There are certain times when you know a team has a "golden chance" to appear in the Super Bowl and try to seize the moment. Not only this list shows the teams that failed to appear in the big game, but also what happened to the core of that team in the next five years.
10. 2007 Dallas Cowboys
Analysis: Twelve pro bowlers, a 13-3 season, 455 points scored, 325 given up. Romo's franchise record 36 touchdown passes. This team had it all, offense, defense, a coach who couldn't win the big one. Dallas cruised all the way to the postseason and a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Result: Dallas faced its arch-nemesis in the New York Giants. Dallas defeated them twice in the regular season by a combined score of 76-55. Giants ability to rush Romo in this game was the biggest factor in this Dallas 21-17 loss. The Cowboys drought of playoff wins to eleven years and tied the NFL record of six straight playoff games lost.
After shock: 2008 season was a waste, Dallas signed troublesome corner back Adam "Pacman" Jones and traded picks for disgruntled wide out Roy Williams. Dallas finished a disappointing 9-7, and got blown out in its must win season finale at Phily 44-6.
9. 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers
Analysis: Rookie quarterback taking over in Week Two, impressive physical defense, and a hard nosed running game led the Steelers to a franchise best 15-1 record. Nine Pro Bowlers and had home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Result: People were skeptic to believe in Roethlisberger who was a rookie QB and led them to a 13-0 record. Pitt barely got by the upstart New York Jets 20-17 in Overtime. In the AFC title game they faced the repeating champions New England Patriots at Hines Field. Pittsburgh was overwhelmed and exposed by the experience of the world champs as they handed the Steelers a 41-27 trashing in their own backyard.
After shock: Steelers barely got into the playoffs the following season as the sixth seed. They ran the table beating the Bengals, Colts, and Broncos before winning their fifth Lombardi trophy in controversial matter against the Seattle Seahawks. Fans to this day of the 'Hawks believe that the refs were the reason Steelers won that game.
8. 1996 Denver Broncos
Analysis: 13-3 record, Nine pro bowlers, and Elway, Sharpe, Romo all in their primes.
Result: Denver started out that season 12-1 and average margin of victory at 12.3. Denver had home field throughout the playoffs but fail to capitalize on it yet again. This marked Elway's 14th NFL Season. An upstart Jacksonville Jaguars team upset them at Mile High in the Divisional Rounds 30-27.
After shock: Denver came back with Elway, an experienced Terrell Davis, and upcoming wideout Rod Smith. Denver won it's first franchise title over the defending champion Green Bay Packers 31-24. The next year, Elway came back for a fairy tale ending to a Hall of Fame career. Denver started 13-0 and finished 14-2 and easily ripped the AFC before manhandling the NFC Champions Atlanta Falcons. Elway was named Super Bowl MVP and retired later that year.
7. 1972 Oakland Raiders
Analysis: Oakland finished tenth in total points, and third in points given up.
Result: Oakland went 9-4-1 in the '72 season. They found their QB in Kenny Stabler at the time. Stabler once backed up Joe Namath at Alabama in 1964 National Title run. Oakland manhandled the Steelers 33-14 in Oakland and found themselves facing the defending world champion Miami Dolphins. Miami won 27-10 and won it's second of the back to back titles in the early 1970's.
After shock: Oakland then floundered with playoff mediocrity until 1976. They finally beat the two time world champions Pittsburgh Steelers 24-7. Oakland won Super Bowl XI 32-14 over the Minnesota Vikings.
6. 1985 Miami Dolphins
Analysis: Miami went 12-4 and defeated the Chicago Bears. You know which one I am talking about. They had the fourth most scored in the NFL and the twelfth least points given up. They lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC title game 31-14. It was the Pats first win in Miami since 1966.
Result: Marino thought he would make it to the Super Bowl again in his career because he was only 24. Marino still remains as the ultimate comparison for a guy who couldn't win the big one.
5. 1987 Cleveland Browns
Analysis: Cleveland finished the season with a 10-5 record. They were trying to recover from the heartbreak from Elway the year before. They romped the Colts 38-21 in the divisional round before having a rematch with Elway.
