After schedule release, ESPN’s beat writers prove overly optimistic

Getty Images

When the NFL schedule comes out, fans often become overly optimistic, eyeballing the schedule and thinking, “Yeah, my team can win most of these games.” Reporters, however, should be more objective.

At ESPN, the 32 beat writers covering their teams proved wildly optimistic.

ESPN asked each of the 32 writers to predict their teams’ records after the 2019 NFL schedule was released. Those 32 projected records should, of course, contain an equal number of wins and losses: The cumulative record of the entire league always equals .500.

Unfortunately, ESPN’s writers are overly optimistic: They were a cumulative 64 games above .500.

Comparing the ESPN predictions to the Vegas win totals for each team, 26 ESPN writers think their teams will win more games than the Vegas odds suggest. Five writers think their teams will exactly match the Vegas win total. Only one ESPN writer, Dolphins reporter Cameron Wolfe, has his team hitting the under. (Wolfe thinks the Dolphins will go 4-12; the Vegas odds have the Dolphins at 4.5 wins.

Kudos to Wolfe for not being afraid to take a pessimistic view of the team he covers. Ideally, all beat writers would cover their teams with an objective eye, and not with the overly optimistic view of fans.

48 responses to “After schedule release, ESPN’s beat writers prove overly optimistic

  1. Only way Dolphins get to four wins with that staff is the league allows their touchdowns and field goals count as double points.

  2. Local beat writers have become extensions of that team’s Public Relations Department in this day and age. Eighty percent of them are pom-pom waivers.

  3. you know one of the things about the NFL is every year most teams think they can hit the jackpot.I dont see why we should rain on their parade right now.We got plenty of time to see who will and who wont.Every year the pundits get fooled and a couple get it right.What I would like to see is the pundits saying this is what we predicted last year and show us how wrong or right they were.

  4. Would they have to be optimistic though? Each beat writer needs the fans to be interested in the team fir their reporting to matter. So it would behoove them to be be as optimistic as they think they can get away with.

  5. ESPN has become a joke. I miss the days where I could turn it on and watch highlights of games. Nothing but talking heads and Lebron James drama.

  6. Although this makes for entertaining fodder every year when these “forecasts” are released, the simple explanation is that this is a very natural occurrence when you ask 32 different people to make 32 individual forecasts about their 1/32nd of the league, in a vacuum. It’s not only natural that their predictions would not add up to 256 total wins – it’s expected. Most of them wouldn’t have overly optimistic/pessimistic forecasts if you asked them to predict the win totals *for every team*.

  7. Better to be overly optimistic in April than get hated on by fans of that team for the next 6 months.

  8. What four teams can the Dolphins beat on their schedule??? Maybe they’ll get lucky once against the Bills/Jets, and then the Bengals. After that?

  9. I don’t mind beat writers being optimistic going into the season but the dolphins are going to be really bad so it is good to see someone being realistic. I like Fitzpatrick but he is not leading a bad all around team to any victories, and they are easily the least talented roster in the AFC East at this point.

  10. Wolfe wasn’t pessimistic – you can’t win half a game, so Vegas’ 4.5 equals 4 wins and a tie.

  11. battmanri says:
    April 18, 2019 at 7:05 am
    Local beat writers have become extensions of that team’s Public Relations Department in this day and age. Eighty percent of them are pom-pom waivers.


    then you have tom curran who has an outright beef with the patriots.

  12. I don’t think ESPN allows it’s writers to have their own opinions? They are only allowed to have the corporate opinion. Obey.

  13. The projections are not in and of themselves unreasonable. Right now, every team’s players (and the players yet to be brought in) are healthy. We know that all teams will suffer from injuries, some will lose a great many games because of those injuries.

    That said, I gotta say, the 4-12 prediction for Miami does seem overly optimistic….

  14. I take a quick look last night, tabulated the number in my head as it looked suspect, and on average every team goes 9 wins, 7 losses, confirming the PFT numbers. I realize Cleveland has a better team, but the record looked suspect. Ditto with the Rams, who are talented, but I’d put my money on the under 12 wins. There’s probably more inflation on the bottom of the tallies: Oakland probably isn’t going to hit 7-9, NYG isn’t hitting 6 wins and Zona isn’t putting together 5 wins.

  15. They are predicting four different divisions where no team has a losing record. I don’t know if that is even possible. They need to at least talk to each other when doing this so the records match up. I’m surprised it wasn’t 16-0 for every team.

  16. All these so called “experts” are a joke..Just like the fools who try and handicap the draft they may get picks 1,2 and 3 right after that it’s a crap shoot. McShay and the other guy should be ashamed accepting money for there ridiculous picks…

  17. Since the Dolphins are clearly tanking for Tua I don’t even know if I give the dolphins beat writer that much credit. In that case he too is holding pom poms for what the team wants.

