- The Washington Times - Friday, December 4, 2009

Since the 12-team playoff system started in 1990, 13 teams have made the postseason even though they had a losing record after 11 games. At least one team has turned it around each of the past five years, including the Redskins in 2005 and 2007.

Entering Thursday night’s Jets-Bills game, nine teams were 4-7 or 5-6, well within striking distance of a wild-card berth. The seven teams with a 3-8 record or worse have been eliminated from consideration.

Here’s a look at who’s still alive with a losing record:

BUFFALO (4-7)

Overview: The Bills entered Thursday night’s game against the Jets in Toronto 1-0 under interim coach Perry Fewell. The last three games - New England, at Atlanta, Indianapolis - aren’t easy. Buffalo’s offense isn’t among the top 19 in any of the major categories.

In or out: Out. The Bills don’t score enough points to win a shootout against the Patriots or Colts.

CAROLINA (4-7)

Overview: The Panthers aren’t very good - they fell behind the Redskins 17-2 before rallying for a Week 5 victory. Jake Delhomme has thrown 18 interceptions and has a horrid 59.4 passer rating, rendering a season like DeAngelo Williams is having (5.2 yards a carry) basically moot.

In or out: Out. John Fox’s situation bears watching. If he’s fired, it won’t take him long to find another job.

CHICAGO (4-7)

Overview: Chicago is 1-6 in its past seven games, and Jay Cutler’s interception total is up to 20. Even injured linebacker Brian Urlacher is questioning the offensive philosophy, saying the Bears should stick with the running game more often. Lovie Smith assumed the defensive playcalling during the offseason, and that has blown up in his face.

In or out: Out. The Bears can’t stop the run (24th in NFL).

HOUSTON (5-6)

Overview: The Texans have lost three straight, including crushing home losses to Tennessee and Indianapolis the past two weeks. Houston is 2-4 at home, so maybe the upcoming stretch of three road games in four weeks (Jacksonville, St. Louis and Miami) will help. Their final two games (at Miami, vs. New England) could make their division woes too much to overcome.

In or out: Out. Exit Gary Kubiak, enter Mike Shanahan?

MIAMI (5-6)

Overview: The pick at midseason to rebound from an 0-3 start to reach the playoffs, the Dolphins were cruising along until they lost at Buffalo last week. The season is on the line Sunday against New England. Miami has 35 sacks, and it still faces not-mobile quarterbacks Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger this season.

In or out: In. Ricky Williams (5.1 yards a carry) will carry them through a tough schedule, and they will clinch a berth on the final day of the season by beating Pittsburgh.

N.Y. JETS (5-6)

Overview: The Jets have one of the league’s top defenses (second overall, second against the pass), but there were bound to be growing pains with a rookie coach (Rex Ryan) and a rookie quarterback (Mark Sanchez) who didn’t have a ton of college experience. Of the Jets’ final four games, only one is against a losing team (Tampa Bay).

In or out: Out. The final three games - Atlanta, at Indianapolis, Cincinnati - aren’t against teams with great pass defenses, but Sanchez could reach 25 interceptions.

SAN FRANCISCO (5-6)

Overview: The 49ers were in good position after a 3-1 start, but their offense has struggled during a 2-5 stretch, managing to exceed 21 points just twice. Alex Smith has been serviceable in his second shot as quarterback, and former Maryland standout Vernon Davis deserves Pro Bowl consideration (57 catches, nine touchdowns). The schedule is favorable except for a trip to Philadelphia, but the 49ers need help from Arizona’s opponents.

In or out: Out. The Cardinals aren’t great, but they’ll finish 9-7 to win the NFC West.

SEATTLE (4-7)

Overview: Any team that thinks it’s playoff worthy doesn’t see its president and general manager resign with five games to go. But Tim Ruskell stepped down, and the Seahawks (20th in scoring and points allowed) have losing streaks of three, two and two games. It’s time for Seattle to start rebuilding, including at quarterback and left tackle.

In or out: Out. The only intrigue in Seattle is whether Mike Holmgren becomes the GM. TENNESSEE (5-6)

Overview: The Titans are turning into one of the stories of the year. After starting 0-6, they’re nearly all the way out of the crater. Vince Young is 5-0 with a 90.2 passer rating, and Chris Johnson is an MVP candidate with 1,396 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. The Titans’ 31st-ranked pass defense will be tested against Indianapolis this week.

In or out: Out. They still play the Colts, Dolphins and Chargers (albeit the last two at home). It would be terrific to see them win 10 straight to get in, but that’s asking too much.

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