Feb 08

NFL 2014 Recap: Grading the Preseason Predictions

Looking back at our second season of NFL predictions here at TABMathletics, we can call it a general success. Looking at back the TABM 2014 NFL Preview, we can see where the regression-based analysis ends up becoming a huge help. However, we also see where an in-depth knowledge of each team’s roster strengths and weaknesses also play an important role. Finally, we see how unknown factors can change each team’s fortunes. Today, we’ll put an overall grade to our predictions.

Below, you will see what we thought would happen compared to what really happened. We start with team-by-team predictions for the regular season standings, assessing both win projections and each team’s predicted finish.

Overall, we correctly projected the win range for 23 of the 32 NFL teams. Of the nine misses, each team did so by no more than a two-game difference. This is where the unknown factors (re: injuries, team chemistry issues, bad luck, etc.) came into play. Regardless, those factors were quite minor influences in the grand scheme of things.

Successful Projections
Green Bay Packers: Projected 11-15 wins, Finished 12-4
Denver Broncos: Projected 10-14 wins, Finished 12-4
Seattle Seahawks: Projected 9-13 wins, Finished 12-4
New England Patriots: Projected 9-13 wins, Finished 12-4
Pittsburgh Steelers: Projected 8-12 wins, Finished 11-5
Baltimore Ravens: Projected 8-12 wins, Finished 10-6
San Diego Chargers: Projected 8-12 wins, Finished 9-7
San Francisco 49ers: Projected 8-12 wins, Finished 8-8
Arizona Cardinals: Projected 7-11 wins, Finished 11-5
Indianapolis Colts: Projected 7-11 wins, Finished 11-5
Philadelphia Eagles: Projected 6-10 wins, Finished 10-6
Miami Dolphins: Projected 6-10 wins, Finished 8-8
Carolina Panthers: Projected 6-10 wins, Finished 7-8-1
Atlanta Falcons: Projected 6-10 wins, Finished 6-10
Houston Texans: Projected 5-9 wins, Finished 9-7
Kansas City Chiefs: Projected 5-9 wins, Finished 9-7
Minnesota Vikings: Projected 5-9 wins, Finished 7-9
Cleveland Browns: Projected 4-8 wins, Finished 7-9
St. Louis Rams: Projected 4-8 wins, Finished 6-10
Washington Redskins: Projected 4-8 wins, Finished 4-12
New York Jets: Projected 3-7 wins, Finished 4-12
Jacksonville Jaguars: Projected 3-7 wins, Finished 3-13
Oakland Raiders: Projected 2-6 wins, Finished 3-13

Unsuccessful Projections
New Orleans Saints: Projected 8-12 wins, Finished 7-9 (one-game difference)
Dallas Cowboys: Projected 7-11 wins, Finished 12-4 (one-game difference)
New York Giants: Projected 7-11 wins, Finished 6-10 (one-game difference)
Chicago Bears: Projected 7-11 wins, Finished 5-11 (two-game difference)
Detroit Lions: Projected 6-10 wins, Finished 11-5 (one-game difference)
Cincinnati Bengals: Projected 6-10 wins, Finished 10-5-1 (half-game difference)
Buffalo Bills: Projected 4-8 wins, Finished 9-7 (one-game difference)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Projected 4-8 wins, Finished 2-14 (two-game difference)
Tennessee Titans: Projected 4-8 wins, Finished 2-14 (two-game difference)

Looking at our missteps, we had a 71.875 percent success rate. This is a slight improvement from 2013, but it’s also a mark we should be able to improve. Meanwhile, we fell short by only 11.5 games among the 32 teams. We cut our margin of error by more than half, giving us on average about a 0.36-game margin of projection error. We only need a few more adjustments to our method. Grade: B-plus

There’s some bad in this area, but there’s also a whole lot of good. We correctly predicted the slot for 17 of the 32 NFL teams, which matches our “divisional slot” success rate from 2013. We nailed two divisions in 2014: the AFC South and NFC West. Meanwhile, he had a simple slot swap in three other divisions (AFC East, AFC West and NFC East). One of those came down to a tiebreaker.

