Incredible NFL playoffs streak extends to 33 seasons

Seahawks, NFL, NFL playoffs (Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)
Seahawks, NFL, NFL playoffs (Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images) /

For the 33rd consecutive season, at least four teams that failed to make the NFL playoffs the previous year were able to do so.

It came down to the end of the 271st and final game of the regular season, but the Seattle Seahawks punched their ticket to the NFL playoffs with the Detroit Lions’ upset victory over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field this past Sunday night.

In doing so, the Seahawks became the seventh team to clinch a playoff spot this year after failing to do so last year. This year’s postseason is the 33rd consecutive postseason in which at least four teams that failed to make the NFL playoffs the previous season managed to get back to postseason play.

This streak began in the 1990 season, which is the year the playoffs expanded from 10 teams to 12 teams. The last time fewer than four new teams qualified for the postseason was in 1989, when seven of 10 teams returned from 1988.

In 2020, the playoffs expanded from 12 teams to 14 teams. In all three seasons since the expansion, seven teams have returned from the previous postseason and seven new teams have joined them.

The last time the playoff field wasn’t comprised of at least half non-playoff teams from the year before was in 2019, when seven of 2018’s 12 playoff teams returned to the tournament.

This NFL playoffs streak indicates that the sport’s levels of parity and unpredictability are second to none.

In addition to the Seahawks, this year’s playoff teams that weren’t in last year’s postseason include the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Los Angeles Chargers, the Baltimore Ravens, the Miami Dolphins, the Minnesota Vikings, and the New York Giants.

The seven teams who made the playoffs both this year and last year are the Kansas City Chiefs, the Buffalo Bills, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Philadelphia Eagles, the San Francisco 49ers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Dallas Cowboys.

The Chiefs lead all teams with eight consecutive postseason appearances, with the Bills second at four. The Buccaneers are the only other team with more than two, having qualified in each of the last three years.