The list of of 12 teams in the NFL playoffs consists of seven teams with at least one Super Bowl win (Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins) and five that have never tasted a championship since the merger: Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Cardinals finished with a 13-3 record, their best season since the franchise moved to Arizona. Finishing first in the NFC West is their first division title since 2009, which is also the last time they won a playoff game. Last season the Cardinals made the playoffs without their starting quarterback and lost to the Carolina Panthers in the Wild Card round. This time they have a bye week as the number 2 seed.
With a 15-1 record, the Panthers completed the greatest regular season in franchise history. They’re in the postseason for a third consecutive time and have a chance to possible be proud of an MVP player for the first time, with Cam Newton possibly winning the award. Their goal, obviously, is the Super Bowl. They’ve never won it, but they lost by just three points on their only visit to the big game against the New England Patriots 12 years ago.
Making the playoffs isn’t new for the Cincinnati Bengals, who’ll face division rivals Pittsburgh Steelers at home in the wild card round. Winning a playoff game? That’s something else. The Bengals have lost their last seven postseason games, including four in a row with Andy Dalton at quarterback. Their last postseason win came in 1990 in the Wild Card Round against the Houston Oilers. Their 12 wins do suggest something good. Tying a franchise record, with the Bengals making the Super Bowl on the previous two times they won 12 games in a season, both of them losses to the San Francisco 49ers.
Despite everything’s that’s happened this season to the Broncos, they win the bye and the number one seed in the AFC. The question now is who starts for them – Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler? The Broncos have won 50 games over the last four seasons, but in two of these seasons they lost on their first playoff game, at home. The exception? Making the Super Bowl but getting destroyed by the Seattle Seahawks. They’ve won the division five years in a row.
Green Bay Packers
For the first time since 2010 the Packers aren’t NFC North champions, but still made the playoffs (10-6) for a 7th consecutive time. It’s been almost five years since their last Super Bowl appearance (and win). Since then they’ve gone one and done twice, and made the conference championship game just once, supplying an epic collapse in Seattle against the Seahawks. They’re going to play on the road against the Washington Redskins in the Wild Card round.
The Texans post a second consecutive 9-7 season but actually make it this time, a first since 2012, playing against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round. A franchise since 2002, the Texans won the Wild Card game and lost in the divisional round in both of their postseason appearances in 2011 and 2012. In 2015 they posted a winning record for only the fifth time since their inaugural season in the NFL, but are still just 97-127 in these 14 seasons.
Kansas City Chiefs
No one is hotter than the Chiefs going into the playoffs (11-5), winning 10 games in a row, making it in for the second time in three years of Andy Reid coaching the team (31-17 since his hiring). While this is the fifth time since 2003 the Chiefs have made the playoffs, they haven’t won a postseason game in a very long time, dating back to the 1993 season. They’ve lost eight consecutive playoff games since, beginning with the AFC championship game of that year.
The Vikings are in the playoffs for the first time since 2012, going 11-5 to win the division for the first time since 2009, which is also the last season in which they were able to win a playoff game before losing in the NFC title game to the New Orleans Saints. The Vikings will play the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card round as the home team, hoping that losing to them 38-7 in the regular season won’t have anything to do with the rematch.
New England Patriots
The defending Super Bowl champions have another bye week, although not the number one seed, due to losing for games in the final six weeks. It’s their 7th consecutive playoff appearance, making the Super Bowl twice since 2011 (winning one) and always going to at least the conference championship game. They’re not usually the one and done type of team, although it happened to them on back to back seasons in 2009 and 2010.
The team with more Super Bowl titles than anyone else has lost its last three playoff games, including two one-and-done appearances in 2011 and last season. They’re once again going to face a division rival, this time the Cincinnati Bengals. With Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, the Steelers have made the Super Bowl three times, winning two of them. The last time was in the 2010 season, losing to the Green Bay Packers.
The Seahawks won 10 games for the fourth consecutive season, although it was their weakest regular season since 2010, finishing second in the NFC West, which means they need to play on the road against the Vikings to start their road towards a third consecutive Super Bowl. The last team to make the Super Bowl three years in a row were the Buffalo Bills (1990-1993), losing all four of their visits to the big game, all against NFC East teams.
The Redskins posted a winning record for only the second time since 2007, and winning the division for only the second time since 1999. They haven’t won a playoff game since the 2005 season, losing in 2007 and in 2012, both times to the Seattle Seahawks. Their last appearance in the conference championship game was in the 1991 season, in which they went all the way to win the Super Bowl for a third time in 10 seasons, beating the Buffalo Bills.