Playoffs! Are We Taking PLAYOFFS??
Week 17 came right down to the wire. Sunday’s excitement was due in part to having 16 divisional games played on the season’s final day, a tradition instituted in 2010. Three playoff spots and three divisions titles – the AFC West, AFC North and AFC South – were decided on the final day of the season.
The NFL playoffs, which conclude on February 3 with Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta (CBS, 6:30 PM ET), begin this Saturday and Sunday with Wild Card Weekend.
Both the Chicago Bears (NFC North) and Houston Texans (AFC South) completed “worst-to-first” turnarounds and at least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 15 of the past 16 seasons.
With Chicago and Houston earning division titles, 2018 marked the second consecutive season that two teams went from worst to first (Jacksonville and Philadelphia in 2017) – something that has never happened in any other major US sport.
Seven of the 12 playoff teams are new to the postseason in 2018:BALTIMORE, CHICAGO, DALLAS, HOUSTON, INDIANAPOLIS, the LOSANGELES CHARGERS and SEATTLE. Since 1990 – a streak of 29 consecutive seasons – at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.
The NFL playoffs begin on Saturday and Sunday, January 5-6, with Wild Card Weekend. On Saturday, the Indianapolis Colts play at the Houston Texans (ESPN/ABC, 4:35 PM ET) and the Seattle Seahawks visit the Dallas Cowboys (FOX, 8:15 PM ET). Wild Card Weekend continues Sunday with the Los Angeles Chargers at the Baltimore Ravens (CBS, 1:05 PM ET) and the Philadelphia Eagles traveling to face the Chicago Bears (NBC, 4:40 PM ET).
The following week (January 12-13), the Kansas City Chiefs (Saturday, NBC, 4:35 PM ET) and New England Patriots (Sunday, CBS, 1:05 PM ET) in the AFC and the Los Angeles Rams (Saturday, FOX, 8:15 PM ET) and New Orleans Saints (Sunday, FOX, 4:40 PM ET) in the NFC host the Divisional Playoffs. The Chiefs and Saints own home-field advantage for the Conference Championship Games (January 20) if they win their Divisional contests.
The 2019 Pro Bowl (ESPN, with simulcast on ABC, 3:00 PM ET) will be played on Sunday, January 27 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida and Super Bowl LIII will take place on Sunday, February 3 (CBS, 6:30 PM ET), at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
TURNAROUND TEAMS & CONSISTENT WINNERS HIGHLIGHT PLAYOFF FIELD
There are seven new playoff teams in 2018: BALTIMORE, CHICAGO, DALLAS, HOUSTON,INDIANAPOLIS, the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS and SEATTLE.
Since 1990 – a streak of 29 consecutive seasons – at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs in every season that were not in the postseason the year before.
The teams since 1990 to make the playoffs a season after failing to qualify:
|SEASON||PLAYOFF TEAMS NOT IN PREVIOUS SEASON’S PLAYOFFS|
|1990||7 (Cincinnati, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles Raiders, Miami, New Orleans, Washington)|
|1991||5 (Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, New York Jets)|
|1992||6 (Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco)|
|1993||5 (Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Los Angeles Raiders, New York Giants)|
|1994||5 (Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, New England, San Diego)|
|1995||4 (Atlanta, Buffalo, Indianapolis, Philadelphia)|
|1996||5 (Carolina, Denver, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New England)|
|1997||5 (Detroit, Kansas City, Miami, New York Giants, Tampa Bay)|
|1998||5 (Arizona, Atlanta, Buffalo, Dallas, New York Jets)|
|1999||7 (Detroit, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)|
|2000||6 (Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, New York Giants, Oakland, Philadelphia)|
|2001||6 (Chicago, Green Bay, New England, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Francisco)|
|2002||5 (Atlanta, Cleveland, Indianapolis, New York Giants, Tennessee)|
|2003||8 (Baltimore, Carolina, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, New England, St. Louis, Seattle)|
|2004||5 (Atlanta, Minnesota, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Diego)|
|2005||7 (Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Washington)|
|2006||7 (Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York Jets, Philadelphia, San Diego)|
|2007||6 (Green Bay, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington)|
|2008||7 (Arizona, Atlanta, Baltimore, Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia)|
|2009||6 (Cincinnati, Dallas, Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, New York Jets)|
|2010||5 (Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Seattle)|
|2011||6 (Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Houston, New York Giants, San Francisco)|
|2012||4 (Indianapolis, Minnesota, Seattle, Washington)|
|2013||5 (Carolina, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Diego)|
|2014||5 (Arizona, Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit, Pittsburgh)|
|2015||4 (Houston, Kansas City, Minnesota, Washington)|
|2016||6 (Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Miami, New York Giants, Oakland)|
|2017||8 (Buffalo, Carolina, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Tennessee)|
|2018||7 (Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle)|
Four teams won division titles – Baltimore (AFC North), Chicago (NFC North), Dallas (NFC East) and Houston (AFC South) – after missing the playoffs last season.
