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Back from the depths

Bears, Patriots latest to go from cellar to penthouse

Posted: Tuesday January 08, 2002 2:17 AM

 
Out of Nowhere
The Bears' record and NFC Central finish the past five seasons.
Year  Rec.  Finish 
2001  13-3  1st 
2000  5-11  5th 
1999  6-10  5th 
1998  4-12  5th 
1997  4-12  5th 
 

By Jacob Luft, CNNSI.com

There have been plenty of surprising turnarounds in the NFL these past few parity-filled seasons.

The Rams went from 4-12 in 1998 to Super Bowl champions in 1999. The Saints of 1999 were 3-13 only to go 10-6 and win the NFC West the following season.

But what the Chicago Bears have done this season deserves some special commendation. Not only were the Bears cellar dwellers last season, but also the season before that, and the season before that ... etc. For four consecutive seasons, Chicago lived at the bottom of the NFC Central before posting a shocking 13-3 record and winning a division crown this year. In those four seasons, the Bears' cumulative record was 19-45.

The Patriots pulled a worst-to-first turnaround this season as well, having finished in last place each of the past two seasons before winning the AFC East.

Overall, there have been 15 worst-to-first seasons in the NFL since the 1970 merger, with six coming in the past five years. This is only the second time that two teams have done it in the same season. The other was 1999, when the Rams and Colts won their divisions.

Only three of the 15 Cinderella stories ended their seasons in the Super Bowl, with the Rams being the only champions.

Also, there have been 15 clubs to go from the cellar to earning a wild-card berth, but only one has gone as far as the conference title game -- the 1996 Jaguars.

Worst to First
Last-place teams that won the division the following season (since 1970).
Team  Year  Rec.  Following Season, Playoffs 
Patriots  2000  5-11  2001: 11-5, ???? 
Bears  2000  5-11  2001: 13-3, ???? 
Saints  1999  3-13  2000: 10-6, Lost divisional round 
Colts  1998  3-13  1999: 13-3, Lost divisional round 
Rams  1998  4-12  1999: 13-3, Won Super Bowl 
Giants*  1996  6-10  1997: 10-5-1, lost wild-card round 
Chargers*  1991  4-12  1992: 11-5, Lost divisional round 
Broncos  1990  5-11  1991: 12-4, Lost AFC title game 
Bengals  1989  8-8  1990: 9-7, Lost divisional round 
Bengals  1987  4-11  1988: 12-4, Lost Super Bowl 
Colts  1986  3-13  1987: 9-6, Lost divisonal round 
Bengals  1980  6-10  1981: 12-4, Lost Super Bowl 
Bucs  1978  5-11  1979: 10-6, Lost NFC title game 
Colts*  1974  2-12  1975: 10-4, Lost divisional round 
Packers  1971  4-8-2  1972: 10-4, Lost divisional round 
* Changed coaches between seasons
 

 

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