In 2010, three NFL teams - including the Buffalo Bills - finished the year with a 4-12 record. If recent history is an indication, the odds are outstanding that the team will be improving should they get the opportunity to play in 2011.
Since 2002 - when the expansion Texans joined the league and brought about divisional re-alignment - 26 teams have finished with a 4-12 record in that nine-year window. 23 of them (all but the three 2010 teams) have since completed at least one year of play, and of those 23 teams, only two regressed record-wise the following year: both the 2006 Raiders and 2008 Chiefs finished 2-14. Incidentally, Bills head coach Chan Gailey was Kansas City's offensive coordinator in 2008.
That means the Bills, based on recent history, have an 8.7 percent chance of finishing 3-13 or worse in 2011. (No team finished 4-12 in consecutive seasons.) That's compared to the 43.5 percent (10 of 23) of 4-12 teams that have gone on to double their win total and finish .500 or better the following season. Taken alone, without application to the Bills, that stat is rather remarkable.
Five of the 23 teams made the playoffs a year after finishing 4-12, with three of those teams - the '04 Chargers, '07 Buccaneers and '10 Chiefs - winning division titles. (The '06 Jets and '08 Falcons clinched a Wild Card berth.) Again: the fact that the number of playoff teams in this group more than doubles the number of teams that got worse is impressive. Bills GM Buddy Nix, by the way, was with those '04 Chargers in a scouting capacity. The five playoff teams were a combined 0-5 in the post-season.