NFL playoffs: 30 underdogs have won in Wild Card round since 2002

Since the 2002 NFL season there have been 78 Wild Card games and of those, 30 underdog teams have made it through to the Divisional playoffs.

NFL playoffs: 30 underdogs have won in Wild Card round since 2002

Although home field advantage is seen as one of the biggest boosts in the NFL playoffs, hosting a Wild Card game is far from a guarantee of going through to the Divisional playoffs. Since the 2002 NFL season, there have been 78 Wild Card games, of which 30 have been won by teams that went into the round regarded as underdogs.

Furthermore, the likelihood of a Wild Card team beating the odds is considerably higher taking into account that in 2003, 2006, 2012 and 2016 there were no upsets at this stage of the playoffs. Without those four seasons, the effectiveness of underdogs in the Wild Cards rises to .483.

Wild Card underdog winners by season

Season AFC NFC
2002 Falcons
2004 Jets Rams, Vikings
Buccaneers, Panthers
2007 Giants
2008 Chargers
2009 Jets, Ravens Cardinals
2010 Jets
Packers, Seahawks
2011 Broncos
2013 Chargers, Colts Saints
2014 Ravens
2015 Packers
2017 Titans Rams
2018 Chargers, Colts Eagles
2019 Titans
Seahawks, Vikings
2020 Browns Rams

Giants and Packers the Wild Card aces

Among this select group of underdogs two teams stand out: the 2007 New York Giants and the 2010 Green Bay Packers. These two teams were the only ones in history to go into the Wild Card round as sacrificial lambs and emerge as Super Bowl champions.

The case of the Giants is paradigmatic as their victory over New England prevented the Patriots from pulling off only the second perfect season in NFL history, after the 1972 Miami Dolphins. For their part, Green Bay ended a 14-year Super Bowl drought at Lambeau Field by beating the Steelers.

Other teams that warrant honourable mentions are the 2013 Colts, who achieved the second-biggest comeback in playoffs history by overturning a 28-point deficit against the Chiefs, and the Titans, who in 2019 kicked off their playoffs campaign with a 20-13 victory over the Patriots in what would turn out to be Tom Brady’s final game for New England.