Who Will Be the New Fantastic (Almost) Four?

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Long-time readers will be familiar with the Fantastic Four category I throw around here.  When I started the old Blue & Silver Report in ’05, I started annual reviews of the pre-season magazines which are released every June, but gave up, because I found they did not account for the incredible churn that goes on year-to-year in the NFL.  If you looked at their pre-season predictions, invariably they took last year’s playoff field, added one “surprise team” and left it at that.

League rules have promoted parity for more than a generation, and if you look at the playoff fields year-to-year, you’ll notice that half the teams that make the post-season one year are replaced the next.  It’s a roughly 50% turnover.

What’s more, most of the playoff newcomers in a given year were losers the previous year.  It’s not just that  on average, six of the twelve playoff teams are fresh faces, but that four of those six were 7-9 or worse one year prior.  Here’s the full list, going back to 1999 — 48 teams have taken the loser-to-postseason leap in thirteen campaigns, 3.7 per year.   The numbers fell off a bit in ’07 and in ’09, when several 8-8 teams make the leap, but last year, five teams jumped from the doghouse to the NFL penthouse, the third time this has occurred since the ’99 season.

So take a good hard look at those seemingly down-trodden teams.  The 4-12ers, the 6-10ers, the 7-9ers.  Think they’re all doomed to another year of disappointment?  Think again.  Some of them have us “experts” right where they want us.

In today’s NFL no team should be counted out in June.  Not one.

1999
Rams:  13-3, 4-12 in ’98;  S.B. Champs
Colts: 13-3, 3-13 in ’98
Redskins:  10-6, 6-10 in ’98

2000
Giants: 12-4, 7-9 in ’99
Eagles: 11-5, 5-11 in ’99
Saints: 10-6, 3-13 in ’99
Broncos: 11-5, 6-10 in ’99

2001
Patriots: 11-5, 5-11 in ’00;  S.B. Champs
Bears: 13-3, 5-11 in ’00
49ers: 12-4, 6-10 in ’00

2002
Titans 11-5, 7-9 in ’01
Giants 10-6,  7-9 in ’01
Falcons 9-6-1, 7-9 in ’01
Browns 9-7,  7-9 in ’01

2003
Rams 12-4, 7-9 in ’02
Panthers 11-5, 7-9 in ’02;  NFC Champs
Seahawks 10-6, 7-9 in ’02
Ravens 10-6, 7-9 in ’02
Cowboys 10-6, 5-11 in ’02

2004
Steelers 15-1, 6-10 in ’03
Chargers 12-4, 4-12 in ’03
Falcons 11-5, 5-11 in ’03
Jets 10-6, 6-10 in ’03

2005
Giants 11-5, 6-10 in ’04
Bears 11-5, 5-11 in ’04
Bucs 11-5, 5-11 in ’04
Panthers 11-5, 7-9 in ’04
Redskins 10-6, 6-10 in ’04

2006
Ravens 13-3, 6-10 in ’05
Saints 10-6, 3-13 in ’05
Jets 10-6, 4-12 in ’05
Eagles 10-6, 6-10 in ’05

2007
Bucs: 9-7, 4-12 in ’06
Redskins: 9-7, 6-10 in ’06

2008
Panthers: 12-4, 7-9 in ’07
Dolphins: 11-5, 1-15 in ’07
Ravens: 11-5, 5-11 in ’07
Falcons: 11-5, 4-12 in ’07

2009
Packers: 11-5, 6-10 in ’08
Bengals: 10-6, 4-11-1 in ’08

2010
Bears 11-5, 7-9 in ’09
Chiefs: 10-6, 4-12 in ’09
Seahawks: 7-9, 5-11 in ’09

2011
49ers: 13-3,  6-10 in ’10
Texans: 10-6,  6-10 in ’10
Lions: 10-6,  6-10 in ’10
Bengals: 9-7, 4-12 in ’10
Broncos: 8-8, 4-12 in ’10

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Rafael Vela

Rafael Vela

Started covering Dallas Cowboys @ TheBoys.com in '95 and '96. Two more stops along the way and here I am. Senior Analyst for SportsTalkLine.com