So, following Washington’s loss to Dallas last night, we have just three undefeated teams remaining. One is the defending Super Bowl champion; the others are the two teams mired in the longest playoff droughts in the league. Following 3-0 starts, there’s obviously a very good chance that the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions finally get back to the postseason.
The Lions and Bills haven’t made the playoffs since 1999, when both snuck in as wild-card teams and lost immediately. At this point, how unlikely is it that both teams still manage to fall short of the playoffs? When two teams start 3-0, at least one of the teams will make the playoffs 19 out of 20 times.
That number comes based on what we’ve seen since playoff reconfiguration in 1990. Dating back to then, 76 percent of 3-0 teams have gone on to make the playoffs.
That’s promising, and that’s all Bills and Lions fans really need to know. But for fans of lovable losers in general who just want to see a good story, the odds are even better.
In order to determine the probability of two mutually inclusive events taking place based on that original number of 76 percent, theScore’s Daniel Santos and I put our heads together for an unacceptable amount of time and applied a logical equation entitled the Or Rule to determine what the chances are that either the Bills or the Lions make it. It doesn’t matter which one.
Based on that formula, there’s a 94 percent chance that one of the two rust belt losers finally gets off the schneid in 2011.
So, which one has a better shot? Let’s look at the remaining 13 games for each:
The Bills can match their 2010 win total with a victory in Cincinnati in Week 4. They follow that up with the potentially Michael Vick-less Eagles in Week 5 and the banged-up Giants in Week 6 before their bye. There’s a decent chance they start 5-1, just as they did in 2008. Beyond that, seven of their final 10 games come against teams that have started 2011 with a 2-1 record (New England, the Jets twice, Washington, Dallas, Tennessee, San Diego). But because Miami sucks, the combined record of the rest of their opponents is 19-20. Manageable.
Bills game-by-game projections:
Week 4: at Bengals — WIN
Week 5: vs. Eagles — WIN
Week 6: at Giants — LOSS
Week 8: vs. Redskins — WIN
Week 9: vs. Jets — LOSS
Week 10: at Cowboys — LOSS
Week 11: at Dolphins — WIN
Week 12: at Jets — LOSS
Week 13: vs. Titans — WIN
Week 14: at Chargers — LOSS
Week 15: vs. Dolphins — WIN
Week 16: vs. Broncos — WIN
Week 17: at Patriots — LOSS
Projected final record: 10-6 (a win at home against the Jets in Week 9 might be the key)
Detroit could create some room for error with three of its next four games at home. A win in Dallas this week would be huge, and the Cowboys are banged up and coming off a short week. After that, they host Chicago, San Francisco and Atlanta. They play Denver on the road before a Week 9 bye. They have a good shot at starting 6-2, maybe even 7-1. The combined record of their final 13 opponents is 21-18, but they’ll play seven home games and six road games (Buffalo is in the opposite situation).
Lions game-by-game projections:
Week 4: at Cowboys — LOSS
Week 5: vs. Bears — WIN
Week 6: vs. 49ers — WIN
Week 7: vs. Falcons — LOSS
Week 8: at Broncos — WIN
Week 10: at Bears — LOSS
Week 11: vs. Panthers — WIN
Week 12: vs. Packers — LOSS
Week 13: at Saints — LOSS
Week 14: vs. Vikings — WIN
Week 15: at Raiders — WIN
Week 16: vs. Chargers — LOSS
Week 17: at Packers — LOSS
Projected final record: 9-7 (they’ll have to beat San Diego, Atlanta or Green Bay at home to have a shot)