The Game Before the Money Radio Show reviewed Super Bowl teams’ records midway through the NFL season. The show airs on the SportsMap Radio Network on Saturday mornings at 11 am Eastern, 8 Pacific and is hosted by football historian Jackson Michael.
You may have already read my posts about the small number of quarterbacks who have ever won the Super Bowl and the AFC Championship, and the NFC Championship. This post summarizes my research about Super Bowl teams’ mid-season records.
Do Teams Need a Winning Record Midway Through NFL Season to make the Super Bowl?
Almost certainly, yes. Only one team in history made the Super Bowl without a winning record after seven games!
A solid start by midway through the NFL season is essential. How essential?
- Over 90 percent of all Super Bowl teams in pro football history have started at least 5-2.
- A handful of Super Bowl teams started at 4-3 after seven games.
- Only one team in Super Bowl history owned a losing record after seven games, the 1995 Pittsburgh Steelers were 3-4 after seven games and still made the Super Bowl.
- Only three teams in NFL history have won the Super Bowl after starting worse than 5-2 after seven games: the 1971 Cowboys, the 1980 Raiders, and the 2010 Packers (see graphic at the end of this post).
Recent Super Bowl Teams’ Records After Seven Games
Let’s look at some recent Super Bowl teams and their records after seven games.
The 2021 Bengals were 5-2 after seven games but then lost four of their next six. They got on a hot streak to make the Super Bowl after falling to 7-6 at one point during the regular season. The 2021 NFL champion Rams started 6-1 and beat the Texans to go 7-1 after eight games but then lost three straight games. So, some mid-season slumps by the Super Bowl teams in 2021.Embed from Getty Images
What about 2020? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs faced off in the Super Bowl that season. Tampa Bay was 5-2 after seven games in 2020. Kansas City was 6-1. Of course, 2020 was still the 16-game era.Embed from Getty Images
In 2022, the Chiefs, Cowboys, and ultra-surprising Jets started at 5-2. The Bills, Giants, and Vikings started at 6-1. The Eagles started at 7-0. Based on that quick sample, those teams seem to be on a course to be in the Super Bowl. The defending AFC Champion Bengals started off a bit slower in 2022, landing at 4-3 after seven games. So did the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, who started 3-4 in 2022.
All Super Bowl Teams After Seven Games
I looked up the records of all Super Bowl teams after seven games. The vast majority of teams were at least 5-2 or better. When I say the vast majority, I mean it.
Only ten teams were worse than 5-2 after seven regular-season games and made the Super Bowl. Nine of those nine teams were at 4-3 after seven games. Only one team, the 1995 Steelers, had a losing record after seven games and still made the Super Bowl. They were 3-4 before winning eight straight games. Pittsburgh’s 3-4 record is the worst record ever after seven games for a team that made the Super Bowl.
The real stat to remember is that over 90 percent of the teams that made the Super Bowl were at least 5-2 after seven games and over 99 percent were at least 4-3.
What About Shorter Seasons?
In the 14-game regular season era, every team that made the Super Bowl started out at least 5-2. Several teams only lost two or fewer games all season. And even in the 9-game strike-shortened season, both Super Bowl teams, Washington and Miami, started out at least 5-2.
Will more teams with records worse than 5-2 after seven games make the Super Bowl more often now that more teams make the NFL playoffs? We’ll have to see.
One last little note about those nine teams whose record was below 5-2 after seven games and still made the Super Bowl: six of those nine ended up at 11-5 or better by the end of the season. Only the 2010 Packers, who were 10-6, and the 1979 Rams and 2008 Cardinals, who ended at 9-7, had fewer than 11 wins total on the season. Only the 1971 Cowboys, the 1980 Raiders, and 2010 Packers won the Super Bowl after starting out below 5-2 after seven games.
Hear Football Legends on The Game Before the Money Podcast:
Looking for a great NFL history book? Check out The Game Before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL available at — Amazon.com – Barnes and Noble – University of Nebraska Press
Like sports history? Listen to The Game Before the Money Podcast! Most episodes include stories from legendary football stars.