WASHINGTON — The NFL regular season kicks off tonight when the defending champion New England Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers, meaning that for the first time in more than seven months, this weekend’s most important NFL news will likely come from on-the-field action.
For Washington football fans, it has been an especially long seven months, filled with everything from quarterback controversies to deleted tweets. As is becoming an August tradition in D.C., the Washington professional football team wrapped up another successful preseason with a 3-1 record. The only teams with more preseason wins in 2015 were Minnesota and Kansas City.
The winning preseason was Washington’s fifth in the past five years, amassing an astounding 16-4 preseason record over those five years.
D.C. football fans know that preseason wins are about as valuable as rush hour traffic, and over the past five years Washington is an abysmal 22-42 in regular season games, the fifth worst record in the league. The chart below shows that there is almost no correlation between preseason and regular season wins.
However, hope springs eternal, and for whatever reason sports fans always tend to believe that this season could be the season. Sadly, hope seems to have faded slightly in Washington these days, but after diving a bit deeper into the preseason numbers, Washington supporters might just have a reason for optimism in 2015 after all.
The last time Washington went 3-1 in the preseason with a new quarterback running the offense, then-rookie Robert Griffin III led the team to 10 wins and Washington won the NFC East.
Newly appointed starter Kirk Cousins had a drama-filled preseason, but his numbers remained respectable, racking up 435 passing yards with two touchdowns and only one interception.
Perhaps more importantly, his ANY/A, or adjusted net yards per passing attempt, a statistic widely considered to be one of the best predictors of team wins, was 7.81 during the preseason, higher even than Griffin’s 2012 regular season mark of 7.41. Cousins’ preseason number of 7.81 adjusted net yards per passing attempt is higher than last season’s stats from league stars like Tom Brady (7.01), Andrew Luck (7.28) and Peyton Manning (7.68).
In fact, only three quarterbacks had a higher ANY/A during the 2014 regular season than Cousins’ 2015 preseason mark, Ben Roethlisberger (7.82), Tony Romo with (8.11), and Aaron Rodgers with a league high of 8.65. All three of those quarterbacks led their teams to the playoffs in 2014.
If Cousins holds his preseason pace, the team is projected to win more than 76 percent of its games in 2015. If Cousins has made the leap from his slightly above average ANY/A of 6.77 in the five games he started in 2014, and can sustain his preseason numbers, there might be reason for hope to return to D.C. this fall.