The Super Bowl. It’s the ultimate goal for every NFL franchise. It’s the reason coaches and GM’s spend millions on free agents each offseason and why scouts spend countless hours travelling from state to state searching for difference makers. A season that doesn’t end in a Super Bowl victory is ultimately a failure. While reaching the playoffs or building a good record are great for momentum moving foreword, none of those things matter if the end result isn’t bringing home a championship.
There are currently 32 teams in the NFL. Almost half of these teams have never won a Super Bowl, several have never even played in the big game. While there are points in every franchise's history where they do suffer from a championship drought, the teams on this list have never even once earned themselves a Super Bowl victory.
This list contains every NFL team that has not won a Super Bowl, and lists them in order of how close they are to bringing home a Lombardi trophy.
13 Jacksonville Jaguars
One of the NFL’s youngest franchises, fans in Jacksonville haven’t had a lot to cheer for since the team came to town back in 1995. In almost twenty years, they’ve qualified for the playoffs six times and have never once made it to the big game, though they’ve gotten close on a couple of occasions. The Jags are nowhere near ready to contend right now. They’ve got a talented rookie QB to develop, and a small crop of promising skill position players, but they don’t put up enough points. Then again, when you’ve got the 30th ranked defense in the NFL, you can rarely put up enough points to win games. Their time may come, but it doesn’t look like it’ll happen anytime soon.
12 Buffalo Bills
With a little more luck and better execution, the Buffalo Bills could’ve been known as the team of the 90s. Instead they’re known as the losers of four straight Super Bowls and are the only NFL franchise to reach the Super Bowl and lose four consecutive years. Their first loss came off a missed field goal against the New York Giants and things got progressively worse from there. A loss to Washington followed and gave way to two more blowout losses to the Dallas Cowboys. The Bills benched what seems to be their QB of the future one month into the season for journeyman Kyle Orton. Though Orton has looked good since taking over, he’s in his late 30s and there isn’t much of a future there. The defense is one of the best in the league, especially against the run. Speaking of the run, Buffalo’s backfield looks like it may need to be re-tooled. CJ Spiller is out for the year, but hasn’t shown that he can be a true number 1 back in the NFL. Fred Jackson is getting older and doesn’t look like he can carry the load by himself. Despite their troubles on offense, first round rookie receiver Sammy Watkins has the makings of a star. If EJ Manuel can get his act together in the near future and they find themselves a feature halfback then the Bills may finally find success in the big game.
11 Tennessee Titans
An inch, that’s all it would’ve taken to keep the Titans off this list. In a nail biter against the red hot St. Louis Rams, Steve McNair hit receiver Kevin Dyson on a slant. Dyson was wrapped up immediately, but not before he could stretch out his arm towards to end zone. Despite his extra efforts Dyson fell just an inch shy of pay dirt and St. Louis brought home their first Super Bowl championship. It was the Titans’ first ever Super Bowl appearance; even in their days as the Houston Oilers the franchise only got as close as the AFC Championship game. The Titans don’t look all that much closer to winning a championship today than they did several years ago - if anything they’ve been one of the worse teams in the NFL this season. At least some teams have something figured out, offense of defense, but the Titans are looking like they’re going to need to spend this offseason acquiring key pieces on both sides in order for this team to contend in the next several years.
10 Houston Texans
The Texans first came into the league in 2002, replacing the departed Oilers franchise. In their twelve seasons they’ve only made the playoffs twice. And after those two back-to-back playoff campaigns the franchise seems to find themselves back at square one, having recently held the number one overall pick in the draft. They’ve got themselves a new head coach in Bill O’Brien, who replaces long time head coach Gary Kubiak. The change looks to be doing the team good, the defense gives up a lot of yards but looks strong now that they’ve locked up powerhouse defensive end JJ Watt. But they’re still waiting to see how big of an impact their first round pick Jadeveon Clowney can make. On the offensive side of the ball Arian Foster looked strong coming back from his injury and DeAndre Hopkins is developing into a legitimate playmaking receiver, but the team lacks any sort of identity at QB and will need to spend this upcoming offseason looking for one either within the group they’ve already got or via free agency or the draft.
9 Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings appeared in four Super Bowls during the 1970s but went to lose them all. They were a field goal away in 1999 but fell short. Now the Vikings find themselves in a rebuilding phase. New head coach Mike Zimmer has turned the defense into a top 15 unit. But while the defense is playing physical football and finding success doing so, the offense is still finding its identity. They’ve got rookies like Teddy Bridgewater, Jerick McKinnon and Anthony Barr who’ve shown flashes and great promise. These young stars are going to need to step up if this team is going to have any sort of success, both short and long term. Adrian Peterson, who only a few months ago was considered the face of the franchise has just come out of a nasty court battle. With his future with the team uncertain, the Vikings will have to gamble their future on the development of their young stars.
8 Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons seemed like they were destined to finally win a Super Bowl during the 1998 season but the team had those hopes snatched away by John Elway and his Broncos. After finding themselves a reliable franchise QB in Matt Ryan and hiring head coach Mike Smith the Falcons were able to get something going, for a while. But in the last couple of seasons the situation in Atlanta looks to be getting worse. Following an impressive 13-3 campaign in 2012, the Falcons followed up with a disastrous 4-12 2013 season. Granted, the 2013 team was riddled with key injuries but they currently stand below .500 and have a defense that gives up the second greatest amount of total yards in the NFL. On the Brightside they’ve still got Ryan along with stud receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, and while they aren’t the greatest team running the ball, rookie Devonta Freeman is a versatile change of pace back and looks like he might be their future at running back. Lucky for Falcons fans the NFC South is ridiculously close this year with every team under .500 and Atlanta being only one game behind the Panthers and Saints.
