The NFL officially expanded its playoff field from 12 to 14 teams on Tuesday, giving more teams a chance to get into the tournament on an annual basis.
Who would have made the playoffs in recent seasons had those rules been in place? Here’s a rundown:
2019: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) / Los Angeles Rams (9-7)
The Steelers were a lost cause because of their quarterback situation, but the Rams could have had a run in them after making the Super Bowl in 2018.
2018: Steelers (9-6-1) / Minnesota Vikings (8-7-1)
That Pittsburgh team limped to the finish line with a 2-4 stretch to wrap up the regular season. The organization just lost out on a bunch of money the last two years. You never know when Kirk Cousins is going to get hot if you’re the Vikes.
2017: Baltimore Ravens (9-7) / Detroit Lions (9-7)
This was the year the Ravens lost a playoff spot with a last-second loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17. This would have marked a second consecutive playoff berth for the Lions for the first time since 1994/1995. Would they still have fired Jim Caldwell under these circumstances?
2016: Tennessee Titans (9-7) / Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)
This was the first of four consecutive 9-7 seasons for the Titans, who finished strong but fell short. It would have marked Tampa Bay’s first playoff berth in almost a decade.
2015: New York Jets (10-6) / Atlanta Falcons (8-8)
This would have been Gang Green’s first playoff berth since 2010. Wonder if Todd Bowles would have had a longer leash under those circumstances. That Atlanta team wasn’t good yet and wouldn’t have stood a chance.
2014: Houston Texans (9-7) / Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
These Texans were quarterbacked by Case Keenum down the stretch in Bill O’Brien’s inaugural season. Meanwhile, Philadelphia might not have fired Chip Kelly had it gotten in, which probably means they don’t win the Super Bowl a few years later.
2013: Steelers (8-8) / Arizona Cardinals (10-6)
This Pittsburgh team won three in a row to close the season and might have had some fight in it. The Cards also finished strong in Bruce Arians’ debut season, but it was too little too late in the old format.
2012: Steelers (8-8) / Chicago Bears (10-6)
The last three four times the Steelers missed the playoffs, they would have made it under a 14-team format. That’s mind-blowing, and likely tough to swallow if you’re a Pittsburgher. The Bears fired Lovie Smith after falling short here.
2011: Titans (9-7) / Bears (8-8)
Also tough to be a Titans or Bears fan while considering the multiple playoff games your team missed out on in the last decade. Neither team looked like threats in 2011, though.
2010: San Diego Chargers (9-7) / New York Giants (10-6)
Maybe this was our best shot at a Philip Rivers-Eli Manning Super Bowl. The Giants won the whole thing with a worse record (9-7) the next year.
2009: Texans (9-7) / Falcons (9-7)
The Texans won four in a row to close out the season, but had to wait two more years to earn their first-ever playoff berth. The Falcons won three in a row to wrap up the regular season, which was a precursor to a 13-3 2010 campaign. Who knows what might have happened to them that postseason.
2008: New England Patriots (11-5) / Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)
Had the 14-team playoff field existed in 2008, the Patriots would be riding 17-season streak of nonstop playoff appearances.