One of the NFL’s calling cards is its “parity.”

But there is clear disparity between the NFL’s elites and its bottom feeders, especially in the 21st century.

Of the 32 teams in the NFL, 12 have never won a Super Bowl. Four have never appeared in a Super Bowl.

A long-said trope in the NFL is that winning is hard. This list of playoff droughts proves that.

Longest Active Playoff Droughts

1. New York Jets, 13 Seasons (Last Playoff Appearance: 2010)

After another losing season, the Jets added another year to their postseason drought, tying a franchise record and extending the active record for longest playoff drought. New York last made the playoffs during the 2010 season when Mark Sanchez led the Jets to their second consecutive AFC championship game appearance.

After 2010, it’s been a series of disappointments, including butt fumbles and failed quarterback saviors.

2. Denver Broncos, 8 (2015)

The last time the Broncos made the playoffs, they won Super Bowl 50 and sent Peyton Manning riding off into the sunset…er, retirement. Since then, they have not figured out their quarterback situation, relegating them to NFL futility.

Longest Active Playoff Win Droughts

1. Miami Dolphins, 23 (2000)

It’s been two decades of mediocrity in South Florida since a Dan Marino-led Dolphins team defeated the Indianapolis Colts 23-17 in overtime in the 2000 postseason.

2. Las Vegas Raiders, 21 (2002)

After defeating the Tennessee Titans in the AFC championship game, the Raiders were once again on the brink of football immortality. But they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII and did not return to the postseason until the 2016 season. They lost again in 2021 to the Bengals.

3. Washington Commanders, 18 (2005)

Washington hasn’t won in the playoffs since beating Tampa Bay 17-10 in the 2005 NFC wild-card round. The slide includes three straight losses to the Seattle Seahawks in 2005, 2007 and 2012.

Longest Active Super Bowl Appearance Droughts

T-1. Detroit Lions, 57 Years (Never)

The Lions are one of four NFL teams that have never reached the Super Bowl. They last reached the NFL championship in 1957, defeating the Cleveland Browns 59-14.

T-1. Cleveland Browns, 58 (Never)

The Browns are one of those team to have never played in the Super Bowl. In the Super Bowl era, they reached the NFL championship in 1969 but lost to the Minnesota Vikings 27-7.

3. New York Jets, 55 (Super Bowl III, 1968 Season)

The Jets haven’t made the Super Bowl since the days of Broadway Joe Namath. Namath and AFL champion New York defeated the NFL champion Baltimore Colts 16-7.

4. Minnesota Vikings, 47 (Super Bowl XI, 1976 Season)

The Vikings are a long way from the Purple People Eaters. Minnesota made four of the first 11 Super Bowls, but lost all four, joining the Buffalo Bills as the only teams to lose four Super Bowls without winning one.

5. Miami Dolphins, 38 (Super Bowl XIX, 1984 Season)

For older football fans, it seems hard to believe that the Dolphins, one of the winningest teams in league history and the owner of the only undefeated season in league history, haven’t reached the Super Bowl since Dan Marino’s second season. For younger football fans, it might be harder to believe that the Dolphins have made even one Super Bowl. Miami made three consecutive Super Bowls from 1971-73, losing the first before winning the next two. The Dolphins then lost Super Bowls XVII and XIX to Washington and the San Francisco 49ers, respectively.

Most Consecutive Seasons Missing Playoffs (All Time)

T-1. Chicago/St. Louis Cardinals, 25 Seasons (1949-73)

The Cardinals used to be the model of doormat franchises in professional sports. And in a way, they still hold some of those qualities. After winning the NFL championship in 1947 and reaching it again in 1948, the Cardinals went more than two decades without making the playoffs. They are one of 12 teams still waiting for their first Lombardi Trophy.

  • T-1. Washington Commanders, 25 (1946-70)
  • 3. Pittsburgh Steelers, 24 (1948-71)
  • 4. New Orleans Saints, 20 (1967-86)
  • T-5. Cleveland Browns, 17 (2003-19)
  • T-5. Buffalo Bills, 17 (2000-16)
  • T-5. New York Giants, 17 (1964-80)
  • T-5. Philadelphia Eagles, 17 (1961-77)
  • T-5. Denver Broncos, 17 (1960-76)

Most Consecutive Seasons Without a Playoff Win (All Time)

1. Chicago/St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, 50 Seasons (1948-97)

Before becoming one of the more well-run NFL teams in the 21st century, the Cardinals were the model for a struggling franchise. The Cardinals, in Chicago at the time, won the NFL championship game in 1947, lost it in 1948 and then didn’t return to the postseason until 1974, over a decade after they had moved to St. Louis.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates/Steelers, 37 (1933-71)

It’s almost hard to believe the Steelers experiencing any sort of postseason pain. But prior to becoming one of the most winningest franchises in the Super Bowl era, the Steelers only appeared in one playoff game from 1933-71, losing in a division tiebreaker to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1947.

  • T-3. New Orleans Saints, 33 Seasons (1967-99)
  • T-3. Detroit Lions, 33 (1958-90)
  • T-3. Detroit Lions, 31 (1992-2022)
  • 6. Cincinnati Bengals, 30 Seasons (1991-2020)

Most Consecutive Playoff Losses (All Time)

1. Detroit Lions, 9 Games (1992-2022)

Has any American sports franchise tortured its fanbase quite like the Lions?

Despite having generational talents like Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson, the Lions had not won an NFL playoff game since the 1991 divisional round. They finally ended that drought with a thrilling 24-23 win over the Los Angeles Rams in the 2023 wild-card round.

T-2. Kansas City Chiefs, 8 (1994-2014)

The Chiefs have no issue winning postseason games these days. But before Andy Reid came to Kansas City, the Chiefs had a difficult time finding success in January. Four of their eight losses were by one possession.

  • T-2. Cincinnati Bengals, 8 (1991-2021)
  • T-4. New York Giants, 6 Games (1939-50)
  • T-4. Cleveland Browns, 6 (1970-86)
  • T-4. Minnesota Vikings, 6 (1989-96)
  • T-4. Seattle Seahawks, 6 (1984-2005)
  • T-4. Dallas Cowboys, 6 (1997-2008)
  • T-4. Buffalo Bills, 6 (1996-2020)