The Bengals entered the 2015 postseason with a strong 12-4 record. They won the AFC North as they pulled no punches against their foes. Opposition fans loathed polarizing personalities like Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict, but they were very effective for the Bengals (via USA Today Sports).
But the problem with these players is that they live on the edge. Burfict demonstrated this with a vicious helmet hit against Mike Brown. ‘Pacman’ became emotional and lost control of himself. Finally, the Bengals missed a field goal and Pittsburgh stole the game.
Some people like to pretend that Colin Kaepernick wasn’t a good player, at least for a few years. But the Niners’ quarterback put on a clutch performance in freezing conditions against the Packers. San Francisco stunned the fourth-seed team at Lambeau Field and progressed to the Divisional Round.
This was a tough defeat for the Packers to take because they showed a lot of heart all season. Aaron Rodgers bounced back from a broken collarbone and inspired his team to the playoffs. They also missed some other key performers and that ultimately cost them (via Reuters).
2016 was a shocking year for the Panthers but they bounced back the following season and returned to the playoffs after missing out the previous year. Also, Cam Newton appeared to have returned to his integral best. They played the Saints in their first and only postseason game.
In the end, they became a one-and-done team after New Orleans snuck past them. The officials called Newton for a penalty late in the game. Then the Saints sacked the quarterback twice as they clung to victory. Many people thought the Panthers were dark horses to go all the way (via Sporting News).
The Lions didn’t enter the 2016 postseason in the best shape after three defeats. Matthew Stafford’s wrist injury was a costly blow but he recovered in time for the playoffs. Some analysts think Detroit would have won their division with their reliable quarterback in the driving seat.
They played the Seahawks in the Wild Card round but fell miserably short. The Lions don’t make the playoffs very often so they must do their best. Sadly, they didn’t reach that level and didn’t even score a touchdown to give their fans something to cheer about (via Detroit Free Press).
It’s remarkable that Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson only won a single Super Bowl together. Yes, they were inches away from a second ring in 2015. But they had other opportunities to go on a deep postseason run. 2020 saw them assemble a 12-4 record as they won the NFC West.
They carried a lot of expectations into the playoffs but failed to live up to them. But the Rams’ defense rattled Seattle and carried them to a 30-20 loss. Nobody saw this coming, least of all Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. The veteran head coach said that he had ‘no place in his brain for this outcome (via Seattle Seahawks).”
The Cowboys enjoyed a great period of dominance in the ’90s but that fizzled out at the end of the decade. Nonetheless, analysts projected the 10-6 team to crush the Cardinals in the Wild Card Round. Arizona had never even won a playoff game in its history at this point.
Meanwhile, Dallas smashed the Cardinals twice during the regular season. It appeared to be a foregone conclusion but Arizona belied all expectations. Troy Aikman threw four interceptions while Arizona got him for four sacks. They won the game 20-7 against all odds (via Pro Football History).
The Titans cruised to an AFC South victory in 2021 and faced the Bengals in the divisional round as the conference’s top seed. Many people expected their rushing offense to have too much for an upstart Cincinnati team. But the Bengals pulled off a shock as they began their run to a Super Bowl (via USA Today Sports).
Ryan Tannehill had a horrible game as he infuriated everyone watching. There are no excuses for throwing three picks in a playoff game. Meanwhile, Evan McPherson was the Bengals’ MVP as he kicked them to victory. Tennessee had a one-and-done playoff campaign as they wasted a great shot.
The Packers went 15-1 in 2011 and had history on their side. No team had failed to reach the conference championship game before this game. Meanwhile, the defending Super Bowl champions had experience and one of the top quarterbacks in the sport (via Bleacher Report).
However, the Giants defeated them somehow and turned them into a one-and-done team. The Packers’ incredible regular season record papered over the cracks in their defense. But Eli Manning exposed them as one 37-yard touchdown pass showed. It was a bad day at the office for the Packers because they shouldn’t have lost.
Everything was going right for the Giants in this crucial playoff game. They put themselves in a dominant position with under two minutes left. Somehow they failed to hold onto their nine-point lead against the Vikings. It’s amazing how quickly things can go wrong.
One bad snap was all it took for the Giants to panic and lose momentum. Eddie Murray’s game-winning field goal sent Minnesota to the next round. The Giants became a one-and-done team despite their obvious strength. It was a waste of talent and a missed opportunity (via Yardbreaker).
