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The 20 Best NFL Franchises Of The Last 20 Years

20. Cincinnati Bengals

  • Regular Season Record: 147-170-3
  • Division Titles: 4
  • Playoff Appearances: 7
  • Playoff Record: 0-7
  • Conference Championships: 0-0
  • Winning Seasons: 7
  • Losing Seasons: 9
  • Super Bowls: 0-0

The Cincinnati Bengals start off our list because of their consistent trips to the postseason and having one of the longest-tenured coaches in the league before his recent firing.

The orange and black started this millennium off with Bruce Coslet and Dick LeBeau under the helm before Marvin Lewis Took over the team. Lewis, proved to be one of the longest-tenured coaches of the last 20 years. During his time, The Bengals made it to the postseason 7 times along with 4 division crowns.

But despite having many talented players, including Chad Ochocinco, Carson Palmer, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the Bengals were never able to win a playoff game. This led to Lewis’ firing, and a recent team reboot with coach Zac Taylor.

19. Chicago Bears

Photo courtesy of Mike Morbeck, Flickr, Creative Commons
  • Regular Season Record: 155-165
  • Division Titles: 5
  • Playoff Appearances: 5
  • Playoff Record: 3-5
  • Conference Championships: 1-1
  • Winning Seasons: 7
  • Losing Seasons: 10
  • Super Bowls: 0-1

The Chicago Bears can thank their defenses and head coaches for coming in at number 19 on our list.  The question for this franchise over the years is, who can take over at quarterback? Between the likes of Rex Grossman, Caleb Hanie other forgettable passers, the Bears did not boast some of the best offenses of the previous 2 decades.

Head coach Dick Jauron and newly drafted Brian Urlacher were difficult for opposing offenses when the millennium started. But after 3 losing seasons, the Bears decided to hire Love Smith. Chicago accrued 3 playoff wins and a Super Bowl appearance under Smith, but Smith also fell victim to 3 losing seasons and was consequently fired.

The Bears could not find footing with either Marc Trestman or John Fox at head coach, but it seems that they have their guy now in Matt Nagy. The defense continues to be a hallmark of this franchise, especially with the recent addition of Khalil Mack.  They look to build off that heading into the next decade with Mitchell Trubisky under center.

18. St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams

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  • Regular Season Record: 148-171-1
  • Division Titles: 4
  • Playoff Appearances: 5
  • Playoff Record: 5-6
  • Conference Championships: 2-0
  • Winning Seasons: 5
  • Losing Seasons: 12
  • Super Bowls: 0-2

The Rams franchise dominated the NFC coming into and coming out of these 20-year rankings.  From “The Greatest Show on Turf” to Sean McVay’s dynamic offense of late, the Rams have done enough to land at number 18 on our list

The Rams franchise had won its first Super Bowl coming into this millennium, making the playoffs 4 of the first 5 years. After losing to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, the team started fleeting from NFC contention under coach Mike Martz. After letting of Martz in 2005 midseason, the Rams struggled to not only find a coach for the next 10 years, but also a home.

After 10 straight losing seasons and 6 head coaches, the Rams appointed McVay to head coach and have returned to prominence in the NFC. The team has drafted studs such as Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley as of late and look to bring their new home of Los Angeles a championship trophy heading into this next decade.

17. Carolina Panthers

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  • Regular Season Record: 160-159-1
  • Division Titles: 5
  • Playoff Appearances: 7
  • Playoff Record: 8-7
  • Conference Championships: 2-1
  • Winning Seasons: 6
  • Losing Seasons: 11
  • Super Bowls: 0-2

The Carolina Panthers are one of the youngest franchises in the NFL, as they have been around for less than 25 years.  But their success in the postseason has landed them here at number 17 on our list.

The Panthers were at the bottom of the league before hiring John Fox at head coach. The defensive-minded coach developed the defense in the following years, making the team known for fielding fearsome front 7’s with the likes of Julius Peppers and Kris Jenkins. Fox posted an impressive 5-3 playoff record, including two NFC Championship game appearances.

But Fox could never get the team over the Super Bowl hump and was dismissed after a dismal 2-14 record in 2010.  Enter current head coach Ron “Riverboat” Rivera and first overall draft pick, Cam Newton.

The two combined to form one of the more formidable duos in the league the past decade, but the recent injury history and the lack of division titles lately have Rivera on the hot seat and Cam on the sideline.  Carolina looks to turn around the direction of the team coming off a 7-9 season last year.

