Under new playoff format, Steelers would have had four more playoff appearances in past 10 years

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With the NFL and NFL Players Association closing in on a new CBA that will expand the playoffs from 12 teams to 14, it’s tempting to consider how seven teams per conference would have played out if seven teams per conference had previously been in place. So we’ve gone 10 years down the seven-team rabbit hole in an effort to identify the franchises that would have made it, and which opponents they would have faced.

The biggest winners would have been the Steelers, who would have made the playoffs in 2019, 2018, 2013, and 2012 as the seventh seed in the AFC. (Obviously, having seven and not six playoff spots may have changed late-season dynamics, potentially altering the ultimate configuration of the playoff trees.) The Steelers also would have been forced to play in the wild-card round two more times, as the No. 2 seed in 2017 and 2010.

Losing out in an environment of expanded playoffs would have been the Patriots. A surprising 0-2 in their past two wild-card games at home, the Patriots would have played five more wild-card homes games in the past 10 years, in 2018, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012.

The full list of the extra playoff games that would have been played, in each of the last 10 years, appears after the jump.

2019: Steelers at Chiefs, Rams at Packers.

2018: Steelers at Patriots, Vikings at Rams.

2017: Ravens at Steelers, Lions at Vikings.

2016: Titans at Chiefs, Buccaneers at Falcons.

2015: Jets at Patriots, Falcons at Cardinals.

2014: Texans at Patriots, Eagles at Seahawks.

2013: Steelers at Patriots, Cardinals at Panthers.

2012: Steelers at Patriots, Bears at 49ers.

2011: Titans at Ravens, Bears at 49ers.

2010: Chargers at Steelers, Giants at Bears.

50 responses to “Under new playoff format, Steelers would have had four more playoff appearances in past 10 years

  1. And if the Little League World Series took 8 teams from the USA instead of 4 like they did back in 1995, I would have made it to the LLWS. That means what exactly???

  2. This league is becoming a joke 14 teams lol just let everyone into the post season so no teams/fans can cry they didnt get a chance.

  3. Steelers in the playoffs in 2018 might be justified, possibly could have beaten the Pats in the first round. The other seasons, no way. I am a Steelers fan, since 1968. Not many fans I know had an issue with the Steelers missing the playoffs in some years the past several years. They generally deserved to be sitting at home watching.

  4. The NFL sometimes makes decisions to favor certain teams, but I think in this case it’s just to make more money.

  5. Yeah if the refs got the calls right there would have been a lot of different teams not only in the playoffs been in the Super Bowl. I can think of the Saints and the Raiders to start off.

  6. I don’t support expanding the playoffs. The 7th best team in each conference is 7th best for a reason. Did anyone really want to see a Mason Rudolph-led Steelers team go to Kansas City and get annihilated?
    While it’s easy to say that the top seed deserves the extra advantage, this also further rewards good teams that play in awful divisions.
    This will really go bad when a 2 seed loses its quarterback to injury in a wildcard game that shouldn’t exist.

  7. The league seems intent on killing itself

    Watering down the playoffs while reducing excitement late in the regular season as teams battle for the 1 and 2 seed all because the disgustingly greedy billionaires seem to feel they don’t have enough money already?

  8. The 2010 Chargers, the only team in NFL history with both the #1 offense & defense, would have made the playoffs under this new format. Just saying.

  9. This is such a dumb change. The cutoff at the bottom has been just right – most of the teams that make it in are legit, the occasional on-the-edge candidate often shakes things up in interesting ways (see: 9-7 Titans), and teams that have squandered too many chances are rightfully left out (see: 2019 Cowboys & Steelers).

    At the top, having only one bye to play for will take most teams out of the running too soon. Having two byes gives more teams a fighting chance, creating a lot more drama for teams whose main drama (making the playoffs) is already taken care of.

    This is all about money and nothing about the game or fan experience. No one involved in this change has any understanding of the STORY aspect of the league, which is a huge part of why it’s been so popular.

    Most other sports leagues are almost meaningless until well into the playoffs. The NFL is unique in how much significance there is to almost every game. This change erodes that.

  10. Thanks for that great piece of useless information. Hopefully this plan goes nowhere but its the NFL so it’s probably going to go through. The slow decline of the NFL continues.

