NFL players, coaches and scouts spend countless hours fine-tuning their craft, intent on digging out even the tiniest of advantages.
It's a little dispiriting, then, to think luck plays a role in close-game outcomes. However, the numbers bear that out, as it seems to be little more than random variation when a team does well in one-score games during a season.
While that may be frustrating, it's also a promising sign for the 2017 Cardinals. ESPN's Bill Barnwell published an article on Tuesday which detailed his five teams most likely to improve from 2016. Not surprisingly, the Cardinals were one of the highlighted clubs.
I touched on this after the season, but 2016 was certainly weird. The special teams mishaps played a big role in the regression from 2015, but the Cardinals also went 3-5-1 in one-score games, a stark departure from Arians' 23-5 record in such scenarios previously.
The Cardinals finished with a point-differential of plus-56, fourth-best in the NFC, and Barnwell believes that figure is more predictive than a win-loss record.
Between the free-agent losses of Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson and the age of quarterback Carson Palmer, there are valid reasons to question whether the Cardinals' Super Bowl window is still open. But the core still mostly remains, and there is plenty of star power on both sides of the ball.
Last year's record was deceiving. The Cardinals didn't live up to expectations, but they didn't fall off a cliff like six fewer wins from 2015 would indicate. Although the ebb and flow of this season is unknown, a return to the playoffs in 2017 is entirely realistic.