Missing the playoffs 18 of the past 19 seasons, plus not winning a playoff game since 1995, has Bills fans feeling awfully despondent.
Which NFL fan bases have it the worst right now? It’s a question that the Sports Misery Index tackled when it originally came out last September. As we get into the 2019 season, we’re taking a look at which NFL fan bases currently have it the worst and which don’t (cough, the Patriots, cough).
The Index takes into account five factors: championships, playoff berths, playoff wins, heartbreaks and rival comparison, with recent events being weighted more heavily than events that took place decades ago. We’ve also added a misery bonus for teams that have gone 25-plus seasons without a championship, so this list might look a bit different than it did when the Index was last released in April. You can read more on the categories in the cross-sport story, but we’ll identify how each NFL team rates in each category.
Total score: 27.24
All-sport rank: 3
Ranking by category: Championships, 7; Playoff berths, 3; Playoff wins, 4; Heartbreaks, 28; Rival comparison, 1
Where they’re especially miserable: It’s been a rough two decades for the Bills, who have only made the playoffs once in 19 seasons since being victimized by the “Music City Miracle” in the 1999 wild-card round. Buffalo hasn’t won a playoff game since the 1995 season and hasn’t won a championship since its AFL days in the 1960s, qualifying it for the misery bonus. While the Bills have struggled, the rival Patriots have won six Super Bowls and played in four others since the Bills’ last playoff win.
Reasons for hope: If we’re really looking for the bright side, Buffalo did make the playoffs two years ago. And older Bills fans got to see the franchise dominate the AFC in the early 1990s with four straight Super Bowl appearances. Those were nice, even though they lost every single one of them.
Trend: The Bills have built a good defensive foundation since Sean McDermott became their head coach, but any hope for a renaissance depends on Josh Allen becoming a franchise quarterback. Buffalo has struggled to find a QB since Jim Kelly retired, but can Allen buck that trend? The 3-0 start is promising, though.
Total score: 24.95
All-sport rank: 4
Ranking by category: Championships, 9; Playoff berths, 1; Playoff wins, 3; Heartbreaks, 27; Rival comparison, 4
Where they’re especially miserable: The Browns have the longest playoff drought in the NFL, as they haven’t made the postseason since the 2002 season. They’ve only made the playoffs once since rebooting the franchise in 1999 and no version of the Browns has won a playoff game since 1994. Cleveland is one of only four franchises that has yet to play in a Super Bowl and the team hasn’t won a championship since 1964, when Jim Brown was still active. The Browns had a winless season in 2017, and don’t get older fans started on “The Drive” or “The Fumble.”
Reasons for hope: Cleveland is coming off its best season in over a decade, as the Browns increased their record from 0-16 in 2017 to 7-8-1 last season. Their recent draft picks have started to hit (Myles Garrett, Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward), giving the Browns one of the most exciting young teams in the league.
Trend: Not only have the Browns hit on some draft picks, but their front office has aggressively acquired game-breaking talent in receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., among others. With the AFC North wide open, now might be the Browns’ time to not only make the playoffs, but do some damage in the postseason.
Total score: 23.38
All-sport rank: 6
Ranking by category: Championships, 4 (tie); Playoff berths, 4; Playoff wins, 17; Heartbreaks, 19; Rival comparison, 3
Where they’re especially miserable: The Jets have missed the playoffs eight consecutive seasons, the third-longest streak in the NFL, and haven’t made the Super Bowl since Joe Namath’s guarantee in Super Bowl III. Yeah, it’s been 51 years since Broadway Joe shocked the Baltimore Colts, tacking on a misery bonus on top of an angst resume that was already full. Maybe that’s why the Jets are a natural target for butt fumbles and firing GMs after spending hundreds of millions in free agency. And we haven’t mentioned Bill Belichick yet.
Reasons for hope: Before being the butt of jokes (pun intended), Mark Sanchez led the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games in 2009 and 2010. New York actually has brought in some talent lately, either through free agency (Le’Veon Bell, C.J. Mosley) or the draft (Jamal Adams, Sam Darnold).
Trend: It’s been a pretty terrible decade for the Jets, even without considering how well the hated Patriots have done in comparison. But if Darnold can build on what he showed late in the 2018 season (he’ll have to overcome mono first), perhaps there’s a path to the postseason eventually.
Total score: 22.37
All-sport rank: 7
Ranking by category: Championships, 11; Playoff berths, 12; Playoff wins, 5; Heartbreaks, 31; Rival comparison, 2
Where they’re especially miserable: The Dolphins have spiraled since Dan Marino retired after the end of the 1999 season, as they’ve only made the playoffs twice since 2001 and haven’t won a playoff game since 2000. Miami has missed the playoffs nine of the past 10 seasons and hasn’t been to the Super Bowl since the 1984 season. Needless to say, the Dolphins have a substantial championship drought going as well, as they haven’t won the Super Bowl since prevailing in Super Bowl VIII after the 1973 season. And they also have the Patriots problem.