16. Minnesota Vikings

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  • Regular Season Record: 165-153-1
  • Division Titles: 5
  • Playoff Appearances: 7
  • Playoff Record: 4-7
  • Conference Championships: 0-3
  • Winning Seasons: 9
  • Losing Seasons: 7
  • Super Bowls: 0-0

The Minnesota Vikings have compiled one of the most consistent regular-season records for this millennium.  But their lack of success in the postseason has brought them down to number 16 on this ranking.

The duo of Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper were donning the purple and gold in the year 2000.  The team was destroyed in the NFC championship game, and the team decided to let go of longtime head coach Dennis Green the following year after a 5-10 start.

The Vikings had some of the more talented teams of the last 20 years, especially after drafting studs such as Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. But between coaches Mike Tice, Brad Childress, and Leslie Frazier, the Vikings were never able to gain solid traction in a tough NFC North division. 

Current head coach Mike Zimmer now has one of the most talented rosters in the entire league, but with questionable quarterback play from Kirk Cousins, the “Purple People Eaters” might have to head in a new direction for the next Minnesota regime.

15. Kansas City Chiefs

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  • Regular Season Record: 163-157
  • Division Titles: 5
  • Playoff Appearances: 8
  • Playoff Record: 2-8
  • Conference Championships: 0-1
  • Winning Seasons: 9
  • Losing Seasons: 7
  • Super Bowls: 0-0

The Kansas City Chiefs have sported some of the most potent offenses in recent memory, one that is firing on all cylinders now thanks to Andy Reid’s play-calling.  But the glaring 2-8 playoff record limits them to only number 15 on this list.

Before the Dallas Cowboys owned the best offensive line in today’s game, the Chiefs had the best line of the early 2000s. Behind it, Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson were able to post gaudy numbers in addition to Tony Gonzalez revolutionizing the tight end position.

The Chiefs struggled to find their head coach, hiring 4 in 11 seasons before landing Reid in 2013. They have not posted a losing record since, but have only won 2 playoff games in his tenure.  Superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes looks to be the most successful project in Reid’s system going into the next decade.

14. Tennessee Titans

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  • Regular Season Record: 164-156
  • Division Titles: 3
  • Playoff Appearances: 6
  • Playoff Record: 3-6
  • Conference Championships: 0-1
  • Winning Seasons: 9
  • Losing Seasons: 8
  • Super Bowls: 0-0

Tennessee might have to thank Jeff Fisher for landing this high up on our list.  After the team moved from Houston to Nashville, Fisher remained one of the longest-tenured coaches in the NFL while stabilizing a franchise in a new location.

The Titans start this millennium coming off a devastating Super Bowl loss, literally inches from achieving their goal.  Even while competing in a Colts-dominated AFC South, Fisher still managed 5 playoff appearances with pieces such as Jevon Kearse and Steve McNair.

The Titans even managed to develop a lethal backfield duo of Chris Johnson and Lendale White that post gaudy rushing numbers, including Johnson’s 2,000-yard season in 2009.  Players were shocked to hear Fisher was fired in 2010, and since then, the team has been on a coaching carousel.

But NFL-vet Mike Vrabel is at the helm, and the Titans have managed to string together 3 straight winning seasons as of late and look forward to finding an answer at quarterback in the near future.

13. Atlanta Falcons

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  • Regular Season Record: 162-157-1
  • Division Titles: 4
  • Playoff Appearances: 8
  • Playoff Record: 6-8
  • Conference Championships: 1-1
  • Winning Seasons: 9
  • Losing Seasons: 8
  • Super Bowls: 0-1

The Atlanta Falcons have not been a storied franchise coming into the millennium, having only 4 playoff wins in the entire history of the team before 2000.  But at the turn of the century, the Falcons franchise also turned as well.

Michael Vick was the first overall pick of the 2000 NFL draft, impacting the franchise immediately.  Vick was the first quarterback to take down the Packers at Lambeau Field in the playoffs, knocking off the legendary Brett Favre.

But after his dog-fighting scandal, the Falcons had to shift the face of the franchise to Matt Ryan. He logged 5 straight winning seasons to start off his career.

The season the Falcons are remembered most for is 2016, when Ryan took home MVP honors and even had a 28-3 lead on the game’s biggest stage. However, this franchise will not live down that game until they win a Super Bowl.

