In 2002, the NFL returned to what every league should have – an even number of teams, with the Houston Texans joining as the latest expansion franchise. The Seattle Seahawks switched conferences, new divisions were formed, and the NFL as we know it today was pretty much formed.
Seven Teams have won the Super Bowl during these last 10 season – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, not doing much since, the New England Patriots (x2), the Pittsburgh Steelers (x2), the Indianapolis Colts, the New York Giants (x2), the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers. We tried to objectively rank the 32 NFL teams for their decade according to their playoff success.
1 point for making the playoffs
1 point for winning the wild card playoff game
1 point for winning the divisional playoff game
2 points for winning the conference championship
2 points for winning the Super Bowl
Number 32 – Buffalo Bills, 0 Points
A complete drought of postseason appearances. The Bills had only two season of .500 or better, but never made the playoffs even in their decent 8-8 and 9-7 seasons. This isn’t the NFC. Gregg Williams and his bounty hunting magic didn’t work during his three seasons with the team.
Numbers 31-29 – Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, 1 Point
The inactivity period hasn’t done well for the organization, making the playoffs only once in the past 10 seasons, in 2002, under Butch Davis, finishing 9-7 before losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Browns usually don’t win more than 5 games a season, although they did finish a shocking 10-6 in 2007, which wasn’t enough for a post season spot.
The Detroit Lions got their point at the very end of our counting period. After 11 consecutive seasons without playoffs and 10 straight losing seasons, including the memorable 0-16 season in 2008, things are finally clicking. Matthew Stafford took the Lions into the playoffs after a 10-6 season, head coached by Jim Schwartz.
The Miami Dolphins weren’t as bad most of the time, although they did have one historic stinker in 2007, finishing 1-15. In 2008, under Tony Sparano, the Dolphins finished 11-5, with Chad Pennington winning the comeback player of the year award. The lost to the Ravens, and haven’t won more than 7 games since. Sparano was fired after a 4-9 to the 2011 season.
Number 28 – Houston Texans, 2 Points
Right now, the Houston Texans are the best football team in Texas. Matt Schaub, when he’s healthy, Andre Johnson might be the best wide receiver in the game and the same goes for running back Arian Foster. The Texans made the playoffs for the first time in 2002 after a slow and steady rise under Gary Kubiak, beating the Bengals and nearly upsetting the Ravens. It took exactly 10 years from the team’s first game, but they finally made their first postseason steps, hopefully not the last in the near future.
Numbers 27-23 - Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, St. Louis Rams, Washington Redskins, 3 Points
Every now and then, the Cinncinati Bengals build something decent that takes them into the postseason, but despite making it three times in the last 7 seasons, they have yet to win a game. All their appearances have been with Marvin Lewis at the helm, who has been there since 2003, compiling a 69-74-1 record.
The Jags are a young organization, but their best years came early on, when Tom Coughlin was the head coach. He left after a 6-10 season in 2002. Jack Del Rio took over from 2003 to till November 2011. Del Rio made the playoffs twice. In 2005, he lost to Patiorts, and in 2007, after beating the Steelers on Wild Card Weekend, the Patriots stood in the way again.
The Kansas City Chiefs have made the post season three times under three different coaches these past 10 season. In 2003, it was under Dick Vermeil and the famous no punting game against the Colts. In 2006, under Herm Edwards who rode Larry Johnson till he broke down, they lost to the Colts again. In 2010, surprising everyone, under Todd Haley who was later fired, the lost to the Ravens.
The St. Louis Rams enjoyed a successful period between 1999-2004, helping them score points on our list. They made the playoffs in 2003 and 2004 under Mike Martz, even winning one game with a dramatic touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks before getting pummeled by the Falcons. They’ve won a total of 15 games in the last five seasons.
The Washington Redskins keep changing head coaches and players, but can’t seem to make it out of the NFC East time after time. They haven’t won the division since 1999, finishing fourth five times in the last six years. They made the playoffs twice – Once in 2005 under Joe Gibbs, beating the Bucs before losing to Seattle and again in 2007 under Gibbs, losing to Seattle again.
