Who's the best 9-7 team that DIDN'T make the playoffs?

Who's the best 9-7 team that DIDN'T make the playoffs?

Postby 74_75_78_79_ » Sat Aug 15, 2020 11:06 am

Plenty to choose from through the years. I'm going to start with two from the very same season. The 1990 season, that is.

I'll mention the Steelers first. Arguably a better regular-season team than they were the year prior when they did make the playoffs. They had the #1 defense albeit hardly a pass-rush. The offense, now under Joe Walton, struggled severely early on during that 1-3 start. SI did an article on it. But then the offense improved just enough, complementing the defense, to go 8-3 from there heading into the finale at Houston. And then, of course, they laid-down to Cody Carlson.

Seattle is the other 9-7 team that didn't make it in '90. They also started off bad, worse than Pittsburgh, at 0-3 thanks to attempting the 'run-and-shoot'. Back to 'Ground Chuck' for their fourth game, they go 9-4 from there beating Cincy, Houston, and sweeping KC - the latter of those games withstanding Derrick Thomas's 7 sacks at Arrowhead!

Why the Hawks simply didn't get the nod over Houston due to they beating Houston head-to-head is beyond me! It was because the Oilers had a better conference record which I don't really find fair. This means if Steelers would have beat Houston (10-6 in this case), it would have been Cincy going to Three Rivers in the 1st-Rd because Bengals...also would have had a better conference record than Hawks. I can see Steelers losing all tiebreakers because they had a lesser conference record than Seattle while also having lesser division record than Cincy (who swept them) & Hou. But Seattle losing out?? I thought head-to-head always trumped conference record!

Who was better between Steelers & Hawks in '90? Looking back at my regular season Power Rankings thread, I installed Seattle at #9 writing that I "almost" placed them up another notch above Philly. I actually placed the Steelers at #12. That finale is what did it. Going into that game marked Noll's last gasp of playoff flirtation for they faltered in '91 (3-2 start a serious mirage), Walton's offense not only being awful beginning of the year but all year; and while the defense not being good either.
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Re: Who's the best 9-7 team that DIDN'T make the playoffs?

Postby 7DnBrnc53 » Sat Aug 15, 2020 12:57 pm

An obvious choice for this thread is the 1980 Steelers. Injuries did ravage the offense that year, but they still went 9-7, and they lost four other games by six points or less, including two to Cincinnati that came down to kickers late in the game.
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Re: Who's the best 9-7 team that DIDN'T make the playoffs?

Postby ChrisBabcock » Sat Aug 15, 2020 1:29 pm

The 1980 Steelers would also be my vote for best. The 2004 Bills should get a mention here. Had an over 100 point differential. Went on a 6 game late season tear in which they scored over 33 in every game and outscored opponents 228-89. Willis McGahee scored 13 TDs in this his rookie year.
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Re: Who's the best 9-7 team that DIDN'T make the playoffs?

Postby 74_75_78_79_ » Sat Aug 15, 2020 5:35 pm

1980 Steelers are so darn obvious! I guess they are the '#1' 9-7 non-playoff-qualifier at end of day but there still may be an argument against it. Yes, they suffered some real close losses, but they also won some real close ones as well; three of them against weak competition such as Colts, Packers, and Bucs. Their backup players played well but perhaps not well enough for they lost many games in the 4th quarter. If you ever get a chance, read the 11/10/80 SI cover story with LC Greenwood on the cover, "Have the Steelers Had It?" Their last game at the time, a real close 22-20 win at home vs a bad Packers team, is discussed. Despite still offering up a sense of hope for the remainder of the season, it gives you an idea as to how far they've suddenly fallen.

Go back just one year from then, and the four non-playoff 9-7s from '79 are each a worthy mention...

Pats - in between 11-5 and 10-6 campaigns, they bring Steelers to OT Wk1 MNF, beat Chargers, beat Bears 27-7 at Soldier Field, and split with Dolphins.

Browns - year before winning division they beat Dallas MNF, beat Eagles in Philly, beat Dolphins, split with Houston, and almost split with Pittsburgh.

Seahawks - win 7 of their last 9, beat Oilers convincingly albeit #34 out, win at Cleveland, split with Denver, sweep Raiders for 2nd-straight year. At least they had a positive point-differential as opposed to the previous year.

Raiders - year before winning SBXV, they beat Rams in LA, sweep Denver, beat Dolphins, at least split with SD, make big comeback at NO on MNF, beat Browns.
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Re: Who's the best 9-7 team that DIDN'T make the playoffs?

Postby 7DnBrnc53 » Sat Aug 15, 2020 7:48 pm

1981 Chiefs: They were 12th in points scored (343) and 10th in points allowed (290). The offense was paced by Pro Bowl rookie RB Joe Delaney (1,121 yards rushing) and WR/KR J.T. Smith (63 catches). The defense had three Pro Bowlers (DE Art Still, CB Gary Green [5 INT's], FS Gary Barbaro [5 INT's]).