  11. Better get used to seeing 8-8 or even 7-9 teams getting into the playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see one almost every year now.

  12. well if you go back further, the patriots would have made the playoffs in 2008, thus making a 17 year run on making the playoffs. And almost 19 straight years, but for they would have lost a tiebreaker in 2002 to the Broncos.

  13. In recent years, the teams that get to the Super Bowl are the ones that have the first-round bye. That extra rest seems to be very important. With the new format, does that mean the #1 seed is more likely to make it to the Super Bowl because they’re the only ones with the bye or that the other teams have a better chance to make it because there are fewer teams with the bye? If it’s the former, that makes the playoffs a lot less exciting.

  14. OMG, greedy owners adding one extra playoff team! The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!

    As if your team was the seventh seed, you’d REFUSED to watch the game because of “principles”…

  15. Why do people fee the need to constantly attempt to make changes to the game and how it is played? Why can’t the just enjoy the game as it is?

  16. I’m a Steelers fan, but as my grandfather used to say… If the fox hadn’t stopped to take a crap he’d have caught the rabbit.

  17. 7 teams is such a weird #, but it’ll work. I really liked the format of less than 40% of the teams making the playoffs. So now, we are a few % higher.

    NBA & NHL playoffs suck for 2 reasons:
    #1- Over 50% of teams make the playoffs. This makes watching playoffs-only make sense for the causal fan.

    #2- Multiple games series. This favors stronger, deeper teams. It also quietly encourages reducing effort when a team is up.

    Part of the reason the NFL & NCAA Tournament is so awesome is the do-or-die situation of a game. So, 7 teams will work, but of course there will be unintended consequences.

    Homefield advantage throughout was always a motivator, so now being #1 vs. #2 has increased stakes. What stinks is that now the odds of moving up from #3-6 into a bye-scenario is greatly reduced. Remember the weeks leading up to the end of the last season & the variety of scenarios in the NFC? The Division concept & seeding system was already awesome.

    The January games will be more exciting at the expense of December scenarios.

  18. Only you 1 team with a bye means next it should be everybody plays everybody else in the conference once, and then 1 game against the other conference for the regular season. That makes a decent amount of sense since divisions don’t matter as much.

  19. If the Texans had played the starters week 17 last year, the Steelers would’ve made the playoffs instead of the Titans. I am guessing the Steelers would not have made it to the AFCCG though.

  20. Better get used to seeing 8-8 or even 7-9 teams getting into the playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see one almost every year now.
    ___________________________________________________________________________________

    For sure there would be. AFC it would have been 7-9 Raiders, Broncos, Colts or Jets and NFC would have been Rams at 9-7. Rams would have been okay, but those other teams were bad last year. Why have them in?

  21. The current 12 team format has been in place since 1990 when there were 28 teams in the league. That was 43% of the league making the playoffs. If they expand to 14 teams in the current 32 team league, that’s 44%. So, it’s really not as big a deal as all the people crying that the playoffs are being “watered down.” Those same people probably complained in 1990 (if they were old enough to watch), but they got used to it over time. Unlike the NBA, where the better team almost always wins a 5 or 7-game series, NFL playoff games can produce some pretty random results. So, it should be interesting.

  22. this would be an exercise in awarding mediocrity. In the 10 years listed above, 20 additional teams would have made the playoffs. Summarizing the records of those additional teams:

    8-8 occurred 5 times (3 of which were the Steelers)
    8-7-1 occurred 1 time
    9-7 occured 8 times
    9-6-1 occurred 1 time
    10-6 occurred 5 times.

    In fact, those five 10-6 records occurred in 5 separate years, and they were the only teams that were 10-6 that did not make the playoffs. However in 4 of those years, there was a team with a lesser record that did make the playoffs because they were a division winner. Those 4 division winners were:
    7-9
    7-8-1
    8-7-1
    9-7

    The remaining year where a 10-6 team would have made it under this format, there was a division winner that was 10-6.

    It seems there is a better argument to keep the 6-team playoff format for each conference, however take the 6 teams in each conference with the best records. That would mean that
    those 4 division winners would have been pre-empted by a team with a better record, thereby eliminating 2 teams with a losing record, and one that could only win half its games, plus one more team that was 9-7.

