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Colts' playoff streak in prestigious company

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Posted Dec. 19, 2010 @ 11:19 a.m. ET
By Eli Kaberon

With a 7-6 record and in second place in the AFC South, the Colts are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2001. A Thursday-night win over the Titans certainly helped their cause leading into a big Week 15 matchup against the division-leading Jaguars.

The Colts have made the playoffs each of the past eight seasons, the second-longest streak since the NFL-AFL merger.

Here then are the seven longest playoff streaks since 1970:

Cowboys / 1975-83 (9) — The duo of QB Roger Staubach and head coach Tom Landry escalated the Cowboys from regional favorite to "America's Team." Dallas won Super Bowl XII and appeared in two other title games during its run, both of which were memorable losses to the Steelers. The 'Boys compiled a 12-8 postseason record over the nine-year span. Staubach and Landry were just two of the seven Hall of Famers on the Cowboys during the stretch, including RB Tony Dorsett and DT Randy White.

Colts / 2002-present (8) — Not only has Peyton Manning made the Colts an almost automatic postseason qualifier, 2001 was also the last season they didn't reach double-digit wins, peaking with 14 wins in both 2005 and '09. Seven of the eight playoff trips came when the Colts won at least 12 games. However, Indy managed only one Super Bowl title and had a 9-7 record in the playoffs during its run.

Steelers / 1972-79 (8) — The Steel Curtain defense dominated the league in the 1970s. Add in stability at head coach (Chuck Noll) and quarterback (Terry Bradshaw), and it's easy to see why the Steelers were a force on both sides of the ball. During the span, their "D" ranked first in the league twice, and their offense topped the league once. They were in the league's top 10 in offense and defense in every one of the playoff seasons. Unlike some of the teams on the list, the Steelers translated regular-season success into championships. During the run, Pittsburgh won four Super Bowl titles and went 14-4 in the playoffs.

Rams / 1973-80 (8) — When you have a defensive line consisting of DEs Jack Youngblood and Fred Dryer and DTs Merlin Olsen and Larry Brooks, it is easy to stop opponents, and that's exactly what the Rams did. Los Angeles finished in the top four in the league in points allowed in six of the eight seasons in which they made the playoffs, but that success never translated into the postseason. The Rams made only one Super Bowl appearance during the stretch, a 31-19 loss to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV, and finished with a playoff record of 6-8 over the eight-year period.

49ers / 1983-1990 (8) — Head coach Bill Walsh is considered to be the greatest offensive mind in league history. QB Joe Montana is often mentioned as the best clutch passer of all time. And NFL Films just named WR Jerry Rice the best player to ever step onto a football field. So it's not hard to figure out why San Francisco was so good in the 1980s. The 49ers won three Super Bowls during the stretch and racked up a playoff record of 11-5. The best of the group was likely the '89 team, which had a 14-2 record, lost its two games by a combined five points and won its three playoff games by a total score of 126-26.

Oilers / 1987-93 (7) — Led by QB Warren Moon, the high-flying Oilers ranked among the top seven in the league in points six times in this span. But Houston did not dominate, with three nine-win seasons. Once Moon left, the offense dropped from third in the league in his last season to 26th in yards and 28th in points in 1994. The Oilers/Titans franchise has been one of the least successful playoff teams in NFL history. It has reached the Super Bowl (XXXIV) only once, and during the seven-year playoff streak the Oilers had a dismal 3-7 record in the playoffs, never advancing past the divisional round.

49ers / 1992-98 (7) — Some of the names changed (Steve Young in for Montana, George Seifert and Steve Mariucci in for Walsh), but the success of the Niners in the 1990s was similar to their success in the previous decade. The biggest difference was the rise of the Cowboys, who eliminated San Francisco in the NFC championship game in both 1992 and '93. Revenge came in '94, when the 49ers beat Dallas en route to a Super Bowl victory over the Chargers. Overall the team went 8-6 in playoff games during the stretch.


PFW associate editor Kevin Fishbain contributed to this article.

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