Number 22-21 – Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, 4 Points
Remember when Rich Gannon won the MVP? In 2002, the Oakland Raiders, under Bill Callahan, reached the Super Bowl only to be crushed by the Buccaneers. That team was mostly what Joe Gruden built in his four seasons with team. Since? The Raiders’ 8-8 seasons in 2010 and 2011 have been the best they have managed.
The 49ers are on the rise, with Jim Harbaugh taking them to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. The 49ers beat the New Orleans Saints in a crazy finish before losing to the Giants in overtime. In 2002, under Steve Mariucci, the beat the same Giants 39-38 before losing to the Bucs.
Numbers 20-19 – Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings – 5 Points
The Dallas Cowboys have actually made the postseason four times these past 10 years, winning only once, beating the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009 before getting smoked by the Vikings 34-3. They’ve also had two more nine win seasons and finished 8-8, but nothing seems to be going right for them in the crucial months more often than not.
The Vikings have made the playoffs three times in the last 10 years, including twice under Brad Childress who was fired in the middle of the 2010 season. In 2009, after a 12-4 season, the Vikings reached the NFC championship game, losing 31-28 to the New Orleans Saints, a game under 50 microscopes right now, being the poster child for bountygate.
Numbers 18-17 – Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans, 6 Points
It took the orginization a couple of years, but John Fox looks like he’s got a hold of things, guiding the team through the whole Tim Tebow festival to their first postseason win and appearance since 2005. Under Mike Shanahan, the Broncos made the postseason three consecutive times, 2003-2005, before the long drought began.
The Tennessee Titans were under Jeff Fisher for most of the decade, coaching the team from 1997 till 2010. They made the playoffs and won games in 2002 (lost to the Raiders eventually) and in 2003 (lost to the Patriots). They made the postseason twice more, in 2006 and 2007, losing in their first game. A 9-7 record wasn’t enough this year to squeak in.
Numbers 16-14 – Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears – 7 Points
The Cardinals didn’t win more than 6 games in a season before Ken Whisenhunt took charge in 2007, taking the team to the Super Bowl, the franchise’s first. The next year the Cardinals beat the Packers in an insane 51-45 duel before losing to the New Orleans Saints, as the Cardinals won the division twice.
For the Falcons, there’s the Vick period, which was two playoff appearances in 2002 and 2004. They won a game each time before losing to the Philadelphia Eagles. And there’s the Matt Ryan era, which has been three playoff appearances in four seasons, losing in the first game each time.
Lovie Smith has been the head coach of the Chicago Bears since 2004, taking the team to all of their postseason appearances in the last 10 seasons. They lost to the Panthers in their first game after an 11-5 season in 2004, but made the Super Bowl the next year despite not having anything close to a reliable quarterback, losing to the Indianapolis Colts. In 2010 they made the postseason again, beating the Seahawks in the Divisional Playoffs before losing to the Green Bay Packers in the game Jay Cutler supposedly quit.
Numbers 13-12 – San Diego Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 8 Points
Along with the Dallas Cowboys, the Chargers have got to be the underachieving team of the last 10 years. They have a 96-64 record since 2002, but have only made the postseason five times. Their 2004 and 2006 visits were and one and done deal. In 2007, with Norv Tuner taking the reigns, the beat both the Titans and the Colts before losing in the conference championship game to the Patriots. The next year it was another win against the Colts and a loss to the Steelers, followed by a one and done again.
The Buccaneers are mostly here because of their Super Bowl win, gaining them most of their points. They beat the Oakland Raiders 48-21 with Dexter Johnson winning the SB MVP. Under Joe Gruden they made the postseason again only four years later, losing to the Redskins, and in 2007, losing the Wild Card game to the Giants.
Number 11 – Carolina Panthers, 9 Points
John Fox was with the Carolina Panthers from 2002-2010. He took them to the Super Bowl in 2003, beating the Cowboys, Rams and Eagles before the Patriots and Adam Vinatieri stopped them. In 2005 they reached the NFC Championship game, beating the Giants and Bears before losing to the Seahawks. In 2008 they made the playoffs again, losing to the Cardinals.
Numbers 10-8 – Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets
Since 2002, the Ravens have made the postseason six times, consecutively in the last four seasons. In 2003 and 2006 the Brian Billick coached team never made it past their first game. With John Harbaugh, the Ravens have made the postseason every time, winning five games, reaching the conference title game twice. The Steelers (x2), Colts and Patriots have been in their way.
