Every season, there are at least a few atrocious NFL teams, teams that are disasters. But this season there are six of those teams—Jets, Jaguars, Titans, Raiders, Buccaneers, and Washington. Which seems like an abnormally high amount of shitty teams. So using Pro Football Reference data, we examined the six worst NFL teams each season since the merger to give this year's cohort some context.
We used records followed by point differentials for teams with the same record, to determine the six worst teams each season. This year's worst six teams have an average winning percentage of 17.45 percent, which ranks for the third lowest since the merger, and until last night forced the wretched Titans and Jaguars to play each other—and thereby receive a win—was tied for the lowest with 1976. That 1976 season has the lowest winning percentage with 16.67 percent, but in 1976 NFL teams only played 14 games. And 1976 cohort's numbers are also influenced by a winless Tampa Bay squad that might have been the worst team in NFL history. The second-ranking cohort, 2008, which had a 17.18 winning percentage, also featured a winless team (the Lions) considered among the worst teams in NFL history.
So those seasons that rate out worse than this year are all anchored by a historically abysmal team, but what makes this year special is how consistently shitty these teams are. And there are just 8.1 percentage points between the best and worst records among this year's group. Only 2003 (6.3 percentage points) and 1998 (6.2 percentage points) featured smaller ranges. The 1976 group, which had the lowest winning percentage, featured the second-highest range at 28.6 percentage points. Meaning there was a lot of separation between winless Tampa Bay and the sixth-worst team that year, the 4-10 Falcons. This year, it's pretty difficult to find much difference between the 3-11 Jets and Redskins and the 2-12 Jaguars and Bucs.
But losing games is only part of what makes teams awful. It also matters how badly those games are lost. Looking at point differentials, this year's group looks slightly better, on average scoring 10.1 points per game fewer than their opponents, which ranks eighth since the merger. 1972 ranks first with teams getting beat by an average of 12.54 points per game. But in 1972 there was a big range (10.29 points) between the Patriots who scored 18.14 points fewer per contest than their opponents, and the Cardinals who were outscored by 7.85 points per game. This year's range is much lower, 3.93 points, and is the second lowest range since the merger as there's not much difference between Oakland getting outscored by 12 points per game and Tampa or Washington getting outscored by 8.07 points per game.
The table below is sortable and gives ranks and ranges for winning percentages and point differentials. What's remarkable this season isn't how bad the Jets, Raiders, etc. are in isolation. What's amazing is how consistently horrible the group is as a whole since there's very little separating the NFL's worst team from its sixth worst team. There have been groups of teams that got beat by more points and there are others that had similar records to this year's cohort. But there has never been a group effort at sucking quite like this before.