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Bad Teams Doing Well In Good Divisions

In 2012, the Rams went 4-1-1 in the NFC West, but 3-7 against the rest of the NFL. The NFC West was pretty good that year, which made that even more remarkable: St. Louis had the best record in intradivision games of any NFC West team, but the worst interdivision record.

Then, last year, the Rams did it again, going 4-2 against the NFC West (best record, tied with Arizona) but a division-worst 3-7 against the rest of the NFL.

How often does it happen that a team does this? Perhaps more frequently than you might think. The Bills swept the Dolphins and Jets last year, but were swept by New England. Meanwhile, the Patriots dropped a game to both Miami and New York. But while the Patriots (8-2), Jets (7-3), and Dolphins (5-5) fared better against non-AFC East competition last year, the Bills went 4-6 outside of the division.

Since 2002, it has happened 24 times. Take a look:

YearTmDivIntra W%Inter W%Div Strength
2008NYJAFCEast0.6670.5000.650
2002ATLNFCSouth0.6670.5500.638
2015BUFAFCEast0.6670.4000.600
2005WASNFCEast0.8330.5000.600
2012STLNFCWest0.7500.3000.575
2015STLNFCWest0.6670.3000.575
2002NWEAFCEast0.6670.5000.575
2002NYJAFCEast0.6670.5000.575
2012CARNFCSouth0.5000.4000.550
2012TAMNFCSouth0.5000.4000.550
2012NORNFCSouth0.5000.4000.550
2009NYGNFCEast0.6670.4000.550
2009CINAFCNorth1.0000.4000.525
2009MIAAFCEast0.6670.3000.500
2011KANAFCWest0.5000.4000.475
2010OAKAFCWest1.0000.2000.475
2006GNBNFCNorth0.8330.3000.450
2011PHINFCEast0.8330.3000.450
2006ARINFCWest0.6670.1000.425
2013DETNFCNorth0.6670.3000.425
2006CARNFCSouth0.8330.3000.425
2013DALNFCEast0.8330.3000.400
2010SFONFCWest0.6670.2000.325
2014ATLNFCSouth0.8330.1000.263

The standard bearer for the most Rams team of the post-2002 era? All four AFC East teams won at least 7 games, and the division was 65% (24-16) of its interdivision games that year, the 2nd best season in AFC East history (1999). In those games, the Bills, Dolphins, and Patriots all went 7-3, while the Jets (with Brett Favre) went 5-5. You might think that means the Jets would have struggled in division games, but New York went 4-2, as did New England and Miami, while Buffalo went 0-6.

  • Wade Iuele

    I remember that 2010 Oakland season fondly. Head coach Tom Cable broke an assistant coach’s jaw in anger. OC Hue Jackson had the running game going full blast with Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. And rookie WR Jacoby Ford was electric, making clutch plays catching and running the ball; and he returned three kickoffs for touchdowns. It was the Raiders’ first season at .500 or above since losing the Super Bowl in 2002. It was also Al Davis’ last full season. He fired Tom Cable that offseason. Why, Al? It was our best and most hopeful year in a long, long time. Why did you fire Tom Cable?! You haunt me, Mr. Davis, long after your death. I miss your crazy ass.

  • Tom

    Great seeing some numbers to go with what my LA friends and I have been joking about since the Rams came back – Jeff Fisher apparently gets his players all fired up when it’s time to play Seattle, Arizona and SF; anyone else, and he just gives them the day off. I know it’s not quite that simple, but the past few years have felt that way.

  • Richie

    Completely off-topic question: Joey Bosa.

    Can anybody explain the motives behind his holdout. My understanding is there are two issues:

    1)The Chargers want to defer part of his signing bonus to March (he wants it all by December).

    2) The Chargers want “offset language” to provide financial relief if the Chargers cut him and somebody else signs him.

    For issue 1, why do the Chargers want to do this? Aside from having 3 more months to pay the bonus (and what percent do they plan to pay by December?), what do the Chargers gain by pushing some of the bonus into the 2017 year? Is it a cashflow thing (if so, how?) or is it a salary cap thing?

    For issue 2, how is Bosa harmed by having the offset language?

    • The Daves

      From everything I’ve read this is entirely a Chargers issue. They seem to structure their contracts in this manner. There’s room for innovation in contracts and cap flexibility. But its difficult to see how this benefits the Chargers from a strategic standpoint.

      The Chargers have not signed or retained many notable free agents since the current CBA in 2011. During that time they retained: Rivers, Gates, Weddle (previous contract) and most recently Liuget. Nor have they signed notable free agents (perhaps I missed them). Staying out of free agency isn’t the worst approach to roster construction. But it means that player evaluation and development are the only ways to improve. There isn’t much evidence that the current regime does either of these particularly well. Regardless, cap flexibility shouldn’t be an issue given their approach. So why would they worry about these details? How do they benefit from alienating players?

      Perhaps they are going with the Padres’ sunshine tax discount plan?