Heading into the 2016 NFL season, there are 8 teams with consecutive playoff appearances in the last two years or more. The most recent Super Bowl champion not on a playoff streak, not even making the postseason last year, are the Baltimore Ravens, winning the Super Bowl following the 2012 season.
Arizona Cardinals – 2
Things have gone quite well for the Cardinals since Bruce Arians became the head coach, with a 34-14 record since he took the job in 2013, and two playoff berths in 2014 and 2015. They lost to the Panthers in 2014 without Carson Palmer being healthy, and won their first playoff game since 2009 the next season, but their run ending in the NFC championship game, losing 49-15 to the Panthers.
Pittsburgh Steelers – 2
After missing the playoffs twice in a row (2012, 2013), something that hasn’t happened to the Steelers since 1998-2000, they’ve gone 21-11 over the last two years. In 2014 they lost to the Ravens in an AFC North playoff clash. A year later they had another one of those, facing the Bengals, which is mostly remembered for things that have nothing to do with football. They lost in the divisional playoffs to the Broncos.
Carolina Panthers – 3
The Panthers are on a playoff appearance streak, something that never happened to the franchise, with four postseason appearances before the 2013 season, including one Super Bowl. In 2013, after going 12-4, they lost at home to the San Francisco 49ers. A year later, winning the division with an awful 7-8-1 record, they beat the Cardinals before losing to the Seahawks in the divisional playoffs. Last season they had the best record in the NFL at 15-1, beating the Seahawks and the Cardinals before losing to the Broncos in the Super Bowl.
Seattle Seahawks – 4
The best team in the NFC over the last four years, the Seahawks are 46-18 since Russell Wilson was drafted. In 2012 they beat the Redskins while Robert Griffin III turned into mush before losing a close one to the Falcons, and a year later they won the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history, beating the Saints, pushing through the 49ers and demolishing the Broncos in the final. They made the Super Bowl again a year later, beating the Panthers and pulling off a huge comeback against the Packers before losing to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Last year they barely beat the Minnesota Vikings (Blair Walsh miss) before losing to the Panthers in the divisional round.
Cincinnati Bengals – 5
Over the last five seasons, the Bengals are 52-28, winning the division twice, including a 12-4 record last year, tied for the best in franchise history. However, they’ve lost in the wild card playoffs each time in the last five years: 31-10 to the Texans, 19-13 to the Texans, 27-10 to the Chargers, 26-10 to the Colts and 18-16 to the Steelers last year. Two of the losses were at home. Last season there wasn’t even an Andy Dalton to blame, his injury preventing him from facing the Steelers.
Denver Broncos – 5
The Broncos are the only team with an active playoff streak achieved with two different coaches, first with John Fox (2011-2014) and last season under Gary Kubiak. There are also two different quarterbacks in the spotlight here: Tim Tebow with his remarkable 2011 season, that ended ending his NFL career despite his winning touchdown throw against the Steelers in the Wild Card game, and Peyton Manning, who had two home losses (Ravens and Colts), but also two Super Bowl appearances: One in the humiliating loss to the Seahawks, the other in the win last season against the Panthers.
Green Bay Packers – 7
In the last seven seasons, the Packers have won the division four times, won less than 10 games just once (78-34 overall), and have one Super Bowl appearance, which they happened to win, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. However, they also have three exits on the first game, including a 23-20 home loss against the San Francisco 49ers, and just one appearance in another NFC championship game, blowing away a huge lead in a 28-22 overtime loss against the Seahawks.
New England Patriots – 7
The standard of excellence in the NFL over the last 15 years, and a team that hasn’t had a losing season since 2000. Since missing the playoffs in ’08, a season Tom Brady missed almost entirely, they’ve gone 85-27, winning the AFC East each time. They’ve been to two Super Bowls, once losing against the Giants in SB SLVI, and winning against Seattle in SB XLIX. They’ve made it to the conference championship game three more times, twice losing to the Broncos. In 2009 and 2010 they lost their opening postseason games, once to Baltimore and another to the Jets.