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Old 07-30-2017, 02:38 PM
Status: "Fill the days." (set 19 hours ago)
 
Location: Fredericksburg/Virginia Beach, VA
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Most of us recall the Super Bowl winners any given year. Those of us with better memories may even be able to rattle off what teams were in the conference championship games from any given year. What’s less common is for us to remember those teams that had an early playoff exit.

Over the years countless teams have done one-n-done in the playoffs. Sometimes they were low seeded wild card teams that made the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, only to be trounced. But sometimes those low seeded teams get hot at the right time. When this happens it’s often at the expense of a higher seeded team.

So what of those higher seeded teams? While they may be little more than footnotes in NFL history now, they were considered heavy contenders before being upset in the playoffs. These teams are the NFL’s version of “the one that got away.” And over the years there have been plenty of them.

What follows is a ranking of the greatest one-n-done teams since the league adopted a 16 game schedule in 1978.

Before we get to the greatest one-n-dones of all time, let’s prime the pump with some honorable mentions:

Honorable mention #5: 2014 Denver Broncos, 12-4, #2 seed. This team was a defending conference champion, so you can make an argument this team should be ranked higher but the #1 seed that year was the Patriots and anytime the Patriots are the #1 seed expectations for all others is pretty much non-existent. With that said, this team put on one of the most uninspired playoff performances in recent memory, doing absolutely nothing to win a game that remained in reach well into the 4th quarter, before going final to the Colts at 24-13. So epic was this failure that it resulted in the Broncos parting ways with John Fox, a coach who’d led them to 4 straight AFC West titles and a trip to the Super Bowl.

Honorable mention #4: 2003 Chiefs, 13-3, #2 seed. Like the 2014 Broncos, this Chiefs team was a #2 behind the Patriots but this was before the Patriots were what we know them to be today. The 2003 Chiefs were lacking on defense but their offense was so good they were able to play “catch me if you can” to the tune of over 30 points per game. Unfortunately for them, even after a bye week they ran into a hot Colts offense that was able to keep up and the two teams just about broke the scoreboard. What really warrants making this team an honorable mention was the defense failed to force a single punt in that 38-31 shootout. Granted the Colts were a good offense, but not a single punt?

Honorable mention #3: 2008 Titans, 13-3, #1 seed. I’ll give you a hint: if a team was the #1 seed and failed to record a playoff win it is making this list in some capacity. This team rates an honorable mention more so than an actual ranking simply because there are plenty of more compelling teams ahead of them. Powered by rookie running back Chris Johnson and veteran QB Kerry Collins, the Titans offense was solidly mediocre, but backed by the league’s #2 scoring defense. Combine those factors with HFA through the playoffs and suddenly you have some pretty high expectations, only to have the Ravens come to town, put up just 13 points, and still win by a field goal.

Honorable mention #2: 1985 Raiders, 12-4, #1 seed. This is another failure whose epic nature doesn’t age gracefully, so despite being just a season removed from a Super Bowl win, this Raiders team rates just an honorable mention. Place yourself back in the 1985 season: The Monsters of Midway wrecked havoc in the NFC and the Raiders were still considered the league’s bad boys. A Raiders-Bears matchup would have been enticing theater at the time. The only problem is the Raiders allowed a second rate Patriots franchise (that sounds funny to say now) come in and steal the show, 27-20. So why is this just an honorable mention? Because this loss more or less officially marks the end of the Raiders heyday. The Raiders have been forgettable in most of the 31 ensuing seasons with just 7 playoff appearances. Sure, there was a Super Bowl run in there but they got trounced by another second rate franchise in that one.

Honorable mention #1: 2016 Cowboys, 13-3, #1 seed. Anytime the Cowboys do something good it’s better than anything any other team does. So anytime the Cowboys fail it’s more epic than anytime any other team fails. That’s the way it goes when you’re America’s team. Still, despite having the league’s best offensive line and a pretty solid defense, the 2016 Cowboys were led by a rookie QB and RB. It’s crazy to expect a rookie QB in his playoff debut to square off against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers and expect anything other than a loss. The most surprising thing about that game was that the Cowboys actually made it close.

