Daily Blog • June 25, 2010

The NFL magazine deadline is quickly approaching. Last year the Pro Preview expanded 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 included in 2009’s preview and updated it for this year.

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 June 14th blog, 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 seven 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 61 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 61 teams, only 10 were able to continue the improvement and had an even stronger record the next season. Five teams managed to keep the same record and 46 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 7 years, teams that had 3 net wins or more from the previous season saw their record stay the same or weaker the next year, 83.6% of the time.

In 2008, 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, they had 36 less wins in '08 than they did in '07 an average drop of OVER 5 games per team!

Last year was another banner year for this trend as all six of the teams that made the list either had the same or weaker record in 2009. Tennesse shot up to a 13-3 record in ’08 but this system called for them to be weaker in ’09 and they went just 8-8 (0-6 start) a 5 game loss! Miami and Carolina both went from division championships in 2008 to being completely shut out of the playoffs in ’09. Atlanta and Baltimore both had outstanding seasons 11-5 seasons in ’08 but were unable to match those records in ’09 each finishing at 9-7. Only the New York Jets who had a 5 game improvement from ’07 to ’08 were able to sustain their record last year as they finished 9-7 for the second consecutive year.

Here are the teams for 2010 that had their record improve by 3 net wins or more in 2009 from their 2008 record and these teams have an 84% chance of a weaker record this year!

2009 Teams with 3 or more net wins from 2008
5 1/2
Green Bay
San Diego
NEW Orleans

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 52 teams in the NFL that saw their record drop by 3 or more net losses. Of those 52 teams, 40 (76.9%) saw their records improve the next year while only 12 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 43 teams. 34 of the teams (79%) 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 18 out of 19 (94.7%) improved their record the next year! The biggest gainer prior to ‘08 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 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. Green Bay had 7 in net losses from ’07 to ’08 (13-3 to 6-10). Last year they improved by 5 net wins and were back in the playoffs.

In ’08 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.

Last year, saw six of the seven teams that had four or more net losses than the previous year improve their record. Green Bay went from being -7 to +5. Detroit could only go up from their 0-16 season in ‘08 (7-9 in ’07) and they did going 2-14 last year. Jacksonville and Dallas both went from being -4 to +2 and Seattle and Cleveland were both able to improve their records by a game last year after being -6 in net losses from ’07 to ’08. Only New England who went 11-5 in ’08 actually saw their record slip in ’09 but just by one game and they actually sat QB Brady in the 2nd half against Houston in the regular season finale (lost by 7) since they already had the division wrapped up.
This year 6 teams make the list and one team qualifies for -3 net losses in '09 and just missed making the chart in Pittsburgh (12-4 to 9-7).

Here are this year's teams that should have better fortune in 2010:

2009 teams that had 4 or more net losses
than the previous year
Tampa Bay
NY Giants
Miami -4 Carolina -4

Only 68 Days Until the First College Football Game!!!