Football is America’s most popular sport. Whether it’s playing it or sitting back and watching a game with some wings and a beer, this game brings joy to many people’s lives. However, not every display is brilliant. Some games are totally unwatchable for a number of reasons. After the global health crisis decimated the Baltimore Ravens in 2020, their game against the Steelers was pathetic.
But there are many reasons behind unwatchable games. Firstly, sometimes teams don’t show up and just play incredibly badly. Then, there are rare occasions when freak weather affects the game. These occasions can be entertaining because of the novelty factor but visibility and playing quality can be poor. Meanwhile, poor officiating also ruins games. The possibilities are endless. We looked at 20 NFL games that were just unwatchable for one reason or another. Check out the list below via Liveabout.com.
20. New Orleans Saints vs. Miami Dolphins – 2017:
It was a rainy Saturday evening at Wembley Stadium in London and the NFL was on tour. Almost 100,000 fans packed into the arena because of the novelty factor. However, the Saints and Dolphins totally let them down with a dismal, almost unwatchable performance. Maybe it was jet lag, but whatever it was, the two teams took an age to ignite and totally disappointed the masses.
In the end, the Saints defeated the Dolphins 20-0 but all of their points came in the second half. At least the overseas fans saw a few scores, but it wasn’t great by any means. Adam Gase called the Dolphins’ offense ‘garbage’ because they were. When the NFL goes to another country it’s all about the spectacle, but neither of these teams was able to live up to the occasion.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh finally played after multiple reschedulings because of the global health crisis. However, the game definitely wasn’t worth the wait because the Ravens lost half of their starters before it. Star quarterback Lamar Jackson, wide receiver Willie Snead, tight end Mark Andrews, and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram all missed out and left the Ravens’ offense toothless.
This was an ugly game of football because neither team played well. Pittsburgh, undefeated after 10 games, couldn’t take advantage of Baltimore’s depleted state. In the end, they did win but they almost threw the game away. The Steelers wasted several opportunities to score while and also almost blew a 12-point advantage. Results are all that matter but this wasn’t a good game at all, albeit in bizarre circumstances.
There have only been three 5-0 games in NFL history. This fact might make this game feel like something special, but that’s only true for sports historians. There is no good reason for this result because the weather was perfectly mild and both teams had their strongest players available. However, the two starting quarterbacks must have made a pregame agreement that they’d try to play worse than the other.
The game’s only offensive score came from a 26-yard field goal before the Cowboys sacked Detroit QB Greg Landry in the endzone. That was enough for the game’s infamous low-score result which looks as weird today as it did back then. This frustrating game must have been unwatchable for fans because their players made so many ridiculous unforced errors. The postseason has definitely had better games, but this is typical of the Detroit Lions.
2010 was actually a very good season by the Jets’ current miserable standards. They finished the regular season 11-5, but this particular game against the Packers definitely wasn’t their best performance. Nor was it Green Bay’s, because both teams proved listless when it mattered. The first half was brutal because neither Mark Sanchez nor Aaron Rodgers could get their offenses firing.
Between them, the two quarterbacks threw 31 incomplete passes as well as multiple interceptions. The Packers shut the Jets out at home with a 9-0 victory but it felt like a pyrrhic victory. There were no real winners after this unwatchable sloppy mess of a game. New York felt aggrieved after some controversial officiating but after several missed field goal attempts and costly turnovers, neither team could have argued if they lost.
Philadelphia defeated St. Louis 10-3 in this tepid, unwatchable clash. The Eagles were down to their third quarterback but still had enough in the tank to win the game. Their fans were full of praise for their defense after the game, but this didn’t make it any better for neutrals who watched this dismal affair. In sum, the Rams offered precisely nothing as they increased their losing record for the season.
The Rams suffered a disastrous blow because this loss ensured that they missed out on the postseason, after starting 2002 as the Super Bowl favorites. Kurt Warner couldn’t fire his team to the endzone as their once pulsating offense continued to decline. Philly walked away content with the win but they hadn’t played well either. This was a terrible game to watch, but it was worse for St. Louis fans who felt like it rubbed salt in their wounds.
It’s amazing how the same numbers can have dramatically different connotations depending on the sport. A 6-3 score would be outstanding in soccer, but in football, it’s a sign of a terrible game. First, Seattle was without quarterback Tavaris Jackson. But then they lost Marshawn Lynch during the pregame warm-up due to a back injury. Things didn’t get better for them.
What resulted was an unwatchable, ugly mess of a game between two sloppy teams. In the end, Browns’ kicker Phil Dawson was the hero of the day because his two kicks were the difference between the sides. The two teams were terrible but the Seahawks were especially sluggish with backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst experiencing a nightmare start. The best thing about this game was that it finally ended.