Reasons for hope: Perhaps it’s good that the Dolphins, who have perpetually been stuck in a 6-10 to 8-8 cycle, are finally blowing it up and starting over. Miami also got a potential steal in Josh Rosen, a first-rounder last year whom they got from Arizona for 30 cents on the dollar. Maybe that’s the deal they need.
Trend: Even if Rosen performs well enough for further investment, the Dolphins need to draft well for a few more years before even thinking about contending. And if Rosen fails? Then it’s time to “Tank for Tua” and hope he’s the quarterback Miami has been searching for since Marino.
Total score: 20.7
All-sport rank: 10
Ranking by category: Championships, 6; Playoff berths, 10; Playoff wins, 1; Heartbreaks, 20 (tie); Rival comparison, 5
Where they’re especially miserable: The Lions were the first big mover due to the misery bonus, “rising” into the top 10 thanks to not having won an NFL championship since 1957, the longest drought in the league for a team that’s remained in the same city. But the championship drought is the tip of the iceberg for Detroit fans. The Lions have only won one playoff game since that ’57 title, and they currently have the NFL record for most consecutive playoff losses, dropping nine postseason games in a row since winning a divisional playoff game in 1991.
Reasons for hope: The Lions are a postseason regular compared to the four teams ahead of them, as their three playoff berths since 2011 are one more than the four above have combined. Detroit fans have also seen two of the greatest players ever at their respective positions in Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson.
Trend: The Lions have gone all-in on trying to replicate The Patriot Way in an attempt to break their vicious losing cycle. It didn’t work last season, as Matt Patricia led Detroit to a last-place, 6-10 finish. Can he buck the trend of Belichick assistants going bust as head coaches, or are the Lions spinning their wheels yet again?
Total score: 18.38
All-sport rank: 16
Ranking by category: Championships, 16; Playoff berths, 6; Playoff wins, 6; Heartbreaks, 25; Rival comparison, 6
Where they’re especially miserable: Like the Dolphins, the Redskins used to be a powerhouse but have fallen on bad times, which many of their fans blame on owner Daniel Snyder. No matter who’s to blame, Washington has been in a bad place since Joe Gibbs retired in 1992. Since then, the Redskins have only been to the playoffs five times, never in back-to-back seasons. Washington hasn’t been very successful in the rare times it’s made the postseason, as it hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005 and has only won two since 1999 (one of those coming when Gibbs returned).
Reasons for hope: Older Redskins fans (anyone in their mid-30s or older) remember the good old days, when “The Hogs” won three Super Bowl titles between 1982 and 1991 and played in a fourth Super Bowl. They also have the most recent division title of the teams listed thus far, winning the NFC East in 2015.
Trend: Once again, the Redskins seem to be running in place. While they’ve built a good defense, Alex Smith‘s injury last year sabotaged what looked to be a promising season and now has Washington relying on veteran Case Keenum or rookie Dwayne Haskins to provide a spark. It could get rough.
Total score: 17.25
All-sport rank: 20
Ranking by category: Championships, 12; Playoff berths, 9; Playoff wins, 9; Heartbreaks, 17; Rival comparison, 9
Where they’re especially miserable: The Bears were the hottest team in the NFL going into last year’s playoffs, riding a stifling defense to their first division title and playoff berth since 2010. Their Super Bowl run ended as soon as it began, though, as Cody Parkey clanked the game-winning field goal attempt in a wild-card loss to the Eagles. Considering that last year was only Chicago’s second playoff appearance since losing Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season, the Bears squandered an opportunity that doesn’t come around too often.
Reasons for hope: Just getting to the playoffs gave Chicago fans, who have only seen the Bears make the postseason five times since 1994, a rare celebration. With stars such as Khalil Mack and Eddie Jackson, the Bears have their best defense since the “Monsters of the Midway” tore through the league for that ’85 title.
Trend: It might be time for Bears fans to retire their ’85 gear and buy some newer championship garb, as Chicago is on the short list of Super Bowl contenders. If Mitchell Trubisky can take the offense up a level or two to complement the lethal defense, a long playoff run could be in the offing.
Total score: 17.13
All-sport rank: 22
Ranking by category: Championships, 21; Playoff berths, 2; Playoff wins, 7; Heartbreaks, 26; Rival comparison, 7
Where they’re especially miserable: The Buccaneers have the longest playoff drought of teams not named the Cleveland Browns, as Tampa Bay hasn’t been to the postseason since 2007. The Bucs haven’t won a playoff game since they won Super Bowl XXXVII after the 2002 season, as that 2002 run produced half of the franchise’s overall playoff victories. Besides mini-runs of success from 1979-81 and 1997-2002, being a fan of the Buccaneers has been pretty miserable. The Buccaneers lost their first 26 games as a franchise and have mostly struggled since.
