The NFL has seen some woefully terrible divisions over the years, and 2015-16 was certainly no exception. The AFC South and NFC East were each equally awful and sent a couple of rather undeserving teams to the tournament.
The NFL’s playoff system has been harshly criticized, particularly in recent years. There are eight divisions (four in NFC, four in AFC) each consisting of four teams. The winner of those divisions earn an automatic home playoff game, with the next two teams up clinching wildcard berth.
This means that if a division is ungodly awful the winner can finish at .500 or lower and still play in the playoffs .. at HOME. There actually is one case where a team (in a 16 game season) finished below .500 and played a home game in the postseason.
There have been seasons where teams finish four or five games over .500 and failed to make the playoffs. The year Tom Brady tore his ACL and was out for the season, Matt Cassell led the New England Patriots to an 11-5 record, but failed to make the playoffs.
However, some teams take advantage of sneaking into the playoffs, whether it be by winning the division or earning a wildcard berth in years where the league has a lot of parity. Just take the New York Giants for an example. The G-Men finished 10-6 in 2007, made the playoffs as a wildcard team, won three road playoff games and knocked off the undefeated Patriots in one of the biggest upsets of all-time. That team doesn’t make this list, but there are plenty of undeserving teams who have had the opportunity to bring their city a super bowl win.
The 15 teams below are by far the least worthy:
15. Washington Redskins, 2015-16 (9-7)
Before I begin to explain why the Washington Redskins made this list, I have to tip my cap to Kirk Cousins and Jay Gruden. Cousins, for having a phenomenal season out of nowhere, and to Gruden, for starting and sticking with him.
With that being said, the Redskins competed in a ridiculously bad division. The New York Giants had nobody outside of Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, the Philadelphia Eagles were a Chip Kelly led train-wreck, and we all got to see just how terrible the Dallas Cowboys offense is without Tony Romo.
Kudos to the Skins for making the tournament, but they basically made it by default.
14. Los Angeles Raiders, 1991 (9-7)
There wasn’t much offensive talent on the 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, who made the playoffs despite losing their last three games.
The Raiders didn’t have a single running back with over 600 yards rushing, or a single receiver with over 700 yards receiving. This team did it with a defense led by Ronnie Lott, who had eight interceptions.
Great job however to the boys on the other side of the ball.
13. Houston Texans, 2015-16 (9-7)
The Houston Texans have had four different starting quarterbacks in 2015-16: Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallet, TJ Yates, and Brandon Weeden.
If I didn’t watch the NFL at all this season, and someone asked me how that team fared, I would ask how high they are in the top five for the upcoming NFL Draft. How is it possible that this team managed to sneak in the postseason?
I’ll tell you how. By competing in the AFC South. Possibly the worst division in NFL history. Playing the Jaguars, Titans, and Colts each twice certainly has its perks, with a playoff berth being one of them. Houston made it in over the Jets, who finished 10-6. Congrats JJ Watt, you’ll get a little more air time.
12. Cleveland Browns, 2002 (9-7)
The Butch Davis led Cleveland Browns somehow made the playoffs in their fourth season since the expansion, squeaking into the dance at 9-7.
There were absolutely no standout players on this team, though. Tim Couch quarterbacked 14 of the games and threw just as many touchdowns as interceptions (18), while Kelly Holcomb was the starter for the 36-33 Wildcard loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The most talented player on the team was probably wide receiver Quincy Morgan. Its incredible that Cleveland made it that year, and they haven’t come close to making it back ever since.
11. Cleveland Browns, 1985 (8-8)
The reason the 8-8 division winning Browns aren’t higher on this list is because, all things considered, this was a very solid season.
One, it was a great bounce back under first year head coach Mart Schottenheimer (previously finishing 5-11). They had two 1,000 yard backs in Ernest Byner and Kevin Mack, and a Pro Bowl wide receiver in Ozzie Newsome, who had 62 receptions. Just goes to show you how different the game is today.
The team showed it had talent and potential by making it to the AFC Divisional round where they came up just short against the Miami Dolphins, losing 24-21.
10. Minnesota Vikings, 2004-05 (8-8)
The Vikings were bursting at the seams with young talent such as Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss, jumping out to a 5-1 start in the 2004-05 season.
That lack of experience was evident in a 3-7 finish. Despite the skid, the Vikings found their way into the playoffs at 8-8, and even won their Wildcard game before losing 27-14 to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Divisional round.
Certainly not the kind of season that should find a team making the playoffs.
