The Houston Texans and Washington Redskins both won their respective divisions in 2012. Last year, they combined to go 5-27. Teams turn over fast in the NFL, and last year's juggernaut could be this year's bottom-feeder getting flexed out of "Sunday Night Football" by Week 10.
In the Football Outsiders Almanac 2014, we forecast the upcoming season with a formula that accounts for everything from performance the past two years to personnel changes to injury history. Then we simulate the season 1 million times, accounting for all the randomness and unknown variables that also will affect the coming season.
Our simulation doesn't spit out results for how often a team specifically finishes fourth, so instead, here are the eight 2013 first-place teams ranked in order of how often they went 6-10 or worse in our 2014 simulations. We should point out that these numbers are fairly low because, more than in most seasons, our projections forecast that the same teams that were playoff contenders in 2013 will also be playoff contenders in 2014. However, one team stands out with a hefty chance of collapse.
On Monday, we ranked division cellar-dwellers from 2013 most likely to win their divisions in 2014. Here are last year's eight first-place teams in their order of likelihood to make the transition from first in 2013 to worst in 2014:
1. Carolina Panthers, 30.0 percent
Carolina's likelihood of collapse starts with one of the strongest elements of forecasting in the NFL: Offense is more consistent from year to year than defense. That means a defense-first team such as Carolina is going to have a harder time repeating as division champion than an offense-first team such as Denver. Inconsistency is a bigger issue for the Carolina defense because three-fourths of its starting secondary from 2013 is gone in free agency.