October 17, 2011
Top 10 hot-to-cold NFL seasons
By DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency
Life is good for the Detroit Lions right now. They're 5-0, the city is buzzing about its NFL team again and, hey, they even had a game on Monday Night Football for the first time in, well, almost forever.
So I almost hate to bring this up but ... this doesn't even mean the playoffs are a sure thing. Plenty of teams look unbeatable early then, pffffffttttt, the wind dies and their sail goes slack. Here are the top 10 NFL teams in recent memory that had fast starts and still managed to miss the post-season dance.
10. 2000 New York Jets
With new coach Al Groh running the show, the Jets went 4-0 out of the gate and improved to 6-1 with a 40-37 OT win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 8, a game that has come to be known as the Monday Night Miracle. But a pair of three-game losing streaks, sandwiched around three consecutive wins, left the Jets with a 9-7 record and out of the playoffs. Not surprisingly, it was Groh's only season coaching the Jets.
9. 2002 San Diego Chargers
When the Chargers went into their Week 8 bye, they were feeling pretty comfy. They were 6-1, the only blemish a loss in Denver that ended a season-opening four-game winning streak. After the break, San Diego went on the schneid, winning just two of its final nine games. At 8-4, the Chargers still had a chance with four games left but lost them all to make the meltdown official.
8. 2009 New York Giants
Five games into the season, the Giants were unbeaten and practically unstoppable. Their only close call was a 33-31 win over the Cowboys in Dallas. But a Week 6 blowout at the hands of the Saints started a four-game slide. After the bye week, which should have allowed the Giants to regroup, they lost four of the next seven to finish at 8-8, not nearly good enough for the playoffs.
7. 2007 Detroit Lions
When the Lions throttled Denver 44-7 at Ford Field in early November to go to 6-2, the party in Motown hit full stride. The lovable losers were finally going to reward their oh-so-patient fans, weren't they? The Lions coughed up a super-sized furball after beating the Broncos, losing seven of their last eight (including six in a row) to finish 7-9 and miss the playoffs for the eighth year in a row.
6. 2008 Buffalo Bills
In a city that made "Wide Right" popular, you'd think Bills fans would be used to choke jobs. Certainly it is less unsettling than losing another Super Bowl, right? Well, Buffalo was talkin' proud four weeks into the 2008 season. The Bills were 4-0. Then the roof caved in. The Bills lost nine of their last 12 to wind up 7-9. The only thing anyone wanted to shout was obscenities ... at coach Dick Jauron.
5. 1993 New Orleans Saints
Coming off a 12-4 season in 1992, the Saints owned Bourbon Street after winning five in a row to start the season. The Ain'ts were no more. Paper bags were being used to carry groceries, not cover faces. Who Dat Nation was rockin'. Oops, not so fast. The Saints reverted to form after their first bye week, losing in Pittsburgh to start a 3-8 slide that would leave them feeling blue.
4. 1995 Oakland Raiders
The NFL's Bad Boys were rockin' in 1995, rolling to a 8-2 record with The Hoss, quarterback Jeff Hostetler, at the helm. When Hostetler got hurt -- he missed the final five games with a banged-up shoulder -- the Raiders imploded. Oakland closed out the season with six consecutive losses to finish at 8-8, joining Seattle and Denver in a three-way tie for last place in the AFC West.
3. 1996 Washington Redskins
After starting the season with one loss in eight games, the 'Skins looked like a cinch to make the playoffs. Incredibly, they were mathematically eliminated before the final week of the season. Winning two of your final seven games (including one when it didn't matter) will do that, kids. Late-season road losses to Tampa Bay and Arizona (combined record in 1996 was 13-19) sealed their fate.
2. 2003 Minnesota Vikings
Another cautionary tale for you comfortable Lions fans? The Vikings were in an even better position -- how's 6-0, with a win in Detroit to boot, grab ya -- and still didn't get into the playoffs. A mid-October loss to the New York Giants started a skid that saw the Vikings go 3-7, with a last-second loss to the 4-12 Arizona (them again!) in the final week the knockout blow. Talk about adding insult to injury.
1. 1993 Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins won nine of their first 11 games and still, somehow, managed to miss out on a playoff berth. When Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino went down five weeks in, the Dolphins were doomed. Steve DeBerg and Scott Mitchell couldn't get it done when it mattered most. An overtime loss to 5-10 New England in the regular-season finale cued up the funeral dirge.