Making the NFL Playoffs is inextricably linked to strong Divisional records. Since 2006 only one team has made the playoffs per season despite having a losing record in their division. Undoubtedly the Bills need to improve in this area to make an impact in 2012. I thought I'd break down the numbers since 2005 of teams that were traditionally poor in inter-division games to see what is the likelihood of a turnaround from one season to the next. Lets take a look how it panned out after the jump.First of all, there is a fairly large rotation between playoff teams from one season to the next. In all years but 2010 at least 6 playoff teams were not there the year before (the number was 5 in 2010). Therefore all teams that didn't make the playoffs the previous year have a 30% chance of getting there the following year (as opposed to just under 50% for playoff teams), still reasonable odds.
Where it gets more difficult for the Bills is in relation to their divisional record. In each of the last 2 years the Bills have only won 1 inter-division game per season. I wondered how likely it was for a team to turn around such a poor record so analyzed the teams that went from 0 or 1 inter-divisional win in one season to a playoff appearance the following year.
Over the past 7 seasons a total of 11 teams were able to turn around 0 or 1 win inter-divisional records the year before to make the playoffs that year. The most were 3 in 2008 (Miami, Baltimore and Atlanta) and only once (2010) did no team achieve the feat. Remarkably 6 of those teams did not improve their record outside the division yet their improvement in inter-division wins were enough to catapult them into the playoffs. Taking all this into consideration, the odds for Buffalo making the playoffs this year is reduced to around 13.1%, not as great but still very possible.
Finally I analyzed teams that had 2 consecutive years of 0 or 1 win seasons within their division just like the Bills of 2012. Not only would this properly emulate Buffalo's current situation, it was also eliminate the possibility of a normally strong inter-divisional team having a poor season and then bouncing back. Only Washington in 2005 and Miami in 2008 were able to achieve the playoffs with 2 or less divisional wins over a 2 season stretch. Incredibly the Dolphins of 2006-2007 were 1-11 against their AFC East opponents. Thus the odds have now dropped to a staggering 2.78% chance that the Bills turn around recent performances and make the playoffs in 2012.
So what do you think? Do the numbers lie? Is 2005-2011 enough of a case study? Is this season less about the overall record and more about improving the divisional record in order for the team to make strides in 2013 and beyond? Let me know below.