Table 1: NFL Predicted Standings v. NFL Actual Standings (2014 season)

AFC North AFC East AFC South AFC West
Predicted Actual Predicted Actual Predicted Actual Predicted Actual
Ravens 11-5 Steelers 11-5 Patriots 11-5 Patriots 12-4 Colts 10-6 Colts 11-5 Broncos 13-3 Broncos 12-4
Steelers 10-6 Bengals 10-5-1 Dolphins 7-9 Bills 9-7 Texans 7-9 Texans 9-7 Chargers 11-5 Chiefs 9-7
Bengals 7-9 Ravens 10-6 Bills 6-10 Dolphins 8-8 Jaguars 5-11 Jaguars 3-13 Chiefs 8-8 Chargers 9-7
Browns 7-9 Browns 7-9 Jets 5-11 Jets 4-12 Titans 4-12 Titans 2-14 Raiders 2-14 Raiders 3-13
NFC North NFC East NFC South NFC West
Predicted Actual Predicted Actual Predicted Actual Predicted Actual
Packers 13-3 Packers 12-4 Giants 10-6 Cowboys 12-4 Saints 11-5 Panthers 7-8-1 ‘Hawks 12-4 ‘Hawks 12-4
Bears 9-7 Lions 11-5 Eagles 9-7 Eagles 10-6 Falcons 7-9 Saints 7-9 Cards 9-7 Cards 11-5
Lions 8-8 Vikings 7-9 Cowboys 8-8 Giants 6-10 Panthers 7-9 Falcons 6-10 49ers 8-8 49ers 8-8
Vikings 6-10 Bears 5-11 ‘Skins 5-11 ‘Skins 4-12 Buccs 6-10 Buccs 2-14 Rams 4-12 Rams 6-10

NOTE: All division tiebreakers are reflected above in the standings.

Note that we missed no team by more than four games. The Cowboys (four games) outperformed our expectations the most. The Bengals (3.5 games), Bills (three games) and Lions (three games) also did quite well for themselves as overachievers. The Bears, Giants, Saints and Buccaneers (four games) underperformed the most relative to our expectations. The other 24 teams are finished within two regular season games of our final predictions. This includes three exact matches.

All said, the latter part is what we find most impressive. It’s not stretch to think that a few plays here or there could result in a two-game difference in any given team’s win-loss record. We were able to be that close for 75 percent of the league. By comparison, we were able to achieve that for 23 of 32 teams last year, but we missed four teams by at least five games. In 2014, we took a nice small step forward in improving our accuracy for the final regular season predictions. We hope to do so again in 2015. Grade: A-minus

Having correctly predicted eight of the 12 playoff teams, it will be tough to top what we’ve already achieved. We were just one boneheaded play away from nailing the Seahawks winning Super Bowl XLIX and repeating as league champions. We nailed seeing a rematch of the 2012 “Fail Mary” game in the NFC Championship, with those same Seahawks taking down the Packers. Finally, we were oh-so close to predicting a Ravens-Steelers match-up on Wild Card Weekend, but we had the seeds (and thus, winners) swapped.

Successful Predictions
Seattle Seahawks: Predicted NFC champions, Actual NFC champions
Green Bay Packers: Predicted NFC Championship Game loss, Actual NFCCG loss
Denver Broncos: Predicted AFC first-round bye, Actual AFC first-round bye
New England Patriots: Predicted AFC first-round bye, Actual AFC first-round bye
Indianapolis Colts: Predicted AFC South champions, Actual AFC South champions
Arizona Cardinals: Predicted NFC Wild Card team, Actual NFC Wild Card team

Nearly Successful Predictions
Baltimore Ravens: Predicted loss to Steelers, Actual win over Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers: Predicted win over Ravens, Actual loss to Ravens

Unsuccessful Predictions
Carolina Panthers: Predicted 7-9 season, Actual NFC South champions
Cincinnati Bengals: Predicted 7-9 season, Actual AFC Wild Card team
Dallas Cowboys: Predicted 8-8 season, Actual NFC East champions
Detroit Lions: Predicted 8-8 season, Actual NFC Wild Card team

This was the lone section in which we took a step back from last year. However, it wasn’t by much. We had one fewer successful playoff team. We fell one play short of predicting the correct Super Bowl winner again. We’d like to get better in this area, but we already mentioned that this section is depending on the match-ups established with the Four Postseason Factors. All that’s needed is for us to correctly predicting more playoff teams, and the rest should fall into place. Grade: B

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