Jets, Broncos top list of NFL’s longest active playoff droughts

There are a number of NFL teams hoping that this season will result in some long-awaited postseason play. 

Making the playoffs in professional sports is the first step for fans and franchises to believe they have a shot at ultimate glory. But while some organizations have made a habit of tasting the postseason, others have forgotten what it’s like to play late into January and beyond.

As the 2022-23 season approaches, here is a breakdown of the 11 franchises with the longest active playoff droughts and their postseason potential:

Playoff drought: 11 seasons — Last appearance in 2010

Playoff finish (2010): Lost to Pittsburgh Steelers in AFC Championship

Notable players (2010): Mark Sanchez (QB), LaDainian Tomlinson (RB), Darrelle Revis (CB), Bart Scott (LB), Antonio Cromartie (CB), Braylon Edwards (WR)

2022-23 outlook: The Jets are hoping second-year quarterback Zach Wilson can turn the corner in some capacity. He went 3-10 in 13 starts as a rookie, throwing nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has a shiny new weapon in wide receiver Garrett Wilson out of Ohio State, the 10th overall pick in this year’s draft. There is also hope that fourth overall pick Sauce Gardner can rectify New York’s secondary issues, after the Jets allowed the third-most passing yards per game last season (259.4).

Playoff drought: Six seasons — Last appearance in 2015

Playoff finish (2015): Defeated Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50

Notable players (2015): Peyton Manning (QB), Von Miller (LB), DeMarcus Ware (LB), Demaryius Thomas (WR), Emmanuel Sanders (WR)

2022-23 outlook: Things are certainly different in Denver, and missing the playoffs this season, after trading for Russell Wilson back in March, would be considered a huge disappointment. Last season, the Broncos finished 7-10, with five of their losses coming in a difficult AFC West. Can Wilson help Denver challenge the Tyreek Hill-less Chiefs for the division crown this year?

Playoff drought: Five seasons — Last appearance in 2016

Playoff finish (2016): Lost to Steelers in wild card

Notable players (2016): Ryan Tannehill (QB), Jay Ajayi (RB), Jarvis Landry (WR), Cameron Wake (DE), Ndamukong Suh (DT)

2022-23 outlook: Kansas City’s loss is Miami’s gain. The Dolphins will trot out super-wideout Tyreek Hill next to rising star Jaylen Waddle for Tua Tagovailoa to toss the ball to in his third season. This year appears to be make-or-break for the Alabama legend, though he’s 13-8 as a starter, a stat that is often overlooked. The Dolphins narrowly missed the playoffs last season, finishing 9-8, doomed by a 1-7 start. Can first-year coach Mike McDaniel push them over the hump?

Playoff drought: Five seasons — Last appearance in 2016

Playoff finish (2016): Lost to Green Bay Packers in wild-card round

Notable players (2016): Eli Manning (QB), Odell Beckham Jr. (WR), Jason Pierre-Paul (DE), Landon Collins (S)

2022-23 outlook: The Giants have had one winning season in their past nine years, back in 2016. Since then, they are 22-59 and have had five straight seasons of double-digit losses. They also have three fourth-place finishes in the NFC East during that time span. How can they turn it around? They are hoping that QB Daniel Jones, in his fourth year, can improve on his 12-25 record, and they are counting on DE Kayvon Thibodeaux and OT Evan Neal — the fifth and seventh picks of this year’s draft, respectively — to shore up the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

Playoff drought: Five seasons — Last appearance in 2016

Playoff finish (2016): Lost to Seattle Seahawks in wild-card round

Notable players (2016): Matthew Stafford (QB), Golden Tate (WR), Marvin Jones (WR), Darius Slay (CB)

2022-23 outlook: Detroit watched its former franchise QB go to Los Angeles and win a title in his first season with the Rams. Meanwhile, the Lions went 3-13-1, losing seven games by 10 points or fewer, including five games by four points or fewer. They landed Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson with the No. 2 pick in the draft, and Dan Campbell enters Year 2 of his tenure. One thing is for sure: This team plays hard for Campbell.

