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5 Best NFL Teams to Miss the Playoffs

| December 25, 2021 7:24 am PDT

In 2020, the NFL expanded their playoff field from 12 to 14 teams. That ended a 30-year run of having six teams from each conference making the postseason.

When you look back at NFL history, many teams wished they expanded the playoff field a long time ago. That could’ve given a lot of great teams a chance to make the postseason.

We can give these teams their 15 minutes of fame. Here are the best NFL teams that missed the playoffs.

5. 2012 Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears came into the 2012 season with playoff aspirations. People weren’t expecting them to contend for the Super Bowl, but a wild card spot wasn’t out of the question.

Chicago looked like Super Bowl contenders in the first half of the season.

They won seven of their first eight games, with their defense stealing the show. They held all eight of their opponents under 23 points, and three failed to score 10 points.

The Bears had (+1000) odds to win the Super Bowl through eight weeks. Unfortunately, that’s when their season began to unravel.

Chicago lost five of their next six games. Their defense had a slight drop-off but not big enough to make a difference. It was their offense that fell off a cliff.

  • Week 10: 6 points
  • Week 11: 7 points
  • Week 12: 28 points
  • Week 13: 17 points
  • Week 14: 14 points
  • Week 15: 13 points

Even with their struggles, Chicago remained in the playoff picture.

Chicago bounced back to win their final two games of the season. Unfortunately, their 10-6 record wasn’t enough to qualify for the playoffs.

The Green Bay Packers won the NFC North at 11-5, while the Minnesota Vikings claimed the final wild card spot at 10-6.

In 2012, Chicago’s defense was their strength. They allowed the third-fewest points per game and fifth-fewest yards per game. They could also force turnovers unlike any other.

Their top turnover player was none other than Charles “Peanut” Tillman. Check out his numbers.

  • 87 tackles
  • 10 forced fumbles
  • 3 interceptions
  • 3 touchdowns

Tillman revolutionized the NFL with his patent peanut punch.

They had talent on offense, as Brandon Marshall set franchise records with 115 receptions and 1,508 receiving yards.

This team had the talent to make a playoff run, but that rough midseason stretch ended their chances.

4. 2010 San Diego Chargers

The 2010 San Diego Chargers have to be one of the weirdest teams in NFL history. They finished the season number one in yards and defensive yards per game.

So, how did they miss the playoffs? Well, let’s go over their issues on special teams.

In Week 1, the Chargers suffered a seven-point loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. A 94-yard punt return by the Chiefs made the difference.

San Diego had a pair of 25+ point victories in their next three games. That stretch also included a seven-point loss because they allowed two kickoff returns to the Seattle Seahawks.

Week 5 saw the Chargers lose by eight points, with the Oakland Raiders scoring nine points off blocked punts.

That’s three losses in the first five weeks solely because of special teams.

If you want to add to the misery, the Chargers lost in Week 7 because they missed a game-tying field goal as time expired.

Following a 2-5 start, the Chargers won seven of their last nine games. Unfortunately, their rough start was too much to overcome. They missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record.

Kansas City won the division with a 10-6 record. San Diego blew them out in Week 14, but remember that Week 1 loss? That was the difference.

Phillip Rivers made the Pro Bowl with a great season.

  • 66.0 completion percentage
  • 4,710 passing yards
  • 30 touchdowns
  • 13 interceptions

When it comes to betting, I can’t imagine many focus on special teams. However, this team shows you can’t take anything for granted.

SB Nation did a breakdown of this season if you’d like some more information. They visually showed how special teams ruined the Chargers season.

A team rarely has the best offense and defense. Now imagine that team missing the playoffs.

It must be tough being a Chargers fan. Between this and the Chargers having two of the worst single-season collapses in NFL history.

3. 2008 New England Patriots

The 2007 New England Patriots are one of the greatest teams not to win a title. In 2008, they were looking to finish the job. Unfortunately, they suffered a devastating loss in Week 1.

Tom Brady suffered a torn ACL. That meant the Patriots would have to go through the season without their star quarterback. That opened the door for Matt Cassel.

Cassel was in his fourth season with the Patriots, but this was his first appearance as a starter.

New England had a decent 3-2 start, but both losses came by 20+ points.

Following the 3-2 start, the Patriots hung around .500. They couldn’t string together more than two straight wins, as they were 7-5 through 13 weeks. However, they were beginning to see better play from Cassel.

Check out his numbers in weeks 11 and 12.

Week 11 Week 12
Passing Yards 400 415
Touchdowns 3 4

The Patriots began their playoff push with a comeback victory over the Seattle Seahawks. They followed that up with back-to-back wins while scoring 45+ points.

New England pitched a shutout in Week 17 to give them an 11-5 record. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to clinch a spot in the playoffs.

