How Do Teams That Clinch Spot in Last Week Perform in NFL Playoffs?

How Do Teams That Clinch Spot in Last Week Perform in NFL Playoffs?
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

For NFL teams that are on the playoff bubble entering the final weekend of regular-season play, the approach is straightforward. They just want to get into the playoffs and then focus on what is a single-elimination tournament to get to and win the Super Bowl.

However, PennStakes.com – your source for Pennsylvania sports betting - took a step back to consider this question: When a team qualifies for the NFL playoffs on the last day of the regular-season, how realistic are the expectations that a Super Bowl appearance is a possibility?

That question is germane for the Steelers chances and their followers as the end of the NFL season approaches, and is discussed below. But first, there are some other factors and numbers to be considered.

As it stands, the Steelers (9-7) are in third place in the AFC North, with their final game against the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday (4:30 p.m.) at M&T Bank Stadium. Since the Ravens already have clinched the top playoff seed in the AFC, they likely will rest star quarterback Lamar Jackson and other starters, which would be an obvious advantage for the Pittsburgh Steelers playoff chances.

However, simply beating the Ravens doesn’t mean the Steelers automatically go to the playoffs. There are several scenarios that would give Pittsburgh its golden ticket to the postseason. NFL.com gives the Steelers playoff chances a 64% chance if they win on Sunday against the Ravens. Even if the Steelers lose the game, NFL.com says Pittsburgh has a 16% chance of qualifying.

The Steelers, by the way, are 3-point and -180 moneyline favorites at ESPN Bet Pennsylvania against the Ravens (+150).

OK, so let’s assume the Steelers do make it to the postseason as a final week qualifier, what are their prospects of advancing? Utilizing ChampsorChumps.us, PennStakes.com looked at how teams performed after clinching a playoff spot in the last week of the season. The historical look goes back to the 2013 season.

Performance of Teams Clinching in Last Week

SituationNumber of Teams Percentage
Winning Wild Card Round15 of 2951.7%
Winning Divisional Round2 of 296.9%
Winning Conference Championship0 of 290.0%
Winning Super Bowl0 of 290.0%

 

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Many Late-Clinchers Advance

First, the good news. From among the 29 teams that clinched a playoff spot on the last week in the last 10 seasons, 15 of those teams, or 51.7%, won in the Wild Card Round. So much for the good news. Of those teams that slipped into the playoffs on the final weekend of the regular season, just two of them (6.9%) won in Divisional Round. And neither of those teams won the Conference Championship.

Of course, that kind of history won’t be on the minds of the Steelers when they take on the Ravens in Baltimore. They just want to make the playoffs, and once in the postseason, they’ll take it -- as coaches and athletes like to say -- one game at a time.

And then there is this, which gives hope for the Steelers’ Super Bowl odds. Although it is beyond the time frame in the above research, the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers finished 11-5 and in second place in their division. Qualifying for the playoffs as a Wild Card, they went on the road to win three straight playoffs games (Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Denver). They then defeated Seattle in Super Bowl XL.

PennStakes.com will follow the Steelers from a sports betting angle if they do make the playoffs. Count on the site also for the best PA sportsbook promos.

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Author

A longtime reporter and editor who began writing on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened, Bill covered the world Series of Poker and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for a decade.

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