Does Thanksgiving help playoff hopes?

Is winning on Thanksgiving Day a litmus test for identifying a playoff team? Maybe it is. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, there have been 91 games played on the annual “football” holiday. Of that sum, a total of 55 winners from those games, or 60 percent, went on to earn a postseason berth that year. Thirty of those winners won their division and 24 made the postseason as a Wild Card.

How about the loser in a Thanksgiving Day Game? The teams who came up on the short end on “Turkey Day” made it to the postseason only 29 percent of the time (26 of 91 teams with 14 clubs winning their division).

Is playing on Thanksgiving a good identifier of a Super Bowl team? Unless you are the Dallas Cowboys the answer is a resounding “no.” Since 1970, the Cowboys (1971, 1992, 1993, and 1995) and the Miami Dolphins (1973) are the only teams to play on Thanksgiving and make it to the Super Bowl in the same season.  Dallas and Miami hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy each of those seasons.

Year Winner Playoff? Loser Playoff?
1970 Detroit - 28 WC Oakland - 14 DIV
  Dallas - 16 DIV Green Bay - 3  
1971 Detroit - 28   Kansas City - 21 DIV
  *Dallas - 28 DIV Los Angeles 21  
1972 Detroit - 37   NY Jets - 20  
  San Francisco - 31 DIV Dallas - 10 WC
1973 Washington - 20 WC Detroit - 0  
  *Miami - 14 DIV Dallas - 7 DIV
1974 Denver - 31 WC Detroit - 27  
  Dallas - 24   Washington - 23 WC
1975 Los Angeles - 20 DIV Detroit - 0  
  Buffalo - 32   St. Louis - 14 DIV
1976 Detroit - 27   Buffalo - 14  
  Dallas - 19 DIV St. Louis - 14  
1977 Chicago - 31 WC Detroit - 14  
  Miami - 55   St. Louis - 14  
1978 Detroit - 17   Denver - 14 DIV
  Dallas - 37 DIV Washington - 10  
1979 Detroit - 20   Chicago - 0 WC
  Houston - 30 WC Dallas - 24 DIV
1981 Detroit - 27   Kansas City - 10  
  Dallas - 10 DIV Chicago - 9  
1982 Dallas - 31 STK Cleveland - 14 STK
  NY Giants - 13   Detroit - 6  
1983 Dallas - 35 WC St. Louis - 17  
  Detroit - 45 DIV Pittsburgh - 3 DIV
1984 Dallas - 20   New England - 17  
  Detroit - 31   Green Bay - 28  
1985 Dallas - 35 DIV St. Louis - 17  
  Detroit - 31   NY Jets - 20 WC
1986 Seattle - 31   Dallas - 14  
  Green Bay - 44   Detroit - 40  
1987 Minnesota - 44 WC Dallas -38  
  Kansas City - 27   Detroit - 20  
1988 Houston - 25 WC Dallas - 17  
  Minnesota - 23 WC Detroit - 0  
1989 Philadelphia - 27 WC Dallas - 0  
  Detroit - 13   Cleveland - 10 DIV
1990 Dallas - 27   Washington - 17 WC
  Detroit - 40   Denver - 27  
1991 Dallas - 20 WC Pittsburgh - 10  
  Detroit - 16 DIV Chicago - 6 WC
1992 *Dallas - 30 DIV NY Giants - 3  
  Houston - 24 WC Detroit - 21  
1993 Miami - 16   *Dallas - 14 DIV
  Chicago - 10   Detroit - 6 DIV
1994 Dallas - 42 DIV Green Bay - 31 WC
  Detroit - 35 WC Buffalo - 21  
1995 *Dallas - 24 DIV Kansas City - 12 DIV
  Detroit - 44 WC Minnesota - 38  
1996 Dallas - 21 DIV Wahington - 10  
  Kansas City - 28   Detroit - 24  
1997 Tennessee - 27   Dallas - 14  
  Detroit - 55 WC Chicago - 20  
1998 Minnesota - 46 DIV Dallas - 36 WC
  Detroit - 19   Pittsburgh - 16  
1999 Dallas - 20 WC Miami - 0 WC
  Detroit - 21 WC Chicago - 17  
2000 Minnesota - 27 DIV Dallas - 15  
  Detroit - 34   New England - 9  
2001 Green Bay - 29 WC Detroit - 27  
  Denver - 26   Dallas - 24  
2002 New England - 20   Detroit - 12  
  Dallas - 27   Washington - 20  
2003 Detroit - 22   Green Bay - 14 DIV
  Miami - 40   Dallas - 21 WC
2004 Indianapolis - 41 DIV Detroit - 9  
  Dallas - 21   Chicago - 7  
2005 Atlanta - 27   Detroit - 7  
  Denver - 24 DIV Dallas - 21  
2006 Miami - 27   Detroit - 10  
  Dallas - 38 WC Tampa Bay - 10  
  Kansas - 19 WC Denver - 10  
2007 Green Bay - 37 DIV Detroit - 26  
  Dallas - 34 DIV NY Jets - 3  
  Indianapolis - 31 DIV Atlanta - 13  
2008 Tennessee - 47 DIV Detroit - 10  
  Dallas - 34   Seattle - 9  
  Philadelphia - 48 WC Arizona - 20 DIV
2009 Green Bay - 34 WC Detroit - 12  
  Dallas - 24 DIV Oakland - 7  
  Denver - 26   NY Giants - 6  
2010 New England - 45 DIV Detroit - 24  
  New Orleans - 30 WC Dallas - 27  
  NY Jets - 26 WC Cincinnati - 10  
2011 Green Bay - 27 DIV Detroit - 15 WC
  Dallas - 20   Miami- 19  
  Baltimore - 16 DIV San Francisco - 6 DIV
2012 Houston - 34 DIV Detroit - 31  
  Washington - 38 DIV Dallas - 31  
  New England - 49 DIV New York Jets - 19  
WC = Wildcard; DIV = Division Winner; STK = Strike-year playoff format; * = Super Bowl champion

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