Photo: Wikimedia Commons
The New England Patriots reached Super Bowl 46 after a stellar 13-3 regular season.As for the New York Giants, they got to Indianapolis despite only winning their division with a record of 9-7.
Unlike college football, no one complains about the NFL’s postseason format overvaluing the regular season.
Nonetheless, a number of great, or at least presumed to be great, teams never reached the Super Bowl.
The only thing these teams and their fans were left with was the thought of “what if?”
(We looked at teams from the last 40 years.)
With the best offence and defence in the NFL the 1973 Los Angeles Rams were Super Bowl favourites after going 12-2. Tom Landry's Cowboys had other plans in the first round of the playoffs, however.
In 1992 Steve Young was still trying to dispel doubts that he could take over for Joe Montana. He led the San Francisco 49ers to a 14-2 record, but couldn't get past Dallas in the NFC title game.
The Minnesota Vikings' Randall Cunningham, Chris Carter, Randy Moss triumvirate was drawing comparisons to the all-time great quarterback-wide receiver combinations on their way to a 15-1 regular season in 1998. It all came to halt when Atlanta beat them in overtime for the NFC title.
Led by quarterback Mark Brunell and running back Fred Taylor, the 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars took their 14-2 record and fourth ranked defence all the way to the AFC championship game before getting trounced by Tennessee.
The 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers went 15-1. Rookie Ben Roethlisberger was 13-0 as a starter. New England put up 41 against them in the AFC title game and that was that.
Back in 2004, Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts still couldn't get past New England in the playoffs and reach that illusive Super Bowl. A 12-4 record and the league's best offence wasn't enough, as they lost to the Patriots, again, in the divisional round.
Quarterback Phillip Rivers had a fantastic season and LaDainian Tomlinson was at the height of his career, but the 2006 San Diego Chargers were a huge disappointment. That 14-2 record got them a bye week come playoff time, but New England showed up and ended their season.
With the largest points differential in the NFL (by a wide margin), the 2010 New England Patriots were supposed to coast to the big game. The rival Jets ended their 14-2 run in the second round of the playoffs.
The 2011 Green Bay Packers had their defensive problems, but with Aaron Rodgers and a spectacular receiving corps they threatened to go undefeated. They finished 15-1 on the season, before being finished off by the Super Bowl-bound Giants in the divisional round.
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