The best that Carolina can hope for is a record of 7-8-1, with a .468 winning percentage while Atlanta hopes attain a record of 7-9, or .438 winning percentage. Whoever wins the division with said record, the winner will not be the first team to win a division with a mediocre or losing record.
Going into Week 17, as one sportscaster put it, Green Bay, Detroit or Chicago will be going to the playoffs, whether they like it or not. The NFC North divisional championship standings going into the final week of the regular season was as follows:
W L T PCT
Chicago 8 7 .533
Green Bay 7 7 1 .500
Detroit 7 8 .467
Needless to say, Chicago and Detroit lost while Green Bay won, taking the NFC North title with a final record of 8-7-1, a .531 winning percentage.
Like their rivals from Green Bay, the Minnesota Vikings won the division with a record of 8-7-1. Back when the NFC was split into three divisions, the Vikings and Packers entered the final week with identical, 8-6-1 records a top of the NFC Central. Both teams won their final game in Week 17. However, since Minnesota posted a 1-0-1 record versus Green Bay. Led by the 38 year-old Fran Tarkenton and a versatile offensive core, the Vikings snuck into the playoffs with a .531 winning percentage.
Fun fact: Despite leading the league in intersections thrown (34 total, 2.2 INT per game), the Minnesota Vikings had one of 1978's best passing attacks, ranked #2 for yards and ranked #3 for scoring.
Going into Week 14 and the 7-5 Denver Broncos and the 7-5 Oakland Raiders looked to be the first AFC West franchises to send two teams to the playoff in five years. The Raiders’, who hadn’t reached playoffs since 2002, season began to unravel following a 20 point loss to the 3-8 Dolphins at the conclusion of week 14, going 1-4 in their final five games. Simultaneously, the Broncos lost their final three games and scoring an average of just 13 points per game.
The ill-fated finishes of Oakland and Denver, set them in a three-way tie with a vastly improved Chargers team, for the AFC West. Fortunately for the Denver, they won the tiebreak over Oakland and San Diego based on best win percentage in common games. Thus, Tebow and the Broncos became AFC West champs with a .500 record.
In a similarly drama filled Week 14, the 1985 AFC west’s top three teams were in a tight race for the division title. Going into that week, the standings were as follows:
W L PCT
Cleveland 7 7 .500
Cincinnati 7 7 .500
Pittsburgh 6 8 .429
Despite boasting one of the NFL’s best overall defenses and offensive ground attack, the 1985 Browns narrowly missed a 9-7 record by going 1-1 in the final two weeks. However, their in state rival, the Cincinnati Bengals ended up dropping their last two games finishing the season at 7-9. Also finishing at 7-9 was the Steelers, who went 1-1 in their final two games, which prevented them from catching up to the Browns. And so it is, owner, Art Modell’s Browns won the AFC Central with a .500 winning percentage.
Fun fact: Cleveland is the only team in the Pre-2002 Realignment NFL to win a division with an even record.
With their season on the brink the 4-8 Chargers, looked at the first thirteen weeks of the season and wondered whether or not their 2008 campaign could be salvaged. Unbeknownst to them, the Chargers scored 19 touchdowns in their final games, helping them finish the season on a four game winning streak. Seven of the touchdowns came in their final win against the 8-7 Broncos, who the 7-8 Chargers trailed in the standings. The final score was 52-21, giving the Chargers the AFC West crown with an 8-8 record.
Fun fact: The Chargers lost to opponents by an average of just 4.25 points while they beat opponents by an average 15.75 points.
Before DangeRuss, the Beast Quake, Beast Mode, and the Legion of Boom there was a bald, 35 year-old QB, named Matt Hasselbeck, a nicknameless running back named Marshawn Lynch, and the NFL’s 8th worst defense.
Quite simply, Pete Carroll and the 2010 Seahawks were an unremarkable team that went 2-5 in their final 7 games. However, their final win of the season came against the Rams, who were also 6-9 going into Week 17.
The Seahawks then clinched the AFC West and ended up winning their first playoff game. This is when the Beast Quake bore a mythological creature known as Beast Mode. Despite being the first team to win a division without a winning record, they became a surprise team in the playoffs.
Who will be added to this list of mediocrity and losers?