Both the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens made the playoffs with 11 wins. This marked the second time in NFL history an 11-win team failed to make the postseason.

The Patriots were a very consistent unit on both ends of the field.

  • Points Per Game: 25.6 (8th)
  • Yards Per Game: 365.4 (5th)
  • Defensive Points Per Game: 19.3 (8th)
  • Defensive Yards Per Game: 309.0 (10th)

Randy Moss and Wes Welker were both 1,000-yard wide receivers, while their defense featured big names like Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, and Mike Vrabel.

In the end, it was just one of those seasons where the playoff field was very competitive.

2. 2005 Kansas City Chiefs

In the Dick Vermeil era, the Kansas City Chiefs always had a good offense, but their defense let them down. In 2005, they set out to change that.

Kansas City drafted Derrick Brooks and acquired Patrick Surtain.

The upgrades had mixed results, as the Chiefs allowed 20+ points in six of their first nine games. Add in a 14-3 loss in Week 10, and the Chiefs had a 5-4 record.

In Week 8, running back Priest Holmes suffered a season-ending neck injury. The injury opened the door for Larry Johnson.

From there on, Johnson went on an insane run. Check out his numbers in the final nine games of the season.

  • 1,351 rushing yards
  • 1 yards per game
  • 16 touchdowns
  • 2 yards per carry

Johnson cleared 105 rushing yards in all nine games, including two games over 200 yards. He also had multiple rushing touchdowns in six games.

Kansas City won five of their last seven games. In that stretch, their offense only scored less than 20 points once. They did everything to make the playoffs, but the Pittsburgh Steelers clinched the final wild-card spot with a victory in Week 17.

The Chiefs offense led the league in yards per game and ranked sixth in points per game. Johnson was the star, but quarterback Trent Green was no slouch.

He made the Pro Bowl with 4,014 passing yards and 17 touchdowns.

Their defense didn’t feature any Pro Bowlers, but they had a few impact players.

Johnson had 96 tackles and two forced fumbles in his rookie season. Jarred Allen led the team with 11 sacks, while Surtain and Greg Wesley combined for ten interceptions.

Kansas City had a plus 78-point differential, but their downfall was their road record. They went 3-5, compared to 7-1 at home. That’s a big thing to take note of when betting.

1. 1991 San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers dominated the 1980s and 1990s. They won five Super Bowls in that span and finished with less than ten wins once.

In 1991, the 49ers faced adversity before the start of the season. Joe Montana missed the entire season after suffering an elbow injury in the preseason.

San Francisco came into the season with (+400) odds to win the Super Bowl even with the injury.

Steve Young took over as the starting quarterback. Young was putting up good numbers, but it didn’t lead to many wins.

Young went down with a knee injury in Week 10. The 49ers lost that game to the Atlanta Falcons on a last-second Hail Mary. Steve Bono took over in Week 10, but another loss dropped the 49ers to 4-6.

From there, the 49ers hit their groove.

Bono led them to five straight wins, but he went down with an injury of his own in Week 16. Young returned to lead the 49ers to their sixth straight win in Week 17. They finished the season 10-6, but they missed the playoffs because of a tiebreaker. That tiebreaker came with the Falcons.

Without that Hail Mary touchdown, the 49ers would’ve made the playoffs. San Francisco also lost to Atlanta in Week 7 after blowing a fourth-quarter lead.

On offense, wide receivers Jerry Rice and John Taylor had big seasons.

Jerry Rice John Taylor
Receptions 80 64
Yards 1,206 1,011
Touchdowns 14 9

San Francisco’s offense and defense ranked top six in yards per game and points per game. They had everything in place to make a deep playoff run.

Considering their success in that era, it’s fair to say they would’ve been one of the Super Bowl favorites.

Unfortunately, they were on the wrong end of a Hail Mary.

Other Great NFL Teams That Missed the Playoffs

  • 2010 New York Giants
  • 2004 Buffalo Bills

The 2010 New York Giants sported a top 10 offense and defense. They had a 9-4 record before blowing a 21-point lead to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Miracle at the New Meadowlands. Philadelphia won the NFC East thanks to a tiebreaker over the Giants.

In 2004, the Buffalo Bills had a rough start to the season. However, they jumped into the playoff picture with a six-game win streak.

Buffalo needed to win in Week 17 against a Pittsburgh Steelers team that rested their starters. The Bills lost 29-24 and missed the playoffs.

If you’re looking at this from a betting angle, it’s hard to find a noticeable trend. A lot of these teams fell victim to a highly competitive playoff field. That’s hard to identify until we’re at least halfway through the season.

We did see a few teams make a late-season surge because of a player stepping up. A strong backup could be a tell.

For more articles like this, make sure you check out our sports blog.

Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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