How often do NFL teams finish with winning records but miss the playoffs?

For the 1967-68 season, the NFL added the divisional round to the playoffs expanding them after having added the championship round only two years earlier. Since the divisional round of the playoffs was added, there have been 147 teams to have finished the regular season with a winning record and not make the playoffs. This includes the NFL since the 1967-68 season and the 1968-69 and 1969-70 seasons of the AFL.

Timeline and breakdown by season

1967: NFL adds two divisional rounds, four-team playoffs

1968: AFL adds one divisional round, three-team playoffs

1969: AFL adds two divisional rounds, four-team playoffs

1970: NFL-AFL merger, eight-team playoffs

1978: Wildcard round added, 10 team playoffs

1982: Strike shortened season (nine games), special 16 team playoffs

1987: Strike shortened season (15 games)

1990: Second wildcard round added, 12 team playoffs

There have been 10 seasons where at least five teams finished with winning record and missed the playoffs. In contrast, there have only been two seasons where it did not happen. The strike-shortened 1982 season and the 1998 season.

Teams with winning records to miss playoffs in the NFL, notes

Click here to view larger image of above graph

Breakdown by Era and 10+ win teams

The next three graphs show a breakdown of the above cumulative graph into three different eras based on how the playoffs were formatted.

Teams with winning records to miss playoffs in NFL Divisional Round Era (1967-68 to 1977-78)

Teams with winning records to miss playoffs in NFL's 10 team Wild Card Era (1978-79 to 1989-90)

Teams with winning records to miss playoffs in NFL's 12 team Wild Card Era (1990-91 to 2017-18)

The graph below shows how often a team that finished the season with 10 or more wins missed the playoffs in each NFL season.

Teams with 10+ wins to miss playoffs in the NFL each season (1967-68 to 2017-18)

Records of teams to not make the playoffs

The table below shows the number of times each the playoffs was missed by a team with a specific winning record. Since the NFL expanded to a 16-game regular season schedule, 70/103 (67.96%) of teams to miss the playoffs with winning records finished at 9-7. In the 14-game era, the most common winning record was 8-6, which happened 11/44 times (25%).

*All four 8-7 teams came during the NFL’s strike-shortened 15-game season in 1987.

Record
Number of times team missed playoffs with that record
11-1-2 (.917) 1
10-3-1 (.769) 1
10-4 (.714) 5
9-4-1 (.692) 3
11-5 (.688) 2
8-4-2 (.667) 1
9-5 (.643) 8
10-6 (.625) 21
8-5-1 (.615) 4
8-6 (.571) 11
7-5-2 (.571) 5
9-7 (.563) 70
7-6-1 (.538) 5
8-7 (.533)* 4
8-7-1 (.531) 6

The best teams to miss the playoffs in this span

Below is a list of the top 13 teams (those with at least a .667 win percentage) who did not make the playoffs in this span. Since 1977, only two teams with this high of a winning percentage have missed the playoffs, the 1985 Broncos and 2008 Patriots.

Team Year Record
Baltimore Colts 1967 11-1-2 (.917)
Los Angeles Rams 1968 10-3-1 (.769)
Miami Dolphins 1975 10-4 (.714)
Houston Oilers 1975 10-4 (.714)
St. Louis Cardinals 1976 10-4 (.714)
Cincinnati Bengals 1976 10-4 (.714)
Miami Dolphins 1977 10-4 (.714)
St. Louis Cardinals 1968 9-4-1 (.692)
Detroit Lions 1969 9-4-1 (.692)
Los Angeles Rams 1970 9-4-1 (.692)
Denver Broncos 1985 11-5 (.688)
New England Patriots 2008 11-5 (.688)
Oakland Raiders 1971 8-4-1 (.667)

The total amount of times each franchise has missed the playoffs with a winning record in this span

The Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins have both missed the playoffs with a winning record a league-high nine times. Since 2000, 27/32 (84.37%) of the league has missed the playoffs at least once with a winning record. The only exceptions are the Panthers (who have never done so), the Raiders (1994), Colts (1992), 49ers (1991), Bengals (1986) and the Rams (1971).

Team # of times missed playoffs with winning record
Last year missed with winning record
Kansas City Chiefs 9 2014: 9-7 (.563%)
Washington Redskins 9 2016: 8-7-1 (.531%)
Denver Broncos 8 2016: 9-7 (.563%)
Los Angeles Chargers 8 2017: 9-7 (.563%)
New England Patriots 8 2008: 11-5 (.688)
Miami Dolphins 7 2005: 9-7 (.563%)
Arizona Cardinals 6 2013: 10-6 (.625%)
Detroit Lions 6 2017: 9-7 (.563%)
New York Giants 6 2012: 9-7 (.563%)
Seattle Seahawks 6 2017: 9-7 (.563%)
Cleveland Browns 5 2007: 10-6 (.625%)
Dallas Cowboys 5 2017: 9-7 (.563%)
Green Bay Packers 5 2000: 9-7 (.563%)
New York Jets 5 2015: 10-6 (.625%)
Pittsburgh Steelers 5 2009: 9-7 (.563%)
Buffalo Bills 4 2014: 9-7 (.563%)
Chicago Bears 4 2012: 10-6 (.625%)
Cincinnati Bengals 4 1986: 10-6 (.625%)
Indianapolis Colts 4 1992: 9-7 (.563%)
Oakland Raiders 4 1994: 9-7 (.563%)
Tennessee Titans* 4 2016: 9-7 (.563%)
Atlanta Falcons 3 2009: 9-7 (.563%)
Los Angeles Rams 3 1971: 8-5-1 (.615)
Minnesota Vikings 3 2005: 9-7 (.563%)
New Orleans Saints 3 2002: 9-7 (.563%)
San Francisco 49ers 3 1991: 10-6 (.625%)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 3 2016: 9-7 (.563%)
Philadelphia Eagles 2 2014: 10-6 (.625%)
Baltimore Ravens 2 2017: 9-7 (.563%)
Houston Texans 2 2014: 9-7 (.563%)
Jacksonville Jaguars 1 2004: 9-7 (.563%)
Carolina Panthers 0 N/A

Teams to make the playoffs with a losing record

In contrast to the 147 teams to have missed the playoffs with a winning record, only four have made the playoffs with a losing one. Two of these teams make the playoffs during the 1982 strike-shortened season, which featured a special 16 team playoff.

Team Year Record
Detroit Lions 1982 4-5 (.444)
Cleveland Browns 1982 4-5 (.444)
Seattle Seahawks 2010 7-9 (.438)
Carolina Panthers 2014 7-8-1 (.469)

Sources and info:

Featured Image: “Game Competition Sport Athletic American Football” from maxpixel.net is CC0 Public Domain

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/1967/ (Used this season through the last 2017-18 season)

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/1968_AFL/index.htm (Used the 1968 and 1969 seasons)

All other charts and tables made using Google Spreadsheet

 

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One thought on “How often do NFL teams finish with winning records but miss the playoffs?”

  1. The 1970 Bengals and the 2014 Panthers both made the Playoffs despite having a 6 game losing streak during the season. In Carolina’s case they actually went 7 straight games without a win.

    Like

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