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Regular-season champs have been playoff chumps

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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain

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By Kevin Fishbain

The 2003 Patriots were a historic team for a variety of reasons. Not only were they Super Bowl champions, the route they took to capture the Lombardi Trophy was rare in this day and age. After going 14-2 and earning the NFL's best record, New England beat the Titans and Colts before topping the Panthers in an epic Super Bowl showdown.

The '03 Patriots were special because, since then, no team that finished with the NFL's best regular-season mark has ended the campaign as the league's champion. For a variety of reasons, squads that entered the postseason as the team to beat have recently fallen short.

Here's a look back at the eight teams that lost in the playoffs after finishing the regular season with the NFL's best record, since 2003:


2004 Steelers — A Week One injury to Tommy Maddox forced rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger into the lineup for Pittsburgh. After losing in Week Two, Big Ben didn't drop another game in the regular season, ending the year at 15-1. The Steelers reached the AFC title game, where the 14-2 Patriots took advantage of the rookie's inexperience, picking off Roethlisberger three times in a 41-27 New England win.

2005 Colts — The Colts started the season with 13 consecutive wins behind one of the league's better offenses. Edgerrin James rushed for 1,506 yards, and Peyton Manning tossed 28 touchdown passes for the 14-2 Colts. But it was one-and-done for Indy in the playoffs. The Colts fell behind 21-3 to the Steelers at home in the divisional round, and 15 points in the fourth quarter were too little, too late.

2006 Chargers — With RB LaDainian Tomlinson scoring an NFL-record 31 touchdowns, the Chargers' offense was often unstoppable, leading the team to a 14-2 record. Their prize for that impressive mark was a divisional playoff game against the Patriots. Despite 123 rushing yards and two TDs from Tomlinson, New England came away with a three-point win. A month later, despite the impressive season, the Chargers fired head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

2007 Patriots — The first team to go undefeated in the regular season since the 1972 Dolphins, the Patriots were an absolute juggernaut in 2007, beating teams by nearly 20 points per game. Their regular-season finale, though, might have been a foreshadowing when the Giants gave the Pats their stiffest test all year long. Meeting again in the Super Bowl, the Giants' defense stepped up, and David Tyree's helmet catch helped the G-Men pull off one of the bigger Super Bowl upsets as the Pats finished 18-1.

2008 Titans — The Titans won 10 consecutive games to start the season behind a formidable rushing attack. Chris Johnson and LenDale White combined for 2,001 rushing yards and 24 rushing scores. DT Albert Haynesworth recorded 8½ sacks for a Titans defense that allowed 14.6 points a game. Tennessee's playoff run didn't last long, though. The Titans fell 13-10 to the Ravens in the divisional round.

2009 Colts  —  Many believed the Colts had a chance at perfection in Jim Caldwell's first season as head coach. Indy started off 14-0 and only lost after QB Peyton Manning (who won league MVP that season) and other starters were sent to the sideline to save their health for the playoffs. In the end, the Colts went 14-2 and won the AFC but lost in Super Bowl XLIV to the Saints.

2010 Patriots  —  The Patriots finished the regular season with an eight-game win streak, averaging 37.4 points during that span. The offense was unstoppable behind MVP Tom Brady, and the defense was one of the league's more opportunistic units, helping the Pats to record one of the better turnover margins in years. But a first-round bye and home-field advantage didn't matter against the rival Jets, who upset New England 28-21. Brady threw his first interception since Week Six, and the Jets sacked him five times.

2011 Packers — The defending Super Bowl champions looked set to become the first team since the 2004 Patriots to repeat as champs, especially after starting the season 13-0. QB Aaron Rodgers set an NFL record for passer rating en route to winning the PFW/PFWA MVP award and directing his team to a 15-1 regular-season record. However, come playoff time, Rodgers and the Packers were one-and-done, losing to the Giants in the divisional round.

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