This defeat against the Ravens hurt the Steelers in more ways than one. It was an excellent regular season for Pittsburgh because they had a devastating offense. Some of these names are notorious and it’s wild that they played together. Antonio Brown, LeVeon Bell, and Ben Roethlisberger will never win human of the year awards.
But they were part of one of the NFL’s most effective offenses in 2014. However, Bell didn’t play against Baltimore and ‘Big Ben’ didn’t perform at his highest level. Analysts projected that the Steelers were contenders but they wasted a golden opportunity (via ESPN).
In the end, this was Tom Brady’s final game for New England. Nobody thought that this was the greatest edition of the Patriots. But they didn’t expect them to fail with a whimper like this either. This story was also about the Titans’ defense because they stopped him from firing (via NBC Sports).
Brady threw a crucial pick-six as Tennessee stormed ahead. It never looked like New England had enough in the tank to eke out a win. This was a significant disappointment for Brady’s devoted fanbase because they didn’t want to see him leave like this. Fortunately, he had his fairytale story continue the following year in Tampa Bay.
Many people thought that 2021 would be the year that Aaron Rodgers won his second Super Bowl ring. The veteran quarterback had an amazing career and was the reigning MVP. But many people think that he doesn’t perform well in the postseason and this proved to be true (via Sports Illustrated).
The 49ers smashed Green Bay in the divisional round in another franchise implosion. This was a terrible result because they were contenders on paper. The Packers’ special teams had a nightmare as they suffered multiple blocked kicks. Rodgers was also overdependent on his top receiver Davante Adams.
This wasn’t the greatest edition of the Dolphins but nobody expected this capitulation against the Jaguars. Hindsight reveals that Jacksonville was the favorite. But Miami fans knew that this was Dan Marino’s last hurrah and dreamed of an elusive Super Bowl win.
Instead, the Jaguars humiliated Miami with a brutal blowout win. Their 62-7 victory ended his career in the worst possible way. It wouldn’t have been a big deal if the Dolphins competed well but fell short. However, they became a one-and-done playoff team after a garbage display (via Jaguars.com).
This was the game where Michael Vick showed the world that he was one of the best quarterbacks on the planet. However, it also exposed Brett Favre’s limitations in the postseason as he failed to deliver again. Yes, he won a Super Bowl ring but the Packers could have had more success in this era.
His shotgun approach didn’t work as he repeatedly threw the ball away. Vick’s numbers don’t tell the full story but his on-field display was scintillating. He took the fans’ breath away as he rushed at will. But the 12-4 Packers shouldn’t have been a one-and-done team (via AJC).
The Saints know more about heartbreak than most NFL franchises in recent seasons. In 2019 they endured a brutal defeat against the Vikings in the Wildcard round. Minnesota dramatically snatched victory in overtime. It was crushing for Drew Brees because he believed they had a genuine shot of winning rings (via The Ringer).
New Orleans and bad pass interference calls go together like salt and pepper. Somehow they became the first 13-3 team not to make the Super Bowl. However, they threw away a 10-point lead so they can only blame themselves. But nobody expected them to be a one-and-done team.
If the Titans had more composure they would have won this game. They entered the playoffs with a 13-3 record but faced a stern test against the 12-4 Ravens. They also met twice during the regular season and won a game each. But the much-hyped Titans should have taken this one (via Tennessean).
They destroyed the Ravens’ Trent Dilfer with multiple sacks and had more yardage. But they didn’t convert their on-field dominance into scores. In the end, the Ravens did less work but were more prolific. The No. 1 seed Titans became one of the strongest rosters ever to go one-and-done.
Patrick Mahomes has done a good job of helping Chiefs fans forget about their previous 50 years of woe. But the franchise put them through tough times and broke their hearts every season. One of the worst in recent memory saw them suffer a miserable defeat against the Steelers (via SBNation).
There are a couple of reasons why this one-and-done divisional round loss was heartbreaking. First, it meant that Kansas City fell to 1-9 in their last 10 playoff games. Meanwhile, the AFC West winners became the first team to lose a postseason game despite scoring two more touchdowns than their opponents.
This Oilers’ defeat may have been the death knell for the franchise in Texas. Everything went downhill from this moment and soon they were playing football in Nashville. Houston could only blame themselves as they threw away a 28-3 halftime lead. This should have been unassailable but the Bills didn’t give up (via History).
