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Hand Grenades and Horseshoes

Posted by Jason Lisk on October 9, 2007

There are numerous ways to define heartbreak in the NFL. Many fans can point to their team's playoff failures as evidence of heartbreak, and there is no doubt that coming close in the playoffs can be heartbreaking. Today I am going to focus on teams that just missed out on the playoffs. If you miss the playoffs on a tiebreaker, there is no way to make up for it. You make the playoffs, there is still the hope of tomorrow.

I went back to 1978 to find how many times each team made the playoffs on a tiebreaker, missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker, or finished within one game of forcing a tiebreaker to make the playoffs.

A team is considered to have won a tiebreaker even if, for example, they lost a division tiebreaker but won a wildcard spot tiebreaker. A team is considered to have lost a tiebreaker if they did not make the playoffs, and had the same record as another team that made the playoffs in a spot they could have otherwise claimed. Similarly, a team was "one back" if they finished within 1 game of a playoff spot. I did not calculate tiebreakers to know whether the "one game back" teams would have made the playoffs if they won one more game.

The franchises are listed below, in order of my H&H (hand grenades and horseshoes) index. The H&H index is simply # of times tiebreakers lost x 2 + # of times "one game back" - # of times tiebreaker won to make playoffs. Of course, feel free to arrange this list however you would like. That formula isn't exactly scientific.

franchise   tie won    tie lost    one back    H&H
===================================================
Dolphins       2          6          4          14
Packers        0          5          4          14
Seahawks       2          3          7          11
Saints         0          3          4          10
Raiders        0          1          7           9
Patriots       1          1          7           8
Bengals        1          2          4           7
Broncos        3          4          2           7
Cardinals      0          2          3           7
Chiefs         3          2          6           7
Bills          1          1          4           5
Chargers       1          0          6           5
Oilers/Titans  1          0          6           5
Panthers       0          2          1           5
Eagles         1          1          3           4
Giants         3          2          3           4
Steelers       2          1          4           4
Browns         2          1          3           3
Cowboys        2          1          3           3
49ers          1          1          2           3
Bears          2          1          2           2
Lions          2          1          2           2
Rams           2          1          2           2
Ravens         0          0          2           2
Colts          3          0          4           1
Jaguars        1          0          2           1      
Jets           4          1          3           1
Bucs           1          0          1           0
Falcons        2          0          2           0
Texans         0          0          0           0
Vikings        6          0          5          -1 
===================================================

A few random notes:

-- The Dolphins and Seahawks have had the most seasons end (10) within 1 game of a playoff spot since 1978.
-- The Vikings may have a lot of playoff heartbreak, but they are 6 for 6 in making the playoffs on tiebreakers. They would have been 7 for 7 but for the last second loss at Arizona in 2003.
--The 49ers have only lost one tiebreaker, but that was in 1991 when they were the 2nd best team according to the simple rating system, but lost on a head to head tiebreaker within their division to the Falcons.
--The Ravens and Texans are the only two franchises not to go to a tiebreaker for a playoff spot so far.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 9th, 2007 at 6:12 am and is filed under General, History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.