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Possible regression?

Two NFL teams enter the 2013 season looking to buck recent history. Joe Fortenbaugh

July 25, 2013
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Last summer we took a look at an interesting trend that taught us the following: From 2002-2011, there were ten instances in which an NFL team saw its per game scoring average increase or decrease by 9.0 or more points per game from one season to the next. And in all ten instances, the team in question went in the opposite direction in year 3.

Example: The Buffalo Bills scored 15.2 points per game in 2003 and then 24.7 points per game (+9.5 ppg) in 2004. In 2005, Buffalo scored just 16.9 points per game.

Five teams (Carolina, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Kansas City and New Orleans) fell under the parameters of this trend in 2012. Four of those teams (exclude Kansas City) went in the opposite direction in year 3. That gives us a sample size of 15 teams over the last 11 years, with 14 of those organizations (93.3%) changing course in year 3 after experiencing the big scoring shift in year 2.

Two teams enter the 2013 campaign after experiencing a change in per game scoring average of +/- 9.0 points per game or more from 2011 to 2012: The Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins.

Let’s take a look:

odds chart

Scoring average: Excluding the lone team to buck this trend since 2002 (Kansas City in 2012), the 14 teams that experienced a scoring change of +/- 9.0 or greater from year 1 to year 2 came back in year 3 to average a difference of +/- 5.9 points per game (median=6.0 pts/gm). Multiply 5.9 points per game over the course of a 16-contest schedule and you’ve got a total point swing of 94.4 points, which equals 13.48 touchdowns. That’s a fairly significant increase/decrease from year 2 to year 3.

Straight-up records: Excluding Kansas City, 11 of the 14 teams in this study saw their season win total correlate directly with their rise or fall in scoring average from year 2 to year 3 (Carolina (2012) and Minnesota (2011) went in the opposite direction while Oakland (2011) held tight at 8-8). Those 11 teams combined to average 4.9 more wins or losses in year 3 than in year 2 (EX: Green Bay’s scoring average decreased by 7.9 points per game from 2011 to 2012, with the Packers’ season win total decreasing from 15 wins in 2011 to 11 wins in 2012). That 4.9 game swing equates to 30.6% of the 16-game schedule.

Against the spread (ATS) records: Once again excluding Kansas City, 10 of the 14 teams in this study saw their ATS record correlate directly with their rise or fall in scoring average from year 2 to year 3 (Carolina in ’09 and ’12, Cincinnati in ’09 and Oakland in ’11 either went in the opposite direction or maintained the same ATS record from year 2 to year 3). Those ten teams combined to average 3.3 more ATS wins or losses in year 3 than in year 2, which could very well be the difference between a profitable season and a losing season.

THE 15 TEAMS

Buffalo Bills
2003:
15.2 pts/gm, 6-10 SU, 6-8-2 ATS
2004: 24.7 pts/gm, 9-7 SU, 11-5 ATS
2005: 16.9 pts/gm, 5-11 SU, 7-9 ATS

Change: Scored 7.8 fewer points per game in 2005. Covered the spread in 43.8% of ’05 games as opposed to 68.8% of contests played in ‘04. Lost four more games outright in ’05 than ’04.

Carolina Panthers
2007:
16.7 pts/gm, 7-9 SU, 8-8 ATS
2008: 25.9 pts/gm, 12-4 SU, 8-7-1 ATS
2009: 19.7 pts/gm, 8-8 SU, 9-7 ATS

Change: Scored 6.2 fewer points per game in 2009. Covered the spread in 56.3% of ’09 games as opposed to 50% of contests played in ‘08. Lost four more games outright in ’09 than ’08.

Carolina Panthers
2010:
12.3 pts/gm, 2-14 SU, 4-12 ATS
2011: 25.4 pts/gm, 6-10 SU, 9-7 ATS
2012: 22.3 pts/gm, 7-9 SU, 9-7 ATS

Change: Scored 3.1 fewer points per game in 2012. Covered the spread in 56.2% of games played in both ’11 and ’12. Won one more game outright in ’12 than in ’11.

Chicago Bears
2005:
16.3 pts/gm, 11-5 SU, 9-5-2 ATS
2006: 26.7 pts/gm, 13-3 SU, 9-6-1 ATS
2007: 20.9 pts/gm, 7-9 SU, 7-9 ATS

Change: Scored 5.8 fewer points per game in 2007. Covered the spread in 43.8% of ’07 games as opposed to 56.3% of contests played in ’06. Lost six more games outright in ’07 than ’06.

Cincinnati Bengals
2007:
23.8 pts/gm, 7-9 SU, 6-9-1 ATS
2008: 12.8 pts/gm, 4-11 SU, 7-9 ATS
2009: 19.1 pts/gm, 10-6 SU, 7-9 ATS

Change: Scored 6.3 more points per game in 2009. Covered the spread in 43.8% of games in both ’08 and ’09. Won six more games outright in ’09 than ’08.

Cleveland Browns
2006:
14.9 pts/gm, 4-12 SU, 7-8-1 ATS
2007: 25.1 pts/gm, 10-6 SU, 12-4 ATS
2008: 14.5 pts/gm, 4-12 SU, 6-9-1 ATS

Change: Scored 10.6 fewer points per game in 2008. Covered the spread in 37.5% of ’08 games as opposed to 75% of contests played in ’07. Lost six more games outright in ’08 than ’07.

