Though a repeat of history will be unlikely with these two teams; two mavericks who go against conventional wisdom and keep finding ways to win regardless of what goes wrong in the game.
Is one team’s 2-0 record better than another team’s 2-0 record?
Though it is just 12.5 percent of a team’s season, can we glean any long-term success out of how well a team played on their way to a 2-0 start, or is a win really just a win?
The 12-team playoff format started in 1990. After collecting data on the 188 2-0 teams (including this year’s six), the goal was to check differentials in scoring, yards and turnovers to see if we can find any differences in the team’s final regular season record.
For reference, here are the results at season’s end for all 2-0 teams since 1990.
As the table shows, teams that outscored their first two opponents by at least 20 points per game (scoring differential of at least 40) went on to win 66.4 percent of their regular season games. Teams that only outscored their opponents by no more than four points per game won 55.4 percent of their games, so there is something to be said about teams that won big early on their way to 2-0.
Ten points per game won 63.9 percent of their games, while the 2-0 teams who won by fewer than 10 points per game won 59.0 percent of their games.
Looking at how many more offensive yards a team gains compared to their opponents provides a similar result. The 2-0 teams who gained more than 150 yards per game (300 or more yards total) went on to win 67.6 percent of their games. It was only 57.5 percent for the 2-0 teams outgained by at least 70 yards.
The 11 teams outgained by over 150 yards finished a combined 89-87 (.506). No one was outgained more than the 2007 San Francisco 49ers (273 yards). After starting 2-0, they lost eight straight games and finished 5-11.
The 2012 Eagles (+407 yards) have the sixth best yardage differential of any 2-0 team since 1990, but of course their turnovers have led to the smallest scoring differential in NFL history for a 2-0 team. If they somehow control them, then look out.
The turnover differential results were surprising. Teams with a negative differential actually had the best combined record. Guess we can chalk it up to the random nature of turnovers.
Based on this data, it sure does appear starting 2-0 and playing well is a better sign for future success than just simply getting the win by any means necessary. Strength of opponent would paint a clearer picture, but that does little for the present. Here are the stats thus far on where the six 2-0 teams in 2012.
Clearly, the best 2-0 battle this week is Atlanta at San Diego. While many give Norv Turner and the Chargers grief for staggering out of the gate, they did start 4-1 last year and look good so far. We will learn quickly how much of that was a product of playing winless Oakland and Tennessee.
Atlanta is the trendy team after their Monday night performance against Peyton Manning and Denver, but the Falcons have historically been great in the dome and suspect on the road in the Mike Smith/Matt Ryan era (since 2008).
Combine the big Monday night win — in a game that took forever — with a cross-country trip to the West Coast, and do not be surprised to see the Chargers prevail to a 3-0 start.
Meanwhile the Eagles or Cardinals could be staking their claim as the worst 3-0 team in NFL history should this year’s game play out like last year’s when the Cardinals came back to win 21-17.
Scott Kacsmar (@CaptainComeback) writes for Cold, Hard Football Facts, Bleacher Report, Colts Authority, and contributes data to Pro-Football-Reference.com and NFL Network. Data used in article was collected from Pro-Football-Reference.
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