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Competitive balance, one of the hallmarks of the NFL, gives fans hope entering each season. Three 2012 playoff teams -- the Washington Redskins (10-6 in 2012, 5-11 in 2011), Indianapolis Colts (11-5 in 2012, 2-14 in 2011) and Minnesota Vikings (10-6 in 2012, 3-13 in 2011) -- finished in last place in 2011 and combined for a 21-win improvement last year.

For an NFL-record 10th consecutive season, at least one team finished in first place in its division the season after finishing in last place. In fact, of the 40 teams in league history to go from "worst-to-first," 19 of them have done so in the past 12 years (2001-12), including an NFL-record three such teams in 2005 and 2006.

After finishing last in the division the prior year, the Redskins won seven consecutive games to close the 2012 campaign and claim the NFC East crown, becoming the fifth team in league annals to reach the playoffs after starting the season 3-6.

"The credit goes to our head coach (MIKE SHANAHAN)," says Redskins Pro Bowl linebacker LONDON FLETCHER (left, with Shanahan). "Coach Shanahan, the way he laid out the plan for us, told us what we had to do and got us ready each and every week. This is a tribute to him. Our mentality was no different at 3-6 than it was at 9-6."

The teams to go from "worst-to-first" in their division since 2001:

Season Team Record Prior Season Record
Source: National Football League
* Tied for last place
** Won Super Bowl
2001Chicago13-35-11
2001NewEngland**11-55-11
2003Carolina11-57-9
2003KansasCity13-38-8*
2004Atlanta11-55-11
2004SanDiego12-44-12*
2005Chicago11-55-11
2005NewYorkGiants11-56-10*
2005TampaBay11-55-11
2006Baltimore13-36-10*
2006NewOrleans10-63-13
2006Philadelphia10-66-10
2007TampaBay9-74-12
2008Miami11-51-15
2009NewOrleans**13-38-8
2010KansasCity10-64-12
2011Denver8-84-12
2011Houston10-66-10*
2012Washington10-65-11

 

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"From Worst to First"

 

 

 

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