View Full Version : The importance of divisional wins

10-05-2008, 01:07 PM
With the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last week, the question was posed on the board: How important are Divisional wins and losses? Most of us would completely agree that divisional wins are one of the most important things in the NFL, especially with the amount of parity we’ve seen in the league the last five years. But, do the numbers back up the widely-spread assertion?


In the six full seasons that the NFL has had the four-team divisions, which is 2002-2007, the average playoff team has had 4.4 divisional wins and 1.6 divisional losses, a win percentage of .741. Subsequently, the win percentage, overall, for those same 72 teams that made the playoffs in those six years, is .691.

The average playoff team goes 11-5 in that same stretch. The average win loss is a little skewed, because two playoff teams in those six years had ties on their record. The Steelers and Falcons had a tie in 2002. Technically, the average playoff team has had 11 wins, 4.6 losses and .4 ties. But just that one game skewed the numbers. The interesting number is the out-of-division games, where playoff teams averaged 6.6 wins and 3.4 losses, a .662 winning percentage.

So how does that relate to the importance of divisional games, because after all, you’d expect the better teams in the league to have a good record in divisional games. So let’s take a look at the “last two” out in those same six years. I took the two teams in each conference that were No. 7 and No. 8 in their league, and missed the playoffs. The obvious difference is that these teams won an average of 8.6 games and lost an average of 7.4, a .536 winning percentage. But it’s the win percentage in divisional games that makes that one or two game difference. Those four teams that were the last out of the playoffs averaged 3.3 divisional wins and 2.7 divisional losses, a .556 winning percentage. Well below that of the playoff teams.

To break it down even further, very few playoff teams have had a sub-.500 record within their division. Out of those 72 teams, the 2007 Jaguars and 2006 Cowboys were the only two teams to have sub-.500 records and reach the playoffs. Interestingly enough, both were in divisions that qualified their divisional winner and claimed both wild card spots. Furthermore, only seven teams have had 3-3 divisional records. That means 63 of the playoff teams since 2002 have had divisional records over .500.

Now, the Broncos sit at 2-1 in the division with a game against all three teams left. They certainly could sit at 4-2 or 5-1 to end the season, and that would bode well for them. If the Broncos take care of business at home, steal a few road games and win their divisional games, they will be a playoff team. But if you don’t win your divisional games, you probably aren’t going to get into the playoffs, as we saw two years ago when Kansas City won the tiebreaker, and were the last team in, on that very thing, divisional record.

Of course…as I sit here on this Sunday afternoon, I don’t think having to have the tiebreaker over the Chiefs is going to matter, as they are getting worked by a decent Carolina Panthers team. :beer: The Chargers, on the other hand, might be a different story.

10-05-2008, 01:17 PM
Great article MB.

10-05-2008, 09:43 PM
Also, one of the first tie-breakers for a home field game or the difference between a higher/lower seed can be your division record. Not only does it matter for your own division, but it plays a huge part in seeding and a home game. Head to head is first, then division record.