Which team has the longest NFL playoff drought?


The chase for the Lombardi Trophy is about to begin. However, before any team can get too carried away about Super Bowl aspirations, it needs to make the playoffs first.

It has never been easier to make the NFL postseason. With an additional wild card team added for each conference in 2020, 14 of the 32 NFL squads get to play in the playoffs.

Despite the league offering its biggest playoff fields ever, many organizations have failed to capitalize. Eleven teams have not made the playoffs since the NFL instituted its expanded playoff format, and one team even has a playoff drought that spans over a decade.

Before the 2022 NFL season gets underway, here’s a look at the league’s longest postseason droughts, along with the most recent playoff appearance for each franchise:

What is the longest playoff drought in NFL history?

The three longest playoff droughts in league history began well before the first Super Bowl was played.

Two teams have gone 25 straight seasons without making a postseason appearance. Washington’s drought went from 1946 through 1970, while the Chicago/St. Louis Cardinals’ drought went from 1949 through 1973.

The Pittsburgh Steelers almost had a 25-year playoff drought of their own. The team was founded in 1933 as the Pittsburgh Pirates and did not reach the postseason until 1947. It wasn’t until the 1972 season that the Steelers then ended a 24-year drought before starting a dynasty during the decade.

The longest playoff drought in recent history came to an end two seasons ago. The Cleveland Browns earned a wild card berth in 2020 after failing to reach the playoffs in the 17 previous seasons. The Buffalo Bills snapped their own 17-year streak during the 2016 season.

Which NFL team has the longest active playoff drought? 

The New York Jets own the longest active playoff drought at 11 seasons.

The team has not reached the postseason since making consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Over the past 11 years, New York has a 63-114 record with sixth last-place finishes in the AFC East and only one above-.500 season.

After the Jets, the next-longest drought that’s still going on belongs to the Denver Broncos, who have not reached the playoffs since they won Super Bowl 50 to cap off the 2015 season.

When was the last time the Patriots made the playoffs?

The New England Patriots ended a one-year playoff drought in 2021 by earning the AFC’s No. 6 seed with a 10-7 record. Their postseason run came to a swift and demoralizing end when they lost to the Bills by a score of 47-17 in the wild card round.

Every NFL team’s most recent playoff appearance

Here’s a glance at the last time every NFL franchise was in the playoffs: 

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