The simple truth about predictions is that, for the most part, the only thing that is certain is that a good number of teams that made the playoffs last year won't make it next year. With one notable exception – 2012, the year after the new collective bargaining agreement took place and the landscape changed significantly from the previous year's business – the numbers will tell you that, if you predict all of the teams from the past season to make it back to the playoffs again, you're just throwing darts.
In 2008, the playoff field was as follows: The division champions were the New York Giants, Vikings, Carolina, Arizona, Miami, Pittsburgh, Tennessee and San Diego and the wild card teams were Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore and Indianapolis.
As the 2009 season approached, most of those teams were viewed as favorites to get back to the playoffs – that's how the NFL works when it comes to media predictions. It's not how things typically hold up.
In the five years that have followed, here are the results and the list of teams that actually made it back to the playoffs.
2009 – Division champions: Dallas, Minnesota, New Orleans, Arizona, New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and San Diego. Wild cards: Philadelphia, Green Bay, Baltimore and New York Jets. Results: Three division champions repeated (38 percent), six teams returned to the playoffs (50 percent).
2010 – Division champions: Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Kansas City. Wild cards: Green Bay, New Orleans, Baltimore and New York Jets. Results: Two division champions repeated (25 percent) and seven teams returned to the playoffs (58 percent).
2011 – Division champions: New York Giants, Green Bay, New Orleans, San Francisco, New England, Baltimore, Houston and Denver. Wild cards: Detroit, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Results: One division champion repeated (13 percent) and six teams returned to the playoffs (50 percent).
2012 – Division champions: Washington, Green Bay, Atlanta, San Francisco, New England, Baltimore, Houston and Denver. Wild cards: Minnesota, Seattle, Cincinnati and Indianapolis. Results: Six division champions repeated (75 percent) and eight teams returned to the playoffs (67 percent).
2013 – Division champions: Philadelphia, Green Bay, Carolina, Seattle, New England, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver. Wild cards: New Orleans, San Francisco, Kansas City and San Diego. Results: Three division champions repeated (38 percent) and seven playoff teams returned (58 percent).
So before you make your own predictions for the coming season, keep a couple things in mind – half of the teams that won their division last year likely won't this year and about 40 percent of the 12 playoff teams will be new.
Or so the numbers will tell you.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.