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Double-digit wins provide no playoff guarantee

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
For those angry over the possibility an 8-8 team could reach the postseason while the New England Patriots might finish with 11 wins and not qualify, perhaps you can find solace in knowing that it has happened before.

Twenty-three years ago, John Elway led the Denver Broncos to an 11-5 record but wasn't good enough to make the playoffs. The Cleveland Browns made it at 8-8.

"The thing that sticks out that I remember about that season was that we lost two games to the Oakland Raiders in overtime," Dan Reeves, the coach of the 1985 Broncos, told Quincy Patriot Ledger reporter Eric McHugh.

"I just remember thinking if we get to 11-5 we'll be in the playoffs. If you win 11 games, it's hard to believe [you'd be shut out]. That kind of sticks in your craw."

Two AFC East teams could win 10 games and not reach the playoffs. That has happened 20 times in NFL history and usually in pairs. Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, there have been seven seasons in which two teams won 10 games but didn't advance. Although the last time that occurred was 1991.

If the New England Patriots defeat the Buffalo Bills, the New York Jets beat the Miami Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, then this would happen:

  • The Patriots would win the AFC East with an 11-5 record.

  • The Ravens would clinch the second wild-card berth.

  • The Jets and Dolphins both would be 10-6 and getting ready for the draft.

If the Dolphins don't reach the postseason, then they will miss out for the fourth time in franchise history despite double-digit wins. They also didn't advance in 1975, 1977 and 2003.

The Washington Redskins won 10 games but couldn't get into the playoffs three times in an 11-season stretch, from 1979 to 1989.