Result: They came back from a 21-3 halftime deficit and had a chance to tie the game with the score 38-31 and Denver up. Cleveland drove to the Denver eight yard line with 1:12 left. Browns running back Ernest Byner took a hand off and appeared to be on his way to score the game-tying touchdown. But he was stripped of the ball at the three yard line and it was recovered by Denver. Denver gave the Browns an intentional safety and the final score was 38-33.
After shock: Browns never recovered from that loss, and it's the ultimate moment of the lack of success by the Cleveland Browns. "Close but no cigar."
4. 2005 Indianapolis Colts
Analysis: Indy started 13-0 and finished 14-2. Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and etc came back and finally captured home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Indy was focused on capturing it because the previous two seasons their seasons came to an end in New England.
Result: Indy faced the sixth-seeded Steelers and fell short 21-18. Indy missed a FG from PK Mike Vanderjagt who was perfect at home all season long.
After shock: Indy came back the next season but with a suspect run defense, few experts thought they could make a run at the Lombardi Trophy. Indy's run defense improved miraculously and it prompted them to finish their season with a 29-17 Super Bowl XLI victory over Chicago Bears.
3. 1994 Dallas Cowboys
Analysis: Two time defending world champions. Irvin, Aikman, Smith, and company finished 12-4. Dallas finished second in total points and third in total points given up and first in total defense. New coach Barry Switzer was brought in to replace former coach Jimmy Johnson that season.
Result: Dallas faced the 49ers for a third straight year for the right to go to the Super Bowl. San Fran signed many key free agent players to clean up their suspect defense. Dallas was down 21-0 in the first quarter and never recovered. They lost 38-21 and the 49ers were the first team to win five super bowls.
After shock: Dallas came back the next season signing corner back Deion Sanders who played for the 9ers in 1994. Dallas stormed through the regular season and won against the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17. The next season Dallas finished 10-6 and lost in the Divisional Round vs the Carolina Panthers. Dallas has yet to win a playoff game since 1996.
2. 1990 San Francisco 49ers
Analysis: Like Dallas, the 49ers were also the two time defending champions. Montana, Rice were in their primes and they had home field throughout the playoffs. They finished 14-2 and 8th in total points and second in total points given up. They beat the Washington Redskins 28-10 in the divisional round and played their playoff rival New York Giants for the NFC title.
Result: 49ers were the CLOSEST team to three-peat on this list. They were up 13-12 with less than two minutes remaining in the NFC Title Game. FB Tom Rathman fumbled and Giants recovered and went down field to kick the game winning field goal. Giants win 15-13, and that was the last time Joe Montana was in a 49er jersey playing in January.
After shock: Montana never played in another game for the 9ers. Steve Young era started in 1992, and by 1994 they finally won their fifth world championship. But the magnitude of this loss won't ever be forgotten. A possible 3-Peat was less than two minutes away before it was snatched from underneath beneath them.
1. 1998 Minnesota Vikings
Analysis: Here it your epic, choke job, fail to appear in the Super Bowl team. Vikings had EVERYTHING this season. Career year from QB Randall Cunningham, RB Robert Smith, Wide outs Cris Carter and rookie Randy Moss. Moss set a rookie record by catching 17 touchdowns in 1998. Vikes finished 15-1 and had home field advantage and few thought it would be the Denver Broncos who had a chance to defeat this well oiled machine.
Result: Vikes ripped the Arizona Cardinals 41-21 in the divisional round. It setup an epic 14-2 Falcons vs the 15-1 Vikes match up. Many considered this to be the greatest championship game ever played. Vikes were up 20-14 at halftime and by the middle of the fourth it was 27-17 Vikings. PK Gary Anderson missed his FIRST field goal of the season and it turned out to be his worst possible time of his career. Atlanta came back and won the game 30-27.
After shock: Entire NFL nation was in a state of shock. Carter, Cunningham, Smith everyone of these players were so close to the Super Bowl and never got to taste it. Moss meanwhile went to the Patriots after a short stay with the Raiders for two seasons and wound up in the Super Bowl last year vs the Giants and loss 17-14.
The ten most infamous teams in NFL history not to appear in the Super Bowl. Who knows maybe in ten to fifteen years from now we'll revisit this list and add a couple more teams to this list. A list that no player present or future pray they don't belong on.