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What are the Longest Active Playoff Droughts and Streaks in the NFL?

The NFL tends to brand itself as the epitome of parity, where underdogs have good chances to shock the world every week and teams bounce back from terrible seasons to become competitive year after year. The best part is that this idea is mostly true, as the draft and salary cap are usually well implemented to keep the league stable and blowouts are scarce. However, it is also true that some teams never seem to get the memo.

Since 2008, 26 of the league's 32 teams have been in the playoffs at least once, effectively showing that the NFL's model of parity and inclusiveness is certainly working. However, the six franchises have missed out due to a combination of several factors, like poor drafting and player development, ineffective free agents and poor quarterback play.

Today we examine the situation of these teams, their years of futility and the chances they have to break the curse in 2014.

Jacksonville JaguarsLast playoff appearance: 2007 AFC Divisional (lost 31-20 to the Patriots)

While the Jaguars were pretty competent in 2007, their freefall afterwards has led them to become one of the weakest teams in the NFL – one that is even reaching historically bad numbers. Since their last playoff appearence, the team's combined record is 31-65 is pretty bad, with their best season over this period coming in 2010 when they produced an 8-8 record.

Tampa Bay BuccaneersLast playoff appearance: 2007 NFC Wild Card (lost 24-14 to Giants)

While the Bucs currently appear to be among the league's most dysfunctional franchises, their record since their last playoff appearance is not nearly as bad, as they have even posted a couple of winning seasons that fell just short of a postseason berth. Nevertheless, their combined win.loss total of 37-59 is nothing to write home about, as Tampa has fell victim to quarterback instability and the loss of key players in recent years. The sad part for the modern version of the Bucs is that they seemed to have found something in 2010, where rookie Josh Freeman led them to a 10-6 season, but followed this up with a 4-10 seasons in 2011 and 2013.

St. Louis RamsLast playoff appearance: 2004 NFC Divisional (lost 47-17 to Falcons)

After Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk left town, things haven't been the same for the Rams, who are again trying to break the spell and earn their first playoff trip in 9 seasons. Even playing in the usually weak NFC West, they have reached 8 wins only once since 2004, amassing a total record of 43-100-1 (a paltry .302 winning percentage). While many of those poor seasons led them to high draft picks, the team has mostly whiffed on them, with quarterback Sam Bradford being the last of them to crumble under the high expectations.

Cleveland Browns - Last playoff appearance: 2002 AFC Wild Card (lost 36-33 to Steelers)

In the 10+ seasons since the Browns were last in the postseason, the Browns have fallen in line with the mediocrity and bad luck of its city's sports teams, but taking it to another level. In that span, only a mirage 10-6 season in 2007 produced a winning record, and the team has not won more than 6 games in any other season. Since their 2002 appearance, the Browns have gone a combined 56-120 for a winning percentage of just 0.318.

Oakland RaidersLast playoff appearance: 2002 Super Bowl XXXVII (lost 48-21 to Buccaneers)

Two seasons of an 8-8 record in 2010 and 2011 have been the only non-terrible seasons since Oakland last reached the postseason, as otherwise 5 has been their biggest win total in that span. What once was one of the NFL's elite franchises, the Raiders have become a laughingstock, playing in the worst stadium in the league and under the shadow of the late Al Davis, who lost control of the team and led it to the bottom of the standings. Since their loss in Super Bowl XXXVIII, the Raiders have a combined record of 53-123, which equates to a 0.301 winning percentage.

Buffalo BillsLast playoff appearance: 1999 AFC Wild Card (lost 22-16 to Titans)

After the infamous "Music City Miracle", Buffalo's hangover has apparently been never-ending, as they are the only team that hasn't reached the postseason in the 21st Century. Years of frugal spending, bad head coaches and draft busts have lead the Bills to more than a decade of misery, and while they have finally opened their wallet in recent years, the results have remained lacking. Even as the team hasn't completely bottomed out, playing in the AFC East certainly hasn't helped and envisioning a contending team is still pretty far away. Over the past 14 seasons, where they've missed the playoffs, the team has a record of 88-136 for a 0.393 winning percentage.

Longest Active Playoff Droughts in the NFL 

Team Seasons Last Appearance
Buffalo Bills 14 1999 AFC Wild Card Playoffs
Oakland Raiders 11 Super Bowl XXXVII
Cleveland Browns 11 2002 AFC Wild Card Playoffs
St. Louis Rams 9 2004 NFC Divisional Playoffs
Jacksonville Jaguars 6 2007 AFC Divisional Playoffs
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6 2007 NFC Wild Card Playoffs
Tennessee Titans 5 2008 AFC Divisional Playoffs
Miami Dolphins 5 2008 AFC Wild Card Playoffs
Arizona Cardinals 4 2009 NFC Divisional Playoffs
Dallas Cowboys 4 2009 NFC Divisional Playoffs
Chicago Bears 3 2010 NFC Championship Game
New York Jets 3 2010 AFC Championship Game
Detroit Lions 2 2011 NFC Wild Card Playoffs
Pittsburgh Steelers 2 2011 AFC Wild Card Playoffs
New York Giants 2 Super Bowl XLVI
Baltimore Ravens 1 Super Bowl XLVII
Houston Texans 1 2012 AFC Divisional Playoffs
Washington Redskins 1 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoffs
Minnesota Vikings 1 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoffs
Atlanta Falcons 1 2012 NFC Championship Game

How about on the other side of the playoff situation, which teams have had the longest active playoff streaks in the NFL?

Longest Active Playoff Streaks in the NFL

Team Playoff Streaks
Green Bay Packers 5
New England Patriots 5
San Francisco 49ers 3
Denver Broncos 3
Cincinnati Bengals 3
Indianapolis Colts 2
Seattle Seahawks 2
San Diego Chargers 1
Kansas City Chiefs 1
Philadelphia Eagles 1
New Orleans Saints 1
Carolina Panthers 1

Update: All statistics updated to reflect the conclusion of the 2013 NFL season.


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