9. Dallas Cowboys, 1999-00 (8-8)
The 1999-00 season saw two 8-8 teams wander into the postseason, and Chan Gailey’s Cowboys were one of them.
This was the tail end of the Troy Aikman, Emmit Smith, and Michael Irvin era. Smith still had the motor running well, with nearly 1,400 yards and 11 touchdowns, but Irvin only played in four games.
At this point, the defense was holding Dallas together. America’s team lost three of its last four, but earned as wildcard bid, falling hard to the Redskins 27-10.
8. San Diego Chargers, 2008 (8-8)
The 2008 Chargers became the first team to finish 8-8 and make the playoffs since 1985, when the Cleveland Browns made it at .500.
The lengthy gap shows just how insane that feat was. Insane and stupid.
I’m sure many NFL fans didn’t like it, but the biggest hater might be Peyton Manning, who has been plagued by Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers in the playoffs. The bolts knocked off the Colts in Wildcard round, and then lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champions in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
7. New York Giants, 2006 (8-8)
The Giants got off to scotching hot 6-2 start, and looked primed to coast into the playoffs and win the NFC East.
The next eight games went much differently, though, as the Giants closed out the season 2-6 and somehow limped into a Wildcard spot at 8-8.
The Giants fell to the Eagles, 23-20, as that was Tiki Barber’s last season. Unfortunately for him, Big Blue’s playoff magic was just about to begin.
6. Minnesota Vikings, 1978 (8-7-1)
This Vikings team was made up of a slew of players whose better days were way behind them. The head of the veteran pack was quarterback Fran Tarkenton.
The age was showing in the second half of the season as Minnesota won just one of their last five games. In this stretch they would tie to the Packers in a game that ultimately helped the team make the playoffs.
The wildcard round was UGLY. The Vikings were absolutely obliterated by the Rams, 34-10.
5. Detroit Lions, 1999-00 (8-8)
This was the Lions first year without Barry Sanders, so making the playoffs seemed extremely unlikely heading into the 1999-00 season.
The running game was lost without Sanders, as the Lions didn’t have a running back with over 600 yards rushing.
The passing game did have some fire, however. Germane Crowell and Johnnie Morton each had at least 80 receptions and 1,100 yards receiving. They caught their passes from second year quarterback Charlie Batch and veteran Gus Frerotte.
After getting off to a great 6-2 start, the Lions lost their last four games but would still make the playoffs, where they lost to the Redskins.
4. St. Louis Rams, 2004-05 (8-8)
This was far from “The Greatest Show On Turf” team that we saw win the Super Bowl over the Tennessee Titans in 1999.
The Rams were on the downswing with Marc Bulger at quarterback and Marshall Faulk at the tail end of his career. This was actually Steven Jackson’s rookie season. The Rams finished at .500 but still managed a Wildcard berth, and advanced past the Seattle Seahawks before getting demolished by the Atlanta Falcons.
3. New Orleans Saints, 1990 (8-8)
In 1990 the NFL had one of its many bright ideas, adding a third Wildcard team to the mix.
The result? The lowly New Orleans Saints crawled into the playoffs. They won the last two games and hoped the Dallas Cowboys would lose its last two. It happened.
The Saints staff couldn’t even make up their minds on who was going to play quarterback, switching on-and-off between John Fourcade and Steve Walsh. It really didn’t matter who was under center in the Wildcard game against the Bears as they defeated New Orleans 16-6.
2. New York Jets, 1991 (8-8)
The 1991 New York Jets were a far cry from a team worthy of a spot in the playoffs. The team started 1-3, finished 1-3, and gave the Indianapolis Colts its only win of the season.
Ken O’Brien was under center that year, tossing only 10 touchdowns. They would lose to the Houston Oilers 17-10 in the Wildcard round.
While this was not exactly a reason to be extremely proud, fans of the New York Jets were surely happy anyway to have their team make the playoffs.
1. Seattle Seahawks, 2010-11 (7-9)
It is a crime for a team to play 16 games, win seven of them, and still have a chance to hoist the Vince Lomardi trophy.
That is exactly what happened with the 2010-11 Seattle Seahawks, who won the horrid NFC West with a sub .500 record. They were easily the worst and most undeserving team to make the playoffs.
What made this even more unbelievable was the fact that Seattle earned a home game, where there crowd and atmosphere gives them an incredible advantage. Seattle hosted the 11-5 Saints. That’s right, the Seahawks had a home playoff game against a team with FOUR more wins. They did manage to win the game thanks to an offensive explosion and a legendary run by Marshawn Lynch, but the fact that it was even possible is flat out wrong.
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