As an accomplished mathematician who took classes at Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue a doctorate in that field, John Urschel has a fondness for numbers. But the projected starting left guard boiled down the Ravens' 4-0 record in the preseason to a simple approach to the regular season.
"I think if you go undefeated, it definitely matters," he said after Saturday's practice. "If you go winless, it doesn't matter at all."
Certainly how a team fares in the preseason does not ensure a similar path in the regular season. But history shows that teams that go undefeated in exhibition games might find more success.
Since the Super Bowl era began for the 1966 campaign, 44 of 83 teams, or 53 percent, that did not register a loss in the preseason eventually qualified for the playoffs. Seven went on to capture the Super Bowl, including the 2000 Ravens squad.
On the flipside, 13 teams that went undefeated in exhibition contests finished with fewer wins in the regular season than they did in the preseason. And who can forget the 2008 Detroit Lions who followed up a 4-0 mark in exhibition games with a 0-16 record – the only team in NFL history to lose all 16 contests in the regular season?
Thursday's 23-14 victory at the New Orleans Saints capped the Ravens' sixth unblemished preseason. In addition to 2000, the 2009 and 2014 squads earned berths in the playoffs, losing in the AFC Divisional round. The 1998 and 1999 teams fell short of the postseason.
Coach John Harbaugh spoke Thursday night of the significance of finishing undefeated in exhibition contests, saying, "You always want to win. I think that there's great value in winning. We didn't do anything extra special to win any games in the preseason. We did not play our starters longer than other people. As a matter of fact, they played less than other people. I'm just proud of our guys. You want to establish the fact that you know how to win football games. You don't count them going forward. They are in the books, but our players should be proud of that [record]."
The Ravens finished the preseason with the third-highest total of points scored and tied for the fourth-fewest points surrendered. That showing was more of an impressive indicator of success to Urschel.
"It's good to see the offense running and working well, see the defense working well, see complementary football," he said. "So it's definitely a good sign for the regular season, but I just do my job."