Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Perfect Season: Part Two

Last year, the country was turned on its ear by the New England Patriots and their undefeated regular season. It seemed impossible! Never before did a team go 16-0. These days even going 6-0 is difficult.

This year the world eagerly awaits the first 0-16 season in NFL history. Somebody can do it! Who is the best candidate?

So far, there are four teams in the NFL without a win: the 0-4 Texans, the 0-4 Rams, the 0-4 Lions, and the 0-5 Bungles.

Step One: Toughest Schedule

There is no empirical way to evaluate a team's remaining schedule. The best bet is to simply go by the number of teams scheduled who are currently .500 or better. Each team listed below is linked to its remaining 2008 Schedule, followed by a tally of games versus said teams.

Remaining games vs. teams .500 or better

Rams: 8
Lions: 6
Bungles: 5
Texans: 5

When it rains, it pours. It's so funny that both St. Louis and Detroit have already played some tough teams, and they are still due to play many more. Compounding their season, the Lions get a number of 2-3 teams who figure to be solid: the Jags, the Saints, and the Vikings (twice!).

Head to Head Matchups: Next week, the Lions and Texans will play each other, in Houston! That will eliminate a candidate instantly. In addition, the Texans will play the Bungles, also in Houston.

Step Two: Turnover Ratio

Who has the worst turnover ratio of the bunch? One can tell right away from the chart below the Lions lead the pack and it's quite gruesome!

Turnover Ratio

Lions: -6
Texans: -5
Bungles: -4
Rams: -3

Truly amazing. You'd think with all the points the Rams give up they'd lead the pack in negative turnovers. Not the case! It's possible the Rams have some very hard-core special teams issues. Meanwhile, the Lions are, predictably, Number One. If they're gonna turn it over, they might as well go all out, right?

Step Three: Point Differential

Point Differential is the difference between the number of points the team scores, and the number of points the team allows. The larger the number, the better the point differential. This is a remarkably accurate way to predict the legitimacy of a team's record in baseball, and it works similarly in the NFL. Here's where our fearsome foursome stand.

Point Differential

Rams: -104
Lions: -81
Texans: -47
Bungles: -44

Let's hear it for the Rams! Blowing away the competition in negative point differential, despite a rather good (for their record) turnover ratio. It's true: when the Rams lose, they lose pretty badly. It's fascinating that the two AFC teams here have point differentials twice as good as the Lions. What a way to debunk the strength of the NFC!

The Verdict

First of all, we can already eliminate the Bungles from contention. Already they played two very tight games against the Giants and Cowboys. They have good playmakers. If they can compete with the class of the NFC, I'm pretty sure they'll come around quickly!

The Texans are a non factor because they have not one but TWO chances to play one of the other 0-fer teams, both at home. At home, the Texans manage to play very, very well, win-or-lose.

I'd hate to admit it, but St. Louis may be on its way to a win, possibly tomorrow (Week 6 at Redskins). It seems like their turnover ratio is too good to persist winless. In fact, the Rams had Buffalo on the ropes a few weeks ago but couldn't hang on. The 31-14 score that day was misleading.

That leaves... the good ol' Detroit Lions! Isn't it great to see Detroit up to its old tricks? Who could forget the 2-14 masterpiece season in 2001? Or perhaps the eight consecutive losing seasons? Detroit has it all: a horrendous turnover ratio, a deplorable point differential, and the second hardest schedule of the four 0-fer teams.

Detroit, our pride rests on you. It's not going to be easy, but YOU CAN DO IT!

(Don't forget to post your own predictions in the comments below)

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