There are currently 14 teams in the NFL with losing records, but even though seven games remain in the regular schedule for most teams (the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins each has six left), all is not lost.
Since 1990, when the league established its current playoff format, 15 teams with records below .500 after nine games went on to qualify for the postseason. The latest example: the New York Jets, who were 4-5 after nine games last season but finished 9-7 and advanced to the AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Is it possible that could happen again? It doesn’t seem so in the AFC, where the Jets and New England Patriots are tied in the East at 7-2, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are tied in the North at 6-3 and the Colts (6-3) lead the South.
Best guess: The wild cards probably will come from the East and North, although the San Diego Chargers (4-5) have yet to begin their late-season push. Since 2006, the Chargers are 19-0 in December and January and are currently riding a two-game win streak.
The NFC might be more difficult to predict. The Minnesota Vikings are 3-6 overall in the NFC North and 1-2 in the division, but we refuse to count out Brett Favre, even as he endures a horrendous (and likely final) 20th season.
Certainly, the St. Louis Rams (4-5), San Francisco 49ers (3-6) and Arizona Cardinals (3-6) are mathematically alive to win the West, and with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck ready to play with a broken wrist in his left non-throwing hand, there’s no guarantee the first-place Seattle Seahawks (5-4) will hold on.
Is there a playoff club in the group of teams with losing records? If we had to pick one, it would be the Chargers, who seem to be gaining momentum as December approaches. With the overachieving Oakland Raiders (5-4) and Kansas City Chiefs (5-4) ahead of them, they Chargers are a better bet to win their division than get in via a wild card.
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