The Patriots had the best record in football last year winning 14 games. The Browns avoided going 0-16 by beating the Chargers in Week 16. What can a NFL team’s record from last year tell us about their chances of improving or declining in 2017?

The NFL and regression go hand in hand. Winning teams tend to regress to the mean (8-8 record) just as often as losing teams. Since 2003, there have been 31 teams that won 13 or more games. None of them improved upon that record the next season.

In that same time, there have been 27 NFL teams that finished 3-13 or worse. The next season all but three teams improved their record. On average, teams that had records of 3-13 or worse won 6.2 games the next season.

All teams, including the best and worst squads in the NFL tend to regress toward 8-8. The Patriots won the Super Bowl last year, New England’s win total is posted at 11 for 2017 after winning 14 games a year ago. The Browns have a win total of 4 even though they finished with one win and the first pick in the draft.

There is no guarantee that the Pats and Browns won’t finish with the best and worst records in football once again but regression is king in the NFL.


Week 1: Steelers vs. Browns

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How likely are teams records to improve or decline? (Date from 2003 to 2016)

WinsNo. TeamsAvg Wins Next YearImprove DeclineSame
161110.0%100%0.0%
1539.30.0%100%0.0
14611.70.0%83.3%16.7%
13218.90.0%95.2%4.8%
12319.819.4%58.1%22.6
11349.017.6%76.5%5.9%
10478.229.8%59.6%10.6%
9388.836.8%44.7%18.4%
8537.939.6%41.5%18.9%
7457.142.2%40.0%17.8%
6388.071.1%21.1%7.9%
5336.663.6%27.3%9.1%
4397.184.6%12.8%2.6%
3106.580.0%20.0%0.0%
2145.992.9%7.1%0.0%
129100.0%0.0%0.0%
012100.0%0.0%0.0%