History Repeats Itself? Has the NFL Season Already Been Decided?

Aaron LiebmanAnalyst ISeptember 3, 2008

How do we predict the future?

We look to the past.

Sometimes there are certain acts and trends that occur that enable us to predict what's upcoming. Sports are no different. Granted, we really don't know about these connections until after the season is over. But once that season is done, and we notice it; the future becomes a little clearer.
The New England Patriots will buck the trend of the Super Bowl loser slumping the following season. Since the 2001 season, the runner up has missed the playoffs the next season six out of seven years. The reason why New England will make the playoffs is simply because of the trend of the Super Bowl winner, New York Giants.

In the Giants' three previous Super Bowl trips, the team failed to make the playoffs the next season. In a competitive division like the NFC East, history could continue.
The New Orleans Saints will finish 9-7 this season. How do I know? They're following the trend set by their 2000 team. In that year, the Saints won their division with a 10-6 record, won a home playoff game before being blown out in the next round, and has their first-year coach (Jim Haslett) win Coach of the Year.

The next year of 2001, the Saints slipped to 7-9 and missed the playoffs. Sound familiar? The year following that season was a 9-7 season that saw the Saints lose their final three games on their way to another home-for-the-holidays vacation.
The Jets will make the playoffs this season. Because of Brett Favre? Maybe to the untrained eye. But others will be able to point out how the other New York team operates just like gravity. First up, and then down.

The Jets have been successful in even numbered years and cellar dwellers in odd ones.  They made the playoffs in 2002, 2004, and 2006, while missing in 2003, 2005, and 2007.  Brett Favre arriving is just a red herring for any success the Jets have.
Any team has a shot at winning the NFC South, except for last year's champion, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ever since the inception of the NFC South, the team that took the division crown has been unable to even finish with a .500 record the next season.
That same goes for the AFC North. Granted, the defending champ has occasionally been able to sneak into the playoffs the next season. Heck, the Steelers won the Super Bowl by not winning the division.

But every division winner has been a team that failed to make the playoffs the season before, dating back to the 2003 season, the year after the AFC North's birth.
The Washington Redskins will finish in last place this season. Now, with the competition of the NFC East, that's not a real surprise. But concrete proof is the fact that the last time Joe Gibbs retired from coaching the Redskins, the team finished with a 9-7 record and had the last seed in the playoffs. That would be the last Redskins playoff appearance for the next seven years.
Now, there are always exceptions to the rules, and none of these may materialize. But if they do happen, we'll all know why. And you read it here first.