For Nine Straight Years, an NFL Team Has Gone From Last Place to 1st Place. Who Does it in 2012?

Each of the last nine seasons, one team in the NFL has vaulted from last place (or tied for last place) to first place the following year. Stat sound familiar? It’s because we wrote this post prior to last season. Thanks to the Texans (and Peyton Manning’s injury), the streak extended last season. (Yup, we nailed the Chiefs and Texans each of the last two years.) Here’s the list, with their previous year’s record in parens:

2003: Carolina Panthers (7-9)/Kansas City Chiefs (8-8)
2004: Atlanta Falcons (5-11)/San Diego Chargers (4-12)
2005: Chicago Bears (5-11)/New York Giants (6-10)
2006: Philadelphia Eagles (6-10)/New Orleans Saints (3-13)/Baltimore Ravens (6-10)
2007: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)
2008: Miami Dolphins (1-15)
2009: New Orleans Saints (8-8)
2010: Kansas City Chiefs (4-12)
2011: Houston Texans (6-10)

The cellar-dwellers from the 2011 season:
Bills/Dolphins 6-10
Browns 4-12
Colts 2-14
Chiefs 7-9
Redskins 5-11
Vikings 3-13
Bucs 4-12
Rams 2-14

I think we can safely eliminate the Dolphins, Browns, Redskins, Vikings and Rams. Why didn’t I put the Colts in that group? I don’t think they will win the AFC South, but it won’t shock me if they’re in the mix. I am a firm believer in Andrew Luck and I have minor reservations about the Texans (tough to say that about a Super Bowl contender, I know), and major ones about the Titans and Jaguars.

That leaves the Bills, Chiefs and Bucs. The Bills will be a very popular choice. If Tom Brady goes down, Buffalo has the defense (not the offense) to win the AFC East. But if Brady doesn’t go down, Buffalo isn’t winning the division. As you’ll see later with my Bucs preview, I really like Tampa Bay this season. I’ll elaborate later.

But I think the pick here has to be the Chiefs. They went 7-9 despite massive injuries. Yes, there are big issues at QB. But the pick would be more about the rest of the division than anything. The Chargers appear to be on the way down. The Raiders are the Raiders. Denver has a brutal schedule, and I don’t think Peyton Manning performs like everyone thinks he will (surgeries, new team, new offense, etc) or survives the season.

In order: Chiefs, Bucs, Bills.

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