The League

Michael Kun
Author

Michael Kun

Co-author of The Football Uncyclopedia. He is also the author of six other books and is a practicing attorney.

Not So Shocking

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If you look at the NFL standings, there are an awful lot of zeroes up on the board right now.

The New York Giants. 4-0.

The Minnesota Vikings. 4-0.

The New Orleans Saints. 4-0.

The Indianapolis Colts. 4-0.

The Denver Broncos. 4-0.

And, on the other end of the spectrum ...

The Tampa Bay Bucs. 0-4.

The Carolina Panthers. 0-3.

The St. Louis Rams. 0-4.

The Cleveland Browns. 0-4.

The Kansas City Chiefs. 0-4.

Tennessee Titans

Apparently, through week four, there are more teams with zeroes on one side of the ledger than there have been for more than a decade.

What does this mean? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. There isn't suddenly a wider gulf between the good teams and the bad teams than there was last year, or the year before, or the year before that. The fact that there are so many teams that are undefeated, and so many that are winless, is simply an aberration.

It's a fluke. It's an outlier. It's a result of some fluky plays, and a result of the schedule. But for the bizarre tipped pass at the end of the game the first week of the season, the Broncos would have lost game 1. They would be 3-1. But for the miracle last second touchdown pass in week 3, the Vikings would have lost to the 49ers. They would be 3-1. (Although, being a man of integrity, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the 49ers would then be 4-0.)

Have the Giants or Colts beaten anyone you wouldn't have expected them to beat? No. Have the Bucs or Panthers lost to anyone you wouldn't have expected them to lose to? No. The simple fact of the matter is that this season, like every season, there are several very good teams, and several very weak teams, and a large mass of teams in the middle. And, over time, as they play more games, each of those team's records will more closely approximate their true level than a small four-game sample would indicate.

Will the Giants, Vikings, Saints and Broncos all go undefeated this season? Of course not. Nor can they. The Giants and Saints play each other in week 6, and, barring a tie, one of them is going to end up with a loss. The same for the Colts and Broncos, who play in week 14. And the Giants and Vikings play in week 16.

This, in fact, points out how in some part the schedule has played a role in the fluky number of undefeated or winless teams right now. If the Giants-Saints game had been played in week 1 instead of week 6, one of them would not be undefeated (barring a tie, of course). And if the Colts-Broncos game had already been played, one of them also would not be undefeated.

So, if you simply changed the orders of the games the teams are scheduled to play, only 3 of those teams could be undefeated. And there's nothing odd about having 3 undefeated teams this far into the season. Will any of the 5 currently undefeated teams go undefeated?

Since it's only been accomplished once before, and since only 3 of the 5 of them could possibly go undefeated simply because of their schedules, you'd have to predict not. No, when all is said and done, they will each likely win between 11 and 13 games, just as the best teams do every year. Maybe one of them wins 14. Maybe. On the other end of the spectrum, will the Bucs, Panthers, Rams, Browns and Chiefs all end up 0-16? Of course not.

In fact, they can't all go winless. The Bucs and Panthers get to play each other twice, and, barring ties, someone's going to win those games. Had they already played one of those games, there would be one fewer winless team. Had they played two, there might be two fewer undefeated teams. And the Chiefs and Browns play in week 15. Again, barring a tie, one of them is going to win that game. And, had it been already played, we would have one fewer winless team right now.

So, if you simply switch the order of their games, only 2 or 3 of them could be winless right now. Will any of those 5 teams go winless this year?

It's unlikely, but not unimaginable. The Bucs, Rams and Browns have already lost one or two of the supposedly softer games on their schedules. It's not inconceivable that one of them could go winless this year. But don't be surprised if they each end up winning between 3 and 5 games, just as the weaker teams do each year.

So, like the traffic cop standing beside the fender bender saying, "Move along, there's nothing to see here," there's nothing to see here. Really. So let's move along.

If there are still a few undefeated teams at week 12, or a few winless teams then, we can talk then.

By Michael Kun  |  October 9, 2009; 7:44 AM ET  | Category:  Carolina Panthers , Cleveland Browns , Indianapolis Colts , Kansas City Chiefs , Minnesota Vikings , New York Giants , San Francisco 49ers , St. Louis Rams , Tampa Bay Buccaneers , Tennessee Titans Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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quote:

"It's a fluke. It's an outlier. It's a result of some fluky plays, and a result of the schedule. But for the bizarre tipped pass at the end of the game the first week of the season, the Broncos would have lost game 1. They would be 3-1. But for the miracle last second touchdown pass in week 3, the Vikings would have lost to the 49ers. They would be 3-1. (Although, being a man of integrity, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the 49ers would then be 4-0.)"

/quote


If not for that tipped pass for TD by Denver, Cincy would be 4-0 too.

But I agree in general... I've seen a couple of articles about how parity was gone. If you go to the casino and sit at a roulette table you see the board that list the past spins. If you watch it over time you will see streaks of one color or the other but they even out in the end...

Posted by: dan39465 | October 10, 2009 11:38 AM

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