It’s Theme Week again in the SB Nation community, and this week is one of my favorite themes: “What if...”
Our friends over at Pride of Detroit had a fantastic question:
“What if every one score game had the opposite result?”
According to Jeremy Reisman, teams averaged 8.5 games decided by just one score in 2018 — meaning most games a team plays are decided by incredibly narrow margins.
Studies have proven that year-to-year records in one-score games are highly variable. In other words, if a team had a good record in one-score games one year, they aren’t any more likely to have a similarly impressive record in close games the following year.
So I decided to see who was — for lack of a better word — lucky last year. Who benefited most from a good record in close games, and what would happen if we took every one-score game and gave it the opposite result? The team that lost a one-score game is now the team that won the one-score game. How would’ve that affected the 2018 standings? How does it project to 2019?
And like the Detroit Lions, the Jacksonville Jaguars don’t have a “perfect” method when it comes to categorizing all games won or lost by eight or fewer points. Sure, there was a Week 3 matchup against the Tennessee Titans where we lost 9-6 and the game truly could have gone either way. But there was also a Week 12 loss to the Buffalo Bills where we only got within striking distance because of a last-minute touchdown from Blake Bortles to Dede Westbrook.
There is a spectrum of close losses, but for the sake of this article we’ll be looking at them all the same.
So, how many one score games did the Jaguars have in 2018?
And we only went 2-6 in those games.
We beat the Tennessee Titans early, we win in London against the Philadelphia Eagles, we win three straight after the bye week against the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Buffalo Bills, and a late season game against Washington goes our way.
We end up 11-5 and tied for the AFC South lead with the Indianapolis Colts (who also net an extra win and go from 10-6 to 11-5).
That’s a huge variance and I think it’s encouraging for the future. Justis Mosqueda goes into this much more deeply at Optimum Scouting, but in short he correlates team success for next year is the number of close games they lost last year.