TAMPA – Good news for the Dolphins and Buccaneers. It can be done. An NFL team can indeed make the playoffs despite having to play 16 straight games during the regular season without a bye week to rest up and refocus.
We know because it’s happened before. And we’re not talking about all the times that it happened between 1978 and 1990, when it was the norm for all teams to play 16 straight games without a bye.
Now, it has been a while, but in 1992 one team actually did what the Dolphins and Bucs are now hoping they can do in 2017 and that team was – the Dan Marino-led Dolphins.
After Hurricane Andrew forced the NFL to postpone their season-opener against the Patriots and moved that game to their shared bye week (sound familiar?) the Dolphins and Patriots both played 16 straight regular-season games.
Despite the adversity, though, that Dolphins team wound up going 11-5 to win its division and reach the playoffs and then went as far as the conference title game before dropping a 29-10 decision to the Bills at home.
So there it is. Hope. A little something for two teams with legitimate playoff aspirations to grasp on to after the threat of Hurricane Irma has forced them to postpone their opener and play it during their shared Week 11 bye.
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the only shard of hope the two teams can grasp on to.
For one reason or another five other teams have had to play 16 straight games in a season since that 1992 season, which was the second in which teams were given a bye. None fared as well as the Dolphins. In fact, none even came close.
The 1999 Browns, in their first season after being reincarnated, went 2-14 (same as the 1992 Patriots), while the other team that had to play 16 straight that year, the San Diego Chargers, went 8-8.
A year later the Browns were forced to play 16 straight games again and went 3-13. At the same time the 2000 Bengals went 4-12. Finally, in 2001 the Cardinals played 16 straight and went 7-9.
Since then no team has had to play 16 straight in a season, so history suggests the Dolphins and Bucs are indeed up against it. Keep in mind, though, that the 2017 Dolphins and Bucs are a bit different than all but maybe one of the teams.
Of the seven teams that have previously been forced to play 16 straight games since 1992, only the 1992 Dolphins were coming off a season the year before in which they were a .500-or-better team.
The 1991 Patriots went 6-10; the 1998 Chargers went 5-11; the Browns didn’t exist in 1998; the 1999 Bengals went 4-12; the 1999 Browns went 2014 and the 2000 Cardinals went 3-13.
The Dolphins, who went 8-8 in 1991, went 10-6 and made the playoffs last year and the Bucs went 9-7 and were finally knocked out of the NFC playoff picture on a third-level tiebreaker.
It would seem then that the both the Dolphins and the Bucs are far better prepared and have a much better chance to succeed in their quest to overcome the schedule they’ve been saddled with than most any other team before them.