Bills Backup Frank Reich stayed calm and put his team through the motions. Somehow they took the lead but the Oilers dragged them into overtime. In the end, it was all for nothing as Buffalo kicked the winning field goal. This was a cruel defeat for the Oilers to take because they thought they were out of sight.
The Bears went 15-1 in 1985 and won the Super Bowl. It appeared that a dynasty had begun but the truth was very different. The following year they became a one-and-done playoff team as they failed to defend their title. This wasn’t the way they expected to fall out of contention.
Chicago only allowed a record low of 186 points all year. But Jay Schroeder unlocked their defense and threw a couple of key touchdown passes. The Bears couldn’t mount a response and the game drifted away from them. It was a shocking loss but no less than they deserved (via Bleacher Report).
Lamar Jackson won the NFL MVP award in 2019 after an amazing year with the franchise. He answered his critics who believed that he was an overblown running back. But his abilities didn’t translate to Ravens’ postseason success. Instead, they became a one-and-done playoff team after a Titans’ win.
They entered the game as massive favorites after they went on a 12-game winning streak. Meanwhile, their 14-2 overall regular season record was the best in franchise history. But they lost this divisional game with a whimper after they allowed Tennessee to open a 22-point gap (Baltimore Ravens.com).
The Chargers fired Marty Schottenheimer after this loss against the Patriots. He led the Chargers to a 14-2 regular season before they faced the Patriots in the Divisional Round. San Diego justifiably held the favorites tag against the 10-6 Pats. They had a better record and a stronger roster on paper (via Bleacher Report).
However, New England had a lot of postseason experience and three recent Super Bowl wins. Tom Brady didn’t play well either with three interceptions. But San Diego threw the game away after retrieving the ball. A shocking play cost their head coach his job after Marlon McCree lost the ball.
Sometimes during this playoff game, it felt like the Seahawks still carried the trauma of 2015. According to The Ringer, NFL teams ran the ball less than ever in 2018. They increasingly depended on their quarterback’s arm to work some magic. NFL scouts hunted for elite rookie quarterbacks like blood diamonds.
However, Seattle took the opposite approach as they barely used Russell Wilson against the Cowboys. Pete Carroll deserved criticism for conservative play-calling after this game. Wilson was having a good time but he couldn’t stop them from becoming a one-and-done team.
This was a shocking game for many reasons because there were some wild outcomes. First, the Chiefs broke their 22-year streak without a playoff win and delighted their long-suffering fanbase. But they shocked the NFL because they destroyed the Texans in a way nobody expected (via ABC 13).
It’s important to remember that the Texans came into this game on a hot streak. But Brian Hoyer chose the worst possible time to have a garbage game. Houston fans booed him off the field and ended his association with the franchise. In the end, they suffered a 30-0 shutout loss.
The Packers must be one of the most underachieving franchises in postseason history. They are perennial contenders but they fall short more often than not. This time the 10-6 Packers lost against the 8-8 Vikings. Minnesota became the second team to win a postseason game with this record.
There was no excuse for Green Bay because they were one of the strongest teams in the competition. At least that’s what everybody thought on paper but the reality proved different. Brett Favre had a meltdown and threw four interceptions (via MPR).
The Giants led 38-14 late in the third quarter of this Wild Card game against San Francisco. Somehow they managed to throw it away. Trey Junkin admits that he still has nightmares about his infamous bad snap. Matt Bryant’s missed field goal attempt was another key moment in this defeat.
It’s amazing how teams can capitulate after one bad moment. They lose their momentum and suddenly the floodgates open. NFL fans saw that with the Falcons in Super Bowl LI. This was a smaller scale but it captures the reality of the on-field drama (via NBC Sports).
The Bills Mafia is one of the most passionate NFL fanbases out there. However, they endured an 18-year playoff drought that caused them a lot of pain. Their fans hyped the Bills up when they finally made the Wild Card round against the Jaguars (via Denver Post).
Unfortunately, this was the highlight of their season because all of the euphorias disappeared. This was a bad game of football but Jacksonville got the job done. Blake Bortles rushed for more yards than he threw passing yards in an unlikely victory. Buffalo failed to succeed on a special day for the franchise.
