5 Biggest Preseason Super Bowl Favorites To Miss The NFL Playoffs

Written By Brett Gibbons on February 1, 2022
Super Bowl Favorites

It happens every year– preseason expectations roll into short Super Bowl prices. Right now, it’s hard to imagine the Kansas City Chiefs missing the playoffs with Patrick Mahomes, but some teams were preseason Super Bowl favorites and failed to advance from the regular season.

Let’s look at teams dating back to 1990, when the NFL expanded their playoff field to 12 teams. From 1978-1990, 10 teams made up the playoff field and teams with 10+ wins– a successful season relatively– would frequently be excluded. Before 1978, eight teams made up the postseason.

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Biggest Preseason Super Bowl Favorites To Miss The Playoffs

Both the 1999 Denver Broncos and 1997 Dallas Cowboys were +500 to win their upcoming Super Bowls and missed the playoffs. Neither were the favorite and land on this list as honorable mentions.

2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+800)

Buckle up, the next five years dominate the rest of the entries in misfires on Super Bowl favorites. This streak was never before seen and hasn’t been seen since. It gets wild.

It was clear no one knew what to expect with the 2003 NFL season, with the defending-champion Buccaneers coming in as favorites at just +800. Just behind them were the Philadelphia Eagles (+1000) and Miami Dolphins (+1000). The Bucs finished 7-9 and outside the playoff field despite fielding one of the league’s top defenses.

Quarterback Brad Johnson tossed 21 interceptions. Running back Michael Pittman (father of Colts receiver Michael Pittman Jr.) carried the ball 187 times and was targeted 121 times. However, the offense meandered at times, leading to just five games which the Bucs scored over 20 points.

2005 Philadelphia Eagles (+500)

In this era, Super Bowl teams not named the New England Patriots didn’t fare too well in their follow-up year. After losing to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, Donovan McNabb suffered a season-ending injury in late November. It was a bitter cap to a four-game losing streak and Philly would finish the season on a 2-4 skid. Just two weeks later, Hall of Fame back Brian Westbrook suffered a Lis Franc injury and his season ended. Other Hall of Famer Terrell Owens played in just seven games that year battling injury himself.

The +500 preseason mark made the Eagles the outright favorite, but they went a paltry 6-10.

1991 New York Giants (+400)

The top of the Super Bowl odds board was crowded ahead of the 1991 season. At +400, the Giants’ odds were tied for second-shortest with Joe Montana’s San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers (10-6) found themselves outside of the playoff field that year, too, so why the choice of the Giants over them? New York finished 8-8 and 10th in the NFC.

Hall of Famer Phil Simms suffered a season-ending arm injury in Week 4 of the ’91 season. His backup, veteran Jeff Hostetler, threw just five touchdowns in the 12 games he started. The Giants finished fifth-worst in scoring in the NFC.

2000 Washington Redskins (+350)

While not outright favorites in the preseason, Washington was +350 to win Super Bowl. The St. Louis Rams were the favorites at +300 coming off a championship as the longest shots to ever win one. Washington jumped out to a hot start at 6-2 (versus St. Louis’ 7-1) then proceeded to drop six of their last eight games. So, why the short preseason odds? Washington rostered a few notable names like Deion SandersChamp Bailey, and Andre Reed.

The Achilles heel for them was QB Brad Johnson. Like he did years later on the Buccaneers, he tossed a concerning amount of interceptions (15) versus just 11 touchdowns. Johnson was benched and injured throughout the year and Washington finished 8-8.

2002 St. Louis Rams (+350)

For those counting, that’s four preseason favorites (or co-favorites) to miss the playoffs in six seasons. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown– the Rams were preseason favorites for three straight years coming into 2002. The Greatest Show On Turf was coming off one of the biggest Super Bowl upset losses in history. That loss weighed heavily on the team, as they jumped out to an impossible 0-5 start. Kurt Warner was benched for Marc Bulger (Warner also ended up on the IR in December).

Bulger went 6-1 as a starter (foreshadowing their 12-4 season under him the next year), but missed a trio of games late with a finger injury. Warner and other backup Jamie Martin combined to go 0-8. Four different QBs started a game for the Rams this year and they finished 7-9.

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Brett Gibbons

Brett is an avid sports traveler and former Division-I football recruiter for Bowling Green and Texas State. He’s a graduate of BGSU and works as an auditor for Google content curation products. He’s also contributed to Sports Illustrated and Fansided during his young writing career.

View all posts by Brett Gibbons