The Saskatchewan Roughriders will be a better team in 2016, I mean, it can’t get any worse, right?
That’s a statement that has been made both seriously and in jest across Saskatchewan since the start of the new year. In all likelihood, the Riders should be a better team this season because it’s pretty hard to do much worse than they did last year. The offence should be at least at the same and the defence actually can’t be worse. So yes, the Green and White should be better.
How much better is the question.
That question got me thinking about how last place teams have fared in the CFL the following season. Since I am no math wiz and we at 3 Down Nation have one on staff, I asked our Mark Fulton to look into it. Fulton actually wrote about the subject regarding the Redblacks last year. This time, we’re going a little further back in time and focusing more on the west.
For the sake of consistency numbers were tracked since 1996. That’s when the American teams folded and the league has more or less been the same other than Ottawa coming and going a couple of times.
The first question is what are the odds the Riders make the playoffs this year?
As you can see, 52 per cent of the time the last place team in the west makes the playoffs the following year. That number increases to 54 per cent league wide. The chances of playing in the West Final or Grey Cup are significantly lower. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as it’s difficult to turn around a last place football team in just one season. Case in point, only one team has won the Grey Cup after finishing last the previous season since 1996, that was the 2011 Toronto Argonauts. The Riders do have some history on their side as they finished last in 1996 and made it to the Grey Cup in 1997 before losing to the Argos. However, the following season was not nearly as successful.
The other question I had was, on average, how many more wins do last place teams pick up the following season?
The Riders have finished dead last five times since 1996. The previous four times they’ve increased their win total by three-quarters of a win on average. Most recently, not including last season, they finished last in 2011 with five wins. In 2012, the Riders picked up three more wins. In the west, the last place team has averaged 1.39 more wins the next season.
What does all of this mean? Probably not a whole lot. If you were to place a bet on the Riders playing in a playoff game this year, based purely on the numbers, you’d have a better than 50 per cent chance of being right. That of course doesn’t take into account all the outside variables like injuries and individual performances that will affect how the team does.
That being said, history has shown the Riders should be better in 2016. At the very least, it can’t be worse, right?