Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What's 52-3 adjusted for inflation?

How bad was the beating the Packers laid on the Saints on Sunday? Let's put it this way: The 52-3 final score was Green Bay's most lopsided victory in almost 40 years and the second-biggest win in team history. Think about that a second. The Packers are one of the NFL's oldest franchises, coming into the league in 1921. In 84 seasons, the Pack has won only one game by a wider margin, and that was against an expansion team in the middle of losing its first nine games: Green Bay 56, Atlanta 3 in 1966.

So now you're wondering: What's the biggest win my team has ever posted, and how long ago was it? Glad you asked! Here are the NFL teams' largest victory margins. Listed are the team, their best margin, the final score of the game, the opponent and the year. Remember, these are the teams' top margins of victory, not necessarily the most points they have ever scored in a game. The Rams, for example, scored 70 in a game against the Colts in 1950 but also allowed 27, for a margin of "only" 43. Teams are ranked according to the size of their biggest wins, for a reason we'll get into below:

Bears 73 73-0 WSH 1940 (1)
Eagles 64 64-0 CIN 1934 (2)
Cardinals 60 60-0 RCH 1923 (3)
Rams 59 59-0 ATL 1976 (4)
Browns 59 62-3 WSH 1954
Colts 56 56-0 GB 1958 (5)
Giants 56 56-0 PHI 1933
Steelers 56 63-7 NYG 1952
Falcons 55 62-7 NO 1973
Jaguars 55 62-7 MIA 1999 (6)
Titans 55 55-0 OAK 1961 (7)
Bengals 54 61-7 HOU 1989 (8)
Packers 53 56-3 ATL 1966
Patriots 53 56-3 NYJ 1979
Chiefs 52 59-7 DEN 1963
Dolphins 52 52-0 NE 1972
Raiders 51 51-0 DEN 1967
49ers 49 49-0 DET 1961
Cowboys 49 56-7 PHI 1966
Bills 48 51-3 LAR 1990 (9)
Vikings 48 51-3 CLE 1969
Chargers 46 53-7 NYJ 1963
Redskins 45 45-0 DET 1991
Seahawks 45 45-0 KC 1984
Lions 45 59-14 CLE 1957 (1)
Broncos 43 46-3 NYJ 1976
Saints 42 42-0 DEN 1988
Jets 42 45-3 HOU 1983 (8)
Bucs 41 41-0 DET 2001
Ravens 38 44-6 SF 2003
Panthers 32 45-13NO 1999 (10)
Texans 21 21-0 JAX 2004
NOTES: 1) NFL Championship Game. 2) vs. Cincinnati Reds. 3) as Chicago Cardinals, vs. Rochester Jeffersons. 4) as Los Angeles Rams. 5) as Baltimore Colts. 6) divisional playoff game. 7) as Houston Oilers. 8) vs. Houston Oilers. 9) AFC Championship Game. 10) the Panthers also beat the Rams by an identical 45-13 score in 1996.

Notice that the teams at the top of the list are among the NFL's oldest franchises: the Bears and Cardinals (entered the league in 1920), Giants (1925), Eagles and Steelers (1933), and Rams (1937). There are a couple reasons for that. First is just simple probability: The older the team, the more games it has played and the more opportunities it has had to blow someone out.

More important is the nature of the league in its formative years. At the start, the NFL wasn't a league at all. It was an association (the American Professional Football Association) -- and a loose association at that. Some teams were truly professional. Others were merely club teams of college and semipro players. Some were all-star squads that barnstormed the country. (The Los Angeles Buccaneers of 1926, for example, played 10 games, all on the road. The Kansas City Cowboys of 1925-26 played two home games and 18 on the road.)

In the early years, teams would pop up, play a couple years, then drop out, sometimes in mid-season. When a "real" team met one of these traveling circuses, the results were usually grisly. Take the Cardinals' 60-0 victory in 1923. Their opponent was the Rochester Jeffersons, who played all of four games that year and lost them all by a combined score of 141-6. In their six years in the league, 1920-25, they put up a record of 2-25-2, were shut out 17 times and were outscored 580-150. Take out their 45-0 victory over the Tonawanda Kardex in 1921 -- and you should, because it's the only game the Kardex ever played -- and they were 1-25-2 and were outscored 580-105. Regardless, the Jeffersons were recognized as an NFL franchise, and the Cardinals' 60 points are therefore recognized in the record books.

It's kind of fitting, because today the Cardinals are one of those semipro franchises that the real teams pad their stats against.

Similarly, the team that the Eagles beat 64-0 in 1934 wasn't the Cincinnati Bengals (they wouldn't come along until 1968), but the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds played only two years, 1933-34. In their 18 games they were 3-14-1, got shut out 11 times and were outscored 353-48. You know, a real powerhouse.

Speaking of the Cincinnati Reds: It was common for teams in the upstart NFL to adopt the name of the local baseball team; sometimes the clubs were even affiliated. At various times in the 1920s and '30s, the NFL had teams named the Washington Senators, Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees. The Brooklyn Dodgers of the NFL played from 1930 to 1944. The Washington Redskins began life in 1932 as the Boston Braves, sharing a name with the baseball team that eventually moved to Milwaukee, then Atlanta. After one year, the football Braves went ahead and picked an even more inflammatory nickname. They moved to Washington in '37. The Steelers spent their first eight years (1933-40) as the Pittsburgh Pirates. The only remnant of this trend is the New York Giants, who shared a name and the Polo Grounds with the baseball Giants before that club decamped to San Francisco. The history lives on in the phrase "New York football Giants." From 1960 to 1987, St. Louis had both a baseball team and a football team named the Cardinals. That was a coincidence. The Cardinals spent their first 40 years in Chicago before parking in St. Louis en route to Arizona. (Oh, and the Rams that St. Louis then "stole" from Los Angeles? Los Angeles stole them from Cleveland. Franchises following the money is hardly a new development. More on that in the future.)

So there's the football history lesson for the day. Hanging 52 points on a hapless team that is spending the entire season on the road? That's old school, man.

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