NFL: Wild Card History
by Nick Parsons
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I was talking playoff football with a good friend of mine and the topic of what Wild Card teams, if any, had made it all the way to the Super Bowl came up, and at first both of us were not sure about the answer.
So I looked some stuff up, and here it is:
In 1978, the NFL adopted a new 16-game schedule preceded by a four-game preseason. An additional wild-card team in each conference was added to the playoffs with the two wild-cards squaring off during the first weekend of the post-season. In 1990, two more wild-card teams were added to the mix. Primary reasons cited for the dramatic change in the playoff format included an increase in television revenue and to streamline a complex tiebreaking system.
So, since 1970 only nine wild-card teams have advanced to the Super Bowl, and to my amazement four had actually won the entire thing. I was definitely expecting a lower percentage than that. It's interesting to note that only three of those teams won three games on the road to advance to the Super Bowl.
This occurred just last year remember? The Giants finished the year 10-6, good for 2nd place in the NFC East but they went on an incredible run that saw them beat the Bucs 24-14 in the Wild Card Round, get a 21-17 win in Dallas in the Divisional Round, go on to a 23-20 OT victory in Wisconsin for the NFC Championship and eventually shock the World in Super Bowl XLII.
In 2005 the 11-5 Pittsburgh Steelers got on a roll and took out the Seahawks 21-10 (a game I still lament!).
The 2000 Baltimore Ravens did it and beat the Giants 21-10.
And who can forget the 1999 Tennessee Titans that lost to the Rams 23-16 in Super Bowl XXXV on a goal line stop? Well, I guess I did, but I certainly remember that game like it was yesterday looking back on it now.
The 1997 Broncos also did it, beating the Packers 31-24.
The Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots did it in '92 and '97 respectively, both losses.
The 1980 Raiders were the first Wild Card team to win a Super Bowl and the 1975 Dallas Cowboys were the first team to advance all the way to the Big Game, suffering a 27-17 loss to the Steelers.
By the time this is posted, there may not even be a Wild Card team remaining, but hopefully, as a pure football fan, that's not the case.
The teams and situations I have mentioned above are all very memorable and it would be great to watch another Wild Card team from this year's batch try and make history as well.
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