Goose Egg: The Case of the 0-4 NFC South

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Sep 14, 2011



By Philip Cantin
Cold, Hard Football Facts Saints beat dude


As wild as a boar that overdosed on artificial growth hormones, so it was a wild opening weekend for the NFL.
 
Teams that normally don't get beaten by their division rivals (like the Colts and Steelers) got dropped faster than Quantum Mechanics by a college slacker. Teams that normally pose as a doormat for other teams (like the Bills) slam the door of opportunity in their opponent's face. Although some models of consistency (like the Patriots) continued their reign of modeling, there were many more surprises. A wild weekend, indeed.
 
But it was especially wild, albeit in a different way, for the New Orleans Saints and the rest of the NFC South.
 
After the smoke cleared and the results were in, all four teams in the NFC South tasted defeat during Week 1. The Saints fell behind early, and also fell short in their comeback against the Packers, losing 42-34. The Bears defense was too much for Matt Ryan as they suffered defeat, 30-12. And both Tampa Bay's and Carolina's comebacks fell short also.
 
Before we knew it, many sportswriters already had their “panic” articles written, wondering if some teams that lost their first game were already in trouble for the rest of the 2011 NFL season. Now, you may ask at this point: is such an occurrence a reason to believe that the NFC South going to be the weak division this year? That the NFC South is the new NFC West?
 
Well, if you know your Cold Hard Football Facts, you can easily determine that such a question is like asking a burly man in a barroom if he loathes the consumption of a cold, frosty beer.
 
Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, there have only been five other divisions where each team in the division dropped its opening game:
 
  • 1975 NFC West (1 team with a winning record)
  • 1983 AFC Central (2 teams with a winning record)
  • 1984 AFC Central (1 team with a winning record)
  • 2001 NFC East * (1 team with a winning record)
  • 2002 AFC North (2 teams with a winning record)
 * This division played football when there only existed 31 NFL teams, and one team had a bye during Week 1. In this case, the Cardinals did, and since they lost to the Denver Broncos during Week 2, technically all teams in this division dropped their opening game even though not all of them played in Week 1. There was also a sixth division, the 1999 AFC West, where all teams that played in Week 1 lost. However, this season also had a similar bye format, and it was the Chargers who had the bye in Week 1; the following week, they beat the Cincinnati Bengals, so they actually didn't lose their opening game.

Before we look at the data, a little tidbit of information: the reason why this statistic doesn't occur too often is because several games on opening weekend are division rival games. Thus in many cases it is not even possible for all teams within a division to lose their first game, because obviously there will be at least one winner in that division after Week 1.
 
So according to history, how exactly did the standings turn out in the end after each team started 0-1? The results are below:
 
1975 NFC West Standings:
 
Team W L
Los Angeles Rams 12 2
San Francisco 49ers 5 9
Atlanta Falcons 4 10
New Orleans Saints 2 12


1983 AFC Central Standings:
 
Team W L
Pittsburgh Steelers 10 6
Cleveland Browns 9 7
Cincinnati Bengals 7 9
Houston Oilers 2 14

 
1984 AFC Central Standings:
 
Team W L
Pittsburgh Steelers 9 7
Cincinnati Bengals 8 8
Cleveland Browns 5 11
Houston Oilers 3 13

 
2001 NFC East Standings:
 
Team W L
Philadelphia Eagles 11 5
Washington Redskins 8 8
New York Giants 7 9
Arizona Cardinals 7 9
Dallas Cowboys 5 11


2002 AFC North Standings:
 
Team W L T
Pittsburgh Steelers 10 5 1
Cleveland Browns 9 7 0
Baltimore Ravens 7 9 0
Cincinnati Bengals 2 14 0

 
As you can see, the outcomes are a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, you have the 1975 Rams that rebounded with a 12-1 finish to completely dominate an otherwise weak division. On the other hand, you also have the 2002 Steelers who narrowly edged out the others in a fairly competitive division (and speaking of the Steelers, how ironic that their division experienced this oddity three different times throughout their franchise’s history!).
 
So now what? Should NFC South fans panic and stress over the possibility that their division will become the "new NFC West"? Take it from the AFC North franchises that have been there and done that: put away those blood pressure machines, and kick those boisterous sirens to the curb.
 
It's much too early to tell.

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