7 Cleveland Browns
In their earliest years in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns won several NFL championships but have not been able to replicate that success in the Super Bowl era. After Art Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore the Cleveland Browns were put out of commission for several years. In 1999 Cleveland got their team back as an expansion franchise that retained all the intellectual properties of the original Cleveland Browns franchise. History is great and all but the Browns haven’t really fared well since they resumed play in 1999. They’ve put up only two winning seasons in that time and have gone through eight different head coaches. But this year's Browns squad looks strong on both sides of the ball, with Brian Hoyer leading the offense well – despite rookie QB Johnny Manziel waiting patiently on the bench – and the defense ranking in the top 10 in points allowed, they look to be this year's surprise team.
6 Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals have moved around from city to city since they entered the NFL in 1920 as one of league's charter teams. From Chicago to St. Louis to Phoenix and finally Arizona, the Cards have failed to bring a Super Bowl championship to any of these cities. In fact they did come close during the 2008 season but ultimately fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and thus extended the league's longest active championship drought. This year’s team looks like they have a legitimate chance of ending that drought, but will have to overcome the loss QB Carson Palmer. They’ve got a nice two game lead over the defending champion Seahawks right now, and despite their having a secondary that gives up the third most passing yards in the league, their rushing defense is ranked in the top five. Drew Stanton may be somewhat of a downgrade from Palmer, but the Cards haven’t been hesitant to rely on RB Andre Ellington, who has been getting 20-plus touches a game, and don’t forget they’ve still got a good receiving duo in Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.
5 Cincinnati Bengals
In the 80s, the Bengals made two Super Bowl trips and lost both times to the San Francisco 49ers. They’re 26 years removed from their last Super Bowl appearance, but have made strides in recent years. They’ve been a playoff team these last few seasons and it looks like they’ve got a decent shot at making the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year. However, this year's AFC North division is undoubtedly the closest in the NFL. As they are right now the Bengals have just as much of a shot at the division title as the Browns, Steelers or Ravens. All four teams are practically breathing down the others' necks, and each of them looks like they can make a strong run deep into the playoffs. But the Bengals, along with the Steelers and Ravens, have playoff experience. They’ve been in this situation before and that’ll give them an advantage heading deeper into the year. Andy Dalton’s play has been sporadic to say the least, but their defense is solid; they’re much better than what the stats show you. They’ve also got one of the NFL’s best 1-2 punches at running back with Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill, along with stud receiver A.J. Green. They’ve got the tools and experience, but it ultimately comes down to Dalton proving that he’s a franchise QB.
4 Carolina Panthers
The Panthers’ first two seasons in the NFL were surprisingly successful, considering that they were an expansion franchise. They posted a 19-13 record and made the playoffs in just their second year. But the good times didn’t last too long and the franchise didn’t reach the playoffs again till the 2003 season when they lost the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots. It’s been ten years since their first Super Bowl appearance. Coming off a 12-4 year, the Panthers are hoping to keep the momentum from last year's success, but an injured Cam Newton and underachieving defense is holding them back. It’s obvious that Newton’s been playing through injuries all year, coupled with an unreliable receiving corps the Panthers are struggling on both sides of the ball. But they’re still contending for the division title, and more importantly a playoff spot. Once a team gets themselves into the playoffs anything can happen.
3 Detroit Lions
Traded to the Steelers in 1958, after he’d given the Lions almost a decade worth of Hall of Fame caliber play, QB Bobby Layne said that the Lions would not win for 50 years. The quote itself is most probably a fabrication, but in the 50 years since Layne’s departure the Lions accumulated the worst winning percentage of any NFL team. With the “curse” supposedly over the Lions are riding the arm of their young gunslinger QB Mathew Stafford. They’ve finally got a guy to compliment Calvin Johnson in Golden Tate, and their defense is not only shutting teams down in the run, but in the pass as well. It’s looking very likely that the Lions make the playoffs for the first time since 2011. This looks to be their most talented squad in a long time.
2 San Diego Chargers
A blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers is how the San Diego Chargers faired in their first and only Super Bowl appearance. Under head coach Mike McCoy, Philip Rivers is looking as good as ever. Despite the lack of a running game he has the chargers ranked 11th in passing yards. The defense is a top ten group but can’t seem to get to the QB. The Chargers share a division with the Broncos and Chiefs so while it’s unlikely that they’ll win their division, they make a strong case for a wild card spot.
1 Philadelphia Eagles
This year's Philadelphia Eagles team has looked like a legitimate contender since week 1 of the regular season. The franchise has made two Super Bowl appearances in the past, the last being back in 2004 when Donovan McNabb was the starter and Andy Reid the head coach. Under Chip Kelly the Eagles have flourished over the last couple seasons, seemingly getting better in every category. Despite starter Nick Foles being out with a broken collarbone Kelly’s QB friendly offense practically ensures success for whoever is under center. While the running game has dropped off a bit compared to last season, the Eagles added dynamic halfback Darren Sproles into the rotation and he’s done wonders on both offense and special teams. Jeremy Maclin is dominating after coming back from a season-ending injury and backup QB Mark Sanchez has look confident and has shown flashes of incredibly accuracy since replacing the aforementioned Foles. Though they’re in a race with the Cowboys for the NFC East crown, the Eagles are definitely a playoff team that has as good a shot as any of the other top teams in the NFL at winning the Super Bowl.