Getting in the NFL playoffs with a losing record?

This season is starting out with a few little interesting tidbits… like how everybody in the NFC East is currently over .500, while everybody in the NFC North has a losing record. The way things are shaping up in the North, I wouldn’t be surprised if this trend continued and the division winner ended up at 7-9.

So, here’s the question. Has any NFL team ever won their division with a losing record? Or how about gotten to the playoffs (wild card) with a losing record?

I don’t mean breaking even, like 8-8. St. Louis was a wild card in the NFC at 8-8 last year. I mean an actual, bona fide, “yes we really suck”, losing record.

Or do the Lions / Bears / Packers / Vikings have an opportunity to make history here?

Technically, it’s possible for a team to win to superbowl with winning a sigle game, other than post season.

Ermmm… having trouble parsing this. Did you mean “without” winning a single…?

Let me re-phrase my question:
Has any NFL team ever won their division with a losing record?

Yes, I mean “without”

If every team in a division loses all of their out of division games and every single interdivision game is a tie, all of the teams will be 0-12-6 and one of them will be the division winner based on a tie breaker.

I believe that the worst record for a play-off team in the NFL is 8-8 which has happened a handful of times.

The worst would be 0-10-6 actually.

Seattle nearly did this last year. I think they finished 9-7, though.


Technically, yes.

In 1982, as a result of a 7 week player strike, the NFL season was reduced from 16 games to 9. The playoffs were reformatted to a 16 team “Super Bowl Tournament”. 8 teams from each conference were seeded 1-8, and the #8 seeds were:

AFC: Cleveland Browns (4-5 record)
NFC: Detroit Lions (also 4-5)

For the record, thanks for asking, The Cleveland Browns won the AFC Central with an 8-8 record in 1985, Houston made the AFL playoffs with a 6-6 record in 1969, and Buffalo made the AAFC playoffs in 1948 and 1949 with a .500 record.

Thanks, SleepyDuck. I remember the strike happening, but as I was a bit young to pay attention to too many of the details at the time, I didn’t remember that this was how they did the playoffs.

I will be greatly amused if one of the NFC North teams wins their division with a 7-9 record (but it wouldn’t surprise me, the way those teams are all playing this season!)

Amusing? Yes. But don’t bet on it. These things have a way of working themselves out by seasons’ end, especially since all of these teams have to play each other (someone has to win). My prediction is that the winner of the NFC North will win at least 9 games.

Oh, and Marley23, pounds of teams have made the playoffs with records 1 game over .500. The story last year, IIRC, was that the Rams were the first team with a non winning record to ever win a playoff game.

The Seahawks won the division with a 9-7 record, the St. Louis Rams were the wildcard with an 8-8 record.

True, although I think that the current look of the NFL with 4 divisions in each conference, with 4 teams each, gives this scenario a better probability of happening than in the old setup (the 5 teams-per-division layout).

With 5 teams, division games account for 8 out of the 16 games in a season. Now, wth only 4 teams per division, it’s only 6 division games in a season. The NFC North is so bad right now, it could easily happen. (Although don’t worry, I’m not betting on it… still a long shot!)

I would have to think harder than I have, but it might be possible a 0-12-6 could
win the division and one or more teams actually had a win, because ties count
as one half in the winning percentage.

Because of unbalanced schedules it is difficult for a team with a losing record to come out on top. In baseball this year, the San Diego Padres came very close to finishing with a losing record, but having to play most of the last month against other bad teams in its division, they were able to sneak up to an 82-80 record.

I beleive the answer will be yes.

The NFL went to an eight-team playoff format in 1977.

From the 1970 merger until 1977, only the six division winners and one wild-card entry from each conference made the postseason. None had less than an 8-8 record – becuase the NFL only had 14 games until 1979.

When the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, it increased the playoff field to 10 teams, with four wild cards. None of the losing teams made it.

The current 12-team field, with six wild cards, was instituted in 1990. Between 1990 and 2001, four teams have made the playoffs with an 8-8 record – the 1990 Saints, 1991 Jets, 1999 Lions and 1999 Cowboys. All four lost their first-round playoff game.

Over that same span, 44 teams have finished the regular season with nine wins. Of those, 27 made the playoffs as either a division winner or wild card.
I lost my cite which was NFL News. on the 1990 stats.