Only 7% of Teams Go Wildcard Weekend to Superbowl; Once there they Win

Only 7% of Teams Go Wildcard Weekend to Superbowl; Once there they Win

The Baltimore Ravens are only the 12th team out of 184 (7%) to make it from the wild card round to the Superbowl. Unfortunately for the 49ers, once they make it to the Superbowl they usually win.

Since 12-team format 1990-91 Teams Made Superbowl Won
Play Wildcard Weekend 184 12 (7%) 7 (4%)
Bye 92 34 (37%) 15 (17%)

Let’s be clear at the outset – you absolutely want to get one of the best two records in your conference to get a bye. If you get a bye, you are more than five times as likely to make it to the Superbowl (37% chance if you have a bye vs. only 7% if you do not – so the 49ers had a much better chance of making it to the Superbowl when the playoffs started.

The NFL went to the 12-team playoff format, with eight teams playing on the Wildcard weekend while four get a bye week, for the 1990-91 season. Going into this season, half of the Superbowls (11) had featured two teams that received a bye, while 11 teams faced a team who had received a bye against a team that had to play during the wildcard weekend. Despite the fact that there are twice as many teams from the wildcard weekend during these 23 seasons, there has NEVER been a Superbowl featuring two teams that played the opening weekend. However, once a team does win the three straight games to make it to the Superbowl to get that shot, the history looks very good for the Ravens:

Superbowl Winner Loser Score Team with or without bye wins?
1992-93 Dallas Cowboys Buffalo Bills 52-17 Bye team won
1997-98 Denver Broncos Green Bay Packers 31-24 Wild card round team won
1999-00 St. Louis Rams Tennessee Titans 23-16 Bye team won
2000-01 Baltimore Ravens New York Giants 34-7 Wild card round team won
2003-04 New England Patriots Carolina Panthers 32-29 Bye team won
2005-06 Pittsburgh Steelers Seattle Seahawks 21-10 Wild card round team won
2006-07 Indianapolis Colts Chicago Bears 29-17 Wild card round team won
2007-08 New York Giants New England Patriots 17-14 Wild card round team won
2008-09 Pittsburgh Steelers Arizona Cardinals 27-23 Bye team won
2010-11 Green Bay Packers Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 Wild card round team won
2011-12 New York Giants New England Patriots 21-17 Wild card round team won
2012-13 Baltimore Ravens? San Francisco 49ers? ? Wild card round 6th of 7?

John Elway’s stunning upset of the Green Bay Packers in 1998 was the only time a wild card team took the title in the first 11 years under the 12-team playoff format. At the time the Packers were considered to have simply coasted into the game as the classic overconfident team, and even then they almost rallied late once they woke up to fall short just 31-24 (1998).

Then these same Baltimore Ravens became the second team to have to win four playoff games to take the Superbowl when they destroyed the New York Giants 34-7 in 2001. Since then the wild card teams have ruled. The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steeler both barely won or the wild card teams would have won eight straight games heading into this weekend. Five of the last seven Superbowl champions had to win on wild card weekend, and the Ravens are back to try to continue the trend they set in motion with Ray Lewis back in 2001.