Lets forget the fact that the Saints are now the team that everybody hates. Under Sean Payton they’ve made the postseason four times since 2006. In ’06 they lost to the Bears in conference title game. In ’09 they won the Super Bowl, beating Peyton Manning and the Colts.
The New York Jets have had three different head coaches take them to the postseason for a total of five times. Under Herm Edwards they won the Wild Card game twice before losing to Steelers and Raiders in the Divisional playoffs. Eric Mangini took them to the playoffs as well, losing to the Patriots. Under Rex Ryan, they made the conference championship game twice, losing to the Colts and Steelers.
Number 7 – Seattle Seahawks, 12 Points
The Seahawks have won the NFC West five times over the last decade, making the postseason six times. Under Mike Holmgren, a Super Bowl winning coach with the Packers, they reached the big game in 2005, beating the Redskins and the Panthers before losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a very badly officiated game. They reached the postseason five times in a row during 2003-2007. Under Pete Carroll, they returned to the Postseason in 2010, beating the Saints before losing to the Chicago Bears in the divisional playoffs.
Number 6-5 – Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, 15 Points
The Packers, Super Bowl Winners of the 2010 season, made the postseason 7 times of the last 10 years. Under Mike Sherman, they reached the playoffs three times. In 2002 losing in the Wild Card Playoffs, in 2003 beating the Seahawks in the Wild Card before losing to the Eagles and in 2004 losing to the Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card playoffs. Under Mike McCarthy (since 2006) they’ve lost in the NFC Championship game to the Giants (2007), in the Wild Card Playoffs to the Cardinals (2009), winning the Super Bowl in 2010 after beating the Falcons, Eagles, Bears and Steelers and bowing out on their first game in 2011 despite their 15-1 season.
The Philadelphia Eagles are the highest ranked team on our list without winning the Super Bowl. They made the big game in 2004 after going through the Vikings and the Falcons, losing to the Patriots in the big game. They’ve also made the Conference Championship game three more times – losing in 2002 (Bucs), 2003 (Panthers) and 2008 (Cardinals).
Number 4 – New York Giants, 18 Points
The general rule about the Giants – If they win a playoff game, that means they’re going all the way. The New York Giants made the playoffs six times between 2002-2011, losing on the first game four times. In 2007, they beat the Bucs, Cowboys and Packers before stunning the Patriots in the final. In 2011, they beat the Falcons, stunned the Packers and drove through the 49ers before not so shockingly beating the New England Patriots to win their fourth Super Bowl title.
Number 3 – Indianapolis Colts, 21 Points
The Indianapolis Colts have missed the post season only once since 2002, and that was this season, the 2-14 disaster with Peyton Manning out injured. The Colts lost the first game of the playoffs five times, in what has become one of the signatures of the Peyton Manning era. They’ve also made two Super Bowl trips, the successful one in 2006 with Tony Dungee as head coach, beating the Chicago Bears after going the Chiefs, Ravens and Patriots (finally!). In 2009 they beat the Ravens and the Jets before losing to the New Orleans Saints.
Number 2 – Pittsburgh Steelers, 23 Points
The Steelers made the playoffs 7 times during the last 10 seasons – three times with Bill Cowher running the show, eventually winning their first Super Bowl in over 15 years after making an improbable road run, beating the Bengals, Colts and Broncos on the road before beating the Seattle Seahawks. Under Mike Tomlin (2007 – ) they’ve missed the postseason only once, still finishing with a 9-7 record in 2009, the second time they don’t make the playoffs after winning the championship. In 2008, they beat the Chargers and the Ravens before a great final, beating the Cardinals. They made the big game again in 2010, losing to the Green Bay Packers.
Number 1 – New England Patriots, 27 Points
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they epitomize success, among other things, in the last 12 season. In 2002 they didn’t make the postseason following the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory, but since then they’ve missed the postseason only once more, in 2008, despite their 11-5 record, with Tom Brady missing the entire season after getting injured on opening day. They won two consecutive Super Bowls – 2003, beating the Carolina Panthers after beating the Titans and the Colts in conference play. A year later? Colts, Steelers and Eagles. In 2007, after a 16-0 season, they fell to the Giants 17-14 after already beating them in the regular season. In 2011? Same rivals, same result.