12. Dallas Cowboys

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  • Regular Season Record: 168-152
  • Division Titles: 5
  • Playoff Appearances: 7
  • Playoff Record: 3-7
  • Conference Championships: 0-0
  • Winning Seasons: 10
  • Losing Seasons: 6
  • Super Bowls: 0-0

The Cowboys are inarguably the most popular team in the league, with their incredible championship history and coaching icons Tom Landry and Jimmie Johnson. 

Since the start of the millennium, the Cowboys have not lived up to their lofty standards. Still, they have one of the most loyal fanbases in the league, keeping their title of “America’s Team.”

The Cowboys were the best franchise of the 1990s, but couldn’t transfer that success into the millennium. Even the hire of legendary coach Bill Parcells couldn’t fix the Cowboys problems.

However, the team’s focus on the offensive line as of late has led to great success under current head coach Jason Garrett. The Cowboys possess a talented young core of Dak Prescott, Ezekial Elliot, and Amari Cooper, and “America’s Team” hopes to bring a championship back to Dallas in the next decade.

11. San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Beall, Flickr, Creative Commons
  • Regular Season Record: 144-144
  • Division Titles: 5
  • Playoff Appearances: 7
  • Playoff Record: 5-7
  • Conference Championships: 0-1
  • Winning Seasons: 10
  • Losing Seasons: 6
  • Super Bowls: 0-0

The Chargers come in at number 11 on our list because despite being from the desolate fan base of San Diego, they still performed consistently since the turn of the millennium.

The franchise actually started this millennium out the worst possible way with a 1-15 record.  But that led to drafting the best running back of the 2000s, LaDainian Tomlinson. Behind a superb rushing attack and trading for Phillip Rivers to replace then-injured Drew Brees, the Chargers were recognized as one of the most potent offenses throughout the decade.

After disappointing playoff losses to the Steelers and Jets, the team began to reshape its image by letting go of Tomlinson and head coach Norv Turner. The offense remained potent behind Rivers, but the defense had grown to be a huge weakness. In recent years, the Chargers have drafted defensive studs such as Joey Bosa and Derwin James to tackle these problems.

10. New Orleans Saints

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
  • Regular Season Record: 173-147
  • Division Titles: 6
  • Playoff Appearances: 8
  • Playoff Record: 9-7
  • Conference Championships: 1-2
  • Winning Seasons: 9
  • Losing Seasons: 7
  • Super Bowls: 1-0

For many years, the Saints were known as the laughing stock of the NFL.  Then Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans. But just like the city, the team bounced back incredibly well.

The Saints had never won a playoff game last millennium. Coach Jim Haslett led the Saints to an improbable win over the “Greatest Show on Turf” before falling to the Vikings the next round. 

Following the hurricane and a dismal 3-13 season, the team acquired foundational pieces in the hiring of head coach Sean Payton and signing quarterback Drew Brees from the Chargers.

Since then, the Saints have touted one of the best offenses in the game on a consistent level, winning the Super Bowl in 2009. The franchise has maybe the best home crowd in all of sports, hosting crazy fans at the Superdome each year.

Besides the blemish of the Bountygate scandal, the Saints have established a culture that not only turned a team around but also an entire city.

9. Denver Broncos

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
  • Regular Season Record: 171-149
  • Division Titles: 6
  • Playoff Appearances: 9
  • Playoff Record: 7-8
  • Conference Championships: 2-1
  • Winning Seasons: 11
  • Losing Seasons: 4
  • Super Bowls: 1-1

The Broncos land at number 9 on our list because of only having four losing seasons over the past 20 years and a stretch of dominance by Peyton Manning from 2012-2015.

Denver actually won back-to-back Super Bowls with Mike Shanahan as the years of John Elway were coming to an end. After the quarterback’s departure, the team continued its success with Jake Plummer and later Tim Tebow for a hot minute before landing Manning in 2012.

Peyton’s Broncos beat the Patriots twice in AFC Championship games before holding up the 2015 Super Bowl trophy. Since Manning’s retirement, the Broncos have been turning a new page to prepare for the next decade.

8. New York Giants

Photo courtesy of Mike Lizzi, Flickr, Creative Commons
  • Regular Season Record: 161-159
  • Division Titles: 4
  • Playoff Appearances: 8
  • Playoff Record: 10-6
  • Conference Championships: 3-0
  • Winning Seasons: 9
  • Losing Seasons: 8
  • Super Bowls: 2-1

The Giants make it at number 8 on our list not because of their regular-season record, but because of their postseason record. Only a few other teams can claim double-digit wins in the postseason over this period as well as multiple Super Bowl championships.

