Monday, October 17, 2005

Well, that was quick ...

Every NFL season works its way up to a thrilling week when, for a select handful of teams, the entire season comes down to one game. Everything they've worked for since minicamps, every drill, every film session, is on the line. A loss ends their championship dreams for another year. A win ... well, a win gives them one more week of life. One more week to keep those dreams alive, one more week of blood and sweat and pain. And that Sunday, it's once again make or break. You know what we call that time of year ...

Week 6.

Every year at least one team goes into Week 6 with four losses, and every year at least one team comes out of Week 6 with five losses. And even though the season is just a tad over a third of the way through, that 0-5 or 1-5 team is finished. Oh, sure, they may get some inspiration and run off six, seven wins in a row. They may finish, say, 9-1 and make the playoffs. But their Super Bowl dreams? Done. Come back next year, boys. Because once you put five games in the L column, you're just playing Autumn as that White Star liner slides to a cold, briny grave.

Since the NFL went to the 16-game schedule in 1978, there have been 238 teams to finish with 10 wins or better. Of those 238, some 147 -- 62 percent! -- were 10-6 or 11-5. And how many of those teams went on to win the Super Bowl? Three: the 1980 Raiders (11-5), the 2001 Patriots (11-5) and the 1988 49ers (10-6). Finish with 10 wins, and you currently have a 1-in-86 chance of being a Super Bowl champion. Is Joe Montana on your team? Throwing to Jerry Rice? No? Then forget it. Go home to Mommy and tell her to pat your head, because you ain't going to Detroit 'less you have to change planes there. Eleven wins? Congratulations, you just went from a 1.2% chance to a 3.3% I'm sure with Tom Brady as your quarterback, that's all the chance you need. What? No Brady? Well, then I suggest you skip off to the store and buy your dolly a new dress because she'll be sitting on the couch with you come Super Sunday.

Win 12 games, on the other hand, and your chances of being a Super Bowl champion more than quadruple. But you aren't going to be winning 12 games when you've already put up your fifth loss of the season, now are you, Houston Texans?

Here are the number of teams winning 10-15 games in a season since 1978, the number of Super Bowl champs among them, and how that translates into probabilities (strike-shortened 1982 and 1987 seasons not included):

108611 in 861.2%
116121 in 313.3%
125171 in 713.7%
132161 in 428.6%
141571 in 246.7%
15 421 in 250.0%

Here's your raw data, too: The number of teams finishing with 10-15 wins every year since 1978. An asterisk (*) denotes the number of wins by that year's Super Bowl champion

1999STL22 3*1
1998DEN322 2*1
1989SF331 1*
1986NYG622 2*
1985CHI442 1*
1983LAR2 3* 1
1978PIT222 1*

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