Debunking the strength of schedule myth yet again

SDUT UTSD columnist Don Norcross thinks Denver's schedule will be too much for the Broncos to handle, even with Peyton Manning at the helm:

But at 36, Manning hasn’t played in more than a year. He’s adjusting to a new coaching staff, new teammates. Word from the Rockies is that’s he’s still not throwing with full velocity. Gotta be a rust factor there. And check out the Broncos’ schedule. It’s brutal. Road games include Falcons, Patriots and Ravens. Me, I think the Chargers’ toughest rival in the AFC West will be the Kansas City Chiefs. With RB Jamaal Charles, S Eric Berry and TE Tony Moeaki back after missing virtually all of 2011 with injuries, the Chiefs essentially get three first additional round draft picks this season. KC will be a tough out. Tougher than Denver.

Norcross might be right.  On paper, Kansas City can make the case they're the toughest team in the AFC West.

But it's not due to the Broncos' "brutal" schedule.  I'm not sure how many times here at IAOFM we've had to debunk this silly strength-of-schedule myth, but in the interest of the public good, here's what we wrote back in April of this year:

But in fact, there is no relationship at all--none.  We looked at five seasons of data from 2006-2010 and regressed a team's beginning strength of schedule against its winning percentage at the end of that same year.  The correlation coefficient was the lowest we've seen in a long time: 0.0285. In fact, it's hard to get a much weaker correlation.  In other words, strength of schedule has no relevance other than providing for mental masturbation.

We've been saying this for awhile now, but it's worth repeating yet again: an NFL season (and winning football, for that matter) is too complex to model with any single variable. This is true with respect to quarterbacks, and it's certainly true when it comes to last year's results.  There are just too many variables.  Coaching, injuries, free agency, the draft, scheme changes, and random luck are just a few.

Put another way: just because you went out on Friday night and scored, doesn't mean you're hitting the jackpot on Saturday, too.  I don't care how much Brut Cologne you're wearing, Daddio.

Are you worried about the difficulty of the Broncos' schedule going into 2012?

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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