Anyone who follows football knows how big a part of the game that parity is. One team can be good one year and bad the next and vice versa for seemingly no reason. This series, called Predicting Parity, seeks to discover why that is and figure out how to predict it.
Every season since the NFL went to the new playoff format in 2002, the following season has always had at least one team go from a 1st round bye to out of the playoffs, out of the playoffs to a 1st round bye, 5 wins or fewer into the playoffs, into the playoffs down to 5 wins or fewer (with 1 exception). On top of that, one team has always won 6 more games than the year before and one team has always lost 6 more games than the year before. In order to make things shorter, I have given those types of teams titles.
Fallers- 1st round bye to out of the playoffs
Creepers- Out of the playoffs to 1st round bye (name stolen from Bill Simmons)
Sleepers- 5 wins or fewer into the playoffs
Faders- Playoffs to 5 wins or fewer
Super Sleepers- 6+ win increase
Plummeters- 6+ win decrease
First, I will take a look at the fallers.
What I was hoping for here was some sort of bounce back, but there doesn’t seem to be much that can be learned from this. Of the 17 fallers since 2003, only one ended up doing the opposite and becoming a creeper in the next season and the 17 teams won an average on 0.3 more games the next season, which is virtually nothing. We can’t conclude that Chicago has any more likely chance to make the playoffs next year just because they were a faller last year and I certainly can’t conclude that Chicago has any more likely chance of becoming a creeper. Now onto the creepers.
|Kansas City||2003||5||-6 (faller)|
|New Orleans||2006||7||-3 (faller)|
|Green Bay||2007||5||-7 (faller)|
Here’s where things get interesting. Since 2003, of the 16 teams who have gone from out of the playoffs to a 1st round bye, 7 did the opposite thing the following season, and one, the 2006 Baltimore Ravens, actually won 5 or fewer games. Those 16 teams also won, on average, 3.2 fewer games the following season. This is more bad news for the San Francisco 49ers. Anyone who has been following this series knows that’s it been troubling for the 49ers. Now onto the sleepers.
|Tampa Bay||2005||6||-7 (fader)|
|New Orleans||2006||7||-3 (faller)|
|NY Jets||2006||6||-6 (fader)|
More good results here, the 17 teams who have gone from 5 wins to making the playoffs have averaged 2.8 fewer wins the following season. 2 of them turned into fallers (1st round bye to out of the playoffs) and 3 turned into faders (playoffs to 5 or fewer wins). Denver should be somewhat immune, even though they also greatly exceeded their Pythagorean Expectation this offseason, because of how they upgraded the quarterback position this offseason, but anyone expecting this team to win 11-12 games will be disappointed. Cincinnati, however, could be in trouble. They didn’t beat a single winning team last year, finished 3-6 including playoffs, and Andy Dalton’s play was significantly worse down the stretch. Now onto the faders.
|NY Jets||2005||-6||6 (sleeper)|
|Tampa Bay||2006||-7||5 (sleeper)|
Continuing the good news, 16 teams have gone from the playoffs to 5 wins (the only year this didn’t happen was 2009, the only year that didn’t have a fader, faller, creeper, and sleeper). Those 16 teams have averaged 3 more wins the following season. 5 of those teams actually did the reserve the following season and made the playoffs, while one actually ended up with a 1st round bye the following season. Indianapolis could definitely improve by 3 games. That would only be 5 wins, which is not unreasonable at all. I don’t see them making the playoffs or anything though. I’ll get to Super Sleepers and Plummeters in another post.