With the honorable mentions out of the way, let’s get to the teams that made the actual list of most epic one-n-dones!
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Old 07-30-2017, 02:40 PM
Status: "Fill the days." (set 19 hours ago)
 
Location: Fredericksburg/Virginia Beach, VA
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#15: 1995 Chiefs, 13-3, #1 seed. Despite having the #1 scoring defense, the 1995 Chiefs were led by the unheralded Steve Bono at QB. “Who’s Steve Bono?” You ask. Exactly. Then why put this team on the list instead of just giving them an honorable mention? Well, what part of #1 scoring defense did you miss? Oh, and then there’s the opponent they faced: a Colts team that finished 9-7 and made its first playoff appearance in 7 seasons. And let’s not forget the way that Chiefs team lost that 10-7 game: kicker Lin Elliot missed 3 field goals from 35, 39, and 42 yards. When you allow only 10 but still lose, and leave that many points on the field, it’s a pretty epic level of failure.

#14: 2009 San Diego Chargers, 13-3, #2 seed. There has to be a compelling reason for a #2 seed to make this list. For the 2009 Chargers there is. After a 2-3 start this team ripped the league for 11 straight wins and cruised right into a first round bye behind the 14-2 Colts. And that’s why this team makes the list. The Chargers enjoyed rare success, home and away, regular season and playoffs, against Peyton Manning and the Colts. So despite the Colts having the top seed, Chargers fans went into the playoffs thinking this was their year. Then the Jets, on the strength of a 9-7 regular season finish, rolled into town led by rookie Mark Sanchez, and escorted the Chargers to an early playoff exit, 17-14. During the game, Kicker Nate Kaeding missed field goals of 36, 57, and 40 yards. Weird. Maybe it’s something in the water out west?

#13: 2010 Falcons, 13-3, #1 seed. In his third season in the league it appeared QB Matt Ryan was coming of age. Prior to his arrival the Falcons had not even enjoyed back-to-back winning seasons. Ryan led the team to marks of 11-5 and 9-7 in the two years prior, but failed to win as a wild card team in 2008 and didn’t reach the playoffs in 2009. Still with a 13-3 record, second best in franchise history, and HFA, the Falcons appeared primed and ready to make a deep run. Then Aaron Rodgers and the Packers happened. And not just happened, but HAPPENED. We’re talking 48-21 happened, here. When you’re #1 and get worked at home by that kind of margin, you make it onto lists like this.

#12: 2012 Broncos, 13-3, #1 seed. In Manning’s first season with the Broncos, he led the team to 11 straight wins after a 2-3 start and secured the top seed in the playoffs. This team had it all: an explosive offense, solid special teams, and a dominant defense that did just about everything well. It looked inevitable that the Broncos would reach the Super Bowl again. Then in a frigid double OT game with the Ravens, the Broncos waved the white flag with two timeouts and 38 seconds remaining in regulation. That came on the heels of a 4th down hail mary bomb by Joe Flacco that will forever more define Rahim Moore to Broncos and Ravens fans alike for his near miss on defending it. A Peyton Manning pick seconds into the second OT period set up the Ravens for the winning FG, and a dream season ended in spectacular disappointment, 38-35.

#11: 2000 Titans, 13-3, #1 seed. The 1999 and 2000 Titans are proof of how cruel sports can be to its fans. After falling inches short of a tying TD in a Super Bowl loss to the Rams, the Titans were right back at it in 2000 on the strength of Eddie George’s best career as a RB and Steve McNair in his prime, and one of the best defenses in the league. Unfortunately they ran into an even better defense in the Baltimore Ravens, who went into Nashville and mauled the defending conference champs to the tune of 24-10. These were some pretty good Titans teams, but it just shows you that on top of being good sometimes you need some other factors to break your way in order to be great.

#10: 2007 Cowboys, 13-3, #1 seed: As mentioned already, when you’re the Cowboys your wins and losses alike are more epic than the others. The 2007 Cowboys, led by Tony Romo in his prime along with Terrell Owens and Jason Witten also posting top-flight numbers on offense. A top-seeded Cowboys team squaring off against an undefeated Patriots team (a Patriots team that had already beat them 48-27 in week 6, but still) would have had sports media falling all over themselves. Instead what happened was the Cowboys ran into a Giants team that peaked at the right time. Tony Romo’s last pass attempt of the season was an interception in a 21-17 loss. How fitting.

