Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Annual Playoff Reminders

With just 8 days until the first game of the 2014 NFL season, perhaps we should take a minute to identify some things to consider when putting your NFC playoff field together.

First, I constructed this grid this morning which keeps a rolling 10-year grid on NFC playoff participation.  Below, you can see that 7 is the high total for playoff appearances in the last decade for Seattle and Green Bay, while 1 is the low - held by Detroit and St Louis.  

Dallas is at 3, which is out paced by 7 NFC organizations, and has a drought since 2009.  Teams with a longer drought than 2009 in the NFC without a playoff appearance are only Tampa Bay and St Louis - (Arizona also has not been in since 2009)

Green Bay has been to the playoffs 5 consecutive years which is the highest for any NFC team.  San Francisco is at 3 straight and Seattle 2, with no other team having an active streak of playoff appearances.

Team 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 Total
Dallas X X X 3
Phil X X  X X X X 6
Wash X X
X 3
Atl X X X X X 5
Car X


NO X X X X X 5
TB X X 2
Chi X X X 3
Det X 1
X X 7
Minn X X X X 4
Arz X X 2
St L X 1
Sea X X X X X X X 7

(a Bold "X" denotes a Super Bowl appearance)

So, now you know who has made it and how many times.

But, what about this annual game where we try to project who the participants in the 2014 Playoffs will be? We all enjoy it every August, but most of my research seems to show that most of us just pick the same 6 teams who made the playoffs last year. They just look too good to reel in.
But, if you are planning on picking the Seahawks, Panthers, Packers, and Eagles to all win their divisions and then the Saints and 49ers to grab the Wildcards, then you need to know about this number -


What does the number 5.7 represent? Well, that is the average number since the playoffs expanded in 1991 of the number of new teams that qualify for the playoffs every year. If only 12 teams make the playoffs each year and 5.7 (or pretty much half) are going to be teams that were NOT there last year, as history tells us, then who is going out of these 12 teams?

NFC: Seattle, San Francisco, Green Bay, New Orleans, Carolina, Philadelphia
AFC: Denver, New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Kansas City, San Diego

By the way, although we do believe this to be a truth that will stand the test of time, obviously if 5.7 is the average, there are years where we go to the high end and the low end of this. In 2003, we actually had 8 new teams enter the playoffs in a year that seemed completely upside down and random. Then, in 1995 and last year, only 4 new teams made the tournament - just 1 new team in the AFC - making some believe that this thing is determined before the season even begins.

Here is the chart for your examination of the year-by-year progression:

Year# NewNew Teams making Playoffs
19926Min, SF, Phi, Mia, Pit, KC
19935Det, GB, NYG, Oak, Den
19945Chi, Mia, Clev, NE, SD
19954Phi, Atl, Ind, Buf
19965Min, Car, Jac, Den, NE
19975NYG, Det, TB, KC, Mia
19985Arz, Dal, Atl, NYJ, Buf
19997Det, TB, StL, Was, Sea, Ten, Ind
20006Phi, NYG, NO, Den, Bal, Oak
20016SF, GB, Chi, Pit, NE, NYJ
20025NYG, Atl, Ten, Cle, Ind
20038Stl, Car, Dal, Sea, NE, KC, Bal, Den
20045Min, Atl, SD, Pit, NYJ
20057Was, Car, TB, NYG, Chi, Cin, Jac
20067Phi. Dal, NO, SD, Bal, NYJ, KC
20076Was, TB, GB, Pit, Ten, Jac
20087Phi, Atl, Car, Min, Arz, Mia, Bal
20096Dal, GB, NO, Cin, NE, NYJ
20105Sea, Atl, Chi, Pitt, KC
20116NYG, SF, Det, Cin, Hou, Den
20124Was, Sea, Min, Indy
20135NO, Phi, Car, KC, SD

Is that your greatest case for Dallas getting into the 2014 playoffs?  The fact that every year the NFC seems to put 3 new teams in the tournament?

Personally, I am still working on my picks.  But, the annual reminder of 5.7 certainly makes this exercise more complicated than we are willing to admit.

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