So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance?

By Stewart Roche

Season over at 1-4? Probably. But not necessarily. Whilst the playoffs aren’t likely, strangely, your chances aren’t quite dead either.

Examining Playoff chances after a rough start

A peculiar anomaly presented itself to me this morning as I began some research for this article. In a sport overflowing with statistics, I was unable to find any significant data on teams that went to the playoffs after starting the season 1-3. This came as something of a surprise as I’d assumed I could unearth just about any NFL stat I could imagine. Rick Mirer’s rookie season passer rating in Seattle? No problem (67 by the way). Chester Taylor’s average yards per rush in Chicago? 2.4.

2.4, seriously?

But little or nothing for teams that went 1-3. Your humble scribe isn’t deterred by such things however, so instead of binning the whole thing off as a bad idea and starting afresh, I decided to expand the search to teams that had gone 1-4.  This yielded some interesting results and some sort of solace to fans of teams in danger of slipping to that very record this weekend, of which there are currently 8.

Quick note; only one team has made the playoffs after going 0-4, the Chargers in 1992. Sorry Panthers and Bears fans, but your season is already over. Just think of the draft haul you’ll get from someone desperate for Caleb Williams. Or just think of Caleb Williams if you’re the Bears.

Embed from Getty Images

The good news is that 14 teams have played postseason football after stinking the joint out early on. Okay, it’s not brilliant given we’re going back to 1970 but it’s all I have. The bad news is that none of them have ever made the Super Bowl. So even if the Cincinnati Bengals manage to turn things around (and they are the most likely to do so given their recent pedigree), the best they can realistically hope for is an AFC Championship game. Far more likely is a Divisional Round exit, which for Joe Burrow’s men would have to count as another letdown. Whereas if you’re a Broncos fan like I am, a defeat in the divisional round would rank alongside The Drive given the state of the team as I write this. As noted philosopher and Seahawks fan Macklemore reminded us, one man’s trash is another man’s come-up.

One thing the Broncos have in their favour is a quarterback showing signs of a return to form. Unfortunately for Russell Wilson, he seems to be paired with a defense a year-one Expansion team would be embarrassed by, which means the Broncos’ long wait for postseason play will continue. The lack of competent QB play (or real ability in the case of Zach Wilson and Mac Jones) is what will most likely prevent most of the teams sitting at 1-3 from making the kind of run required to join the 14 teams that have done so in the past. If I had to pick an NFC side that might, I would go for the Vikings.

Minnesota have lost their 3 games by one score, the polar opposite of last season when they found a way to win those types of nail-biters. Kirk Cousins is no sane person’s idea of Joe Montana but he has taken teams to the playoffs and he does have serious weapons in Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson. In fact, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if both the Bengals and the Vikings bounced back from their disappointing starts to make the playoffs.

So even if your beloved Giants, Raiders, or Cardinals lose this weekend, remember that not all hope is lost. You too could join the legendary ‘75 Colts, ‘83 Lions, or ‘02 Jets. But you won’t be winning the Super Bowl. 

But you probably knew that already.

Feature Image Credit: Chicago Sun Times

Stewart Roche

NFL Contributor

Stewart is a multi-award winning writer from Dublin. He writes for
theatre, film and radio, most recently “Shard” for BBC Radio 4. He’s
been a Denver Broncos fan since 1985 and co-hosts the weekly Dublin to
Denver podcast with Colum Cronin. He’s also a writer for Pro Football