Sports fans are often drawn to hard-luck cases. But cheering for an NFL team that can’t even make the playoffs can be quite excruciating.
To get a nice picture of NFL teams who have gone for long periods of time shut out of the playoffs, we made the following chart, visualising playoff droughts.
The wider and darker a bar is above a particular season, the longer the playoff drought for that team during that season (expansion teams are white for the seasons before they were formed). Teams that have made the playoffs in a season, or at some point in the previous two seasons, are represented by the pleasant cream colour.
The epic failure of the New Orleans Saints to make the postseason for the first 17 years after the AFL and NFL merged is the dark, brick-red gash on the left of the chart.
The teams are arranged in order of the length of their current playoff droughts. The Buffalo Bills live at the top, having missed the playoffs for 13 straight seasons, followed by the troubled Raiders and hapless Browns, both a decade removed from the postseason. A couple other notable failures include the Cardinals narrowly avoiding a record 25-year-long playoff drought from 1983 until their 2008 Super Bowl appearance with a wild card victory in 1998, and 14-year-long stretches of watching the postseason on TV for the Bengals (1991-2004), Buccaneers (1983-1996), and Chiefs (1972-1985).
To make this chart, Business Insider went to the national treasure that is www.pro-football-reference.com and looked through their post-merger records, noting which teams made the playoffs each year. Taking advantage of the magic of Excel, we were able to count up the lengths of droughts from this data, which were then turned into the chart using the plotting features of R.
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