#9: 1997 Chiefs, 13-3, #1 seed: There is just something right about a Marty Schottenheimer team getting knocked out of the playoffs by a team QB’d by John Elway. Despite supplanting the Broncos as AFC West Champs, the Chiefs of 1997 will likely forever be defined by the Grbac-Gannon QB controversy. Gannon inherited the reigns after Grbac was injured and led the team on a 5-0 run as the starter. Despite having the locker room behind him, Gannon was benched for the regular season finale in favor of Grbac. While the Chiefs did win that game and lock up the #1 seed, he lacked Gannon’s leadership and it showed in a 14-10 loss to the rival Broncos in the divisional round of the playoffs. While the playoff loss itself may not seem that extreme, the setup leading up to it makes this early playoff exit pretty epic.

#8: 2006 Chargers, 14-2, #1 seed: You could make an intelligent argument this was the closest the Chargers have ever come to fielding a team capable of winning a Super Bowl and that includes the 1994 team that actually reached the Super Bowl! In Philip Rivers’ first season as a starter, and backed by a record setting season by LaDanian Tomlinson, the Chargers powered to the league’s best record and were heavy favorites in the post season. And leading 21-13 over the Patriots midway through the 4th quarter, it looked like the Chargers were ready to move on. Then Chargers safety Marlon McCree made a huge mental mistake by intercepting a 4th down pass attempt by Brady. He promptly fumbled and the Patriots had new life after recovering, going on to win 24-21. Then they poured salt on the wound with an impromptu celebration at midfield, provoking a scuffle with Tomlinson and other Chargers and ensuring this epic meltdown would remain among the top for decades to come.

#7: 2005 Colts, 14-2, #1 seed: The knock on the Colts in previous seasons was they couldn’t beat the Patriots. With the Patriots safely out of their way courtesy of the Denver Broncos, a team the Colts had dominated before being dominated by the Patriots (isn’t the NFL great?) it appeared the Colts were on the brink of a Super Bowl run. Then they came out against the Steelers and laid an egg. But even after a Jerome Bettis fumble was recovered by Nick Harper gave the Colts new life with 1:20 remaining, Mike Vanderjagt missed a 46 yard FG and the Colts season ended on a 21-18 loss. And just when everything was set up so perfectly for Manning, too!

#6: 1996 Broncos, 13-3, #1 seed: In the twilight of John Elway’s career the Broncos assembled a collection of castoffs, retreads, low draft picks and undrafted free agents and built a juggernaut that gave the NFL one of it’s most memorable runs. It wasn’t without its setbacks, though as the Jacksonville Jaguars in just their second season, reached the playoffs and upset the Broncos 30-27. The narrative that Elway couldn’t win the big one reached a crescendo, with fans and media pundits calling for his retirement. Elway got the last laugh, but even after going out on back to back Super Bowl wins, this one remains one of the most epic upsets in playoff history.

#5: 2010 Patriots, 14-2, #1 seed: It isn’t very often that the Patriots go one-n-done in the playoffs and it’s only happened to them once when they’ve owned the top seed. The rarity of this is why this upset is ranked so high on the list. The Patriots stumbled to a 28-14 loss to the Mark Sanchez-led Jets, after beating them 45-3 just a few weeks prior. I think Pats fans will be okay with this ranking though. Since this loss the Patriots have been to three Super Bowls, winning two of them. Do that math: there’s been just 6 seasons since this game and the Patriots have been in the Super Bowl in half of them.

#4: 2008 Giants, 12-4, #1 seed: While this team’s 12-4 mark is the lowest of the teams at the upper echelon of this list, this Giants team was coming off the single greatest upset in NFL history. Maybe sports history altogether. The 2007 Giants were road warriors, going 10-6 and sweeping the playoffs as a wild card before a 17-14 win over the undefeated Patriots. They followed that up with an even better season and locked in HFA leading many to believe this team was primed for a repeat. But when the playoffs began a marginal Eagles team waltzed all over the Giants en route to a 23-11 win. Maybe the Giants should have offered to let the Eagles host that game.

