The 8 Longest Active NFL Playoff Droughts

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVNovember 18, 2022

The 8 Longest Active NFL Playoff Droughts

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    Saquon Barkley and Darius Slayton
    Mark Brown/Getty Images

    Winning the Super Bowl is the goal for every NFL team. The first step is making the party.

    As of 2022, one-fourth of the league has missed the playoffs in at least four straight years. One struggling organization has even fallen short of the postseason for an entire decade.

    If there's a reason for hope—even beyond a promising roster today—the NFL recently decided to increase the field from 12 playoff teams to 14. The chances to end an extended drought have never been greater.

    As recent years have clearly showed, though, that doesn't mean a postseason berth is easy to attain.

T-6: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - JANUARY 09: A Jacksonville Jaguars fan painted as a clown in the stand before the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the jjj at TIAA Bank Field on January 09, 2022 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
    Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

    Atlanta Falcons: 4 Years

    Atlanta fell agonizingly short of winning the Super Bowl in 2016, squandering the iconic 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots. Although the Falcons recovered enough to win a playoff game in 2017, the team faded to the wrong side of the postseason bubble. Atlanta posted seven-win records in three of the next four years and fired Dan Quinn in 2020.

    Carolina Panthers: 4 Years

    After winning NFC South titles from 2013 to '15, the Cam Newton-led Panthers returned to the playoffs as a wild-card team in 2017. However, the division rival New Orleans Saints bounced Carolina from the postseason and ushered in a half-decade of mediocrity for the Panthers with multiple coaching changes. Barring an unexpected surge in 2022, they'll endure a fifth straight losing year.

    Jacksonville Jaguars: 4 Years

    This may be the cruelest most recent appearance. Jacksonville lost to the Patriots in the 2017 AFC Championship Game, and a semi-controversial post-fumble whistle is a stinging memory. Nevertheless, the Jags squandered a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter to narrowly miss the franchise's first Super Bowl trip. They've since retreated to mediocrity, failing to surpass six wins in any season.

T-3. Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants

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    DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 15: A Detroit Lions fan wears a paper bag while watching the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Ford Field on December 15, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
    Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

    Detroit Lions: 5 Years

    The long-suffering franchise has made the postseason in only three campaigns since 2000 and hasn't won a playoff game since 1991. Detroit had a bit of bad luck in 2017, missing the postseason despite a 9-7 mark—the same record that landed a bid in 2016. The ensuing years have brought a familiar, frustrating story of poor defense and roster management. Six victories is the Lions' post-2017 peak.

    Miami Dolphins: 5 Years

    The last half-decade has been kinder to the Dolphins, who've notched a couple of nine-plus-win records but finished a half-game or one game back in the AFC playoff race. However, they've experienced a similar skid to Detroit with a meager four playoff bids dating back to 2000. The bright side is Miami (7-3) is contending for a postseason spot this season.

    New York Giants: 5 Years

    No matter how 2022 ends, Brian Daboll has injected some energy into the organization. Since winning the Super Bowl in 2011, the Giants have managed only two non-losing years and headed to the playoffs once. They'd even failed to crack six victories since 2016 until the 7-2 start in 2022.

2. Denver Broncos

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    Denver Broncos fans react during the first half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
    AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

    6 years

    Among the franchises listed, it's fair to have the least amount of sympathy for the Broncos. They celebrated a Super Bowl victory in the 2015 season, which resulted in legendary quarterback Peyton Manning riding off into retirement.

    While the offense did not exactly thrive in Manning's final year, the unit's performance has tumbled in the wake of his departure.

    Denver hasn't finished higher than 22nd in points per game since that 2015 campaign. The story of Russell Wilson's tenure isn't written, but his underwhelming debut season has the Broncos (3-6) in high danger of extending the postseason drought.

1. New York Jets

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 21:   (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)  New York Jets fans react during a game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium on October 21, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Patriots defeated the Jets 33-0. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    11 years

    In his second year as a head coach, Robert Saleh has reignited the New York Jets.

    And they certainly need it.

    New York's 11-year postseason drought—one that has included a single winning record—is almost twice as long as Denver's six, the second-longest skid in the league.

    The most frustrating part for Jets supporters is this absence followed a decent run in the previous decade. From 2001 to '10, New York reached the playoffs six times and advanced to the AFC Championship Game twice. Since then, though, the Jets have ordinarily fallen well short of the playoffs, save for an unfortunate wild-card tiebreaker loss in 2015.

    They've been high, they are low. Save them, Saleh from San Francisco.