Reasons for hope: Tampa Bay is the first franchise on this list not to be subject to the misery bonus, as that 2002 title — led by Hall of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks — gives Bucs fans in their mid-20s or older a good memory. The Bucs also have an entertaining passing attack this season.
Trend: The Buccaneers swung for the fences with their most recent coaching hire, hoping that quarterback whisperer Bruce Arians can inspire Jameis Winston. If he does, Winston will be the long-term quarterback and brighten Tampa’s future. If not, then the Bucs will go through an all-too-familiar rebuild.
Total score: 17.12
All-sport rank: 23
Ranking by category: Championships, 17; Playoff berths, 5; Playoff wins, 8; Heartbreaks, 22; Rival comparison, 10
Where they’re especially miserable: There was some bad karma in Super Bowl XXXVII apparently, as the Raiders also haven’t won a playoff game since losing to the Bucs in that game. Of course, it’s hard to win playoff games when you don’t qualify for the postseason, as the Raiders have missed the playoffs in 15 of the last 16 seasons. And while there are plenty of national Raiders fans who will stick with the team after they move to Las Vegas, the local Oakland fans have to deal with their beloved Silver & Black leaving them twice. And the Antonio Brown fiasco was quite the headache.
Reasons for hope: The Raiders have accumulated a crop of talented young players, as they turned the Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades into first-round picks Josh Jacobs and Johnathan Abram, among others. Add in Clelin Ferrell and Oakland is constructing an intriguing nucleus.
Trend: No matter what, the Raiders will fall down lower in these rankings after the season due to their move to Sin City. Can Oakland give its fans something to cheer for in the interim? If Derek Carr performs like he did in 2016 and the young players show out, perhaps the Black Hole will see some joy before the team departs.
Total score: 14.31
All-sport rank: 33
Ranking by category: Championships, 10; Playoff berths, 14; Playoff wins, 12; Heartbreaks, 29; Rival comparison, 8
Where they’re especially miserable: The Cardinals weren’t exactly tearing it up before they moved to Arizona, but their performance in Phoenix has been mostly subpar. Arizona has only been to the playoffs five times since moving to the desert in 1988 and has completely imploded in the last three seasons, going from losing in the NFC Championship Game four years ago to the worst record in the league. Their new coach had a losing record in the Big 12 and their one Super Bowl appearance was ruined by a late Santonio Holmes touchdown.
Reasons for hope: While there hasn’t been a ton of winning, Cardinals fans have had the treat of watching future Hall of Fame receiver Larry Fitzgerald for 15 seasons (in the midst of No. 16). And the Cardinals have one of the most exciting and talked-about draft prospects in some time in dazzling quarterback Kyler Murray.
Trend: The Cardinals will probably stink this season, but they could be a very entertaining bad team with Murray running new coach Kliff Kingsbury’s Air Raid offense. In an NFL that’s increasingly becoming more wide-open, Arizona is going all-in on the concept, which should be exciting at the very least.
11. Tennessee Titans
Total score: 14.21
All-sport rank: 36
Ranking by category: Championships, 15; Playoff berths, 11; Playoff wins, 10 (tie); Heartbreaks, 14; Rival comparison, 11
Where they’re especially miserable: The joy of winning a playoff game in 2017 disappeared last season, as the Titans were whupped by the Colts in a winner-take-all season finale to fall short of the postseason. That makes it nine times in 10 seasons that Tennessee has missed the playoffs. The Titans had an extremely painful loss the one time they made the Super Bowl (their fans still can’t believe Mike Jones tackled Kevin Dyson), and could very easily find themselves needing to start over at quarterback again next season.
Reasons for hope: The Titans have gone from bad to competitive, racking up three consecutive winning seasons and getting the comeback wild-card victory over the Chiefs in 2017. Derrick Henry emerged as a dominating force late last season, and Titans fans in their late 20s or older can smile at the “Music City Miracle.”
Trend: Where the Titans go in the next few years depends on what Marcus Mariota does this season. The former No. 2 overall pick is in a “prove it” fifth season after injuries and inconsistency have defined his career to date. Will Mariota emerge and get paid, or is it time to start over in Nashville?
Total score: 14.06
All-sport rank: 37
Ranking by category: Championships, 3; Playoff berths, 17; Playoff wins, 2; Heartbreaks, 16; Rival comparison, 13
Where they’re especially miserable: The last three years have been bad enough, as the Bengals have steadily lost ground and fallen to last place in the AFC North. But the biggest reason for Cincinnati fan angst comes from the Bengals’ playoff win drought, which is the longest in the NFL. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since defeating the Houston Oilers (yes, the Oilers were still a thing) in the 1990 wild-card round. It’s been eight postseason losses since, including a particularly painful meltdown against the Steelers in 2015.
Reasons for hope: While they didn’t win any of the games, the Bengals did make the playoffs six times in seven seasons between 2009 and 2015, winning three division titles. And ownership, long criticized for its lack of ambition and vision, finally fired head coach Marvin Lewis after his regime became stale.