#3: 1986 Bears, 14-2, #2 seed: When you go 15-1 and win the Super Bowl 46-10, then follow that up with a 14-2 season, your playoff failure will be forever considered epic despite being a #2 seed. Simple as that. To be fair it was a solid 12-4 Redskins team that beat the Bears 27-13. Still, you’re the defending champs and there are expectations at play here. Since this game there have been so many upsets of higher seeded teams that it would be tempting to overlook this epic upset. Especially since much of the NFL’s current audience was either a babe in arms or not even born when this happened. Still, we must not forget the lessons of history. An epic upset is an epic upset, and will be remembered as such for a very long time.

#2: 2007 Colts, 13-3, #2 seed: Is it fair to rank this Colts team this high? Can we hold it against a team that goes one-n-done as a second seed when the first seed is the 16-0 Patriots (and therefore naturally expected less of the second seed)? Yes. Yes we can, because this Colts team was the defending Super Bowl Champions and everyone watching wanted to see another Brady-Manning playoff showdown in the AFC title game. There was just one problem: the Colts suffered an upset loss to the Chargers by a count of 28-24. Would the Colts have been able to go into Gillette and upset the undefeated Patriots? Probably not, but we’ll never actually know because that’s not the game we got. We would have at least liked a chance to find out.

#1: 2011 Packers, 15-1, #1 seed: If you haven’t noticed the trend, the last few teams on this list have been defending champs. The 2011 Packers lock in the top seed by virtue of their torrid offense that carried them to the league’s top record and cement their status as 1 of 6 teams in NFL history to finish with a 15-1 mark. Of those teams, two have won the Super Bowl (84 49ers, 85 Bears), two have reached the conference title game (98 Vikings, 04 Steelers) and one lost the Super Bowl (15 Panthers). The 2011 Packers are the only team to go 15-1 and follow it up with a one-n-done. The team that beat them? The New York Giant, of course. Who else? Following up a Super Bowl win with a 15-1 season is pretty epic. Letting it end with an early playoff exit? Even more epic. In fact, the most epic.

And there you have it, folks: the most epic disappointments in NFL history! There’s a good chance your team made it onto this list and if that is the case, perhaps you’re one of the fortunate ones whose team has followed up defeats with successes that will endure longer than the pains of any defeat.

For all others just remember this: being a sports fan is sure to bring its share of agony. But should that day come when your team is the one that rises above all others, it’ll feel even better when you’ve weathered through all the disappointments and setbacks that your team has encountered along the way.

Last edited by iknowftbll; 07-30-2017 at 02:55 PM..
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Old 07-30-2017, 03:49 PM
 
Location: Type 0.7 Kardashev
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iknowftbll View Post
#1: 2011 Packers, 15-1, #1 seed: If you haven’t noticed the trend, the last few teams on this list have been defending champs. The 2011 Packers lock in the top seed by virtue of their torrid offense that carried them to the league’s top record and cement their status as 1 of 6 teams in NFL history to finish with a 15-1 mark. Of those teams, two have won the Super Bowl (84 49ers, 85 Bears), two have reached the conference title game (98 Vikings, 04 Steelers) and one lost the Super Bowl (15 Panthers). The 2011 Packers are the only team to go 15-1 and follow it up with a one-n-done. The team that beat them? The New York Giant, of course. Who else? Following up a Super Bowl win with a 15-1 season is pretty epic. Letting it end with an early playoff exit? Even more epic. In fact, the most epic.
To put this in context, since the AFL-NFL merger there have been 10 teams that made it through the regular season with 0 or 1 loss. This includes the undefeated regular seasons by Miami and New England and the 8-1 record of Washington in the strike-shortened 1982 season. Nine of those teams managed to win at least one postseason games.

You have to go back 50 years to find a one-and-one team that only lost one regular season game. That would be the 1967 Los Angeles squad, at 11-1-2. Of course, since the NFL calculates ties as half-win/half loss, it's not quite the same. Also, that year Baltimore also finished 11-1-2 but lost the division tie-breaker to the Rams and so missed the postseason entirely. Otherwise, you have to go all the way back to 1953 to the 11-1 Browns, who lost the Championship Game to the Lions (a statement which in and of itself is mind-blowing in this day and age - sorry, Motor City Kitties fans!).

