There have been many great teams in the history of the NFL. These five teams are not among them, finishing their regular-season campaigns with a record below .500. Still each team manged to sneak its way into the NFL playoffs, despite limited success.
Here’s a look at the teams to reach the NFL postseason despite mediocre regular seasons.
1982 Detroit Lions (4-5)
Following the first of two NFL strikes in this decade, the ’82 season was shortened to just nine games, and the playoff field expanded to eight teams in each conference. Despite a 2-0 start to the season, the Lions went 2-5 after the strike ended in November. That was enough to earn a No. 8 seed, but the Lions ran into eventual Super Bowl champs Washington, putting up little fight in a 31-7 first-round loss.
1982 Cleveland Browns (4-5)
Another beneficiary of the expanded postseason of ’82, the Browns also claimed the final seed in the AFC after just three post-strike wins by a combined 10 points. The Browns booked a first-round matchup with the Raiders, the top seed in the AFC in their first season in Los Angeles. Cleveland hung around early, but the Raiders pulled away in the second half to win 27-10.
2010 Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
Seattle survived a 2-7 stretch late in the season to snatch the NFC West title with a Week 17 victory over the Rams, and the Seahawks made their chance count. Hosting a dangerous Saints team that finished 11-5, but second in the NFC South, the Seahawks went ahead thanks to a four-TD game from Matt Hasselbeck, only for the Saints to make it a four-point game in the final quarter. Enter Marshawn Lynch, whose 67-yard touchdown run sent Seahawks fans into such a frenzy the vibrations from the stadium registered as a small earthquake. The 2010 Seahawks proved not to be earth-shattering, however, falling to the Bears a week later.
2014 Carolina Panthers (7-8-1)
After winning the NFC South with a 12-4 mark in 2013, the Panthers took a different path to division glory a year later. Carolina was just 3-8-1 with four games to play, including three against division foes. Four wins later, the Panthers again were NFC South champs. Unlike the year before, they had some success once the postseason began. Facing the 11-5 Arizona Cardinals, Cam Newton threw a pair of third-quarter touchdown passes to give Carolina a lead it never came close to relinquishing. The success ended in the next round, when the Panthers lost to eventual NFC champion Seattle.
2020 Washington Fooball Team (7-9)
In a weak NFC East during a season shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, someone had to win it all and reach the playoffs. Entering Week 17, the Giants, Cowboys and Washington all remained in the running. The Giants beat Dallas early in the day to finish 6-10 and eliminate the Cowboys from contention. However, a Washington victory over the Eagles later that evening, marred by Philadelphia switching quarterbacks while down late in the game, was enough for the WFT to reach the playoffs at 7-9.