The NFL regular season is long. The playoffs are not.
Every year, the sudden and final nature of the playoffs ruin hopes and crush dreams. Often, the best team does not win the Super Bowl. In fact, sometimes the best team does not even make it to the big game.
These teams are generally forgotten, for history is written by the winners.
However, below the surface of shiny Lombardi trophies and gaudy championship rings, is an extremely talented group of teams who garner little recognition for their accomplishments.
This list will detail the 11 best NFL teams since 1966, who failed to reach the Super Bowl.
The 1967 Dallas Cowboys, coached by Tom Landry, nearly made it to the first ever Super Bowl.
In the NFC Championship game, they lost by four points to the Green Bay Packers, the eventual Super Bowl champion. It was fairly obvious that the NFC champion would beat the AFC champion in the Super Bowl.
Had the 1967 Cowboys beaten the Packers and gone on to win the first Super Bowl, it is likely we would be referring to the Landry trophy, rather than the Lombardi trophy.
The 1988 Buffalo Bills lost to the high-power Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship game, 21-10.
They had a spectacular season with Jim Kelly under center, Thurman Thomas in the backfield, and Andre Reed at wideout. On defense, they enjoyed the production of Bruce Smith, the NFL all-time leader in sacks.
The 1988 season marked the beginning on much success of the Bills throughout the late 1980's and early 1990's.
The 1981 Dallas Cowboys lost by a single point in the NFC Championship game to the eventual Super Bowl champion 49ers.
With the legs of running back Tony Dorsett and the legendary direction of head coach Tom Landry, the Dallas Cowboys dominated the 1981 season, nearly stopping Joe Montana and the 49ers from winning their first of many Super Bowls.
The 2007 Green Bay Packers dominated the 2007 regular season.
They hosted the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game at Lambeau Field in -40 degree temperatures.
The final score was 23-20 with the Giants coming out victorious.
The Giants went on to win the Super Bowl, defeating the undefeated New England Patriots. This would also be the last game Brett Favre would play as a Packer.
Missed field goals marked the final minutes of this game. Had the Packers made one of their field goals, perhaps we would refer to the Packers as the team to knock of the undefeated New England Patriots.
The 1976 Dallas Cowboys played in a decade of great football—the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders of the 1970's are considered to be some of the best teams to ever play the game.
While the Cowboys lost in their first playoff game by two points to the L.A. Rams, they are still remembered as a tremendous team.
With 'Captain Comeback' Roger Staubach and head coach Tom Landry leading the team, the Cowboys of 1976 were a force to be reckoned with.
The 1992 San Francisco 49ers lost only two regular season games.
This was the last year all-time great Joe Montana would play under center for the 49ers.
In the NFC Championship game, the 49ers lost to the Dallas Cowboys 20-10, marking the end of a dynasty and the start of a new one.
The Dallas Cowboys would win the Super Bowl in 1992 and became known as the most dominate team of the 1990's.
The 1996 Denver Broncos lost to the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars, 20-27, at home to end their hopes of a Super Bowl.
Many thought 1996 would finally be the year quarterback John Elway would win a Super Bowl.
The Broncos finally had a superstar at running back, Terrell Davis, and after a dominating regular season, few saw the Broncos falling to the Jaguars.
This team was supremely talented, and ended up winning the next two Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998, before Elway retired.
The 1987 San Francisco 49ers lost their first game of the playoffs to the Minnesota Vikings. This should not overshadow their tremendous 13-2 regular season record.
The 49ers had one of the best rosters of talent in the history of the NFL. With two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, a Hall of Fame wide receiver, and a Hall of Fame safety, the 1987 49ers should be remembered as one of the most talented teams in the history of the NFL.
The 2005 Indianapolis Colts were a team most thought would go undefeated until they lost to the Chargers in week 15.
They entered the playoffs with a first-round bye and home field advantage. Few thought Peyton Manning and the Colts would fail to win the AFC and advance to the Super Bowl.
The Steelers came to the RCA Dome to play the Colts in the second round of the playoffs. Most thought they would leave with a loss.
After a last minute fumble by Steelers fullback Jerome Bettis, the Colts appeared to be in position to tie the game with a field goal, however kicker Adam Vangerjagt missed his first field goal at home during the playoffs.
The final score would be 21-18.
The Steelers came out with a victory and would go on to defeat the Denver Broncos and eventually Seattle Seahawks to win the Super Bowl.
The 1974 Oakland Raiders oozed talent. They only lost two regular season games by a total of four points.
The Raiders were a dominating team during the 1970's but always seemed to be victims of poor luck, such as the immaculate reception during the 1972 season.
Losing in the AFC Championship game to one of the greatest Steelers teams of all time, the Raiders were denied the chance at a Super Bowl, but this does not diminish the talent which this team possessed.
Some of the legendary names on this team include, Kenny Stabler, Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, Otis Sistrunk, Jack Tatum, Phil Villapiano, and George Atkinson.
The 1998 Minnesota Vikings are considered to be one of the greatest NFL teams of all-time.
They lost only a single regular season game before losing in overtime to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship.
If the Vikings had won that game and advanced to play the Denver Broncos, it is likely the 1998 Super Bowl would have been known as one of the best ever.
It is a shame such a talented team never got a shot at playing in the Super Bowl.