Green Bay Packers
2010:
24.3 pts/gm, 10-6 SU, 9-7 ATS
2011: 35.0 pts/gm, 15-1 SU, 11-5 ATS
2012: 27.1 pts/gm, 11-5 SU, 9-7 ATS

Change: Scored 7.9 fewer points per game in 2012. Covered the spread in 56.2% of ’12 games as opposed to 68.7% of contests played in ’11. Lost four more games outright in ’12 than ’11.

Indianapolis Colts
2010:
27.2 pts/gm, 10-6 SU, 8-7-1 ATS
2011: 15.2 pts/gm, 2-14, 6-10 ATS
2012: 22.3 pts/gm, 11-5 SU, 11-1 ATS

Change: Scored 7.1 more points per game in 2012. Covered the spread in 68.7% of ’12 games as opposed to 37.5% of contests played in ’11. Won nine more games outright in ’12 than ’11.

Kansas City Chiefs (the anomaly)
2010:
22.9 pts/gm, 10-6 SU, 9-7 ATS
2011: 13.3 pts/gm, 7-9 SU, 9-7 ATS
2012: 13.2 pts/gm, 2-14 SU, 5-11 ATS

Change: Scored 0.1 fewer points per game in 2012. Covered the spread in 31.2% of ’12 games as opposed to 56.2% of contests played in ’11. Lost five more games outright in ’12 than ’11.

Minnesota Vikings
2009:
29.4 pts/gm, 12-4 SU, 9-6-1 ATS
2010: 17.6 pts/gm, 6-10 SU, 5-10-1 ATS
2011: 21.3 pts/gm, 3-13 SU, 7-8-1 ATS

Change: Scored 3.7 more points per game in 2011. Covered the spread in 43.8% of ’11 games as opposed to 31.3% of contests played in ’10. Lost three more games outright in ’11 than ’10.

New England Patriots
2006:
24.1 pts/gm, 12-4 SU, 9-6-1 ATS
2007: 36.8 pts/gm, 16-0 SU, 10-6 ATS
2008: 25.6 pts/gm, 11-5 SU, 9-7 ATS

Change: Scored 11.2 fewer points per game in 2008. Covered the spread in 56.3% of ’08 games as opposed to 62.5% of contests played in ’07. Lost five more games outright in ’08 than ’07.

New Orleans Saints
2005:
14.7 pts/gm, 3-13 SU, 5-10-1 ATS
2006: 25.8 pts/gm, 10-6 SU, 10-6 ATS
2007: 23.7 pts/gm, 7-9 SU, 6-10 ATS

Change: Scored 2.1 fewer points per game in 2007. Covered the spread in 37.5% of ’07 games as opposed to 62.5% of contests played in ’06. Lost four more games outright in ’07 than ’06.

New Orleans Saints
2010:
24.0 pts/gm, 11-5 SU, 6-9-1 ATS
2011: 34.2 pts/gm, 13-3 SU, 12-4 ATS
2012: 28.8 pts/gm, 7-9 SU, 8-8 ATS

Change: Scored 5.4 fewer points per game in 2012. Covered the spread in 50% of ’12 games as opposed to 75% of contests played in ’11. Lost six more games outright in ’12 than ’11.

Oakland Raiders
2002:
28.1 pts/gm, 11-5 SU, 10-6 ATS
2003: 16.9 pts/gm, 4-12 SU, 3-12-1 ATS
2004: 20.0 pts/gm, 5-11 SU, 6-10 ATS

Change: Scored 3.1 more points per game in 2004. Covered the spread in 37.5% of ’04 games as opposed to 18.8% of contests played in ’03. Won one more game outright in ’04 than ’03.

Oakland Raiders
2009:
12.3 pts/gm, 5-11 SU, 8-8 ATS
2010: 25.6 pts/gm, 8-8 SU, 8-8 ATS
2011: 22.4 pts/gm, 8-8 SU, 10-6 ATS

Change: Scored 3.2 fewer points per game in 2011. Covered the spread in 62.5% of ’11 games as opposed to 50% of contests played in ’10. Won the same amount of games outright in ’10 and ’11.

THE 2013 SEASON

Two teams will enter the 2013 season following a year in which their organization experienced a +/- scoring differential of 9.0 points per game or greater. They are:

Denver Broncos: Scored 10.8 more points per game in 2012 than in 2011 thanks to a switch at the quarterback position that saw future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning take over for Tim Tebow. Added wide receiver Wes Welker to Manning’s arsenal and signed Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady to a long-term contract. If the Broncos experience a scoring regression in 2013, we predict it won’t be by much, especially if Manning stays healthy.

Washington Redskins: Jumped from 18.0 points per game in 2011 to 27.3 points per game in 2012 after spending the second pick in the ’12 draft on quarterback Robert Griffin III. Contributions from fellow rookie Alfred Morris (1,613 rushing yards, second in NFL) and free agent acquisition Pierre Garcon helped pave the way. RG3 says he does not expect to play at all during the preseason, but should be ready to go come Week 1 when the ‘Skins play host to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The common denominator here is that both of these aforementioned teams made significant improvements after upgrading the quarterback position during the offseason, so it’s easy to believe that both organizations will hold steady in 2013.

But take note that our case study does feature an example of a similar quarterback upgrade. The New Orleans Saints scored 14.7 points per game in 2005 before signing a free agent signal-caller by the name of Drew Brees, who helped the offense generate 25.8 points per game during his first season with the club in 2006.

In 2007, New Orleans fell victim to our trend, regressing to an average of 23.7 points per game.

Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh

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