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Playoff Prediction Primer: Who Will Be the Rebound Teams in the NFL This Year?

Why is Keith Brooking smiling? Does he already know which teams will rebound into the playoffs this year?
Why is Keith Brooking smiling? Does he already know which teams will rebound into the playoffs this year?

As we are nearing the end of a physically punishing pre-season and approaching the start of the regular season, many a pigskin pundit's pencil is being sharpened right now as they start writing articles with their playoff participant picks.

Some of these lists will basically be a rehash of last year's playoff picture, and for good measure they'll throw in a team or two that missed the playoffs last year.

The more polished pigskin prognosticators will take into account the "churn" factor in compiling their lists: By now it's been pretty well established and it's become common knowledge that the playoff field churns by about 50% from year to year. This effectively means that six teams which made the playoffs last year probably won't make the playoffs again this year.

However, what few predictions take into account is the "rebound" factor.

The "rebound" factor is a phenomenon that has been chronicled by Rafael Vela for a couple of years now. Rafael found that this decade, an average of about four teams that had a losing record in the previous season made the playoffs in the following season.

Don't believe it? Below is the full list of the Churn Factor and the Rebound Factor in the playoffs since 1992. Why 1992? Because that's when the league moved to the current 12-team playoff format.

Playoff Participants by Year, 1992-2009
"Churn" Factor
teams that didn't make the
playoffs the year before
"Rebound" Factor
teams with losing records
the year before
Year # Teams Teams # Teams Teams
1992 7 KC, Mia, Min, Phi, Pit, SD, SF 2 Pit, SD
1993 5 Den, Det, GB, NYG, Oak 3 Det, NYG, Oak
1994 5 Chi, Cle, Mia, NE, SD 3 Chi, Cle, NE
1995 4 Atl, Buf, Ind, Phi 3 Atl, Buf, Phi
1996 5 Car, Den, Jac, Min, NE 3 Car, Jac, NE
1997 5 Det, KC, Mia, NYG, TB 3 Det, NYG, TB
1998 5 Ari, Atl, Buf, Dal, NYJ 4 Ari, Atl, Buf, Dal
1999 7 Det, Ind, Sea, StL, TB, Ten, Was 4 Det, Ind, StL, Was
2000 6 Bal, Den, NO, NYG, Oak, Phi 4 Den, NO, NYG, Phi
2001 6 Chi, GB, NE, NYJ, Pit, SF 3 Chi, NE, SF
2002 5 Atl, Cle, Ind, NYG, Ten 5 Atl, Cle, Ind, NYG, Ten
2003 8 Bal, Car, Dal, Den, KC, NE, Sea, StL 5 Bal, Car, Dal, Sea, StL
2004 5 Atl, Min, NYJ, Pit, SD 4 Atl, NYJ, Pit, SD
2005 7 Car, Chi, Cin, Jac, NYG, TB, Was 5 Car, Chi, NYG, TB, Was
2006 7 Bal, Dal, KC, NO, NYJ, Phi, SD 4 Bal, NO, NYJ, Phi
2007 6 GB, Jac, Pit, TB, Ten, Was 2 TB, Was
2008 7 Atl, Ari, Bal, Car, Mia, Min, Phi 4 Atl, Bal, Car, Mia
2009 6 Cin, Dal, GB, NE, NO, NYJ 2 Cin, GB

The Churn Factor data comes courtesy of Bob Sturm who compiled it in this post on his blog.

The average churn since 1992 has been 5.9 teams, over the last decade it's been 6.3 teams. The total average rebound has been 3.5 and has moved up to an average of 3.8 in the last ten years.

2007 and 2009 have been off years for the Rebound Factor, with only two teams making the playoffs who had losing records the previous year. But in defense of the Rebound Factor, in 2009, the Saints and Chargers made the payoffs with an 8-8 record the previous year. In 2007, a staggering five teams made the payoffs with an 8-8 record the previous year (Jaguars, Steelers, Giants, Titans, Packers).

The biggest rebound since 1992 was achieved by the 2008 Dolphins, who had compiled a 1-15 record in 2007 and reached the playoffs in 2008 with a 11-5 record. The Cowboys have rebounded into the playoffs two times: 1998 & 2003. Of the 63 teams that rebounded from a losing record into the playoffs since 1992, here's how many wins they racked up in the previous season:

Rebound teams: Wins in season prior to playoff season
Wins 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
# Teams - - 1 - - 3 9 13 17 20

The three 3-win teams in this table to rebound into the playoffs were the '99 Colts as well as the '00 & '06 Saints.

Now that you're fully familiar with the Rebound Factor, which teams will you pick as your rebound teams this year, and why?

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