NFL Playoff Pain Index: Which playoff losses hurt the most?
11. Chargers They barely made into the playoffs to begin it, so to win a game in the process is just an added bonus. Yes, the Broncos crushed them in the Divisional round, but suddenly San Diego still looks viable again with Phil Rivers at quarterback.
10. Packers Believe me, that loss to San Francisco sucked, and this team has some significant issues on defense. However, the Packers are another team that should never have even made the playoffs once Aaron Rodgers went down. He came back just in time for the Lions and Bears to collapse. At least for the short term though, a healthy Rodgers means the Packers will have a shot every year.
9. Colts A team as up-and-down as the Colts had little chance of winning the Super Bowl anyway. Their comeback win the Wild Card round was essentially their Super Bowl. This remains a team on the rise, with the first task being to gain some sort of consistency.
8. Eagles Their fans probably won't agree with this ranking, but who realistically thought a division title was in the cards at the beginning of the season? Nick Foles and Chip Kelly give Philly a tantalizing QB/coach combination in the years to come, which should be the bigger takeaway from this season than how it ended.
7. Saints If nothing else, the Brees/Payton mojo came back and they finally won a road playoff game. The Seattle defense sure made their lives miserable the next round, but that seems much more understandable now. The question how long does this core have left to contend.
6. Bengals Three years in a row in the playoffs, three years in a row losing in round one. Andy Dalton has now three chances to win a playoff game and failed, and looks worse and worse each time. Marvin Lewis has had five chances to win a playoff game and hasn't gotten it done. Regular season wise, this is almost unprecedented levels of success for the franchise, but taking the next level has remained frustratingly elusive.
5. Panthers On one hand, it was a great 12-4 season where Cam Newton emerged as a star, the defense became elite, and Ron Rivera became Riverboat Ron. However, crashing out in one game is a bitter pill, and salary cap concerns mean that defense might be losing some keep players.
4. Patriots Given the injuries and other issues suffered, another AFC Championship game berth is pretty incredible and yet another feather in the cap of Brady and Belichick. However, it ended in a comprehensive loss to the Broncos and the much hated (by their fans) Peyton Manning. It has now been nine years since the Patriots won the Super Bowl, and time is running out.
3. Chiefs No, the Chiefs weren't a realistic Super Bowl contender, but going from 2-14 to 11-5 should've been something to celebrate. Hopefully it will be in time, but it's also going to take a long time for the taste of their come from ahead loss in the Wild Card game to dissipate. The loss adds to a very painful recent history for both the Chiefs and Kansas City sports as a whole. It's been 21 years since a Kansas City team won a playoff game.
2. 49ers Each of the last three seasons, San Francisco has been one of the final four teams. Two years ago, they lose the NFC title to the Giants thanks a lot in part to muffed punt returns. Last year, they lost the Super Bowl despite four chances to score the winning touchdown inside the 10. This years, the lost the NFC title after getting intercepted in the end zone while driving for the winning score. That's quite a list of painful losses in a row. The Harbaugh/Kaepernick combination is still well regarded, as is their defense, but windows can close quickly in the NFL, so urgency is starting to creep in.
1. Broncos Could it be anyone else? Losing the Super Bowl is bad enough. Getting destroyed like Denver did make it infinitely worse. Even worse is that this is a veteran team built to win the title right now, led of course by their 38 year old quarterback. The window might not open for very long, and there's no guarantee they'll be as dominant as they were in the regular season.
Agree with these rankings? Who are your picks for most painful playoff exits this year?