but not nearly as elite as their actual record would have you believe.
We also see that the best team in the NFL so far this season has been the Packers. They are the only team with an expected win total of at least eight. That tells us that the Packers have been unlucky by 1.3 wins. But not as unlucky as the Lions, who have played like a 5-6 team despite a 2-9 record.
Meanwhile, the Bucs are three games over .500 despite giving up more points than points scored. So that doesn’t bode well for the guys in pewter down the stretch.
There are five weeks to go in the season and there are 19 teams within one game of first place in their division. But looking at the table above should give us a better indication of which teams are more likely to rise above the rest.
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