Football Outsiders just published their 2012 Football Almanac. You can purchase it here for $12.50. I get nothing for this. I am not associated with Football Outsiders. I merely give the link as a service to my readers.
They project the Niners to win 7.2 regular season games next season – of course, not exactly 7.2 games; that’s just the average of a million simulations they did. Please don’t attack me for linking to this. I don’t have an axe to grind and Football Outsiders is a highly-respected publication. I’m merely trying to start discussion. Football Outsiders also projects the Seahawks to win 7.2 games, for what it’s worth.
Football Outsiders says the Niners are due for a bounce back year, a regression to the mean. They even cite the famous baseball statistician Bill James’ “plexiglass principle.” Here’s an excerpt from the almanac: “The 49ers actually won 2.2 more games in 2011 than they should have according to Estimated Wins. Since 1991, that discrepancy translates to about two more losses the following season. The 49ers outperformed their Estimated Wins number due in part to a fabulous 7-2 record in close games. We’ve found that a team’s record in close games almost never carries over from one season to the next, so the 49ers can’t expect to win as many games in 2012 without getting out to some bigger leads.”
The almanac also cites other outstanding statistics the 49ers most likely will not duplicate next season: “Although Alex Smith has posted a better-than-average interception rate in each of the past two seasons, his 1.1-percent rate from 2011 is unsustainable…Only 5.4 percent of 49ers offensive drives ended in a turnover, the lowest figure in our drive stats data that goes back to 1997. 23.9 percent of 49ers drives ended in a field goal, the highest figure since 1997.”
FYI – MGM just listed the Niners as 4-1 Super Bowl favorites. Obviously, experts have varying opinions on the subject.
Update: Football Outsiders Editor-in-Chief and ESPN NFL Analyst Aaron Schatz just tweeted this: “Yes, 49ers fans, 7.2 seems a little low to me too, but that’s what the equations spat out. I’m expecting 9-7 or so.”