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The 2015 Carolina Panthers and One Hit Wonders

The 1999 Rams weren’t a fluke. They were a shocking team that went from terrible to excellent overnight, but their success in 2000 and 2001 proved that the team wasn’t a fluke.

The 2015 Panthers? That may be a different story.  In 2014, Carolina went 7-8-1, before winning 7.5 more games (counting a tie as half a win) in 2015 as part of a magical 15-1 season.  Last year, Carolina’s win total dropped by 9 games to 6-10. That means the Panthers 2015 season was, on average, 8.25 wins better than how the team performed in the two surrounding years.

How does that stack up among all teams since the merger? Well, it’s the second biggest outlier since 1970.  Can you guess the first?

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The third team, after the 2014-2016 Panthers, with the biggest swing? The 1997-1999 Falcons, who went from 7-9 to 14-2 to 5-11, for an average drop of 8.0 wins. The table below shows the teams since 1970 to have one positive outlier season that produced an average of 6.0 wins (after pro-rating for non-16 game seasons) more than in the year before and year after:

RkTeamYear NN-1 W%Yr N W%N+ W%Avg Win Change
1Chicago Bears20010.3130.8130.2508.50
2Carolina Panthers20150.4690.9380.3758.25
3Atlanta Falcons19980.4380.8750.3138.00
4Baltimore Ravens20060.3750.8130.3137.50
5San Francisco 49ers19810.3750.8130.3337.33
6Miami Dolphins20080.0630.6880.4387.00
9.5Tampa Bay Buccaneers20100.1880.6250.2506.50
9.5Tampa Bay Buccaneers20050.3130.6880.2506.50
9.5Pittsburgh Steelers20040.3750.9380.6886.50
9.5Indianapolis Colts19990.1880.8130.6256.50
9.5Indianapolis Colts19920.0630.5630.2506.50
9.5Detroit Lions19910.3750.7500.3136.50
17Dallas Cowboys20140.5000.7500.2506.00
17Washington Redskins20120.3130.6250.1886.00
17Atlanta Falcons20120.6250.8130.2506.00
17Houston Texans20120.6250.7500.1256.00
17Cleveland Browns20070.2500.6250.2506.00
17Green Bay Packers20070.5000.8130.3756.00
17New York Jets20060.2500.6250.2506.00
17St. Louis Rams19990.2500.8130.6256.00
17Houston Oilers19930.6250.7500.1256.00

As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

  • sacramento gold miners

    Don’t know why, but in 2015, I had the uneasy feeling Carolina wouldn’t be able to sustain their success. The 1999 Falcons were devastated with an ACL injury to Jamal Anderson early that season. The 2000 Rams had a huge defensive letdown from the previous season, it was a disaster.

  • Ray Gunn

    One consolation for the Steelers’ “down year” in 2005 was that they won the Super Bowl.

  • Josh Sanford

    I guessed wrong–I thought it was the 1999 Colts. I also guessed wrong on this: I thought there would be a second chart that subtracted from the Avg. Win Change a number equal to N-year league-wide Avg. Win Change. I went 0-2. Here’s hoping I can sustainably improve my win total next time.

  • Tom

    Somewhat surprised to see the 1981 49ers on this list…we generally think of them as a strong, consistent team in the 1980’s, just wouldn’t have thought they would have had an up-and-down three years like that. Looking closer, we see that 1982 was the strike year with only 9 games, so there 7 games in which they could have won enough games to get them off this list. Also, the 6 games they lost were at least competitive – average PD of -4.5 – and Joe Cool didn’t have a “bad” year either, the 49ers were 3rd in ANY/A. I’m thinking what looks like a “bad” year for the 49ers might have just been a “somewhat bad and weird” year.

    • sacramento gold miners

      Bill Walsh spoke about the 1982 49ers on a program I saw a while back. The team just didn’t know how to handle success, and this has been a recurring theme in different sports. Instead of build-up to success, the ’81 49ers came out of nowhere to win it all. I think after 1982, the Niners became hungry again, and the rest is history. Have no doubt the likes of Montana and Lott had no letdown, but all you need is several players to decline, and that can make all the difference.

      • Tom

        That’s pretty interesting…I guess we couldn’t expect them to just beat the crap out of everyone in ’82, but yeah, if Walsh says there was somewhat of a letdown we have to go with it. They lost a bunch of close games as I noted, but looking at the SOS it looks like those teams weren’t so good…

        • sacramento gold miners

          There was a noteworthy game that season when the 49ers lost a tight one to the Chargers. It was a fun out of conference matchup, like what happened a decade later, when the Bills played at San Francisco.

          • td

            That was a tough matchup- 1982 was the last year Dan Fouts was DAN FOUTS, future HoF quarterback, and Don Coryell’s last playoff team, really a matchup of two teams heading in different directions. Interconference games between Hall of Fame quarterbacks are always fun, because they feel rare

    • I actually thought of them as a possibility. Walsh apparently briefly considered trading Montana after the season to the Colts for Elway, so that’s why it stays in my mind that they had a down ’82 season.

  • Tim Truemper

    Great number of teams listed occurred on or after 1993 when the era of authentic free agency got underway. Only exceptions are 1991 Lions and 1981 Forty-niners.

    • Tom

      You’re right, and as I noted below, not sure we can even count the 1982 season since they only played 9 games that year.

  • Richie

    I thought the Titans might be on the list, but all their “flukes” came in pairs. Since moving to Tennessee, they made the playoffs 6 times – consisting of three back-to-back playoff seasons.

  • John

    I agree with the 01 Bears being the biggest one-hit wonder. One of the flukiest teams ever. They had guys like The Shane Matthews Band and Jim Miller at QB.

  • Shockingly, the first team I thought of was right. It felt like we spent about six years hearing that Dick Jauron was actually a great coach based on that one season.