The NFL’s Longest Playoff Droughts Entering 2021

Photo courtesy of New York Jets

The NFL playoffs got underway over the weekend with some pretty exciting football action.

The expansion from 12 to 14 teams was a glowing success for the league. Despite more teams being included in the postseason, some fan bases have been waiting a while to see their team in the playoffs.

The NFL’s two longest playoff droughts were ended this past season. Here’s a look at the longest droughts entering 2021:

T-5. Detroit Lions (2016)

Regarded as one of the NFL’s worst franchises, the Detroit Lions made the playoffs three times in six years from 2011 to 2016. Since then however, Detroit has averaged less than six wins per season. Entering 2021, the Lions will be on their third head coach since their last postseason berth.

T-5. Las Vegas Raiders (2016)

The Oakland Raiders followed up a 12-4 campaign in 2016 with three straight losing seasons. Now in Las Vegas, the Raiders did finish 8-8 this past season. The 2016 campaign is the franchise’s only winning season since losing Super Bowl XXXVII to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That’s one in 18 years.

T-5. Miami Dolphins (2016)

The Miami Dolphins entered Week 17 needing only to beat the Buffalo Bills for their first playoff appearance in 2016. Unfortunately for Miami, that did not come to fruition. Miami did however, finish 10-6 this past season for its best season since 2016. The Dolphins have made the playoffs just twice in 19 years.

T-5. New York Giants (2016)

Despite going just 6-10, the New York Giants were alive for an NFC East title as they watched the Washington Football Team take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the final NFL game of the regular season. The Giants wound up missing out on the playoffs for the fourth straight season. New York has just 18 total wins over the last four seasons. That’s the fewest in any 4-season stretch for the franchise since winning just 15 games from 1974-77.

T-2. Arizona Cardinals (2015)

The Arizona Cardinals have improved each season under soon-to-be third-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The 2020 season however, ended on a low note. After a 6-3 start, the Cardinals lost five of their final seven games to finish 8-8. Arizona would have qualified for the playoffs with a win over the Los Angeles Rams in the regular season finale, but lost 18-7 to a Rams’ team with a quarterback making his first career start.

T-2. Cincinnati Bengals (2015)

The Cincinnati Bengals made the playoffs in five straight seasons from 2011 to 2015. Since then however, they have not been back. Cincinnati hopes to have found its quarterback of the future in Joe Burrow. Unfortunately for the Bengals, Burrow went down this season with an ACL tear. The Bengals have averaged just 5.2 wins per season over the last five years.

T-2. Denver Broncos (2015)

In Super Bowl L, the Denver Broncos’ historically great defense, led by Von Miller, shut down Cam Newton and the 15-1 Carolina Panthers to capture the franchise’s third world championship. Unfortunately for Denver, it hasn’t been back to the postseason since. After a 9-7 season in 2016, the Broncos have averaged less than six wins over the last four seasons.

1. New York Jets (2010)

The New York Jets hold the longest active playoff drought in the NFL and have a drought five years longer than the next closest team. The Jets will have the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, but don’t seem all that close to ending this drought. Since making back-to-back AFC Championship appearances in 2009 and 2010, the Jets have just one winning season.

Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.