The Carolina Panthers are vying to become the first team in NFL history to advance to the conference championship after finishing the regular season with a record below .500 (7-8-1).
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With a 27-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Wild Card Game on Saturday, the Panthers became the second team in NFL history to win a postseason game with a regular-season record below .500.
Only three other teams have ever advanced to the playoffs with a record below .500. It didn’t turn out so well for them.
The 1982 season was reduced from 16 weeks to nine as the result of a 57-day player strike. The NFL conducted a 16-team postseason Super Bowl tournament at the conclusion of the regular season. Eight teams from each conference made the playoffs. The Cleveland Browns of the AFC and Detroit Lions in the NFC were the beneficiaries of the special tournament format. Both teams finished the regular season with a 4-5 record and still managed to make the postseason.
Cleveland traveled to Los Angeles to face the top-seeded Raiders that featured star quarterback Jim Plunkett. The Browns went into the half trailing, 13-10, and then gave up two rushing touchdowns in the second half to lose 27-10.
Detroit squared off with the NFC's top-seeded Washington Redskins. The game wasn’t even close as the Redskins went up 31-0 by the third quarter. Gold Jacket John Riggins led the charge on the ground with 119 rushing yards. The final score of the game was 31-7 in favor of the Redskins.
The Seattle Seahawks had better luck in 2010. Both the St. Louis Rams and Seahawks finished with identical 7-9 records. Seattle won the NFC West based on the tiebreaker.
Since the Seahawks won the NFC West, Seattle hosted the New Orleans Saints, who earned a Wild Card berth with an 11-5 record. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 272 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Seahawks to a high-scoring 41-36 victory.
The next round didn’t fare so well for the NFC West Champions. After falling behind 28-3 in the third quarter to the Chicago Bears, Seattle attempted a comeback by scoring three touchdowns in the fourth quarter but fell short and lost 35-24.