Phil Steele's Daily Blog - Monday June 29th

The NFL magazine deadline is quickly approaching. This year the Pro Preview is expanding to SIX FULL PAGES on each NFL team jampacked with the "Phil Steele" quality information you're used to seeing in my College Preview. Today I wanted to give you an article that I will be including in this year's Preview called "Slipping and Sliding".

In my college magazine each year I devise different formulas which look at teams that had good or bad fortune the previous year. The charts show those teams generally do not have the same fortune the following season. I call this method "Slipping and Sliding". As I noted the last few years in the Turnovers=Turnaround article, results have been even stronger for the NFL than they have for college football. I imagine one reason for that is there is far more parity in the NFL and teams are more competitive from the strongest team to the weakest team than in college football.

First I will examine how teams fared after making a great improvement the previous year. I charted the NFL teams over the last 6 years and noted which teams made the biggest improvement in their record from the previous season. As I expected, the teams that made the biggest improvement generally slide back some the following year. In the NFL from 2002-2008 there were 55 teams that improved their record by 3 wins or more from the previous season. The biggest two gainers were the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers who improved by 9 net wins (6-10 to 15-1) and the 2004 San Diego Chargers who improved by 8 net wins (4-12 to 12-4) from their 2003 season. What I found is that of the 55 teams, only 10 were able to continue the improvement and had an even stronger record the next season. Four teams managed to keep the same record and 41 teams had a weaker record the following year. The two examples I listed above had the Steelers slide by 4 net wins (15-1 to 11-5) and San Diego by 3 net wins (12-4 to 9-7) the season after their big improvement. Therefore, over the past 6 years, teams that had 3 net wins or more from the previous season saw their record stay the same or weaker the next year, 81.8% of the time.

Last year the chart was almost perfect. Nine teams made the list and only ONE improved their record and that was by 1 game. One team had that same record but Tampa Bay went from a 9-7 playoff team in '07 to a 9-7 non playoff team in '08. Cleveland shot up from 4-12 in '06 to 10-6 in '07 a 6 game jump. This system called for them to crash back down and that they did to 4-12. Green Bay went from 8-8 in '06 to 13-3 in '07 a 5 game improvement. This system called for them to come back down to earth and they dropped to 6-10, 7 wins fewer than '07. Other teams that made the chart for biggest win improvement in '07 that the system called for a drop for last year included Dallas which went from 13-3 in '07 to 9-7 and out of the playoffs last year, Detroit which went from 7-9 to 0-16, New England which went from 16-0 to out of the playoffs and Jacksonville which went from 11-5 to 5-11. Of the 7 teams that had weaker record they had 36 less wins in '08 than they did in '07 an average drop of OVER 5 games per team!

Here are the teams for 2009 that had their record improve by 3 net wins or more in 2008 from their 2007 record and these teams have an 82% chance of a weaker record this year!

2008 Teams with 3 or more net wins from 2007

Generally these charts are a two-way street and it has been just as good an indicator going in the opposite direction. From 2002-2008 there were 43 teams in the NFL that saw their record drop by 3 or more net losses. Of those 43 teams, 32 (74.4%) saw their records improve the next year while only 11 had a weaker or identical record for a second straight year. By analyzing it a little further and looking at teams that had 4 net losses from the previous year, I reduced the amount to 36 teams. Twenty-eight of the teams (77.8%) with 4 net losses from the previous year had better records the next season. Of teams that had 6 net losses or more the previous year, an amazing 13 out of 14 improved their record the next year. The biggest gainer prior to last year was the NY Jets who had 6 net losses (10-6 to 4-12) from 2004 to 2005. They reversed that with 6 net wins (4-12 to 10-6) in 2006. The St Louis Rams had 7 in net losses (14-2 to 7-9) from 2001 to 2002. In 2003 they improved by 5 net wins (7-9 to 12-4). In 2007's article Tampa Bay was the top team listed being -7 in net wins (11-5 in '05 & 4-12 in '06). They rebounded with +5 net wins finishing with a 9-7 record. Keep in mind that of the teams with 6 or more net losses from the previous year 93% (13 of 14) improved their record, five or more net losses 83.3% (20 of 24) improved their record and 4 or more net losses by 78% (28 of 36) improved their record.

Last year there was a new record gainer. The Miami Dolphins went from 6-10 in '06 to just 1-15 in '07. Their -5 wins had them on this chart and they tied for the biggest turnaround in NFL history improving to 11 wins (+10!). Baltimore was at the top of the chart at -8 and they did how the system expected improving from 5-11 to 11-5 despite having a rookie QB. Another big gainer was the NY Jets who were -6 in wins (10-6 in '06, 4-12 in '07) and they improved by 5 wins to 9-7 in '08.

This year 7 teams make the list and two teams qualify for -3 net losses in '08 and just missed making the chart in San Diego (11-5 to 8-8) and Cincinnati (7-9 to 4-11-1).

Here are this year's teams that should have better fortune:

2008 teams that had 4 or more net losses
than the previous year
Green Bay
Seattle -6 new england -5