NFL Trends: A Look at the NFL’s Longest Active Playoff Droughts

For some teams making the playoffs is an annual order of business, while others just can’t seem to figure out how to put the pieces together. With the conclusion of the 2013 regular season, there are now eight different franchises who haven’t participated in the postseason in five years. Here’s a quick look at the three franchises suffering through the longest playoff droughts.

Buffalo Bills (14 Seasons)

It wasn’t all that long ago that the Bills dominated the AFC East and were a regular playoff participant. From 1988-99, Buffalo won six division titles and missed the playoffs just two times in a stretch of 12 seasons. During this stretch, the Bills went to four straight Super Bowls from 1990-93. While they would lose all four, they are still the only team in NFL history that can say they went to the Super Bowl in four consecutive seasons.

Like most of the teams suffering through playoff droughts, Buffalo has not been able to find a franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season. While the Bills did manage to get back to the postseason in both 1998 and 1999, they lost in the Wild Card round on both occasions. What is really depressing for Buffalo fans is that since that last playoff appearance in 1999, the Bills have posted a winning record just once (9-7, 2004).

Cleveland Browns (11 Seasons)

The Browns last playoff appearance came all the way back in 2002, when they finished second in the AFC North with a record of 9-7. Much like the Bills, Cleveland’s playoff drought has been difficult to watch for fans. Not only have the Browns posted just one winning season since 2002 (10-6, 2007), but that’s the only year they haven’t lost 10 or more games. That’s right! Cleveland has won 6 or fewer games in 10 of the last 11 seasons. If there’s one franchise not buying into the parity that the NFL promotes, it’s definitely the Browns.

Oakland Raiders (11 Seasons)

The Raiders went from the king of the AFC West to the bottom feeders rather quickly in 2000’s. Oakland won three straight division titles from 2000-02, winning at least one playoff game in each of those three seasons. It just so happens that the Raiders last playoff game came in Super Bowl XXVII, where they lost 21-48 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

What’s impressive is that 2002 Super Bowl season also marks the last time Oakland finished the regular season with a winning record. The Raiders finished 8-8 in both 2010 and 2011, but those are the only two seasons during their 11 year drought where they have managed to win more than 5 games.

Complete List of NFL Playoff Droughts

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

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