NFL: 25 Best Teams That Never Won a Super Bowl
In the NFL, the regular season doesn't mean much in the postseason. Generally, top-seeded teams don't always emerge victorious, much like the way top-seeded teams in, say, the NBA do.
And as a result, NFL teams that performed exceptionally in the regular season, and even had some postseason success in that same year, aren't guaranteed to play football in late January of early February.
Normally, the narrative of the NFL playoffs are dominated by these teams, though, as they begin their quest towards dominating teams much like they had in that respective season.
However, when these teams don't make it to a Super Bowl, or don't win a Super Bowl, in some cases, they're considered the team that should have and could have, but didn't, going down in NFL infamy.
And while there's a literally upwards of 50 teams who fit such a description, here are 25.
25. 1990-1993 Buffalo Bills
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It'd be cheap of me to include the 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 Buffalo Bills as their own entities in this list.
Besides, they belong together, as one, in this list anyway.
The Buffalo Bills, led by Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas, made it to four consecutive Super Bowls and lost. Every. Single. One of them.
No group can compare to this one in terms of its resilience; despite losing three Super Bowls in a row, the resolve that the Bills had to make one more trip back is incredible, although they were unlucky enough to play teams that were just better than they were.
It's tough to swallow, if you're the Bills, but there's no amount of respect that's adequate enough for this mentally tough group of men, who overcame defeat to return for the chance at triumph three times in a row.
24. 1994 San Diego Chargers
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The 1994 San Diego Chargers (11-5) weren't one of the teams that were pegged to win it all entering the season. They finished just 8-8 the year before, and were 11-5 two years before.
However, it hurts this team knowing it was their only Super Bowl appearance.
After this Super Bowl loss, the franchise went into a downward spiral that bled until their recovery in 2004.
The San Francisco 49ers were simply a better team; in fact, it can be argued that this was one of the best teams in the history of the game, led by Steve Young and Jerry Rice.
23. 1998 Atlanta Falcons
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The 1998 Atlanta Falcons dominated on both sides of the ball in 1998, ranking fourth in the league in both points scored and fewest points allowed, while finishing third in the league in point differential.
The team had a potent passing attack, led by Chris Chandler, which finished in the top 10 in nearly every passing category; for balance, the team also boasted an elite rushing attack, finishing in the top 10 in rushing yards and yards per carry.
The Atlanta Falcons lost to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, which had finally put enough talent around Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.
22. 1984 Miami Dolphins
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The Miami Dolphins had a bright future in 1984, especially considering second-year quarterback Dan Marino posted record-breaking statistics that year, with 48 touchdown passes, paving the way for an explosive offense for years to come.
The Dolphins began to key in on Marino's passing abilities, building around him, and rode his arm all the way to a Super Bowl appearance in '84.
The 'Fins didn't run away with the title as many had expected; instead, the Dolphins wound up losing to the San Francisco 49ers, led by Joe Montana.
21. 1968 Baltimore Colts
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The narrative that dominated the Super Bowl between the 1968 Baltimore Colts and the New York Jets was one that was scarcely similar to that of the Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants in 2007.
The Baltimore Colts were consistently dominant the entire season, arising from the NFL to face the then-laughed-at AFL champion, the New York Jets.
And the rest is history; "Broadway" Joe Namath kickstarted the AFL-NFL merger at the expense of the Baltimore Colts, and the team that was two-touchdown favorites went down as the goats of the biggest upset in NFL history.
20. 2004 Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles weren't supposed to win the Super Bowl back in '04.
However, this team had done damn well to earn it, despite their opponents—the New England Patriots—having already built a dynasty in Massachusetts.
As the story goes, the Patriots won their third Super Bowl, and the Eagles were edged out by three points.
19. 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers
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The 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers don't get a ton of sympathy from me, considering the team won two Super Bowls in the following five years.
But this team was amazing.
Led by rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (who became the team's starter when Tommy Maddox was hurt early in the season), the Steelers boasted a physically tough defense and a gritty offense, led by the "Bus" Jerome Bettis.
The Steelers lost to the eventual Super Bowl champs in the New England Patriots, despite beating them in the regular season in dominating fashion.
18. 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars
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The 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars finished sixth in points allowed, and first in points scored, dominating teams to a 14-2 regular season record behind quarterback Mark Brunell.
The Jaguars proved to be a force in the AFC, but lost to the Tennesee Titans in embarrassing fashion.
What hurts most for Jacksonville fans is that this team never became as good as this season had suggested they could become.
17. 2004 Indianapolis Colts
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The Indianapolis Colts were not the most well-rounded team in the 2004 season, finishing as one of the worst defensive teams in the league.
They did, however, have an emerging legend in Peyton Manning carrying them throughout the season.
Manning posted record-setting numbers, throwing for 49 touchdowns in 2004.
The Colts lost to the New England Patriots in the Divisional round, beginning the narrative that arose every time Peyton Manning lined up against Tom Brady's team.
16. 2001 St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams had begun to pick up speed as a true dynasty. The team was just two seasons removed from a remarkable Super Bowl victory over the Tennessee Titans in 1999.
Kurt Warner led the extremely explosive offense to another dominant season, and to their second Super Bowl in just three seasons.
And then they met the soon-to-be dominant—but then-upstart—New England Patriots.
The Rams lost that Super Bowl, jump-starting a new era in football dominated by the Patriots and little-known Tom Brady.
15. 2002 Oakland Raiders
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The Oakland Raiders had proved to be a force up until their 2002 Super Bowl loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Raiders consistently finished as one of the top teams in the AFC, and were a controversial call away from making another AFC Championship appearance in 2001.
