Analysis: This century’s 10 weakest teams to make the NFL playoffs

Seattle's Marshawn Lynch (left) and Denver's Tim Tebow became midseason heroes for the 2010 Seahawks and 2011 Broncos, respectively.   

Fox Sports South takes a whimsical, résumé-based look at the 10 weakest teams to make the NFL playoffs since 2000.

10. 2007 Tennessee Titans

Regular Season Record: 10-6
Home: 5-3 … Road: 5-3
Per-Game Point Differential: +0.2
Turnover Margin: 0
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 2
Losses Of 10 Points Or More: 3
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 2
Record vs. playoff teams: 2-4
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: None

BREAKDOWN

The 2007 Titans are the lone 10-6 team of this countdown.

Tennessee’s offense generated 16 or fewer points eight times that season — including a desultory 17-6 loss to the Chargers during the AFC playoffs, in which the Titans accounted for only 248 total yards and 15 first downs.

Tennessee also had the good fortune of racking up victories against four 4-12 teams (Falcons, Raiders, Jets, Chiefs), boosting its seasonal record.

One last thing: It’s interesting that none of the Titans’ primary playmakers — QB Vince Young (2,456 yards passing, 12 TDs), RB LenDale White (1,224 total yards, 7 TDs), WR Roydell Williams (55 catches, 750 yards, 4 TDs) — had much staying power beyond the 2007 campaign.

The following season, the Titans lucked into drafting tailback Chris Johnson (24th overall).

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9. 2001 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Regular Season Record: 9-7
Home: 5-3 … Road: 4-4
Per-Game Point Differential: +2.8
Turnover Margin: +17
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 3
Losses Of 10 Points Or More: 1
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 2
Record vs. playoff teams: 3-4
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: None

 

BREAKDOWN

This would mark Tony Dungy’s final campaign with Tampa Bay and the franchise’s last year of playoff heartache before claiming the Lombardi Trophy in 2002, the first season under head coach Jon Gruden.

During the ’01 regular season, the Buccaneers — led by QB Brad Johnson (3,406 yards passing, 16 total TDs (11 TDs), Keyshawn Johnson (106 catches, 1,266 yards) and defenders Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks — incurred only one bad loss (Vikings).

On the down side, Tampa Bay’s longest winning streak was three … and its wild-card setback to Philly was a blowout loss (31-9) on the road.

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8. 2008 San Diego Chargers

Regular Season Record: 8-8 (won AFC West title)
Home: 5-3 … Road: 3-5
Per-Game Point Differential: +5.8
Turnover Margin: +4
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 6
Losses Of 10 Points Or More: 0
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 1
Record vs. playoff teams: 0-5
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: Advanced to Divisional Playoffs (lost to Steelers)

 

BREAKDOWN

The 2008 Chargers were all over the map — starting off 0-2 (thanks to a referee error in Week 2 — above), slumping to 4-8 after 12 games and then taking their final four games, including a winner-take-all clash for the AFC West crown against the Broncos in Week 17.

Even San Diego’s marks of consistency had their quirks: Six victories of 10 or more points, no blowout losses, just one defeat to a sub-.500 club and a 0-5 regular-season record against playoff teams.

Of course, the Chargers put that last stat to bed in the playoffs, knocking off the 12-4 Colts in the wild-card round, ending Indy’s nine-game winning streak.

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7. 2006 New York Giants

Regular Season Record: 8-8
Home: 3-5 … Road: 5-3
Per-Game Point Differential: -0.4
Turnover Margin: 0
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 5
Losses Of 10 Points Or More: 5
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 2-6
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 4
Playoff Extra Credit: None

 

BREAKDOWN

Talk about a season of balanced highs and lows: The 2006 Giants had an 8-8 record, five wins of 10 points or more, five defeats of 10 points or more, a point differential of almost zero … and a zero turnover margin.

The biggest positive of that campaign: The Giants’ five-game win streak (Weeks 5-9) trumped the subsequent four-game losing streak (Weeks 10-13).

This would end up being Tiki Barber’s final season in the pros. The opinionated tailback (above) racked up a third straight campaign of more than 2,000 total yards (1,662 rushing) — one of the few backs in NFL history to accomplish the feat.

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6. 2006 Seattle Seahawks

Regular Season Record: 9-7 (won NFC West title)
Home: 5-3 … Road: 4-4
Per-Game Point Differential: -0.4
Turnover Margin: -8
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 5
Losses Of 10 Points Or More: 3
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 4
Record vs. playoff teams: 1-3
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 2
Playoff Extra Credit: Advanced to Divisional Playoffs (lost to Bears)

 

BREAKDOWN

The 2006 Seahawks opened the season with three consecutive victories, leading some to believe they wouldn’t be gravely affected by the dreaded Super Bowl Hangover.

But those good tidings dissipated shortly after Seattle’s bye week, with the club going 4-6 from Weeks 7-16.

Fortunately, the Seahawks were playing in a lousy division; they were also very lucky to survive a wild-card victory over the Cowboys … thanks to Tony Romo’s infamous botched long-snap of a chip-shot field goal (above) in the final seconds.