Trend: While Lewis is gone and Zac Taylor is in at coach, the Bengals are likely to take a few steps back in the near future. Cincinnati is in need of a talent overhaul on defense and quarterback Andy Dalton might be gone after this season. It’s not going to get any better anytime soon in Cincy.
Total score: 13.88
All-sport rank: 40
Ranking by category: Championships, 13 (tie); Playoff berths, 7; Playoff wins, 15; Heartbreaks, 24; Rival comparison, 12
Where they’re especially miserable: The Jaguars imploded last year, as they went from a dark horse Super Bowl pick to a 5-11 team with an anemic offense. Blake Bortles completely regressed, Leonard Fournette slumped and had behavioral issues and Jacksonville fans were left hoping for the heartbreak they received in the 2017 AFC Championship Game, when the Jags blew a 10-point, second-half lead to the Patriots thanks to some Tom Brady magic and a dash of controversy (Jags fans insist that Myles Jack wasn’t down). They’ve now missed the playoffs 10 times in 11 seasons.
Reasons for hope: Despite last year’s downturn, the Jags are only two years removed from being one of the best teams in the AFC. They still have defensive talent that’s near the top of the league (if not at the top) and they’ve finally cut the cord on the Bortles experiment — potential addition by subtraction.
Trend: Nick Foles was signed in the offseason to do what Bortles couldn’t — give the Jaguars a consistent, competent offense that can score enough points to complement Jalen Ramsey & Co. on defense — then got hurt in the first game. That’s the way it goes for the Jags, but at least they have Gardner Minshew‘s legendary mustache to enjoy.
Total score: 12.64
All-sport rank: 43
Ranking by category: Championships, 4; Playoff berths, 15; Playoff wins, 16; Heartbreaks, 15; Rival comparison, 17
Where they’re especially miserable: The Chargers have one of the longest championship droughts in the NFL, as they haven’t won a title since 1963. For reference, the Chargers were then in the AFL and also located in San Diego. Los Angeles has been slow to adopt the Chargers — who moved from San Diego in 2017 — as its own, and the franchise’s star-crossed history might have something to do with it. Prior to last season, the Chargers had missed the playoffs seven times in eight seasons, and they have only played in one Super Bowl, which was 25 years ago.
Reasons for hope: Los Angeles has one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Philip Rivers and has drafted incredibly well recently, giving it one of the league’s most talented rosters. That paid dividends last season, as the Chargers went 12-4 and defeated the Ravens in the wild-card round before falling to New England.
Trend: The Chargers have an elite QB, quality skill-position players, top-notch pass-rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and a talented secondary. If they can figure out their offensive line and get Melvin Gordon to report, this is a championship dark horse.
Total score: 12.62
All-sport rank: 44
Ranking by category: Championships, 18 (tie); Playoff berths, 8; Playoff wins, 19; Heartbreaks, 10; Rival comparison, 14
Where they’re especially miserable: It’s been a bummer for the 49ers since they lost the 2013 NFC Championship Game to the Seahawks on a late tipped interception. The 49ers have missed the playoffs the past five seasons and are on their fourth coach since that loss. The last coach not named Jim Harbaugh to lead the Niners to the playoffs was Steve Mariucci — in 2002. They were a popular breakout pick last season, but Jimmy Garoppolo‘s torn ACL derailed San Francisco’s season early, relegating the 49ers to a miserable 4-12 record.
Reasons for hope: When healthy, Garoppolo showed he could be a winning quarterback, as he piloted the Niners to five consecutive wins to end 2017. And older San Francisco fans have memories of the 1980s and ’90s, as the 49ers won five Super Bowls and made the playoffs 16 times in 18 seasons from 1981-1998.
Trend: This is a pivotal season for both Garoppolo and third-year coach Kyle Shanahan. If Jimmy G. stays healthy, the 49ers could sneak into the playoffs and give Shanahan some much-needed momentum, but another year of missing the postseason could have San Francisco retooling with a new coach and approach.
Total score: 12.46
All-sport rank: 45
Ranking by category: Championships, 1; Playoff berths, 18; Playoff wins, 13; Heartbreaks, 8 (tie); Rival comparison, 16
Where they’re especially miserable: The Vikings are the oldest franchise to have never won an NFL or AFL championship, as they’re 0 for 58 since 1961. Minnesota hasn’t made it to the title game in over 40 years; its last Super Bowl appearance came after the 1976 season. The Vikes have faltered in the NFC Championship Game six times since, most recently two years ago. To make matters worse, they missed the playoffs last season despite high expectations, losing a must-win finale to the Bears at home even though Chicago clinched and had nothing to play for.
