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Figuring out how preseason success correlates with regular season success over the last decade

Something to keep in mind with the Cowboys preseason now behind us.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are officially onto the regular season. Every year the preseason seems to be something that we are all trying to fast forward through. It is nice to see football be played in any capacity after wandering through the desert that is the offseason, but that appeal quickly wears off as preseason football is hardly the most impressive product that the NFL puts out.

That’s not to say that interesting things can’t happen in the preseason. It is an opportunity for us to all learn a lot about different players, but the number one objective is to get through it healthy and unscathed. Just look at the Baltimore Ravens who will now be without running back J.K. Dobbins for the season after he tore his ACL during their preseason finale.

While Baltimore lost Dobbins, they did win their 20th preseason game in a row. Ultimately this is meaningless as these are just exhibition games, but what type of correlation does preseason success even have with regards to the regular season?

Preseason success has only slightly correlated with regular season success over the last 10 years

Blogging The Boys has added a couple of front-page writers recently and among them is Aidan Davis (follow him on Twitter here). He was kind enough to assess how preseason success has correlated with regular season success over the last decade and the results are definitely interesting.

There was obviously no preseason in 2020 which means to evaluate a decade’s worth we have to look at 2010 through 2019, but as you can see there isn’t exactly a huge indication that preseason success means much.

Teams with 0-1 preseason wins, the camp that Dallas falls in this year, have managed 7-8 regular season wins more often than anything, and they have never won at least 14 games so you can kiss the number one overall seed goodbye.

There are obviously examples to prove anything, and for what it’s worth, the Cowboys have experienced two of their best seasons in recent memory (2014 and 2018) after having exactly zero preseason wins (which is the case this year).

Dallas Cowboys Preseason Wins, 2010-2019

Team Year Preseason Wins Regular Season Wins
Team Year Preseason Wins Regular Season Wins
DAL 2010 3 6
DAL 2011 2 8
DAL 2012 3 8
DAL 2013 2 8
DAL 2014 0 12
DAL 2015 1 4
DAL 2016 1 13
DAL 2017 3 9
DAL 2018 0 10
DAL 2019 2 8

The preseason has changed as a whole since it last existed as prior to 2021 every team in the NFL played four exhibition contests and they all ran up through the last week before the regular season. Beginning this year 30 teams played only three preseason games (Dallas and Pittsburgh each played four having played in the HOF game) and there is now a bye week before the regular season so samples are very different. The Cowboys and Steelers have most-closely mirrored our previous normal with four games apiece.

Generally speaking, the preseason has always been about experimentation and learning things about the roster with winning being lower on the priority list than in normal cases. Hopefully the recent trend for Dallas specifically holds true to where they win double-digit games this season.

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