A couple of days ago, I ran an interview with Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders talking about some of the projections that appear in the Football Outsiders Almanac. One of those was the Giants, who are projected with a win total below the Jets, based on their mediocre regular season record. The Giants, of course, got into the playoffs at 9-7 with a closing win against Dallas, then beat Atlanta, Green Bay, and San Francisco before taking out New England in the Super Bowl.
One of the issues that came up was whether the Giants’ postseason run should be included in the formula for projecting the next season. In other words, should they be viewed differently than another team with similar underlying regular season results? Knowing that they won four games against above average opponents, with three coming on the road or at a neutral field suggests they are better than other similar regular season teams.
The argument against including it would be uniformity (in addition to time factors and creating additional files). Every team plays 16 games, so we rate them based on that. I would say that, in limited cases like the Giants, where 20% of their games came in the playoffs, having that extra information is important. I used to power rate college teams, and there were always differing number of games and competitive opponents. I would worry less about uniformity than getting all valid data included.
So I went back and looked at the other teams that made deep playoff runs from the wildcard round. Football Outsiders now has play by play ratings going back to the 1991 season, so I compared playoff teams who advanced to a Super Bowl from the wildcard round, to other teams with the most similar offensive, defensive, and overall DVOA ratings. Those teams would be 1992 Buffalo, 1997 Denver, 1999 Tennessee, 2000 Baltimore, 2003 Carolina, 2005 Pittsburgh, 2006 Indianapolis, 2007 NY Giants, 2008 Arizona, and 2010 Green Bay.
The 100 comparable teams for that group averaged a DVOA rating of 15.4% (8.8% on offense and -5.5% on defense). The next year, they declined–as we would expect with some regression–to a rating of 9.4% on average.
The 10 Wildcard Round Super Bowl teams averaged a very similar 15.0% DVOA in the regular season before their run (8.9% on offense, -5.3% on defense). The year after their Super Bowl run, their rating collectively improved to 18.5%. Seven of the ten had a better rating.
If we focus on teams with 10 or fewer wins and expand it to those that reached the Conference Championship game, we can add Indianapolis in 1995, Jacksonville in 1996, Philadelphia in 2008 and the Jets in 2009 to the Giants, Cardinals and Packers. The comparables for those 7 teams dropped from a 8.0% to 2.9% DVOA the next year. Those 7 teams improved their regular season DVOA from 8.2% to 17.3 %, and all 7 reached the postseason a year later.
Aaron Schatz listed the Giants (along with the 49ers) as the team whose projection he personally disagrees with the most. I think that they are more likely to project better as well. They are not a 9-7 team. We shouldn’t overweight the postseason run based on vague principles of clutchness and moxie, but they are a 13-7 team who played an above average schedule. Their QB is still in his prime and returning, and the defense has plenty of talented parts, some of whom missed chunks of last season. I would probably project them to be among the six best teams in 2012 based on all of last season, including what happened in January and February.
[photo via US Presswire]