Preseason eventually brings best out in losers

August 20, 2002 10:54 AM
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A common theory among handicappers when it comes to the NFL preseason is that while teams in general don’t care much about the outcome of a game, teams without a win try harder than teams that have already won.

The question is, does the theory hold up when historical results are assessed? We ran through the results of all preseason games from 1997 to 2001 (e.g. a five year span) where there was a home team (in several games each season you have a "neutral site" and we will exclude these contests for now).

All we used initially in our query is how many preseason wins a team has coming into the game. Obviously then the first preseason game a team plays it has zero wins, if it’s victorious then next week it comes in with one win, etc.

Since the sample size is already small, we elected to cap a team’s wins at "2+" for the purposes of this analysis:

We found there isn’t much to the theory. In fact a winless side is just 13-21 ATS on the road against teams with a win, and a modest 28-24 at home, for an overall 41-45 mark. We place that squarely in the "no predictive value" category.

However, the team with two victories already has shown a stronger than usual desire to win in the early going, whereas the home team with one win may be comfortable taking a casual attitude to the game.

Playing the underdog in the matchup (and consider a pick’em game to have the home side as the underdog), yields a 58-27 record (68%)! For neutral site games between winless sides, the underdog has carried the day with a 6-3 record.

Here is some of the more interesting data:

Week 4 ”” away sides with two plus wins are 12-1 against one win home sides, while in battles of 2+ win teams, the home squad is 14-6.

Also: Back an away team with two or more wins against a home team with exactly one win and you would be sitting pretty (22-5 for 82%)

”¦ In a game of winless sides, play the away team (52-33 for 61%)

”¦ Favor away teams with two or more wins against home teams with one win

”¦ In a match-up of winless teams, favor the underdog

”¦ In the final week of preseason in a game between teams with multiple wins, lean to the home side.

NOTE: Roland Beech will be contributing football trends and statistical charts to GT from his respected TwoMinuteWarning.com site.

Home team preseason wins  

Away Team Preseason Wins  

Home Won Vs.Spread  

Home Lost Vs.Spread  

Homewin%

0  

 0  

 33  

 52  

 38%

0  

 1  

 18  

 17  

 515

0  

 2+  

 10  

 7  

 585

1  

 0 1  

5  

 11  

 57%

1  

 1  

 23  

 21  

 52%

1  

 2+  

 5  

 22  

 18%

2+  

 0  

 6  

 2  

 75%

2+  

 2+  

 15  

 0  

 62%