It's not easy to get to the playoffs in the NFL and it's even harder to get there with a losing record, but that's exactly what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have done this season.
The Bucs' 30-17 loss to the Falcons on Sunday dropped them to 8-9, which means they'll now be heading to the postseason with a losing record, marking just the sixth time in NFL history that that's happened. There's been some outcry over the years that the NFL shouldn't award a home playoff game to a team with a losing record, but the league has kept its format in place, which is why Tampa Bay will be hosting a wild card game next week.
Just because the Buccaneers are heading into the postseason with a losing record doesn't necessarily mean you should count them out. Although nobody with a losing record has won the Super Bowl, they have managed to win multiple playoff games.
Let's take a look at how teams with a losing record have historically done in the postseason. (Note: Three of the five teams to get in with a losing record won their division, but two others -- the 1982 Browns and Lions -- made the playoffs because the NFL expanded the postseason to 16 teams following the strike-shortened 1982 season.
1982: Browns (4-5). The Browns had to play the top the team in the AFC -- the 8-1 Raiders -- and things got ugly. Cleveland's defense was torched for 510 total yards in a 27-10 loss. Although the Browns couldn't stop Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett, this game was actually close until the end of the third quarter. On the Browns' opening possession of the second half, they drove down to the Raiders' 11-yard line looking to break open a 10-10 tie. Unfortunately, Cleveland is the factory of sadness so you know this story ends with something sad. Browns running back Charles White lost a fumble before the Browns could score. The Raiders took the turnover and drove 89 yards for a touchdown that gave Los Angeles a 17-10 lead. Things only got uglier from there for Cleveland. Result: Raiders 27-10 over Browns.
1982: Lions (4-5). The Lions had to go on the road to play No. 1-seeded Washington (8-1) in a game that was pretty much over before it started. On their first three possessions, the Lions lost two fumbles and threw a pick-six. The game was so ugly, we should just stop talking about it and do some trivia instead. To stump your friends this week, ask them if they know who the Lions' starting quarterback was in this game. Answer: Eric Hipple. Hipple was sacked four times and threw two interceptions in the blowout loss. Result: Washington 31-7 over Lions.
2010: Seahawks (7-9). The 2010 Seahawks are the team that started the debate about whether or not division winners should get to host playoff games. Despite going 7-9, Seattle still got to host the 11-5 Saints because the Seahawks won the NFC West while the Saints were a wild card team. The Seahawks would end up pulling off the upset in a game that's mostly remembered for giving us the "Beast Quake."
With Seattle clinging to a 34-30 fourth-quarter lead, Marshawn Lynch took a handoff and immediately proceeded to run over everyone on the Saints defense en route to a 67-yard touchdown. The final Sunday of Week 18 this year was actually played on the 11th anniversary of the "Beast Quake."
Lynch's touchdown helped the Seahawks pull off one of the biggest upsets in NFL postseason history.
Wild card result: Seahawks 41-36 over Saints.
Divisional result: Bears 35-24 over Seahawks
2014: Panthers (7-8-1). Like the Buccaneers, the Panthers won a weak NFC South, which is how they were able to get into the playoffs with a losing record. In the wild card round, the Panthers were lucky enough to face a Cardinals team that was down to its third-string QB in Ryan Lindley. The Panthers defense beat up on Lindley, who threw for just 82 yards while also throwing two interceptions.
Wild card result: Panthers 27-16 over Cardinals
Divisional result: Seahawks 31-17 over Panthers
2020: Commanders (7-9). The Commanders were a huge 10-point underdog in the wild card round against Tom Brady's Buccaneers, but despite that, they still almost pulled off the upset. With the score 31-23, the Commanders had the ball in the final 2:30 of the game with a chance to tie, but their final drive came up short after Washington had driven into Tampa Bay territory.
Overall, the three division winners that finished with a losing record have gone 2-1 in the wild card round, so a win by the Buccaneers next week isn't out of the question. The Bucs also have a secret weapon that none of these other teams had and that's Tom Brady. When you have the most successful quarterback in NFL history on your side, anything is possible.