There are just six teams in the NFL that have active postseason streaks extending two or more seasons.
The Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans have made the playoffs the past two seasons and neither have made it past the divisional round. The Pittsburgh Steelers have reached the playoffs the past three seasons, moving one additional round each season before elimination (wild card in 2014, divisional in 2015, conference championship in 2016). The Seattle Seahawks have made five consecutive postseasons, reaching two Super Bowls with one victory and three divisional round exits.
The New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers are tied for the active lead with eight consecutive postseason appearances, but they’ve gone in vastly different directions. The longest postseason streaks in history are nine consecutive years by the 1975-83 Dallas Cowboys and the 2002-10 Indianapolis Colts.
Green Bay won the Super Bowl in 2010 and lost two additional conference title games in 2014 and 2016 to go with two wild card round exits and three divisional round losses. After losing in the wild card round in 2009 and in the divisional round in 2010, the Patriots have reached six straight conference title games with three Super Bowl appearances.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers knows the Patriots’ success looms large over the collective head of the Packers according to his interview with Monday Morning Quarterback.
“Of course you hear about it,” Rodgers said. “I get asked about it, I got asked about it last week—this idea that the Packers embrace mediocrity. I think what we've done the last eight years`making the playoffs, there's only a couple other teams that have ever done that. New England, actually, currently is on the same streak as us, making the playoff for eight straight years. That's tough to do, especially with the parity of this league and how they pair up division champions each year to play each other in the same conference. We've sustained success, we just haven't sustained it on the top level. We haven't won more than one Super Bowl. We’ve also been to three NFC championship games and none of them home. So that's how we look at it. We've got to get one of those at home, because we are tough to beat at home.
“I don't feel like our window is closing here. I feel like this window is going to be open for a while. And in order for some of that stuff to go away, the outside noise, we're going to have to win another Super Bowl. It would be disappointing if we were only able to win one in my time here. Hopefully we can get one of those done.”
The Patriots serve as the benchmark for every NFL team over the past twenty seasons and it’s pretty unfair for all of the other successful squads during that time. Not only do they have to face the Patriots on the field, but they also have to compete with them from a legacy standpoint.
Teams very rarely win multiple Super Bowl titles in a given era. There are 30 teams to reach five consecutive postseasons in Super Bowl-era history. Only the 1970-74 Miami Dolphins (1972, 1973), 1972-79 Steelers (1974, 1975, 1978, 1979), 1983-90 San Francisco 49ers (1984, 1988, 1989), 1991-96 Cowboys (1992, 1993, 1995), 2003-07 Patriots (2003, 2004), and the 2009-present Patriots (2014, 2016) won multiple Super Bowl titles during their streaks. An unfortunate 13 of those teams left their postseason streaks empty handed. The average team won a single title.
Of the eight teams with eight or nine consecutive postseason appearances, five have won one title (1966-73 Cowboys, 1975-83 Cowboys, 2002-10 Colts, 2009-16 Packers) or zero (1973-80 Los Angeles Rams). The other three teams are obviously regarded as the dynasty of their respective era (1970s Steelers, 1980s 49ers, 2000-10s Patriots).
But Patriots fans can identify with Rodgers’ analysis of the Packers postseason success with regards to homefield advantage. Rodgers acknowledges that Green Bay is harder to beat at home (and teams that have homefield advantage are usually in the middle of strong seasons), while most Patriots fans think that the team would be enjoying three-straight Super Bowl trips had the team held homefield advantage over the Denver Broncos in 2015.
Over the Packers eight-straight postseason appearances, they’ve held the 5th, 6th, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 2nd, 5th, and 4th seeds. They’ve benefit from just two first round byes and just from a statistical standpoint, teams are less likely to win reach the Super Bowl if they have to play an additional playoff game during wild card weekend.
In comparison, the Patriots have enjoyed a bye week in seven-straight years, greatly increasing their odds of reaching at least the conference title game. The Patriots have played 12 playoff games at home and hold a 9-3 record in those games, versus two road playoff games and a 0-2 record (both against the Denver Broncos in conference title games). The Packers have played just five home playoff games (3-2) against a league-leading 10 road playoff games (5-5) during that time.
Over the past eight seasons, the home playoff team wins two-thirds of the match-ups, highlighting the importance of homefield advantage. If the Packers want to become the Patriots of the NFC, they need to start playing better in the regular season and rack up more first round byes along the way.
For his part, Rodgers can’t really do too much more to help the Packers. During the Packers postseason streak, the Green Bay offense has ranked in the top ten of points scored in seven of their eight seasons- they ranked 15th in 2015- while the defense hasn’t ranked in the top ten of points allowed since 2010- “coincidentally” when the Packers won the Super Bowl. The Patriots offense and defense has ranked inside the top ten in seven of the past eight seasons, with the 2011 defense ranking 15th in points allowed.
The Patriots and Packers are both expected to extend their postseason streaks in 2017 and tie the league record, with New England projected as the heavy favorite to win it all. If the Packers want to keep up with the Patriots, their defense will need to take a major step forward.