The divisions with new champions in 2018:
|AFC SOUTH||AFC NORTH||NFC EAST||NFC NORTH|
In the 17 seasons since realignment, 29 of the 32 NFL teams have won a division title at least once.
How the 2018 playoff teams have fared in the 17 seasons since realignment in 2002 (2018 division winners in bold/italics):
|TEAM||DIVISION TITLES||PLAYOFF BERTHS|
|Los Angeles Chargers||5||7|
|Los Angeles Rams||3||4|
Both the Chicago Bears (NFC North) and Houston Texans (AFC South) completed “worst-to-first” turnarounds and at least one team has won its division the season after finishing in or tied for last place in 15 of the past 16 seasons. With Chicago and Houston earning division titles, 2018 marked the second consecutive season that two teams went from worst to first (Jacksonville and Philadelphia in 2017) – something that has never happened in any other major US sport.
The teams to go from “worst-to-first” in their divisions since 2003:
|SEASON||TEAM||RECORD||PRIOR SEASON RECORD||ADVANCED TO|
|2003||Carolina Panthers||11-5||7-9||Super Bowl XXXVIII|
|2003||Kansas City Chiefs||13-3||8-8*||Divisional Playoffs|
|2004||Atlanta Falcons||11-5||5-11||NFC Championship|
|2004||San Diego Chargers||12-4||4-12*||Wild Card Playoffs|
|2005||Chicago Bears||11-5||5-11||Divisional Playoffs|
|2005||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||11-5||5-11||Wild Card Playoffs|
|2006||Baltimore Ravens||13-3||6-10*||Divisional Playoffs|
|2006||New Orleans Saints||10-6||3-13||NFC Championship|
|2006||Philadelphia Eagles||10-6||6-10||Divisional Playoffs|
|2007||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||9-7||4-12||Wild Card Playoffs|
|2008||Miami Dolphins||11-5||1-15||Wild Card Playoffs|
|2009||New Orleans Saints||13-3||8-8||Won Super Bowl XLIV|
|2010||Kansas City Chiefs||10-6||4-12||Wild Card Playoffs|
|2011||Denver Broncos||8-8||4-12||Divisional Playoffs|
|2011||Houston Texans||10-6||6-10*||Divisional Playoffs|
|2012||Washington Redskins||10-6||5-11||Wild Card Playoffs|
|2013||Carolina Panthers||12-4||7-9*||Divisional Playoffs|
|2013||Philadelphia Eagles||10-6||4-12||Wild Card Playoffs|
|2015||Washington Redskins||9-7||4-12||Wild Card Playoffs|
|2016||Dallas Cowboys||13-3||4-12||Divisional Playoffs|
|2017||Jacksonville Jaguars||10-6||3-13||AFC Championship|
|2017||Philadelphia Eagles||13-3||7-9||Won Super Bowl LII|
*Tied for last place
The 2018 field also showcases teams that have enjoyed recent postseason success. Since realignment in 2002, the New England Patriots have been to the playoffs 15 times, which is the most in the NFL.