At least the Raiders’ fans didn’t have to travel far to see their team perform miserably but spare a thought for the Chargers’ support who witnessed their team put on a shambolic display away from home. One of the most dismal games of the 1990s, it’s another one that it’s difficult to say much about except that both teams should have been ashamed for themselves for wasting their fans’ hard-earned money.
The Raiders won 7-6 with the only touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter. This was after San Diego went up 6-0 from two field goals. With 1:38 left on the clock, James Jett broke the hearts of Chargers’ fans who stuck through their team’s sluggish performance. But it’s not like there were any mitigating factors either. This game was unwatchable because neither team turned up.
There really isn’t anything good to say about this game except that it happened and someone won. Green Bay hosted the Bills on a bitterly cold winter’s day in December, but neither team took fire. It looked like they had forgotten to warm up as they moved about the field like frozen statues. Green Bay won, but it was an unwatchable game because it was so boring.
The game saw two scores. First of all, the Packers kicked a field goal in the third quarter. Then, in the fourth, Brett Favre passed to Donald Driver for the only touchdown of the game. At least the Green Bay fans had something to cheer. But for the ‘Bills Mafia’ who traveled from New York, it was a miserable day. There are some games that are better to forget because they were so bad.
On October 15, 1984, Mother Nature decided to give Monday Night Football her own very personal touch. In short, fans witnessed some of the most extreme conditions ever on a football field. The Broncos played the Packers in Denver during a blizzard. It might sound like an entertaining and unique twist to a game of football, but it soon became unwatchable due to the conditions.
Fans couldn’t see the players on the field because of the heavy snowfall. Meanwhile, the broadcasters struggled to ensure visibility for TV audiences. Remember that this was long before high definition televisions and all of that modern technology. In the end, the Broncos ran out 17-14 winners. But Denver’s first 14 points came in the very first minute of the game from their defense. Finally, Rich Karlis scored the winner.
Marino is a Dolphins legend because of his brilliant tenure as their franchise quarterback. His final game came in 1999 when the Dolphins played the Jaguars. No doubt he wanted his last appearance as a player in front of his fans to be memorable. It was but not for the reasons he would have wanted. This game was terrible to watch because it was as one-sided a blowout as NFL fans have ever seen.
Mark Brunell and Jimmy Smith annihilated the Dolphins, while Fred Taylor sprinted in a 90-yard score. However, for Dolphins’ fans, this was the stuff of nightmares. By halftime, the Jaguars were winning 41-7. But neutrals changed the channel. Nobody wanted to see Marino leave the NFL like this but the league can be incredibly cruel. It also started a downward spiral for the franchise.
Thanksgiving in 1993 saw the Dallas Cowboys host the Miami Dolphins at Texas Stadium. While most people associate Texas with the arid desert heat, it can get some freezing cold weather. A Blue Norther storm brought ridiculous snow and sleet but they played the game anyway. On the one hand, it was entertaining because of the unique circumstances as they were knee-deep in snow. But it was also unwatchable in terms of quality.
A terrible error by Leon Lett allowed Miami to score a winning field goal, but in the end, the Cowboys went on and won the Super Bowl. He was out of control on the slippery surface and committed a typical hilarious mistake. This is one of those games that achieved iconic status because of the unusual conditions, but for the frozen fans and players, it was definitely a battle of attrition.
On a cold November day, Dallas traveled to Ford Field for one of the bleakest games in NFL history. There is no reason why anybody would remember this match because it was football at its worst. There were no excuses. Many of these entries on this list have some dramatic influence such as adverse weather or poor refereeing, but neither team could claim anything other than being garbage.
Field goals can provide incredible moments of drama but nobody wants every single score in a game to be a kick. However, the two teams treated their fans to a display of kicking on that grey afternoon. In the end, the Lions won the game 9-7 after three successful kicks. But fans had to wait until the third quarter to see the first score because of their toothless offenses.
Unlike Miami, Buffalo and Cleveland are more than familiar with adverse weather. But there’s a big difference between living with awful weather and trying to play a high-level NFL game. In 2007, the Browns hosted the Bills in Ohio when some bizarre conditions from a nearby lake totally ruined the game as a spectacle. Blinding snow and 40 mph winds resulted in an unwatchable game.
In the end, the Browns won 8-0 thanks to two Phil Dawson field goals. Some people will be nostalgic about this game but in reality, nobody enjoyed it at the time. It was awful to watch on television because the snow was so thick. Meanwhile, imagine being a fan in that stadium? Any fan who stayed there until the end deserves a ton of respect because that was a display of endurance in itself.