Reasons for hope: While the Vikings haven’t been able to finish the job, they’re usually right in the mix. They are only two years removed from making the NFC title game and have some of the best defensive talent in the league, along with possibly the best 1-2 receiver tandem in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
Trend: The Vikings thought quarterback Kirk Cousins was the missing element to bring them to Super Bowl glory. Year 1 didn’t play out that way, as Minnesota slumped to 8-7-1. However, there is plenty of talent around Cousins. If he plays better, the Vikes could fulfill their 2018 expectations one year later.
17. Atlanta Falcons
Total score: 9.95
All-sport rank: 57
Ranking by category: Championships, 2; Playoff berths, 16; Playoff wins, 22; Heartbreaks, 8 (tie); Rival comparison, 18
Where they’re especially miserable: The wounds of Super Bowl LI haven’t healed yet, as the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead over the Patriots before losing in the only overtime game in Super Bowl history. That game was the single most devastating defeat in the heartbreak formula and highlights the fact that Atlanta hasn’t won a championship in its 53 years of existence. It hasn’t helped that the Falcons have backslid since that Super Bowl loss, as they lost to the Eagles in the divisional round in 2017 and completely missed the playoffs last year.
Reasons for hope: Last season aside, the Falcons have mostly been above average since drafting Matt Ryan in 2008, making the playoffs six times in 11 seasons. For comparison’s sake, they made the postseason only eight times in the first 42 seasons of the franchise. They’re loaded on offense and fun to watch.
Trend: A rash of defensive injuries was the main reason the Falcons struggled last season, but players such as Deion Jones and Ricardo Allen have returned to action. Coupled with an explosive offense led by Ryan and All-Pro receiver Julio Jones, Atlanta’s title contender window might still be open.
Total score: 8.95
All-sport rank: 61
Ranking by category: Championships, 8; Playoff berths, 25; Playoff wins, 14; Heartbreaks, 7; Rival comparison, 19
Where they’re more miserable: The Chiefs were eliminated in overtime of the AFC Championship Game without getting a chance to touch the ball, as the Patriots scored a touchdown on the first possession. That added to the Arrowhead Stadium postseason misery, as the Chiefs have dropped seven of their last eight playoff home games dating to 1995. They’ve also blown two 18-plus-point leads in playoff games since 2013. These struggles are a primary reason why the Chiefs are approaching the 50th anniversary of their last Super Bowl appearance and title.
Reasons for hope: There’s one reason that dominates — quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He threw for 50 touchdown passes in his first year as a starter last season to win the MVP. Having the franchise QB is exciting, but K.C. also has surrounded him with weapons and an innovative offensive coach in Andy Reid.
Trend: Expectations are through the roof for the Chiefs, as they should be. Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce lead an offense that will score a ton of points. If Kansas City’s defense can move toward the middle of the pack, the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl title could be a drought-ender.
19. New York Giants
Total score: 5.66
All-sport rank: 68
Ranking by category: Championships, 28; Playoff berths, 13; Playoff wins, 21; Heartbreaks, 23; Rival comparison, 15
Where they’re most miserable: The Giants have only been to the playoffs once since beating the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI after the 2011 season and haven’t won a playoff game since that victory. They’ve missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and have only made it twice in the last 10 years. But in reality, Giants fans are frustrated about two things right now — the trade of superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns and the drafting of Daniel Jones at No. 6 as the heir apparent to Eli Manning (though Jones looked good in his first start). The trust isn’t quite there.
Reasons for hope: While the last few years have been rough, how can you be that miserable with two Super Bowl wins in the past 12 seasons, over Tom Brady, no less? The Giants have won four titles in the Super Bowl era, winning two under Bill Parcells in 1986 and 1990. And Saquon Barkley is pretty fun to watch.
Trend: It’s clear that the Giants are undertaking a sizable rebuild, as Jones has officially taken over for Manning, but do their fans trust general manager Dave Gettleman to lead those efforts? This past offseason has eroded confidence, so New York might be piling on misery quickly unless Jones impresses early.
20. Dallas Cowboys
Total score: 4.07
All-sport rank: 71
Ranking by category: Championships, 20; Playoff berths, 24; Playoff wins, 20; Heartbreaks, 5; Rival comparison, 22
Where they’re especially miserable: Not only are the Cowboys 24 years removed from their last Super Bowl title, they haven’t been that close since. The Cowboys haven’t made the NFC Championship Game since their 1995 title season, the third-worst mark in the NFC. The only two teams with bigger droughts, the Lions and the Redskins, are in the Sweet 16 of misery. Dallas has found extremely painful ways to not get to the NFC title game, with the Dez Bryant “catch” game in 2014 being one of two gut-punch losses to the Packers the past five years.
Reasons for hope: The Cowboys have won three NFC East titles in the past five seasons. They’ve also drafted incredibly well this decade, building a stellar offensive line and getting impact players on offense (Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott) and defense (DeMarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith and Byron Jones).
Trend: The Cowboys emerged last year after trading for Amari Cooper and have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. If they can overcome the drama of contract negotiations for their young talent and the precarious job security of coach Jason Garrett, Dallas could be in line to do big things.
