2009 NFL Doormats: Are the Losing Teams Really That Bad?

Donna CavanaghCorrespondent IOctober 29, 2009

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 11: Rob Bironas #2 of the Tennessee Titans kicks the ball during the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at LP Field on October 11, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Colts defeated the Titans 31-9.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We are big believers in the old saying, “You are never as good as you look when you are winning, nor as bad as you look when you are losing.” With that said, we decided to take our PossessionPoints.com schedule analysis work in a slightly different direction and look at the losing teams in the NFL.

We probably do not have to tell you this, but right now the losing teams this season look really bad. After Week Seven in the NFL, there are 15 teams with records over .500, five teams with .500 records, and 12 teams under .500.

If you look at the combined records of those 12 losing teams, you will find that they have just 16 wins combined. That’s right—a 16-63 combined record for a winning percentage of just 0.203. It would seem these losing teams are the “NFL Doormats”, and they clearly have the “welcome” sign out.

We like to be thorough, so we also want to note that the .500 teams are a combined 15-15 while the winning teams are 72-25 for a winning percentage of 0.742.

Now, before we go any further with our analysis, we need to take a quick sanity check.

How different are these percentages from last season? In 2008, there were 16 teams with records over 0.500, five teams with 0.500 records and 11 teams under 0.500.

The losing teams were 46-129-1 for a 0.263 percentage; the 0.500 teams were 40-40; and the winning teams were 169-86-1 for a 0.663 percentage.

Both the distribution of teams and the winning percentage are not that far off after Week Seven of 2009 from what they were for all of 2008, so we will continue with the analysis.

We decided to look at quality wins and bad losses. We define a “quality win” as a win over a team with a .500 or better record and a "bad loss" as a loss to a team with a sub-.500 record.

So by definition, looking at the 2009 records, you can see there are 16 bad losses so far (number of wins by losing teams) and 40 quality wins (number of losses by winning and .500 teams)

There is one situation where there is double counting. When a winning team loses to a losing team, it is a quality win for the under .500 team and a bad loss for the over .500 team. When two under .500 teams, play we do record a bad loss but hey, somebody has to win. Similarly, when two over .500 teams play, somebody is going to get a quality win.

It is the double counting situation that is most interesting. This year, there have been four bad losses by currently over .500 teams. Two of those bad losses belong to the Jets as they have lost to both the Dolphins(2-4) and the Bills(3-4). Another bad loss is owned by the Eagles, who lost to the Raiders(2-5), while the final bad loss belongs to the Jaguars(3-3) who lost to the Chiefs(1-6).

Keep in mind, unlike season ending analysis on the 2008 data, this is a snapshot in time. So, for example, a win by the Bills this week which would move them up to .500, would erase one of the Jets’ bad losses. 

With that said, there are a couple of other interesting things to take from the “Quality Win”(QW) / “Bad Loss” (BL) chart below. Note the Titans (0-6), Lions (1-5), Browns (1-6), Raiders (2-5), Dolphins (2-4), and Seahawks (2-4) all have no bad losses. That means all of their losses have come at the hands of teams who have .500 records or better. Conversely, the Redskins and Bucs both have three bad losses.

When we look at last season’s chart (not included in this article but available on our site ) like the one above, we note a couple of things.

First, the Packers (6-10), only had one bad loss and three quality wins, which means of their 16 games, 12 were against teams with a .500 record or better.

The second fact that stood out was that there were 10 teams with zero bad losses. The Titans, Steelers, Panthers, Cardinals, Falcons, Patriots, Eagles, Ravens, Dolphins and Saints.

Perhaps you will note from that list, the only two teams that did not make the playoffs were the Saints and Patriots. It sounds obvious, that a good path to the playoffs is to avoid bad losses.

Along these same lines, we wanted to show this weeks update to a chart we debuted a couple of weeks ago in the article “NFL 2009 Win–Loss Records: A Look At The Schedule Excuse. "

You will note that there are now three teams with records over .500 that have played teams with combined records above .500 (highlighted in green). There are also only three teams with records under .500 that have played teams with combined records of under .500 (highlighted in tan).

Of the currently unbeaten teams, the Broncos have played the best opposition so far as their past opponents have a combined record exactly equal to .500. That helps explain how they have four quality wins in the first chart.

As we said in the beginning, our philosophy has always been to find new ways to analyze all the data that comes out of the NFL. Although our approach may not be traditional, it does give fans the opportunity to see how teams truly perform from season to season.