More (inaccurate) predictions coming soon

The business of predicting team success and failure makes for interesting copy, but it is rarely right. Get ready for those preview issues. Read them on vacation on then throw them into the campfire ... or save them for a good laugh after the season.

The advent of June typically means a few things. Kids get out of school for the summer. Families pack up and head off on vacations. The magazine rack at stores start getting dotted with NFL preview publications.

In the coming weeks, many national publications will have their resident experts try to predict who will shine and who will fail in 2009. However, if history has taught us anything, these are often futile exercises because of the nature of the NFL. Last year, for example, even without Brett Favre, the Packers were picked by most preseason publications to win the NFC North. Coming off a 13-3 season, the rationale made sense. But the reality of the ups and downs of NFL teams has made these sort of predictions almost impossible to back up.

Over the last five years, sustained success or failure hasn't happened very often. Of the NFL's 32 teams, 19 of them have both won 10 games in a season and lost 10 games in a season. That represents almost two-thirds of the league's teams, including the Vikings.

Only four teams – New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and San Diego – have had records of .500 or better in each of the last five seasons. Of those, only the Patriots and Colts have won 10 or more games in each of the last five years. On the flip side, only three franchises have not had a winning record in any of the last five seasons – Oakland, Detroit and San Francisco. Of those, only the Raiders have lost 10 or more games in each of those seasons.

That has left only six teams that don't fit into one of those categories. The Rams, Cardinals, Bills and Texans have all failed to win 10 games in any of the last five years, but Bills have had records of .500 or better twice – they have won seven games in three seasons with win totals of nine and five in the other two. The Panthers and Broncos haven't lost 10 games over any of the last five seasons, but Carolina has lost nine games twice and Denver has lost nine games once in that span.

There is a lot of talk of parity in the NFL, in which the league ideally would comprise 32 teams with records of 8-8. However, over the last five seasons, there hasn't been a single team that hasn't either won or lost 10 games in a season. The speed with which that turnaround can come has seemingly sped up as well. Miami was a universal pick for last place in 2008 coming off a 1-15 season and they won 11 games to win their division last year. Much the same was true for teams like Atlanta and Baltimore, which made huge jumps despite starting rookie quarterbacks. The Vikings have gone from losing 10 games in Brad Childress' first season in 2006 to winning 10 last year and bringing home the NFC North crown.

While football fans who have been dormant for the last few months will start getting their NFL fix in the coming weeks and months with the numerous NFL preview publications that will be hitting the newsstands, don't put too much stock into the predictions that get made. In the modern era of the NFL, teams rise and fall dramatically from one year to the next and being able to accurately predict the rise of teams like the Dolphins and Falcons and fall of teams like the Packers has become next to impossible.

All we do know is that Patriots and Colts will be a safe bet to predict as division champs and the Raiders will maintain their commitment to non-excellence. Other than that, it should be pretty wide open – despite what the experts may lead you to believe.


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