The team got off to an 8-4 start, with wins @Pittsburgh, against Tampa, @Seattle, against Denver, and twice against the defending champion Raiders. However, they lost three of their last four (@Detroit, @Denver, and at home against Miami) before beating the Vikes in the last game at the old Met Stadium.
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Re: Who's the best 9-7 team that DIDN'T make the playoffs?

Postby 74_75_78_79_ » Sat Aug 15, 2020 10:07 pm

7DnBrnc53 wrote:1981 Chiefs: They were 12th in points scored (343) and 10th in points allowed (290). The offense was paced by Pro Bowl rookie RB Joe Delaney (1,121 yards rushing) and WR/KR J.T. Smith (63 catches). The defense had three Pro Bowlers (DE Art Still, CB Gary Green [5 INT's], FS Gary Barbaro [5 INT's]).

The team got off to an 8-4 start, with wins @Pittsburgh, against Tampa, @Seattle, against Denver, and twice against the defending champion Raiders. However, they lost three of their last four (@Detroit, @Denver, and at home against Miami) before beating the Vikes in the last game at the old Met Stadium.


Good bring-up! I remember being quite surprised that they couldn't have beaten SD at least once! And, looking at last year's schedule, being surprised that they didn't beat Chargers at least once in '80 either! Guess SD had their number at the time! Joe Delaney...definitely remember him! At my Grandparents' house, watching a preview of the upcoming Thanksgiving Game with Chiefs at Detroit, my Grandpa on his rocker praising Delaney's play!


While at it, may as well mention the '84 Patriots! Interesting study! Start off 5-3 under Ron Meyer, but because of his behavior (firing Rust amongst it), he gets fired and Berry then takes over (immediately re-hiring Rust). Despite 4-4 as opposed to 5-3, everyone from the players up to management approves of the change! An argument can be made that they were better than the Steelers who actually did make the playoffs!

Meyer...man, if only he could have said and did things better, he may have been looked back upon as a better NFL HC amongst players and management! And his pre-NFL rep with SMU certainly didn't help. But without all that obvious baggage, I wouldn't have minded he HC-ing my NFL team from scratch! He really wasn't all that bad otherwise! Not at all! Right?
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Re: Who's the best 9-7 team that DIDN'T make the playoffs?

Postby Todd Pence » Sat Aug 15, 2020 10:57 pm

Today's odd fact: The 49ers are the only team to have participated in all 42 years of the 16-game era who have never posted a 9-7 finish. (The Carolina Panthers also have never posted a 9-7 finish, but they didn't start until 1995).
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Re: Who's the best 9-7 team that DIDN'T make the playoffs?

Postby 74_75_78_79_ » Sat Aug 15, 2020 11:29 pm

Todd Pence wrote:Today's odd fact: The 49ers are the only team to have participated in all 42 years of the 16-game era who have never posted a 9-7 finish. (The Carolina Panthers also have never posted a 9-7 finish, but they didn't start until 1995).


EXCELLENT knowledge-drop, Todd! I was actually thinking earlier today if the Forty Niners ever had such an '80-Steeler-like non-playoff 9-7 campaign but came up with nothing myself! Their '91 10-6 squad obviously the closest to such!

Still, there are so many more such 9-7 non-playoff seasons that can at least be mentioned! I'll sit back and leave it to others.
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Re: Who's the best 9-7 team that DIDN'T make the playoffs?

Postby 7DnBrnc53 » Sun Aug 16, 2020 12:35 am

Good bring-up! I remember being quite surprised that they couldn't have beaten SD at least once! And, looking at last year's schedule, being surprised that they didn't beat Chargers at least once in '80 either! Guess SD had their number at the time! Joe Delaney...definitely remember him! At my Grandparents' house, watching a preview of the upcoming Thanksgiving Game with Chiefs at Detroit, my Grandpa on his rocker praising Delaney's play!


They came close during the second meeting, but lost on a late Benirschke FG. They didn't beat the Chargers until Week 2 of the 1982 strike year.

Delaney was a great back. It was ashame that he died a few years later.
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Re: Who's the best 9-7 team that DIDN'T make the playoffs?

Postby 7DnBrnc53 » Sun Aug 16, 2020 12:56 am

1983 Cleveland Browns: The last year of the Sipe era. They were 8-5 going into their final three games before losing @Denver and being upset by Houston (that kept them out of the playoffs). Sipe had 3,566 yards passing and 26 TD's. Mike Pruitt had 1,184 yard rushing, and Ozzie Newsome had 89 catches.

1986 Minnesota Vikings: Strong candidate for this category. Fourth in points scored (398) and fifth in points allowed (273). Beat the 49ers and Bears (23-7 at home) and lost close ones to the eventual champion Giants and NFC Title Game participant Redskins. Prelude to three straight playoff appearances and an appearance in the NFC Title Game.
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