One would think that an NFL team that finishes with a double-digit win total in the regular season should be fairly safe in knowing they qualify for the playoffs. Actually history shows that since the NFL expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978, there have been 20 teams that have posted a record of 10-6 or better who failed to join the postseason chase for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Nine of those teams have done so since 1990 when the playoff format increased to include six teams per conference.
Two of those 20 teams finished 11-5 yet didn't make the playoffs.
The Denver Broncos (pictured) posted an 11-5 record in 1985 which placed them one game behind the Los Angeles Raiders in the AFC West. Denver lost out on the playoffs via tie breakers to the New York Jets and New England Patriots who also posted 11-5 records that season. The Jets entered the postseason as the first wild-card based on a better conference record than the Patriots or Broncos. New England trumped Denver for the second wild-card based on a better record among common opponents. Adding insult to injury for the 11-5 Broncos was the fact that the Cleveland Browns won the AFC Central that season with an 8-8 mark.
The Patriots suffered a similar fate in 2008 when they finished 11-5 and missed the playoffs while the 8-8 San Diego Chargers won the AFC West. Although New England had the identical record as Miami and Baltimore, they lost out on the division crown to the Dolphins and the second wild-card spot to the Ravens based on conference records.
Here are the 10-6 teams that didn’t make the playoffs since the NFL expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978.
2012 Chicago Bears (10-6)
2010 New York Giants (10-6)
2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-6)
2007 Cleveland Browns (10-6)
2005 Kansans City Chiefs (10-6)
2003 Miami Dolphins (10-6)
1991 Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
1991 San Francisco 49ers (10-6)
1989 Washington Redskins (10-6)
1989 Green Bay Packers (10-6)
1988 New York Giants (10-6)
1988 New Orleans Saints (10-6)
1986 Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
1986 Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
1985 Washington Redskins (10-6)
1981 Denver Broncos (10-6)
1980 New England Patriots (10-6)
1979 Washington Redskins (10-6)