21. Houston Texans
Total score: 3.37
All-sport rank: 76 (tie)
Ranking by category: Championships, 18 (tie); Playoff berths, 23; Playoff wins, 10 (tie); Heartbreaks, 32; Rival comparison, 21
Why they’re especially miserable: Because they haven’t quite had that breakthrough season. The Texans haven’t advanced past the divisional playoff round in their 17 seasons of existence, most recently getting tripped up by the Patriots in 2016. Houston hasn’t quite been able to put together a complete team in its history, either due to injuries or a roster that was deficient in one key area. Right now, that deficiency is the offensive line, which was exposed in last year’s wild-card loss to the division rival Colts.
Reasons for hope: The Texans have been playoff regulars lately, making the playoffs five times in the past eight seasons. The way they did it last year was extremely impressive, as Houston went 11-2 after an 0-3 start to win the AFC South title. They’ve also solved their quarterback dilemma with Deshaun Watson, if they can keep him healthy.
Trend: The Texans are loaded with star players, as Watson and DeAndre Hopkins are arguably the best QB-receiver combo in the NFL while J.J. Watt is an elite pass-rusher. That said, Texans fans are getting antsy and want to see their team jump to the next level.
Total score: 3.13
All-sport rank: 78
Ranking by category: Championships, 13 (tie); Playoff berths, 19; Playoff wins, 23; Heartbreaks, 30; Rival comparison, 20
Why they’re especially miserable: The Panthers are compulsively unable to string together back-to-back winning seasons, having never done so in their 24-year history. That schizophrenic streak was extended last year in especially painful fashion, as they lost seven games in a row after a 6-2 start to go from the top of the NFC to missing the playoffs completely. Carolina has not been able to build on its run to Super Bowl 50 in 2015, as it hasn’t won a playoff game since and has missed the postseason two of the last three years.
Reasons for hope: When the Panthers are on the good side of their bipolar back-and-forth, it’s usually very good, as they’ve made the Super Bowl twice and the NFC Championship Game four times, including in their second year of existence. They’ve also made the playoffs four times in the past six seasons.
Trend: If history is any indication, the Panthers should be just fine in 2019 and back in the playoff hunt. They have the backfield combination to do it, as Christian McCaffrey emerged last year and Cam Newton is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL when healthy.
Total score: 0.45
All-sport rank: 82
Ranking by category: Championships, 24; Playoff berths, 20; Playoff wins, 24; Heartbreaks, 6; Rival comparison, 24
Why they’re especially miserable: Because they’ve had the gnarliest back-to-back, stomach-punch playoff loss combo since the Browns had “The Drive” and “The Fumble” in the late 1980s. First was the “Minneapolis Miracle,” when Marcus Williams whiffed on a tackle on the last play to let Stefon Diggs score a walk-off touchdown. Then came the “No Call,” when an obvious pass interference against Nickell Robey-Coleman was missed as the Saints were attempting to run out the clock on the Rams, resulting in L.A. winning in overtime and the NFL changing its rules.
Reasons for hope: Being in position to lose in heartbreaking fashion means you have to be good in the first place, and the Saints have been very good the past two seasons and should be again. Also, it hasn’t been that long since the Saints beat the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV and set off epic Bourbon Street parties.
Trend: The Saints are loaded, as all-time passing leader and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees leads a team with elite offensive (Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara) and defensive talent (Cameron Jordan, Marshon Lattimore). If Brees can overcome thumb surgery to his throwing hand, New Orleans could win the Super Bowl.
24. Los Angeles Rams
Total score: -1.92
All-sport rank: 89
Ranking by category: Championships, 26; Playoff berths, 28; Playoff wins, 18; Heartbreaks, 20 (tie); Rival comparison, 23
Why they’re especially miserable: After leading the way all year, the Rams’ offense pulled a complete disappearing act in the most recent Super Bowl, losing to the Patriots 13-3. That loss makes it 68 years since the Rams won the 1951 NFL championship over the Browns, their last title in Los Angeles. While having a 20-plus-year break from professional football lowers the misery level of that stat quite a bit, older Southern California Rams fans who stuck it out haven’t been able to celebrate a championship.
Reasons for hope: After an awkward Jeff Fisher season, things have been good for the Rams in L.A. since they’ve moved back. Innovative, young coach Sean McVay led the Rams to a surprising division title in 2017 before upping the ante by making the Super Bowl (and depressing Saints fans in the process).
Trend: The Rams have been aggressive in building their team, thanks in large part due to Jared Goff being on his rookie contract. They just paid Goff, so they hope Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley & Co. can help lead the Rams to the elusive title before hard salary-cap decisions need to be made.