Playoff drought: Four seasons — Last appearance in 2017

Playoff finish (2017): Lost to New Orleans Saints in wild-card round

Notable players (2017): Cam Newton (QB), Jonathan Stewart (RB), Christian McCaffrey (RB), Kelvin Benjamin (WR), Luke Kuechly (LB), Thomas Davis (LB)

2022-23 outlook: Carolina faces major questions on offense coming into this season. Is QB Sam Darnold good enough to carry this team? He went 4-7 as a starter in his first year in Carolina, and threw nine touchdowns to 13 interceptions. Also, can McCaffrey, who had more than 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in 2019, stay healthy after playing just 10 games the past two seasons? The Panthers have finished third or fourth in the NFC South in each of the past four seasons, winning just 15 games in the past three years.

Playoff drought: Four seasons — Last appearance in 2017

Playoff finish (2017): Lost to New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI

Notable players (2017): Matt Ryan (QB), Julio Jones (WR), Devonta Freeman (RB), Vic Beasley (LB)

2022-23 outlook: Atlanta signaled that this might be another tough season when it dealt Ryan, the former MVP, to the Colts for a third-round pick. The quarterbacking duties fall to journeyman Marcus Mariota, who has never played a full season in the NFL. After going 7-10 last season, the Falcons will also need to bolster a defense that finished 26th in the NFL in yards allowed (364.4 yards per game) and 29th in points allowed (27 points per game).

Playoff drought: Four seasons — Last appearance in 2017

Playoff finish (2017): Lost to Patriots in AFC Championship

Notable players (2017): Blake Bortles (QB), Leonard Fournette (RB), Yannick Ngakoue (DE), Calais Campbell (DE), Telvin Smith (LB), Jalen Ramsey (CB)

2022-23 outlook: The Jaguars are hoping that new head coach Doug Pedersen, who won a Super Bowl in Philadelphia, will bring a new era of success to the franchise. Jacksonville is counting on Pedersen to get more out of prized QB Trevor Lawrence, and a revamped offensive line led by free-agent signee Brandon Scherff should help, too. The Jags also selected Georgia DE Travon Walker with the first pick in the draft — their second consecutive top pick — after a 3-14 campaign in 2021. 

Playoff drought: Three seasons — Last appearance in 2018

Playoff finish (2018): Lost to Patriots in divisional round

Notable players (2018): Philip Rivers (QB), Melvin Gordon (RB), Keenan Allen (WR), Melvin Ingram (DE), Derwin James (S), Joey Bosa (DE)

2022-23 outlook: The Chargers have been oh-so-close to the playoffs — a tie against the Raiders in the 2021 season finale would have put the Bolts in the postseason. This team appears to have all the ingredients necessary to make it this season, with an offense led by Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, and a defense boosted by the offseason acquisitions of Khalil Mack and JC Jackson. Of course, the rest of the AFC West is loaded, too, so a postseason berth is no lock. 

Playoff drought: Two seasons — Last appearance in 2019

Playoff finish (2019): Lost to Chiefs in divisional round

Notable players (2019): Deshaun Watson (QB), Deandre Hopkins (WR), Laremy Tunsil (LT), J.J. Watt (DE)

2022-23 outlook: Houston endured another offseason of upheaval, finally trading away Watson and effectively giving the starting quarterback job to former third-round pick Davis Mills. Signing offensive lineman A.J. Cann and defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo might not be the kind of blockbuster moves this franchise needs to reach the postseason, without a lot of luck. 

Playoff drought: Two seasons — Last appearance in 2019

Playoff finish (2019): Lost to San Francisco 49ers in divisional round

Notable players (2019): Kirk Cousins (QB), Dalvin Cook (RB), Stefon Diggs (WR), Danielle Hunter (DE), Everson Griffen (DE), Harrison Smith (S)

2022-23 outlook: Minnesota came close last season, finishing at 8-9, and hopes that a bolstered defense (signing defensive end Za’Darius Smith from the Packers was a big coup) can put this team over the top and into the postseason. New coach Kevin O’Connell is seen as a breath of fresh air after Mike Zimmer had worn on players. Can O’Connell, a former NFL QB and Rams offensive coordinator, get more out of quarterback Kirk Cousins?


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