Considering close games

Wins in close games are often taken as a sign of a good team, per Mike Sando’s chart.

The Arizona Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers each won all of the games they played that were decided by 7 points or fewer last season. We didn’t see either team in the playoff field.

In the AFC South the Tennessee Titans won more close games than the Houston Texans, and the Texans won the lowest percentage of its close games.

Yet it was Houston who went 10-6 and won the division.

Looking forward, here’s what needs to happen regarding close games.

The teams that were bad in the division last season simply need to be in more of them. The Indianapolis Colts were only in two, and the Jacksonville Jaguars were only in five. Do those teams improve so much that they are often winning by more than a touchdown? Probably not. But if they can get into more games decided by one score, they’ll be in situations where a couple plays can make a bigger difference more often.

The Texans lost six of their 10 close games. If they can produce a similar season in 2012 to what they did in 2011, but win an extra close game or two, they could be in position for a week off at the start of the playoffs.

The Titans were in nine such close games, losing four. Of those four, one was to division foe Jacksonville and the other three were to playoff teams the Cincinnati Bengals, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. Those are the sort of teams they’ll need to fare better against in order to break through to the playoffs.