25. Baltimore Ravens
Total score: -5.11
All-sport rank: 97
Ranking by category: Championships, 29; Playoff berths, 26; Playoff wins, 26; Heartbreaks, 3; Rival comparison, 25
Where they’re especially miserable: Normally a consistently successful franchise, the Ravens have backslid a bit since winning Super Bowl XLVII over the 49ers, missing the playoffs four of the past six seasons and only winning one playoff game since. The Ravens haven’t won a postseason game since 2014, as Lamar Jackson was stripsacked late in last year’s wild-card loss to the Chargers. And their defense lost some steady veteran personnel this past offseason.
Reasons for hope: If the above paragraph seemed a bit nitpicky, it’s because the Ravens have generally been good to real good since moving to Baltimore in 1996. It’s hard to be too miserable with two Super Bowl titles in the past two decades, including the relatively recent one after the 2012 season. And the Ravens are fresh off an AFC North division title.
Trend: John Harbaugh saved Baltimore’s season — and perhaps his job — last year when he benched Joe Flacco for Jackson. Jackson’s mobility helped the Ravens win six of their last seven regular-season games, but will the second-year QB be able to build on that success? It all depends on how his passing evolves (early returns this season are promising).
26. Denver Broncos
Total score: -5.57
All-sport rank: 98
Ranking by category: Championships, 31; Playoff berths, 21; Playoff wins, 25; Heartbreaks, 13; Rival comparison, 28
Where they’re especially miserable: The Broncos have struggled mightily since beating the Panthers in Super Bowl 50, missing the playoffs the past three seasons. Denver is coming off back-to-back double-digit loss seasons, the first time that’s happened since the AFL days. Many of the problems of the last three years have come from instability at quarterback, as the Broncos have struggled to find a replacement for Peyton Manning and have a whole new quarterback room this season.
Reasons for hope: While the last three years have stunk, it’s hard to have too much sympathy for a fan base that got to celebrate a Super Bowl title four years ago. The Broncos have won three Super Bowls since 1997 and played in a fourth six years ago. And Denver fans have gotten to watch two all-time great QBs in Manning and John Elway.
Trend: If the Broncos are going to emerge from their recent funk, it’s going to be the quarterbacks who get them there. Denver has a talented defense with potential led by Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, but it will be Joe Flacco and/or Drew Lock who determine how good the Broncos will be in 2019.
Total score: -7.44
All-sport rank: 102
Ranking by category: Championships, 30; Playoff berths, 22; Playoff wins, 29; Heartbreaks, 11; Rival comparison, 26
Where they’re especially miserable: The Eagles’ defense of their Super Bowl LII title was a bit uneven, as they had to ride some more Nick Foles magic to sneak into the playoffs. After a fortunate wild-card victory over the Bears, Foles’ good fortune ran out against the Saints in the divisional playoffs, as the normally sure-handed Alshon Jeffery saw a Foles pass go through his hands and into New Orleans cornerback Marshon Lattimore‘s at the two-minute warning for the game-ending interception as the Eagles were driving for a potential game-winning touchdown.
Reasons for hope: As much as Philly fans enjoy complaining, it’s hard to take those complaints seriously when they got to celebrate a Super Bowl victory over the Patriots two years ago. The Eagles have also been a pretty successful franchise over the past two decades, playing in two Super Bowls and six NFC Championship Games since 2001.
Trend: Philadelphia has jelled under the combination of coach Doug Pederson and general manager Howie Roseman, building one of the league’s deepest rosters. That roster isn’t as deep at QB anymore, though, so if MVP candidate Carson Wentz gets hurt for the third straight season, there could be problems.
Total score: -7.59
All-sport rank: 103
Ranking by category: Championships, 22; Playoff berths, 29; Playoff wins, 27; Heartbreaks, 12; Rival comparison, 29
Why they’re especially miserable: The Colts got a stomach punch usually reserved for Lions fans, as Andrew Luck unexpectedly retired last month at age 29 two weeks before the season started. Besides that, Indy’s misery is mainly due to playoff games against the Patriots, as the Colts have been dispatched by the Patriots four times in the postseason since 2003, including twice in AFC championships. The most recent AFC title game loss to New England came after the 2014 season in a game that spawned the “Deflategate” controversy.
Reasons for hope: The Colts got rid of GM Ryan Grigson and massively upgraded with Chris Ballard. He produced an all-star draft last year that produced Pro Bowl guard Quenton Nelson and Defensive Rookie of the Year Darius Leonard, which helped the Colts overcome a 1-5 start to not only make the playoffs, but topple the Texans in the first round. A relatively recent Super Bowl win after the 2006 season doesn’t hurt, either.
Trend: The Colts have upgraded their roster drastically, but Luck’s retirement put them in a strange spot. If Jacoby Brissett, who has shown flashes, can take the reins and play decent ball, then things could be OK. If not, Indy has to hope to hit big at QB in the draft yet again.