    That leaves the one year where a 10-6 team that didn’t make it also had a division winner with a 10-6 record, and therefore being a division leader could be the tiebreaker.

    This new plan just rewards more 9-7 or less teams. Not really what the average fan wants to see.

  23. Why not 16 teams? Then all the division winners can rest a week and then host a home game.

    Patriots are probably behind this as they’re guaranteed at least 6 wins and a division every year.

  24. Doesn’t matter the Steelers would have lost every year except maybe 2010 against the chargers. Tomlin can’t beat New England, and they never would beaten the Chiefs

  25. “The January games will be more exciting at the expense of December scenarios.”

    I think the January games not be more exciting but less so with the watered down effect of 1 more regular season game on the players and a pretty crappy team being the 7 seed.

  26. a says:
    February 20, 2020 at 11:21 am
    The 2010 Chargers, the only team in NFL history with both the #1 offense & defense, would have made the playoffs under this new format. Just saying.

    ____________________________
    Don’t forget that atrocious special teams unit, probably the worst ever. Just saying.

  27. @Kolo Jezdec

    I agree. I’ve been a lifelong Steelers’ fan, not quite since 1968, but close. Leave the format the way it is, currently. In regard to the Steelers, they had plenty of chances to make the playoffs in those years and, instead, took their foot off the gas, and blew games that they should have won. That’s on them.

  28. And if the 1997 Broncos didn’t cheat the salary cap, and the 2009 Saints didn’t have bountygate, Brett Favre would have 3 rings.

  29. For those griping about “7-9” teams making the playoffs now, that’s absurd. Go look at the past 10 years and tell me how many 7-9 teams you see.
    We’re getting some 10 win, mostly 9 win, and some 8 win teams with the 7th seed.
    There are no 7-9 or 6-10 clubs making the playoffs.

  30. Patriots are probably behind this as they’re guaranteed at least 6 wins and a division every year.

    Number of times Patriots have swept the division in the last 20 years
    TWO..

    Average division record over the last 20 years 4-2

    So much for the “guaranteed “

    Next LAME excuse…

  31. count974 says:
    February 20, 2020 at 1:52 pm
    The current 12 team format has been in place since 1990 when there were 28 teams in the league. That was 43% of the league making the playoffs. If they expand to 14 teams in the current 32 team league, that’s 44%. So, it’s really not as big a deal as all the people crying that the playoffs are being “watered down.” Those same people probably complained in 1990 (if they were old enough to watch), but they got used to it over time. Unlike the NBA, where the better team almost always wins a 5 or 7-game series, NFL playoff games can produce some pretty random results. So, it should be interesting.
    ****************************************************************************************

    Great point, I agreed that the percentages were not as skewed as other leagues, but didn’t even think about the previous # of teams in years past.

    As I had stated, I don’t like it because it makes the late season run for a bye WAY less interesting with only 1 Bye up for grabs.

    Also, “slippery slope” is a concern with whatever concoction the NFL thinks about next in terms of making money.

  32. TorchBeak says:
    February 20, 2020 at 7:20 pm
    For those griping about “7-9” teams making the playoffs now, that’s absurd. Go look at the past 10 years and tell me how many 7-9 teams you see.
    We’re getting some 10 win, mostly 9 win, and some 8 win teams with the 7th seed.
    There are no 7-9 or 6-10 clubs making the playoffs.

    ——-

    The Seahawks made the playoffs in 2010 with a 7-9 record.

    The Panthers made the playoffs in 2014 with a 7-8-1 record.

    Those are both losing records.

  33. steelcurtainn says:
    February 20, 2020 at 10:35 pm
    Steelers robbed again. Nothing new here. They would won another championship under this rule.

    —–

    kind of like saying I got robbed the last 17 because my employer decided to increase the match of my 401k contributions to 10% this year.

  34. Under this rule the Patriots might have made the playoffs without lapse between 2001 and 2019 (present).

  35. Imagine how many more times Tim Tebow would have bounced the Steelers out of the playoffs? Or Flacco? Or Manning or Brady? Or Bortles?

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