However, the team did make it to the Big Game in 2002, but were completely dominated by the Buccaneers.
The Raiders were led by aging quarterback Rich Gannon, and were forced into complete rebuilding mode, finishing 4-12 the very next season.
14. 2011 New England Patriots
The 2011 New England Patriots had become the dominant favorite after Tom Brady became the consensus MVP of the league. In a league filled with parity, the Patriots managed to come out of it smelling like roses, and finished the season with a 14-2 record.
The Patriots were upset by the New York Jets in the Divisional round of the playoffs, despite being heavy favorites to—once again—dominate the Jets like they had done just a few weeks prior.
13. 2006 San Diego Chargers
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The Chargers lived up to expectations in the regular season, posting a 14-2 record and finishing the season with a 10-game winning streak, led by LT's record-breaking 28-touchdown season.
The Chargers met the New England Patriots in the Divisional round of the playoffs, and lost after Nate Kaeding had missed a 50-yard field goal.
12. 2010 San Diego Chargers
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I hate to put the San Diego Chargers back-to-back, but they're closely related cases that should be their own separate entities.
The 2010 San Diego Chargers finished the season 13-3, rattling off 11 straight wins entering the postseason.
The Chargers lost to the New York Jets in the Divisional round of the playoffs after Nate Kaeding notoriously missed three field goals, and amidst rumors that the team had gone drinking the night before.
11. 1992 San Francisco 49ers
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The 1992 San Francisco 49ers finished their season with just two losses, and managed to have one of the best statistical seasons in 49ers history.
However, the now-Steve Young-led 49ers lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys. This led to the era of doubt of Steve Young as the 49ers' next quarterback following Joe Montana's tenure in San Francisco.
The 49ers did, though, manage to get redemption in 1994, winning their fifth Super Bowl title against the San Diego Chargers.
10. 2000 New York Giants
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The New York Giants had boasted one of the better defensive units in the league in the year 2000, finishing fifth-best in points and yards allowed in the league.
They also had a solid offensive game—though not spectacular—led by Kerry Collins.
The Giants lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl, though, in embarrassing fashion.
9. 1986 Cleveland Browns
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The 1986 Cleveland Browns finished 12-4 in the regular season, and boasted the fifth-best offense in the league behind quarterback Bernie Kosar. They also had a top-ranking defense as well, and rattled off six straight wins to end the regular season.
The team lost in the AFC Championship Game to the Denver Broncos, who went on to lose the Super Bowl.
8. 2009 Minnesota Vikings
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The 2009 Minnesota Vikings proved to be a force both offensively and defensively, ranking in the top 10 in the league.
The Vikings lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in a close game that saw Brett Favre throw a Super Bowl-berth-costing interception in the fourth quarter, helping the Saints take a game-winning field-goal in the fourth quarter.
7. 1983 Washington Redskins
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The 1983 Washington Redskins became the clear-cut favorite to win everything after finishing the season 14-2, despite the mass parity that dominated the league.
The Redskins boasted an explosive offense behind quarterback Joe Theismann, as the team finished as the best offensive team in the league.
The 'Skins lost to the Los Angeles Raiders in the Super Bowl, though, completely melting down in the title game, scoring just nine points the entire game.
6. 2007 Green Bay Packers
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The Green Bay Packers had pretty much expected Brett Favre to ride off into the sunset, anticipating his retirement in the offseason.
Thus, the team put on one last, great performance together, finishing the season 13-3 as one of the most well-rounded teams in the NFL.
Of course, as was the case with the 2009 Minnesota Vikings, the Packers lived and died by Brett Favre, as the aging quarterback threw the costliest interception of his career up to that point, sending the Giants to the Super Bowl.
5. 1997 Green Bay Packers
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Ten years prior to the 2007 Packers' loss to the Giants in the NFC title game, the Packers had lost the Super Bowl to the Denver Broncos despite having the same exact record at 13-3.
The Green Bay Packers of the late '90s also boasted a well-rounded attack, characterized by an explosive offense and staunch defense.
The Denver Broncos—who had finally put enough talent around aging quarterback John Elway—came away victorious, in the first of two consecutive Super Bowl runs.
4. 1973 Los Angeles Rams
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The Los Angeles Rams of 1973 boasted one of the most well-rounded teams of the 1970s, finishing in the top-five of nearly every statistical category available at the time.
The Rams did not win a game in the playoffs, though, and lost to the Dallas Cowboys (who lost to the Minnesota Vikings, who lost to the Miami Dolphins).
3. 1979 San Diego Chargers
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The San Diego Chargers had put up one of the franchise's best seasons, finishing 12-4 behind strong numbers, finishing as one of the league's top offenses, while holding a defensive unit that ranked in the top-five.
The Chargers—led by Dan Fouts—did not win a game in the postseason, though, falling apart to the Houston Oilers in the Divisional round.
2. 1998 Minnesota Vikings
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The Minnesota Vikings finished the season with just one loss—compared to 15 wins—and went into the postseason as one of the most explosive offenses in the history of the league.
The Randall Cunningham-Cris Carter-Randy Moss triumvirate proved to be a deadly threat through the air, and the defense put up solid numbers as well.
However, the team lost to the 1998 Atlanta Falcons in overtime, finishing just a field goal away from getting to the Super Bowl.
1. 2007 New England Patriots
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The 2007 New England Patriots had finished the season undefeated at 16-0, and managed to stumble into the Super Bowl despite some lazy performances against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the inspiring San Diego Chargers.
The New York Giants managed to shut down the best offense in the history of the league and pull one of the greatest upsets in league history.