Trivia:
That 1967 Colts team? Their only loss of the season was their final game. They entered that game 11-0-2, with back-to-back ties versus the Rams and Vikings in October the only blemishes on their record. But the Rams beat them on the final day of the regular season, and they were done.
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Old 07-30-2017, 03:54 PM
Status: "Fill the days." (set 19 hours ago)
 
Location: Fredericksburg/Virginia Beach, VA
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^ That's great trivia and I love random fun facts like that. The biggest reason I stopped at 1978 is I feel the 16 game schedule vs the 14 game schedule prior to that is a bit of an apples-oranges comparison. To be honest, it still is because comparing playoff dynamics from teams from 1978-2001 to the current 8 division alignment that started in 2002 isn't quite as integral as I like. The reason I did it for this thread is it limits the discussion too much to focus only on those teams that were one-n-done since 2002.
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Old 07-30-2017, 07:03 PM
 
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That Packers team is a good choice for #1 on this list. Every now and then a team comes out of nowhere that you think has a chance to be dominant for a longtime. That was the 2010 Packers. But it never materialized after that super bowl win.

The Seahawks are the most recent team that looked prime for prolonged greatness. They fared somewhat better going back to the super bowl the year after they won it.
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Old 07-30-2017, 08:35 PM
 
Location: Two Rivers, Wisconsin
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I think this is what frustrates Packer fans the most. Packers have been to the playoffs the last 8 seasons and have had some very epic losses. 2011 was bizarre, bye didn't do them any favors, and I still say the traumatic loss of Joe Philbin's son, a few days before the game, played a major role. As bad as 2011 was, 2014 was the worst.

I thought the Seahawks were going to make some noise repeatedly, but last year they didn't look like a playoff team.

Now we wonder what 2017 will bring, can't wait!
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Old 07-31-2017, 12:05 PM
 
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Nothing before 1995 other than the Bears? In my lifetime, I don't think anyone would epitomize the top of this list more than the 1987 13-2 49ers; huge upset loss to the 8-7 Vikings in SF's first game (yes there was three replacement games, but the records were very indicative of the teams's play that year- and San Fran was dominating by late in the season, not just winning). 2010 Patriots, 2006 and 2009 Chargers are strong choices however as well. 1983 Dolphins with a very good defense (Killer Bees and a seasoned Dan Marino who had started for several months by then as a rookie) weren't the #1 seed, but might have been the NFL's best by the regular season's end with the emergence of Marino down the home stretch.
I don't agree with most of the Chief teams being high on the list; they actually tended to overachieve in the regular season and weren't all that great like Marty's Charger teams were. Most of KC's 1st round exits weren't surprising to many.
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Old 07-31-2017, 08:17 PM
Status: "Fill the days." (set 19 hours ago)
 
Location: Fredericksburg/Virginia Beach, VA
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Originally Posted by susancruzs View Post
As bad as 2011 was, 2014 was the worst.
Imagine how Falcons fans feel.

Quote:
Originally Posted by susancruzs View Post
I thought the Seahawks were going to make some noise repeatedly, but last year they didn't look like a playoff team.
I will give the Seahawks a lot of credit: they are a franchise with a very limited "history." However they have on three occasions locked up the #1 playoff seed and on all three occasions made it to the Super Bowl. I consider that a good thing: a team making the most of the opportunities it has in front of it. Of course we know they've fallen short in the playoffs when they've had to take it on the road, but compared to where they were a few years ago, this team has more or less "arrived" as an NFL franchise.

