History shows the Green Bay Packers are almost guaranteed to bounce back from last year's 6-10 season.
During the 10-season span from 1997 through 1999 to 2006 through 2008, 26 teams lost five more games immediately following a season in which they posted double-digits victories.
In 22 of 26 cases, the team bounced back to win more games. On 17 occasions, the team rebounded to win at least four more games or finish over .500. And 11 times, the team sprung back and landed in the playoffs.
The trend has been even stronger over the three most-recent three-season spans, with all eight teams rebounding and five of them reaching the postseason.
Team / 2004 / 2005/ 2006 / Playoffs?
Jets / 10-6 / 4-12/ 10-6 / Yes
Eagles / 13-3 / 6-10 / 10-6 / Yes
Packers / 10-6 / 4-12 / 8-8 / No
Team / 2005 / 2006/ 2007 / Playoffs?
Redskins / 10-6 / 5-11 / 9-7 / Yes
Buccaneers / 11-5 / 4-12 / 9-7 / Yes
Team / 2006 / 2007/ 2008 / Playoffs?
Jets / 10-6 / 4-12 / 9-7 / No
Ravens / 13-3 / 5-11 / 11-5 / Yes
Bears / 13-3 / 7-9 / 9-7 / No
In all, the 26 teams combined to win 77 more games. More impressively, of the 17 teams that bounced back to win at least four more games or finish over .500, they won 73 more games — an average of 4.3 victories. If the Packers follow suit, they would win 10 or 11 games in the upcoming season.
In the last 10 three-year comparisons, 11 teams dropped at least seven games in the standings, like the Packers did in going from 13 wins to six. Five of those 11 rebounded to qualify for the playoffs, including Baltimore in 2008, Tampa Bay in 2007 and Philadelphia in 2006.
There's no real secret to posting a bounce-back season. Sometimes, it's better players and coaching. Sometimes, it's better health and luck. Losing teams are rewarded with easier schedules, too.
Last year's Jets, for instance, were the most active team in free agency and acquired Brett Favre. Last year's Ravens struck gold with a rookie quarterback, Joe Flacco, and a new coach, John Harbaugh.
The 2007 Buccaneers soared up the standings with the signing of quarterback Jeff Garcia. The 2005 Eagles, torpedoed by a petulant Terrell Owens and a rash of injuries — including a sports hernia to quarterback Donovan McNabb — bounced back in 2006 with T.O. taking his antics to Dallas.
The 2004 Steelers went from 6-10 to 15-1 by hitting the jackpot with first-round pick Ben Roethlisberger and undrafted running back Willie Parker. The 2003 Rams played seven games against teams that lost at least 10 games and had a healthy Marshall Faulk.
The Packers have several arrows pointing in their direction as they attempt to recover from last season. The Brett Favre Circus has left town. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers should be better in late-game situations. Dom Capers gives instant credibility and a new look to a stale defense. The special teams can't be much worse. Hopefully, they won't lose defensive starters Cullen Jenkins, Nick Barnett, Al Harris and Atari Bigby for significant stretches again. The talent has been upgraded with first-round picks B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews III. The NFL's 30th-ranked schedule includes a potential momentum-building start to the season. And they can't possibly go 0-7 in close games again, can they?
But can the Packers bounce back to meet or exceed their 13-3 success of 2007? History says no. Of the 26 teams mentioned before, only the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers actually improved — going from 10-5-1 in 2002 to 15-1 after their 6-10 stub of the toe. The 2004 and 2006 Jets sandwiched identical 10-6 records around a 4-12 disappointment.
Still, the potential is in place and history is on the Packers' side to at least win 10 games and get back to the playoffs. And anything can happen once you get to the playoffs. Just ask the 2007 Packers, who lost the NFC title game to the Giants, a wild-card team that upset mighty New England in the Super Bowl.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.