Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In case you thought the preseason mattered

For all of the hoopla (on television, at least) attendant to the NFL's preseason, not to mention the full price tickets that season ticket holders must pay for, one would hope that these four games actually informed us about the teams, and their respective performances during the upcoming regular season.

Of course, all of us who have followed professional football for any length of time know, at least intrinsically, that that is simply not the case.  Now there is evidence to back-up are gut instincts.  According to a study published in the Journal of Sports Economics:
The empirical evidence suggests that preseason winning percentages did provide significant information about regular season winning percentages in the 1970-1991 seasons. This confirms the findings of Craig and Hall (1994), although obtained with more robust econometric methods. However, we can find no evidence that preseason winning percentages or wins in the third game of the preseason are predictors of regular season success in the 2002-2010 interval (Jianakoplos and Shields, 2012).
So, not only is the preseason not predictive, but the third preseason game -- the one that is supposedly the "dress rehearsal" for the season -- also does not have predictive value.  The authors further discovered that, prior to 1995, there was some predictive value to the preseason, but are at a loss to explain what has changed since that time.

At times the NFL seems to resemble the Catholic Church in its glacial pace of change; but it seems more than time for a reduction in the number of games that simply do not matter/

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