With that said, if they ever lock in the #1 seed and suffer an upset, look out! I am very careful to broad brush an entire fan base, so understand what I'm saying obviously doesn't apply to all of them. A lot of Seahawks fans, probably relatively new to Seahawks fandome I'd guess, are among some of the louder, more vocally obnoxious you'll encounter. The only thing worse than a sore loser is a sore winner. I've never seen a group of fans so openly trollish following big wins. I am personally not interested in kicking a fan while they're down after their team loses, but some fans have long memories and if the Seahawks ever go 13-3 or 14-2 only to lay an egg in their first playoff game, Seahawks fans should probably expect to get trolled on an epic level.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SonnyCrockett View Post
Nothing before 1995 other than the Bears? In my lifetime, I don't think anyone would epitomize the top of this list more than the 1987 13-2 49ers; huge upset loss to the 8-7 Vikings in SF's first game (yes there was three replacement games, but the records were very indicative of the teams's play that year- and San Fran was dominating by late in the season, not just winning). 2010 Patriots, 2006 and 2009 Chargers are strong choices however as well. 1983 Dolphins with a very good defense (Killer Bees and a seasoned Dan Marino who had started for several months by then as a rookie) weren't the #1 seed, but might have been the NFL's best by the regular season's end with the emergence of Marino down the home stretch.
I don't agree with most of the Chief teams being high on the list; they actually tended to overachieve in the regular season and weren't all that great like Marty's Charger teams were. Most of KC's 1st round exits weren't surprising to many.
I think it's inevitable that I've overlooked a team, especially one from the 80s, that someone else can make a compelling argument should be on the list or higher than I've ranked it. I was born in 1980 and began following the Broncos in 1987 so to some extent I'll acknowledge there is probably some "recency bias" in my list.

As for those Chiefs teams, I think the justification I gave them was sound enough to keep them where they are. The 2003 team wasn't a top seed but failing to get a single stop on defense is pretty epic. As good as their offense was, a defensive performance that couldn't force not one punt...It's definitely worth mentioning on a list like this. The 1995 team got upset by a marginal Colts team that barely made the playoffs, and Schottenheimer's history against Elway combined with the Gannon-Grbac controversy combine to make that failure significant enough to rank it where I did.

Incidentally, anytime I see Chiefs fans discuss expected record for a coming season, they would rather see the team go 12-4 than 13-3. All 3 times the Chiefs have finished 13-3 they've gone 0-1 in the ensuing playoffs. But even avoided the dreaded 13-3 last year didn't save them, as they finished 12-4 (their first finish at that mark) and still went 0-1 in the playoffs. I wonder if they'll get superstitious about that record too.
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Old 07-31-2017, 09:54 PM
 
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I just was never sold on any of those Chief teams. They weren't more than a small favorite vs Indy in 2003 and were not going to win at Foxboro. The Marty era teams- and even pre-Marty when they had Joe Montana always seemed vastly overrated. I saw that upstart Colts team close and personal in their other playoff meeting in 96- when they had Jim Harbaugh- wasn't even a Colts fan- but saw that one coming (granted, yes it did take an abysmal day from the KC kicker to help propel Indy to victory), as I did the loss to Denver when the Broncos went on to win their first SB, upsetting Green Bay as a wildcard entry. Denver just seemed like the better team all season, but a crazy 60+ yard fg in the regular season game at KC between the two was the difference in the division winning team.
San Fran in 87 would be #1 on my list for one-and-dones. Stunning loss to the Vikings. I'd probably have the 2010 Patriots loss to the Jets and the 15-1 Packers losing to the Giants near the top, along with the 06 Chargers- only a mild upset in losing to the Patriots- but that team had one helluva regular season, particularly on offense. People also often forget the 83 Dolphins because the Raiders were the #1 seed, but Miami was capable of winning it all- ironically Marino's rookie season may of well been his best team in his career.
One note as well when it comes to the 86 Bears; due to the injury to Jim McMahon and later being forced to sign Doug Flutie (who was nothing like he was when he went to Buffalo years later and was a compelling story), the Bears were really stale on offense despite being 14-2. The 85 Bears were perhaps the greatest of all-time and the D was still great in 86, and maybe no one could imagine the team meekly bowing out at home in the divisional round. But hard to take that offense late in the 86 year too seriously with Flutie and a head coach in Ditka who couldn't improvise to save his life. Still too bad the Redskins surprisingly knocked them off. Not many would have picked the Bears to beat a great Giants team in the NFC Title game, but it was a disappointment to much of the nation not to witness Bears vs Giants- almost literally you could comprise an all century defense just with those two rosters.
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Old 07-31-2017, 10:14 PM
 
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Don't forget too that the 08 Giants lost Plaxico Burress before season's end per that shooting incident, so while they were very good for a time, there were kinks in the armor before the playoffs. Not sure whether I'd put them so high either.
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