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Last night, the Green Bay Packers completed the 2015 preseason with a dominating 38-10 win over the New Orleans Saints. While the outcome of this game was almost exclusively decided by backup players and fringe guys who will (hopefully) play a minimal role in the upcoming regular season, this win should still give Packers fans confidence. As I have talked about repeatedly in recent years, Packers and NFL history have shown preseason record can be an accurate reflection of the overall strength of a team’s roster, and as the Packers have found out first hand this preseason, those backups who are deciding these preseason games will be expected to adequately fill in when injuries occur.  The good news for the Packers is that Thursday’s win got the Packers preseason win total to 2. Historically two wins has been the threshold dividing the teams that should have reasonable expectations for the regular season and those who should be concerned about their team’s depth. While Thursday was good news for the Packers, New Orleans fell to 0-4 in the preseason with a point differential of -47; second-worst in the NFL. They certainly are not doomed, but I would be nervous down in the bayou.
The point of this post, however, is not to plug my earlier preseason articles (shockingly). It’s to put my money where my mouth has been. I am going to predict, based on their preseason performance, which teams should be excited about the upcoming season and which should be anxious. 
Philadelphia Eagles
If preseason performance were the sole indicator of regular-season success, the Philadelphia Eagles are going to win Super Bowl 50. They finished the summer session with a 3-1 record and led the league in both points scored (133) and point differential (+56). They also destroyed three teams that made deep playoff runs last year – Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Green Bay. The scariest thing about watching the Eagles this August is that their offense seemed to work with almost anyone in the game. Chip Kelly’s great offseason shakeup may work…and it may change the NFL forever. 
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City was the NFL’s only undefeated preseason team, but they also did it in style. The Chiefs +47 point differential was second only to Philadelphia. Most encouraging was the performance of backup QB Chase Daniel. He was second in the league with 5 TD passes and spearheaded the Chiefs league-leading 106.8 team passer rating. Their defense was second-best in the AFC, giving up just 56 points. Andy Reid is now in his third year in KC and it looks like he’s built a roster that is tailor-made for his system. 4-0 in the preseason has historically meant almost 60% odds of a winning season. If the Chiefs can do that, it will be Kansas City’s first time posting three consecutive winning seasons in almost 2 decades. 
NFC North 
(Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers)
Preseason games supposedly don’t matter, but no one told the NFC North. Green Bay’s division rivals were the cream of the crop in exhibition season, posting a combined record of 10-3. Chicago (42) and Detroit (51) allowed the fewest and second-fewest points respectively. Minnesota tied for the 3rd most points scored in the NFL with 105. What team did they tie? The Green Bay Packers. While Green Bay posted a modest 2-2 record, their offense was cooking despite almost no reps for their starters or key reserves. They trailed only Philadelphia (16) with 14 TDs scored. And just to make the rest of the NFC North nervous, the Packers showed they have yet another potential star QB in the works. Rookie QB Brett Hundley was arguably the league’s best player in the preseason, leading the NFL in touchdown passes (7), and led in yards per attempt (9.7) and passer rating (129.6) among those who threw at least 35 passes. While this division could be a battle, Green Bay showed that even though it has the brightest stars, their bench takes a back seat to no one either!.....well except, you know, the starters. 
St. Louis Rams
It seems obvious to start with one of the two teams who posted a 0-4 preseason record, but the Rams looked very bad. They lost 3 of 4 games by 10 or more points and were tied for the fewest points scored in the NFL (48). Now the players that are going to define the Rams offense in 2015 are still very new (Nick Foles) or absent (Todd Gurley), but a punchless, winless preseason has typically been a sign of concern, with just 20% of those teams having a winning record in the regular season
New Orleans Saints
Though much of what I said about the Rams holds true here, I’m less concerned about New Orleans. They played their first two preseason games very close and much of their NFC worst -47 point differential was caused by their 38-10 loss to the Packers last night. Still, 121 points was by far the most given up by any NFC team. Historically, the Saints have a 61.8% chance of a losing season based on their zero preseason wins, but in a division that just crowed a 7-8-1 champion, that might not be of any concern for them. 
Pittsburgh Steelers 
Pittsburgh finished the preseason 1-4 and gave up the most points in the NFL (122). However, that was in large part due to playing an extra game. More concerning is that despite playing an extra game, they only scored 73 points – good for 20th in the NFL. Most of that poor play was provided by backups and Pittsburgh’s starting roster has some of the best offensive playmakers in the NFL. Although those playmakers are an undersized wide receiver who also returns punts, a running back who is suspended for the first 2 games and battled a knee injury last year, another receiver who is suspended for the first 4 games, and a 33 year old quarterback who has only started all 16 games three times in his 11 seasons. So…good luck with all that. 
Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens were just 1-3 in the preseason and gave up nearly as many points as the Steelers (118), despite playing one fewer game. They were one of the teams taken to the woodshed by Philadelphia (40-17), but they were also slaughtered by Washington of all teams (31-13). A one-win preseason means a non-winning regular season 63% of the time. This Ravens team looks much more like the 8-8 average bunch of 2013 than it does that 11-5 team that was four points and a few alleged illegal formations away from the AFC championship game in 2014.
Dallas Cowboys
Dallas finally won a game in the preseason last night by defeating the Houston Texans 21-14 (Dallas finished with a 1-3 record). In a game largely played by deep reserves, Dallas’ ragtag bunch accounted for two of the teams’ three offensive touchdowns scored during the exhibition season. The Cowboys tied the Rams for the fewest points scored in the preseason (48). This year, Dallas will have many new parts on offense, a Tony Romo who is a year older, and a renewed challenge from the Eagles. The early returns are not good.  
Indianapolis Colts
I should be worried about the Colts – only 1 offensive TD, the lowest-scoring team in the AFC (51) and a 1-3 record – but I’m not. The Colts are the consistent exception to the preseason rules. They have had one losing season in 13 years, yet have had a losing preseason record 9 times. They’ll be fine. 
These were the teams that stuck out to me. There were other teams the performed better than expected, but there were no statistical outliners that would dramatically indicate good or bad things to come (i.e. the Jets had a 3-1 record but just a +4 points differential). But now with years of preseason data, it will be fun to see who follows the trends and who bucks them. 
There was a lot to take in here, but there is one very important thing you need to take from the preseason:
The regular season starts in 6 days and I can’t wait. Good luck to all fans out there and I hope your team does well…unless you cheer for someone other than the Green Bay Packers. 
-Eric Drews 
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