The 2018 playoff teams with the most postseason appearances since 2002 (includes 2018):
Seven of this season’s 12 playoff teams have won at least one Super Bowl since 1999, capturing 12 of the past 19 Vince Lombardi Trophies. Those teams are the Patriots (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLIX, LI), Ravens (XXXV, XLVII), Colts (XLI), Eagles (LII), Rams (XXXIV), Saints (XLIV) and Seahawks (XLVIII).
|XXXIV||1999||St. Louis Rams*|
|XXXVI||2001||New England Patriots*|
|XXXVII||2002||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|XXXVIII||2003||New England Patriots*|
|XXXIX||2004||New England Patriots*|
|XLII||2007||New York Giants|
A look at the four games on Wild Card Weekend:
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (10-6) at HOUSTON TEXANS (11-5) (Saturday, ESPN/ABC, 4:35 PM ET)
- This is the first postseason meeting between the AFC South division rivals. In the regular season, the Colts hold a 26-8 advantage in 34 games played. The Texans and Colts split the season series in 2018, with Houston winning 37-34 in overtime in Week 4 and Indianapolis taking the finale 24-21 in Week 14.
- The Colts have qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2014. Indianapolis had two players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl: tight end ERIC EBRON and rookie guard QUENTON NELSON.
- The Texans won the AFC South for the third time in the past four seasons (2015 and 2016). Houston had four players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl: linebacker JADEVEON CLOWNEY, wide receiverDE ANDRE HOPKINS, linebacker BENARDRICK MCKINNEY and defensive end J.J. WATT.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (10-6) at DALLAS COWBOYS (10-6) (Saturday, FOX, 8:15 PM ET)
- This is the second postseason meeting between the two teams. The Seahawks defeated Dallas 21-20 in their 2006 NFC Wild Card meeting (January 6, 2007). The Cowboys lead the all-time series 10-9, including the postseason. This season, Seattle won 24-13 in their Week 3 meeting at CenturyLink Field.
- The Seahawks are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and have advanced to the postseason in seven of head coach PETE CARROLL’s nine seasons with the team. Seattle had two players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl: rookie punter MICHAEL DICKSONand linebacker BOBBY WAGNER.
- The Cowboys are back in the postseason after capturing the NFC East title for the first time since 2016. Dallas had five players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl, tied with Chicago and New Orleans for the most in the NFC: running back EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, cornerback BYRON JONES, defensive end DEMARCUS LAWRENCE, guard ZACK MARTIN and tackle TYRON SMITH.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (12-4) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (10-6) (Sunday, CBS, 1:05 PM ET)
- This is the first postseason meeting between the two teams. Baltimore leads the all-time series 7-5, including a 22-10 win in Los Angeles in Week 16.
- Baltimore has qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2014 and won the AFC North for the first time since 2012, when they were victorious in Super Bowl XLVII. The Ravens had three players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl: linebacker C.J. MOSLEY, safetyERIC WEDDLE and guard MARSHAL YANDA.
- The Chargers have advanced to the postseason for the first time since 2013. Los Angeles had a league-best seven players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl: wide receiver KEENAN ALLEN, running backMELVIN GORDON, defensive end MELVIN INGRAM, rookie safetyDERWIN JAMES, special teamer ADRIAN PHILLIPS, center MIKEPOUNCEY and quarterback PHILIP RIVERS.
PHIADELPHIA EAGLES (9-7) at CHICAGO BEARS (12-4) (Sunday, NBC, 4:40 PM ET)
- The teams will meet in the postseason for the fourth time, with Philadelphia holding a 2-1 edge. In their most recent postseason matchup, the Eagles won 33-19 in Chicago in the 2001 NFC Divisional Playoffs (January 19, 2002). The Bears lead the all-time series 30-13-1, including the postseason.
- The Eagles, the defending Super Bowl champions, are in the postseason for consecutive years for the first time since the 2009-10 seasons and are seeking to become the first repeat Super Bowl champions since the 2003-04 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS. Philadelphia had three players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl: guardBRANDON BROOKS, defensive tackle FLETCHER COX and tight end ZACH ERTZ.
- The Bears have qualified for the postseason and claimed the NFC North division title for the first time since 2010. Chicago had five players selected to the 2019 Pro Bowl, tied with Dallas and New Orleans for the most in the NFC: return specialist TARIK COHEN, cornerback KYLE FULLER, defensive tackle AKIEM HICKS, safetyEDDIE JACKSON and linebacker KHALIL MACK.