With the NFL playoffs about one month away, teams everywhere are trying their absolute hardest to make it one step closer to the Super Bowl.
Historically there are teams that started way ahead of the pack and end up missing the playoffs completely. There are a couple of things that go into creating a terrible regular season meltdown.
It could be luck that ran out or a star player getting injured. Here is the list of the top five worst regular season meltdowns in NFL history.
#5 The 2008 Denver Broncos
In 2008, the Denver Broncos went 8-5 through their first 13 games and needed just one win in their final three to clinch the AFC West Division title.
Despite the Broncos hot start, and despite Jay Cutler throwing for over 4500 passing yards, this team had enormous defensive issues. This Broncos defense gave up on average 28 points per game.
In their first shot to win the AFC West, they gave up 30 points against the Carolina Panthers and lost. In their second opportunity, they once again gave up 30 points and lost to the Buffalo Bills at home.
Then everything came unglued in the final game against the San Diego Chargers when they lost 52-21. The San Diego Chargers who were 4-8, won their final four games to steal the division away from the Broncos.
As a result of this meltdown, the Broncos became the first team to blow a three game division lead with three games to play. Plus their long time coach Mike Shanahan was fired and Jay Cutler eventually got traded to the Chicago Bears.
#4 The 2003 Minnesota Vikings
Through the first six weeks of the 2003 season, the Vikings were one of the top teams in the NFL. They had the top offense in the league averaging 30 points per game on their way to a 6-0 start.
This team looked ready for the Super Bowl, they were the class of the NFC but like the other teams on this list, there was no happy ending.
They lost seven of their next 10 games, including losing to four teams who finished 4-12 on the season.
None worse than the final game of the season. If the Vikings can beat the 3-12 Arizona Cardinals, they would win the NFC North title. They had a 17-6 lead in the fourth quarter but choked the game away.
Including the final play of the game when Cardinals wide receiver Nate Poole caught the game winning touchdown and the Vikings lost 18-17. That catch got the Green Bay Packers into the playoffs.
#3 The 1987 San Diego Chargers
The NFL strike of 1987 shortened the season to 15 games. After the first two games of the season, the Chargers were 1-1 and then all NFLPA players went on strike.
Week three of NFL games got cancelled and replacement players were utilized from weeks four through six.
The Chargers were the only team to win all three replacement games and had their original players return with a record of 4-1.
The original players came back and won four straight games and were sitting atop the AFC West at 8-1.
Jack Murphy Stadium (the Chargers home field) was also hosting the Super Bowl that season. However, their dreams of playing in the game were erased with six straight losses to end the year.
It also signaled the end of eventual Hall of Fame careers for quarterback Dan Fouts and tight end Kellen Winslow.
#2 The 1994 Philadelphia Eagles
People tend to forget how good the Eagles were in 1994. In week five, they humiliated the eventual Super Bowl champion 49ers 40-8 in San Francisco. How does a team like that meltdown?
The 1994 Eagles soared to a 7-2 start and head coach Rich Kotite was looking for a contract extension but first year owner Jeffrey Lurie would not give it to him.
Lurie was probably right because the ‘94 Eagles lost their last seven games in a row to finish 7-9. One of their defeats included coach Kotite benching star quarterback Randall Cunningham in a week 16 game against the New York Giants.
Rich Kotite was fired and went on to coach the New York Jets.
#1 The 1993 Dolphins
To say that a lot happened with the 1993 Dolphins is a complete understatement. It all starts with Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino rupturing his achilles tendon in week five. He missed the rest of the season.
Then in week 11 against the Eagles, Don Shula became the all-time winningest coach in NFL history surpassing George Halas.
Even without Marino, Miami kept winning and were sitting at 9-2 after Thanksgiving day. Then everything came undone when they lost their last five games to finish 9-7.
They became the only team to ever start 9-2 and not make the playoffs.
With teams like the Rams and Saints among others off to great starts this season, will one of them meltdown? We will see as the NFL playoffs quickly approach.