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5. 2002 Cleveland Browns

Regular Season Record: 9-7
Home: 3-5 … Road: 6-2
Per-Game Point Differential: +1.5
Turnover Margin: -2
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 2
Losses Of 10 Points Or More: 1
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 2
Record vs. playoff teams: 2-4
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: None

 

BREAKDOWN

For their fourth season as a rebooted franchise, the new-look Cleveland Browns became winners in 2002, scraping by with a 9-7 mark.

But it would have been — and should have been — 10-6, if linebacker Dwayne Rudd hadn’t infamously removed his helmet during live action in the season opener against the Chiefs (above).

As a consequence, KC kept possession of the ball and moved closer to clinch a 40-39 victory in Cleveland.

To the Browns’ credit, they won their final five road games during the regular season, and their wild-card loss to the Steelers (36-33) occurred in heartbreaking fashion.

On the down side, it’s hard to understand how a team with four different streaks of back-to-back victories ended up with only nine wins.

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4. 2011 Denver Broncos

Regular Season Record: 8-8
Home: 3-5 … Road: 5-3
Per-Game Point Differential: -5.1
Turnover Margin: -12
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 1
Losses Of 10 Points Or More: 4
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 2
Record vs. playoff teams: 1-3
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 2
Playoff Extra Credit: Advanced to Divisional Playoffs (lost to Patriots)

BREAKDOWN

Tim Tebow might have the NFL skills of a clipboard-holding quarterback, but he deserves props for leading the 2011 Broncos to an overtime victory over the Steelers during the wild-card round.

On that day, Tebow accounted for 366 total yards (316 passing) and three total touchdowns, including the game-winning TD pass to Demaryius Thomas (80 yards) on the first play of overtime (above).

On the whole, the 2011 Broncos were far from an elite team, losing to the Lions, Packers and Patriots (twice) by an average margin of 29.5 points. The Denver defense, in turn, surrendered 40 or more points five times.

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3. 2010 Seattle Seahawks

Regular Season Record: 7-9 (won NFC West title)
Home: 5-3 … Road: 2-6
Per-Game Point Differential: -6.1
Turnover Margin: -9
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 5
Losses Of 10 Points Or More: 9
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 3
Record vs. playoff teams: 1-3
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 2
Playoff Extra Credit: Advanced to Divisional Playoffs (lost to Bears)

BREAKDOWN

The 2010 Seahawks are redoubtably the most enigmatic club in this countdown.

Fourteen games with point differentials of 10 or more (five positive, nine negative)? How is that even possible … in a league that prides itself on parity?

Adding to the absurdity, Seattle might have hosted the NFL’s most meaningful smashed-windshield game of the past 15 years, when the 6-9 Seahawks and 7-9 Rams had a winner-take-all clash for the NFC West crown in Week 17.

What’s a smashed-windshield game? That’s when you leave two tickets on your dashboard, hoping someone will break into the vehicle and steal them.

Instead, when you return to the car, the thief broke the window … only to leave two extra tickets on your dash.

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2. 2004 St. Louis Rams

Regular Season Record: 8-8
Home: 6-2 … Road: 2-6
Per-Game Point Differential: -4.6
Turnover Margin: -24
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 4
Losses Of 10 Points Or More: 7
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 3
Record vs. playoff teams: 3-4
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: Advanced to Divisional Playoffs (lost to Falcons)

BREAKDOWN

How does a Mike Martz-led offense featuring dynamic talents like QB Marc Bulger, Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, rookie Steven Jackson and in-their-prime receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce average only 19.9 points for a season?

And how does a team with a turnover margin of minus-24 even sniff the playoffs?

Martz should be praised for overcoming such a galling stat.

After all, the 2004 Rams were able to knock off the West champion Seahawks three times, including two road upsets. And Martz’s marauders were the only NFC team to beat the Super Bowl-bound Eagles all season.

That takes some of the sting out of a campaign that included seven losses of 10 or more points.

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1. 2004 Seattle Seahawks

Regular Season Record: 9-7 (won NFC West title)
Home: 5-3 … Road: 4-4
Per-Game Point Differential: -0.1
Turnover Margin: +8
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 3
Losses Of 10 Points Or More: 4
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 2
Record vs. playoff teams: 1-4
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 2
Playoff Extra Credit: None

 

BREAKDOWN

The 2004 Seahawks should be commended for posting strong starts and finishes to that campaign, winning their opening three games and taking three of four in the closing weeks.

Similarly, running back Shaun Alexander (1,866 total yards, 20 TDs) should be praised for a fourth consecutive year of at least 1,600 yards/16 TDs, setting the table for his MVP campaign the following season.

However, that Seattle defense was too inconsistent to be taken seriously as a title challenger, surrendering only 13 total points in the first three weeks … and then allowing 26 or more seven times after that that.

And aside from Darrell Jackson (87 catches, 1,199 yards, 7 TDs), no other Seahawks pass-catcher produced 40-plus receptions.

It also didn’t help that Seattle lost three times to St. Louis (including at home during the playoffs) — a Rams club that incurred seven losses of 10 or more points that season. Ugh.