What Does 8-8 Get You in the NFL?

Rick OliverCorrespondent IJune 5, 2009

DENVER - NOVEMBER 02:  The Denver Bronco cheerleaders perform as the Broncos host the Miami Dolphins during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 2, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Dolphins defeated the Broncos 26-17.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

8-8, we have all been there but what does it mean for the upcoming season. I am a numbers guy by nature so I had a curiosity about what the numbers would tell me about what to expect for my team in the upcoming season. 


In 2008 four teams, Denver, New Orleans, San Diego and Washington went 8-8. What does history tell us about the future of 8-8 teams? To examine this, I analyzed the past 10 (1998 – 2007) seasons for which we have results of the next year’s outcome. 


The results were somewhat surprising to me. I had assumed that 8-8 was a stopping point for teams at the bottom on their way up or teams at the top on their way down.  While this is partially true it doesn’t tell the whole story. 


To a surprising extent teams are stuck in the seven to nine win range, of the 32 NFL teams eight have spent at least 5 years stuck in the middle of the pack. All but four teams have posted at least one 8-8 season in the past 10 years.


From 1998 through 2007, 39 teams ended the season with an 8-8 record. In an average year 3.9 teams have an 8-8 record, the highest total was nine teams in 1999 and the lowest was one team, Atlanta in 2005.  


The mode, for you statistical nuts was two, recorded in 2000, 2001 and 2003. Three different clubs have perfected mediocrity three times over the ten year span.


The question is what becomes of these teams the next year and what should we expect from our beloved teams stuck in the middle. Are the playoffs out of the question, what about the Super Bowl, or are they next year’s bottom dwellers? 


As it turns out the average number of wins for an 8-8 team the next year is 7.9. Only four teams, 10.3% of the total have posted back to back balancing acts. However, 18 times, 46.2% of the total, these teams have ended the next season between seven and nine wins, mired in mediocrity. 


Nine teams, 23.1% of the total, posted six or fewer wins and 12 teams, 30.8% of the total posted 10 or more wins.


Of the teams on the way down the biggest faller were the 1999 Chargers, posting one measly win the following year. The one win yielded LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees in the following draft. 


They managed to avoid the infamous dog fighter Michael Vick and set themselves up as perennial contenders in the AFC West, though it would take a few more bumps in the road to complete the transition.


The best season posted following an 8-8 season was 13-3, accomplished first by Tennessee in 1999 and again by Kansas City in 2003. Fifteen teams, 38.5% of the total, have reached the playoffs the following year. 


On average 1.5 teams reach the playoffs the following an eight win season. Of the eight teams from the 2006 season five made the playoffs the following year. In 2007 there were three 8-8 teams and all three made the playoffs the next year with Arizona reaching the Super Bowl. 


There have been a total of four teams, 1999 Titans, 2000 Ravens, 2007 Giants and the 2008 Cardinals that have reached the Super Bowl following an 8-8 season and two of those teams, the Ravens and Giants have won the Super Bowl. 


The other two losing teams were also within a play of the championship.


So what does this all tell us?  In total it gives us an idea of what to expect and what can be accomplished. For each individual team it tells us very little. There are too many other factors left out. 


This doesn’t account for players retiring, gained or lost in free agency, drafted or returning from injury. We also have no information about coaching changes, scheme changes or strength of schedule. So in the end to have our answer we will just have to wait until they play the games. 


And it is only June.