A unique entry on this list, Super Bowl XL saw the Seahawks meet the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unfortunately, this game was unwatchable because of the dreadful officiating. After the game, most fans and analysts agreed that referee Bill Leavy and his team made several horrendous and downright bizarre decisions. Because of this, there were even accusations of match-fixing.
The referee handed the Steelers a ghost touchdown after Ben Roethlisberger hit the ground short of the endzone. Then, a controversial penalty resulted in the Steelers taking the ball upfield and scoring again. It was infuriating to watch because it was so clear and obvious that the decisions were wrong. Meanwhile, Mike Pereira, NFL Head of Officiating, flew straight to Costa Rica after the game.
This game confused Donavon McNabb because he didn’t understand what happens in the event of a tie. This was reasonable because this game ended with the NFL’s first draw in six years and only the second since 1997. In short, they were extremely rare events. The score was 23-23 after a fairly bleak game of football between the two teams. It was a yawn-inducing fare with no scores in the first quarter.
This game was all about the defenses because neither teams’ offense could fire. McNabb believed that they would play until there was a winner but luckily for the fans this wasn’t the case. Meanwhile, the Eagles’ quarterback threw three interceptions and fumbled once. They could have played for another week and there wouldn’t have been a winner because both teams were so bad.
Buffalo can lay claim to having played in two ‘Lake Effect’ games. The first was in Cleveland, but the second was at home in New York. They hosted the Indianapolis Colts in 2017 in some of the direst weather conditions in NFL history. It started when a lake effect snowstorm dropped a massive amount of snow on the playing field. A lofty nine inches fell during the game alone.
The Bills’ mafia has a fondness for this game because it helped them on their way to their first playoff appearance for 18 seasons. However, the snowstorm had a dire effect on the game with Adam Vinatieri missing a punt as a direct result of the weather. The game was practically unwatchable until overtime when visibility finally began to improve. In the end, Buffalo emerged 13-7 winners.
One of the most atrocious games of football ever played, this one went down on Monday night, November 26, 2007. An incredibly unwatchable game, the weather conditions were so bad that the media nicknamed it the ‘Mud Bowl.’ A catastrophic storm hit the surface of the Heinz Field Stadium but the Steelers placed new turf over the wrecked ground so that their game against the Miami Dolphins went ahead.
After a lightning storm delayed the game for 30 minutes, they started to play. It was like being in the trenches of Europe during World War II because they were literally running through pools of muddy water. This resulted in a terrible game that the Steelers won 3-0 from a punt with 17 seconds left. In the third quarter, Brandon Fields’ 38-yard kick stuck in the mud.
The oldest entry on this list was also the most recent scoreless draw in NFL history. Almost 17,000 fans at Briggs Stadium witnessed Detroit and New York play in miserable conditions. The rain continued to fall down making this one of the most unwatchable matches ever. In fact, neither team got inside the others’ 15-yard line. Furthermore, there were field goal attempts but both teams kicked them wide.
This was one of the worst games of football ever because the weather was miserable and the quality on display was shocking. Few games in the annals of the sport were as unwatchable as this. Of course, it is now legendary because it ended scorelessly but nobody enjoyed sitting through it. However, when it came to the last few minutes fans almost didn’t want a winner because at least a rare scoreless game was unique.
On the one hand, this was a unique game with an entertaining ending. But for the watching fans and the shivering players on the ‘field,’ it was a nightmare. The Miami Dolphins traveled to Boston in 1982 for a clash with the Patriots but faced ludicrous levels of snow. Match officials called for snowplows to come and clear the yard markers because nobody could see anything.
Meanwhile, the falling snow made the game unwatchable for viewers in Schaefer Stadium and at home. The blizzard also affected the quality on the field as the score remained 0-0 until the Patriots kicked a field goal with less than five minutes left. Snowplow operator Mark Henderson came onto the field to clear a section of the field so that John Smith could actually kick the ball.
There are other low-scoring games on this list but there was usually a contributing factor like horrendous weather. However, this game between two of the most miserable franchises in recent years doesn’t have any excuses except that both teams played awful. However, there has to be some appreciation for the Jets and Redskins’ dedication to ineptness through the decades. They have turned to be unwatchable into an art form.
The only score of this game came in the first quarter from Cory Blanchard’s 45-yard field goal. Fans should have gone home after this because there was nothing else to entertain them in the entire game. It also meant that the Jets had gone 14 quarters without scoring a touchdown, but it was a relief just to get a win. This was a battle of the defenses which doesn’t lend to an entertaining game.