Total score: -8.93
All-sport rank: 106
Ranking by category: Championships, 23; Playoff berths, 30; Playoff wins, 28; Heartbreaks, 18; Rival comparison, 27
Where they’re especially miserable: A drama-filled season last year saw the Steelers falter late and miss the playoffs, as a crucial 1-4 stretch — capped by a late JuJu Smith-Schuster fumble in a Week 16 loss to the Saints — kept Pittsburgh out of the playoffs for the first time since 2013. The playoff miss was capped off with an extra insult in the final week, as the Steelers players helplessly watched the Ravens beat the Browns on the Heinz Field jumbotron to block them out of the playoffs. And now Ben Roethlisberger is out for the season with an elbow injury.
Reasons for hope: The fact that Steelers fans are perturbed about not winning a Super Bowl in over a decade shows how spoiled they are, as Pittsburgh’s six titles are tied with the Patriots for the most in the Super Bowl era. Two of those are recent enough for younger fans to celebrate, as the Steelers won championships after the 2005 and 2008 seasons.
Trend: The Steelers don’t have to deal with Le’Veon Bell‘s contract situation or Antonio Brown‘s overall drama anymore, but they could have done without losing Big Ben. James Conner and Smith-Schuster will have to emerge as stars and help second-year QB Mason Rudolph. Either way, Pittsburgh now finds itself in a weird limbo.
Total score: -9.19
All-sport rank: 107
Ranking by category: Championships, 27; Playoff berths, 27; Playoff wins, 31; Heartbreaks, 1; Rival comparison, 31
Where they’re especially miserable: The Packers have scuffled the past two years, suffering back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1990-91 thanks to injuries to Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay also has the highest heartbreak score in the NFL thanks to some rough playoff losses this decade, most notably overtime losses to the Seahawks in the 2014 NFC Championship Game and to the Cardinals in the 2015 divisional round. In both defeats, the Packers didn’t possess the ball in overtime.
Reasons for hope: The Packers are one of the league’s most successful franchises over the past quarter-century, winning Super Bowl titles in 1996 and 2010 and making a third Super Bowl. Green Bay has had back-to-back elite quarterbacks in Brett Favre and Rodgers and has the most NFL titles of any franchise, winning 13 championships, including four Super Bowls.
Trend: Green Bay has possibly the best quarterback in the game in Rodgers, but his lack of durability the past two seasons has exposed a roster that isn’t quite up to snuff. Can Rodgers stay healthy and get the Pack back in the postseason hunt, or will their struggles continue as they retool around him?
31. Seattle Seahawks
Total score: -10.72
All-sport rank: 109
Ranking by category: Championships, 25; Playoff berths, 31; Playoff wins, 30; Heartbreaks, 4; Rival comparison, 30
Where they’re especially miserable: Seahawks fans still have the shakes about the end of Super Bowl XLIX five years ago. Instead of running it in with Marshawn Lynch in the closing seconds to beat the Patriots, Pete Carroll got cute and called for a pass, which Malcolm Butler intercepted to deny Seattle a repeat title. The Seahawks have only won two playoff games in the four seasons since, the last one coming in 2016.
Reasons for hope: The Seahawks brought Seattle its first major professional sports championship since 1979 the year before the Butler interception, as the Legion of Boom & Co. completely throttled Peyton Manning and the Broncos 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII. The Seahawks have been one of the more consistent franchises since Mike Holmgren was hired in 1999, as they went to a Super Bowl and made six postseason appearances in Holmgren’s 10 seasons and have made the playoffs seven times in Carroll’s nine seasons, including last year.
Trend: While most of the stars from the Seahawks’ Super Bowl runs have either retired or moved to other franchises, Seattle still has Carroll, Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson and All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner. If they keep developing gems in the draft, the Seahawks will continue to contend.
Total score: -58.98
All-sport rank: 123
Ranking by category: Championships, 32; Playoff berths, 32; Playoff wins, 32; Heartbreaks, 2; Rival comparison, 32
Where they’re especially miserable: They aren’t, but if we have to make up some reason for Patriots fans to complain, it’s that they’ve lost three Super Bowls in the final minutes during the past 12 seasons. Their loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII prevented a perfect season, while Brandon Graham‘s strip sack of Tom Brady two years ago prevented a three-peat. But yeah, we’re reaching big-time.
Reasons for hope: Not only are the Patriots tied with the Steelers for the most championships in the Super Bowl era, all of those titles have come since 2001. Brady has played in more Super Bowls (nine) than any other NFL franchise and New England has been to 11 Super Bowls total. Last year’s victory over the Rams (the Pats’ third Super Bowl championship in the past five seasons) was the least dramatic of this run of dominance, as the Patriots have won three Super Bowls in the last minute and one in overtime after overcoming a 25-point deficit. So, yeah.
Trend: Brady is 42 and has to slow down, doesn’t he? You’d think, but the Patriots have bucked conventional wisdom throughout the Bill Belichick/Brady era. New England is by far the least miserable team in professional sports and are already irritating the rest of the NFL again this season.