Commentary

Are the Washington Redskins for real?

Washington has used an improved pass rush and rushing attack to get out to a 2-0 start

Originally Published: September 25, 2011
By Danny Tuccitto | Football Outsiders
Rex GrossmanGeoff Burke/US PresswireRex Grossman has had a tremendous season so far for the Washington Redskins.

After two weeks of NFL action, seven teams stood at 2-0, one of which was the Washington Redskins, who in Week 3 visit Dallas on "Monday Night Football." Unlike most of the other undefeated teams, there's legitimate reason to wonder whether the Redskins can sustain the success they enjoyed in wins over the Giants and Cardinals. After all, they don't exactly have a track record of winning since Daniel Snyder bought the team.

The first, most general, question to ask for our purposes is, "How important is it to be 2-0?" From a standard wins-and-losses perspective, teams that started 2-0 from 1993 to 2010 ended up winning about 10 games that season, won their division about 35 percent of the time and made the playoffs about 60 percent of the time. Given that a random team can be expected to win eight games, have a 25 percent chance of winning its division and have a 37.5 percent chance of making the playoffs, it's clear that starting the season 2-0 gives teams a better-than-average chance of getting into the postseason. Of course, that's not all that surprising.

Venturing into the world of advanced stats, Football Outsiders' play-by-play efficiency metric, DVOA, gives a more detailed account of what's in store for a team that starts its season 2-0. Namely, since 1993, the average undefeated team after two weeks had a total DVOA of 33.3 percent, meaning that they were about 33 percent more efficient than the average team to that point in the season. Among the team units, this group averaged an offensive DVOA of 14.4 percent, a defensive DVOA of minus-17.5 percent (negative percentages are good for defenses) and a special-teams DVOA of 1.4 percent.

Matching up these two-week stats with those at the end of the season, the truth is that 2-0 teams have a tendency to fall back to the pack. By season's end, these teams average a total DVOA of 10.5 percent, having lost about 20 percentage points off their efficiency over the course of the season, and that decline is split evenly between their offensive and defensive units.

Of course, this season, the Redskins aren't just any 2-0 team according to our metrics. No, they are the least efficient undefeated team through two weeks: their total DVOA ranks 13th at 11.6 percent. All of this suggests that Washington is the best candidate for "Team Most Likely to Regress."


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