As we get ready for the midpoint of the NFL’s regular season (serious, we’re almost halfway through it,) we can’t help but think ahead to the playoffs.Why the playoffs? Maybe it’s because the games have been kind of awful this season, which is one reason why no one is watching them. Maybe it’s because we’re just looking forward to a time when the election will be over and we can focus without distraction on the league. Who can say? It’s probably all of the above. What we can say, though, is that the league’s emphasis on parity has made things a little boring, for the most part — with exceptions like the Vikings, who started the year 5-1, and the Panthers, who look much more like the Panthers of old than the Super Bowl contenders of last season. The good teams are still good, and the bad teams are still bad, and that’s kind of dull, so our minds wander.
And they wandered toward the playoffs, and that got us thinking about the least successful NFL playoff teams of the modern era, also known as the league’s history after the merger in 1970. With that, here are the NFL teams that have lost the most playoff games over the last 36 years.
5. Miami Dolphins, 20 losses
The post-merger Dolphins feature Dan Marino’s continued inability to come away with a Super Bowl ring, and while the Dolphins haven’t actually made the playoffs since 2008, they’re well represented in every decade save the 2010s on this list. Although we suppose the phrase “well represented” might be a bit of a misinterpretation on a list of playoff losses.
4. Philadelphia Eagles, 20 losses
Please note that this only counts official team losses, so the Dallas Cowboys’ victory over the Detroit Lions in Round 1 of the 2014 NFL playoffs was not tallied in this listing. The Eagles, who made the playoffs in 2013 but have managed to avoid the playoffs since, have rather famously lost both of their Super Bowl appearances, with the last coming in 2004. That loss, by the way, was counted. While Carson Wentz represents hope for a team that watched the Chip Kelly experiment crash and burn in spectacular fashion, we don’t expect the Eagles to do much winning in the playoffs this season.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers, 22 losses
The Steelers tacked up their most recent loss this postseason as they dropped their first loss to Baltimore at home in the team’s history — which is to say it wasn’t something that many were banking on, even if the Ravens were maybe a little bit better than the Steelers last season. For Steelers fans, this is undeniably a bummer. On the bright side, at least the team can’t lose any more playoff games for another few months, right?
2. Dallas Cowboys, 22 losses
Dallas always seems to be in the hunt for a Super Bowl title, even if they haven’t gone all the way since 1995 . Some of this is on Jerry Jones, some of this is on the reliably frail health of quarterback Tony Romo, but if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that had Jones managed to swing a trade for Adrian Peterson (he can’t) and signed Johnny Manziel (he almost did), the world would have been a better place last year. Pour one out for the ‘Boys.
1. Minnesota Vikings, 26 losses
Pour one out for Teddy Bridgewater: the least successful NFL playoff team since 1970 is none other than the Minnesota Vikings. This isn’t particularly surprising for anyone who pays attention to the franchise, and they did make a brief postseason appearance in 2015, so it’s not as if their futility on football’s biggest stage is a particularly ancient phenomenon. For the complete list of playoff losses by franchise after the merger, click here.
All data courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.