Nobody would say that the Bears were Super Bowl contenders in 2020. But it was a lot of fun for neutrals to watch their rise and fall. They began the season with a hot 5-1 streak with Mitchell Trubisky as their quarterback. It appeared that they found the answer to their problem position.
But then they lost six in a row before bouncing back to make the playoffs. The dumbest aspect of this was that they had a great opportunity to win this game against the Saints. However, they became a one-and-done team after Javon Wims missed a brilliant Trubisky pass (via Chicago Bears).
Tom Brady and postseason success go together hand-in-hand. But the iconic quarterback had one of the worst playoff games of his career against the Ravens in the Wild Card round. They defeated them during the regular season but this meant nothing (via Baltimore Ravens).
New England went unbeaten at home all season before this game. But Baltimore shattered this record by storming to a 20-0 lead. Ironically, Joe Flacco didn’t play well either but their defense was brilliant. Brady threw three interceptions and cost his team dearly.
Nobody gave the Cardinals much of a shot in the 2008 playoffs after they won the wretched NFC West. Meanwhile, the Panthers were in good shape as the second-ranked team in the postseason. Jake Delhomme was unspectacular but safe.
Unfortunately, he decided to change the course of his career in this game. He threw a ridiculous five interceptions as he fell apart in the clutch. Nobody predicted that he would play so badly but he had one of the worst games in postseason history (via Bleacher Report).
This was one of the strongest Kansas City rosters of the nineties that somehow went one-and-done in the playoffs. They stormed to a 13-3 regular season as they won the AFC West. Most people expected them to cruise to victory over the Broncos in the divisional round (via SBNation).
But Denver’s defense refused to back down and this rocked the Chiefs. Kansas City had a quarterback controversy while Terrell Davis covered himself in vaseline. This had everything but in the end, the Chiefs lost this game at Arrowhead Stadium in ridiculous circumstances.
The Jets crept into the playoffs in 2009 with a 9-7 record. They became an afterthought in most people’s minds as they talked about the potential contenders. But the Chargers were on the other side of the spectrum. The No. 2 seeds went 13-3 in the regular season and excited everybody.
Unfortunately, San Diego threw it away in this Divisional Round game as the Jets pulled off a comeback. Philip Rivers delivered an inconsistent display as he threw a couple of interceptions. Furthermore, their lack of discipline cost them dearly because they committed too many penalties (via Reuters).
The Titans came into this Divisional Round game with vengeance in their hearts. They played the Baltimore Ravens and wanted to right the wrongs of the past. However, fairytales rarely play out in the NFL and this proved to be the case. Tennessee had a stronger team but they couldn’t win the game.
This was remarkably similar to their earlier meeting as the Titans dominated. Once again they didn’t put enough points on the board and the Ravens snatched a win. The 13-3 Titans fell foul of 12 penalties and this hit them hard (via Sports Illustrated). In the end, Baltimore’s productivity proved to be the difference.
Marty Schottenheimer was excellent at bringing teams to the playoffs. But everything changed when they stepped onto the field in the postseason. His record there left a lot to be desired and this was another one-and-done defeat with the Chiefs. Their fans experienced a lot of suffering over the years but this hurt a lot.
Steve Bono had a Pro Bowl year but nobody would have guessed from this performance. The head coach benched him in favor of Rich Gannon after he had a meltdown. Bono’s interceptions and failed completions handed Indy the win (via The Score). It was a wasted opportunity for the Chiefs because they should have gone on a deep run.
Everyone thought that this was Peyton Manning’s year after a glorious season. They went on a 13-game winning streak before easing off the gas ahead of the playoffs. A Super Bowl victory appeared to be inevitable but the Steelers burst the Indy bubble (via 247 Sports).
This Pittsburgh team was much better than their seeding suggested. They narrowly lost out on an AFC North title and had a brutal defense. Manning discovered this the hard way after they sacked him five times. Finally, Mike Vanderjagt missed the all-important kick to seal a Steelers’ win.
It’s almost a guarantee that the number one seed wins their opening postseason game. We say ‘almost’ because the Cowboys became the first-ranked team in 20 years to lose in the opening round. Shockingly, the 10-6 New York Giants stole a victory (via Bleacher Report).
This was crazy because the Cowboys were better in every aspect of the game. But they kept giving away penalties and the Giants made these count. Amazingly, the Cowboys crushed the Giants twice during the regular season. ‘Big Blue’ got its revenge in the New Year.