The NFL’s Longest Playoff Victory Droughts

Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Bengals

The Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers not only ended the NFL’s two longest playoff droughts this season, but they won playoff games to advance.

On Saturday night, Tom Brady passed for 381 yards to lead Tampa Bay past the Washington Football Team in the NFC Wild Card game, 31-23. It served as the Buccaneers’ first playoff victory since obliterating the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.

One night later, the Browns earned their first playoff win in 26 years by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers for the second time in as many weeks, 48-37. Prior to that, the last postseason win came over the New England Patriots 20-13 in the Wild Card game at the end of the 1994 season. Interesting enough, the head coach for Cleveland was Bill Belichick.

Earlier this week, we looked at the NFL’s longest playoff droughts entering 2021. Here’s a look at the five longest active stretches without a playoff victory:

5. Washington Football Team

Last Playoff Win: Beat Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17-10 in NFC Wild Card game on Jan. 7, 2006
Playoff Appearances Since: Four (2007, 2012, 2015, 2020)
Overview: Washington made the playoffs for the first time in five years this past season, winning the NFC East with a record of 7-9. The franchise however, hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005 when it was known as the Washington Redskins. Washington held off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, thanks in part to a controversial call. Washington has since lost five straight playoff games. Last week’s 31-23 loss to Tampa Bay was the only one of those decided by one score.

4. Las Vegas Raiders

Last Playoff Win: Beat Tennessee Titans 41-24 in AFC Championship on Jan. 19, 2003
Playoff Appearances Since: One (2016)
Overview: The last playoff game played in Oakland remains the last playoff win for the Raiders’ franchise. Rich Gannon passed for 286 yards and accounted for four total touchdowns to lead the then Oakland Raiders past the Tennessee Titans and to their first AFC title in 19 years. The Raiders would go on to lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII, 48-21. They’ve made the playoffs just once since.

3. Miami Dolphins

Last Playoff Win: Beat Indianapolis Colts 23-17 in overtime in AFC Wild Card game on Dec. 30, 2000
Playoff Appearances Since: Three (2001, 2008, 2016)
Overview: In Dan Marino’s final two seasons, the Miami Dolphins won a playoff game each year. In 21 seasons since his retirement, they have a grand total of one playoff victory. That came the first season after Marino’s retirement as Miami rallied from 14 points down to beat the Indianapolis Colts in overtime. Lamar Smith rushed for an AFC playoff record 209 yards and scored the game-winner in the victory. In four playoff games since, the Dolphins have lost by at least 17 points in each of them.

2. Detroit Lions

Last Playoff Win: Beat Dallas Cowboys 38-6 in NFC Divisional game on Jan. 5, 1992
Playoff Appearances Since: Eight (1993-95, 1997, 1999, 2011, 2014, 2016)
Overview: The Detroit Lions were one win away from their first Super Bowl appearance ever during the 1991 season after blasting the Dallas Cowboys in the Pontiac Silverdome. Erik Kramer passed for 341 yards and three touchdowns while the Detroit defense held Dallas to just two field goals. The Lions would go on to lose to the Washington Redskins in the NFC Championship a week later. Dallas would go on to win the next two Super Bowls. Detroit hasn’t won a playoff game since. The Lions are 0-9 in playoff games since. Six of those losses came by double digits.

1. Cincinnati Bengals

Last Playoff Win: Beat Houston Oilers 41-14 in AFC Wild Card game on Jan. 6, 1991
Playoff Appearances Since: Seven (2005, 2009, 2011-15)
Overview: To put in perspective how long its been since the Cincinnati Bengals have won a playoff game, they did so by beating a franchise that has since changed its name and location and in a stadium that was demolished 18 years ago. They earned that opportunity by winning the AFC Central — a division that no longer exists. Two years after reaching Super Bowl XXIII, Cincinnati kicked off the playoffs with a blowout of the Houston Oilers, who were playing without star quarterback Warren Moon. The Bengals lost to the Los Angeles Raiders in the Divisional round the following week. That was the beginning of an active 8-game playoff losing streak. Cincinnati made the playoffs in five straight seasons from 2011 to 2015, but lost in the Wild Card round each time.

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.