In 2002, the league realigned its division format with the addition of the Houston Texans. From 2003 to 2015, of the 156 teams that made the playoffs, 75 of them were not in the playoffs a year ago. In other words, about 5.8 teams each year make the leap from out of the playoffs to into the playoffs, with the remaining 6.2 teams being repeat entrants.
If we had run this study four years ago, those numbers would be flipped: from ’03 to ’11, 6.3 of the playoff teams each year were new, but in recent years, there has been less turnover among playoff teams. Last year, only four teams — Kansas City, Houston, Minnesota, and Washington — took the leap. The graph below shows the number of teams to make the jump from out of to into the playoffs in each year:
Who will jump into the playoffs this year? The candidates:
Tier A: New York Jets, New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Indianapolis Colts
Tier B: Atlanta Falcons, San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys
Tier C: Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans
Tier D: Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns
Now, here are the contest rules:
1. Pick at least one team from the above list to make the playoffs in 2016. If none of those teams make the playoffs, this contest is over because this would be the most predictable NFL season ever.
2. Pick as many teams from the above list as you like. However, if any of your teams fail to make the playoffs, you lose.
3. If and only if all of the teams on your list make the playoffs, congrats! You are now eligible to win the contest. For each team you have chosen in Tier A, you receive 3 points. For each team in Tier B, you receive 5 points. For each team in Tier C, you receive 7 points. For each team in Tier D, you receive 10 points. Whoever has the most points, wins.
4. More rules: Everyone is limited to one entry per person. This will be enforced by the honor system. If caught breaking this rule, you, your children, and your children’s children will be banned from all future FP contests. I won’t enter the contest myself, which will allow me to arbitrate any dispute impartially. Any ambiguities in the rules will be clarified by me in whatever way causes me the least amount of hassle. Grand prize? TBD, but if honor and glory are not enough, you probably shouldn’t enter.