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The New Fantastic Four

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Since the 2000 season, 19 clubs who had losing records the previous year have made the playoffs. That's a remarkable average of almost four teams per season. In fact, there have been four teams making this jump every year except 2001, when three teams did it. Here is the list:

2000
Giants, 12-4; 7-9 in '99
Eagles, 11-5; 5-11 in '99
Saints, 10-6; 3-13 in '99
Broncos, 11-5; 6-10 in '99

2001
Patriots, 11-5; 5-11 in '00
Bears, 13-3; 5-11 in '00
49ers, 12-4; 6-10 in '00

2002
Titans, 11-5; 7-9 in '01
Colts, 10-6; 6-10 in '01
Giants, 10-6; 7-9 in '01
Falcons, 9-6-1; 7-9 in '01

2003
Ravens, 10-6; 7-9 in '02
Cowboys, 10-6; 5-11 in '02
Panthers, 11-5; 7-9 in '02
Seahawks, 10-6; 7-9 in '02

2004
Jets, 10-6; 6-10 in '03
Steelers, 15-1; 6-10 in '03
Chargers, 12-4; 4-12 in '03
Falcons, 11-5; 5-11 in '03

This trend suggests that four more teams will cycle upwards this year. The list also shows why we've been beating up on the preseason annuals, who have all penciled in most of last year's playoff field, with only one or two revisions. This topic started downthread on an earlier post, but I'm going to modify is slightly.

Who will the Fantastic Four, 2005 edition be? My guesses are the Cowboys, Panthers, Cardinals and Raiders. The Giants are my dark horse pick, as I can see all four swing teams coming from the NFC, which is in far more flux than the AFC. (And yes, I know this contradicts my earlier prediction of the Cowboys going 9-7 and missing the playoffs, but after looking at the NFC a bit more closely, I'm feeling more optimistic.)