  18. I was honestly feeling pretty optimistic about the Raiders, provided they have a good draft, until I saw that schedule. Absolutely brutal. Raiders, Bucs and Chargers got totally hosed by the NFL

  19. ESPN notes that the Raiders have the leagues toughest schedule. How does ESPN predict 7-9 for the Raiders? And with all the traveling they are doing and not having a home game for more than a month and half, and finishing 4 out of 6 on the road, a very good team may win 7 games. If the Raiders had the Patriots schedule I could see 9 wins.

    ESPN has this math problem every year (it was mentioned here last year). Not sure why a producer of the piece didn’t ask each writer to cut their win totals by 2 games each.

  20. Mr. Wolfe please clean out your desk…….
    beat writers are suppose to be homers in the off season.

  21. Well, if they are beat writers, it is difficult for them to be too pessimistic, or the players and coaches will be hesitant to talk to them. For the good of their job, they often have to be a little optimistic.

  22. “you can’t win half a game, so Vegas’ 4.5 equals 4 wins and a tie.”

    Do you know nothing about gambling? Vegas uses half games in the win total so people can bet the over / under on number of wins, ie 4 or less or 5 or more. I don’t gamble at all but even I know that SMH

  23. It is ESPN, I would figure-in a standard deviation of at a minimum plus/minus 3 games, which could put the Dolphins at 1 win that is about right.

  24. Raiders schedule is brutal. They don’t play a home game in Oakland for seven weeks. They go to Minnesota then to Indianapolis and then to London. Right there is bad enough. They come out of the break with two Road games. And then they end the season with four out of six games on the road. NFL did them no favors.

  25. I think the schedule for Raiders is a payback from the NFL. Where they didn’t receive any dicipline over the Gruden hiring before the JDR firing. So the NFL is hitting them on the back end .

  26. It’s a bit of a stretch to call predicting the outcome of a future season of a sports league something that CAN be done “objectively”. It can be done more or less conservatively, but to suggest that fewer wins is automatically somehow more objective is kind of nonsensical. Some of those “wildly optimistic” predictions will end up being right, or even conservative, and others will be wrong.

    If they had chosen more conservative estimates, they’d probably all end up being wrong as well. Because it’s just a guess, and coming before the draft, the criteria is incredibly incomplete anyway.

    It’s likely that these writers simply don’t agree with one another on respective win estimates. Is it their job to alter their predictions based on what a different writer thinks? Or to supply their best individual analyses?

    I think we know the answer.

  27. Someone who follows a team knows some of their “sleeper” players and expects a break out season. Every team generally has one or two of these players who exceed expectations. “With player X having a breakout, I will give the team an extra win” So I’d expect them to come in 32-48 games over. What they fail to acknowledge is every team generally has one or two of these players. So they give them an extra win.

  28. It’s largely due to addition fallacy. They look at last year’s record, say “we only lost player X, but added player Y and Z, and our young guys will get better, so of course we will be better!” Obviously that’s not how it actually works. Most teams feel like they netted more talent during free agency than they lost. Every team feels their rookies will be better. You can’t do it that way. have to predict records based on the talent on your roster compared to everyone else’s, not based on what you did last year and expecting you’ll be automatically better this year.

  29. Fitzpatrick will be Fitzmagic and win you guys a few games… Which is why I was baffled by the signing if their intention was to tank….. Of course you’ll also get a few games of Fitztragic where he will throw 6 interceptions.

  30. Why do you write this every single season? The prediction is not done on a head to head basis. They are doing what fans do. Where are the wins and losses coming from? It’s guesswork and entertainment. And you write this every time they do it.
    Maybe the should make everyone 8-8 so you can stop recycling this column.

  31. It’s more because the sensitive, delusional fans of that team will tweet about it and call the writer a hater. They bow to the sheep, so as not to look bad.

  32. One thing I can predict is that the writers who follow the Frisco 49ers for the local newspapers in the Bay Area will be pessimistic about Frisco’s chances of winning.

  33. Who still talks about being objective in the 21st century? Read up on quantum physics, especially the General Law of Relativity.
    How come that it is quite easy to guess the United States Supreme Court’s decisions based on the issue at stake? Or why are certain Federal Courts’ assumed to be friendly to NFL owners and others to players?
    Wake up MDS. Parroting the term “objective” is so medieval.

  34. anetic says:
    April 18, 2019 at 8:12 am
    What four teams can the Dolphins beat on their schedule??? Maybe they’ll get lucky once against the Bills/Jets, and then the Bengals. After that?

    Easy: Patriots

  35. See also dunning-kruger effect. 80 pct of people surveyed believe they are above average drivers. It’s human nature to be irrationally optimistic or we probably wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning.

  36. On the other hand, maybe those beat writers who see and report on the team every day know a bit more about the teams they cover than a guy that collects stories and blogs from his office on a national scope every day.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.