A quick look at teams’ strength-of-schedule this season. Below we’ve simply averaged the end-of-season MP rating for each team’s 16 opponents.
Playoff teams are highlighted in red. A few observations:
- Most playoff teams come from the easier half of the distribution. While tempting to believe that is because of the easier schedule, these scheduling differences can’t explain that much variance. Mostly chance.
- Two playoff teams had the easiest schedules – Indy (#32) and Cincy (#31). On the other end, two of the 6 toughest schedules belonged to playoff teams – Seattle (#5) and San Francisco (#6). If you’re looking for reasons to short Indy and Cincy and/or buy Seattle and San Francisco, there’s a little something there for you.
- That said, even from those extremes the impact is not all that great. From the playoff team with the hardest schedule to the one with the easiest (Seattle vs. Indianapolis), the difference is 0.9 expected wins. It’s as if Seattle played its average game with a 2% win probability handicap, and Indy with a 4% advantage. Something, but not huge — adds up to about 1 win difference in their expected season records.
- The Pr(Win) column shows the probability of winning a game in which the team is favored by the Opponent’s Average Massey-Peabody rating. So, for example, Arizona’s opponents averaged a MP rating of 1.81. This means that, on average, their opponents would be expected to beat the average NFL team by 1.81 points. That translates into a win probability of 55%. That in turn translates into an expected 8.8 wins over the 16-game season, which is shown in the final column, E(Wins).
- Using year-end ratings takes advantage of a full season’s information about a team. The downside is that this approach considers the team the same at the beginning of the season as at the end. While this is clearly wrong, we find that team strength is largely stable over the course of the season – certainly moreso than most people believe.