New York started their millennium just game away from winning their 3rd Super Bowl in franchise history.  Shortly after, the Giants shifted from head coach Jim Fassel to Tom Coughlin, a move many disagreed with at the time. The team kept its intimidating defense and were able to acquire Eli Manning from the Chargers in an infamous draft-day trade.

Since then, Manning has posted one of the best postseason records of all time. Although some of his decisions on the field can be more than questionable, Manning shows up when it comes to the postseason. Adding the electric Odell Beckham Jr. sparked the Giants to finish 11-5 in 2016, but are now in rebuilding mode after trading away OBJ and demoting Manning to 2nd-string QB.

7. Baltimore Ravens

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  • Regular Season Record: 184-136
  • Division Titles: 5
  • Playoff Appearances: 11
  • Playoff Record: 15-9
  • Conference Championships: 2-2
  • Winning Seasons: 13
  • Losing Seasons: 4
  • Super Bowls: 2-0

Speaking of teams with multiple rings in the millennium, the Ravens have proven to be one of the most consistent franchises in the league.  Even though the team was founded in 1996, they have one of the best winning percentages in NFL history.

The millennium started off with a bang for the Ravens, winning the Super Bowl in 2000 behind a vicious defense. In fact, defense would be the strength of the team through with both Brian Billick and John Harbaugh at head coach.

Poor offensive play, mainly with the quarterback position, has been the Raven’s biggest weakness in the history of their team. They managed to win the 2000 Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer, a backup.

But the Ravens wouldn’t see success from the man under center until they drafted Joe Flacco from Delaware in 2008. Flacco would go on to start his first 7 seasons in the NFL without a losing record. But his recent fall made the Ravens turn the page and start former Heisman-winner Lamar Jackson.

6. Seattle Seahawks

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
  • Regular Season Record: 180-139-1
  • Division Titles: 8
  • Playoff Appearances: 12
  • Playoff Record: 13-11
  • Conference Championships: 3-0
  • Winning Seasons: 13
  • Losing Seasons: 6
  • Super Bowls: 1-2

Despite being the most physically removed from the league, the Seahawks have managed to be one of the most relevant teams of the new millennium.  They have established a culture of winning with Mike Holmgren and Pete Carroll at head coach.

The Seahawks got off to a slow start this millennium before Holmgren developed the roster into a championship contender. Even though they lost a Super Bowl to the Steelers, Seattle remained prominent for a couple of years after.

The transition of personnel and coaching took place around 2009-2010, eventually landing Carroll and drafting Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson. The duo, along with the Legion of Boom, took the NFC by storm and shut down the most potent offense in NFL history in the Super Bowl.

Since then, the defense has changed due to aging veterans, but Wilson and Carroll look to rebound into NFL glory this upcoming decade.

5. Green Bay Packers

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  • Regular Season Record: 192-126-2
  • Division Titles: 9
  • Playoff Appearances: 13
  • Playoff Record: 12-12
  • Conference Championships: 1-3
  • Winning Seasons: 14
  • Losing Seasons: 4
  • Super Bowls: 1-0

Perhaps the most-storied franchise of the NFL, the Packers continued to add to their lure in the new millennium.

3-time league MVP Brett Favre was the face of the Packers at the turn of the millennium, breaking most of the all-time passing records by the end of his tenure in Green Bay.

After throwing an interception that ultimately ended the 2007 NFC Championship game against the Giants, the Packers turned the page to Cal product Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers would go on to become one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history; some consider him to be the best ever. 

Rodgers brought the Lombardi trophy back to its original home in 2010 and has been dominating defenses since then. However, disappointing playoff losses leave the Packers only at number 5 on our list. They will look to build on those losses in the upcoming decade with newly appointed head coach Matt LaFleur.

4. Philadelphia Eagles

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  • Regular Season Record: 186-133-1
  • Division Titles: 8
  • Playoff Appearances: 12
  • Playoff Record: 14-11
  • Conference Championships: 2-4
  • Winning Seasons: 13
  • Losing Seasons: 4
  • Super Bowls: 1-1

The last two seasons really catapulted this team’s ranking, and rightfully so.  For a team that was on the cusp of a championship for so long, 2016 solidified them as one of the top 4 franchises of the new millennium.  

The Andy Reid era was just underway when the Eagles started the millennium.  For many years, they would not only post impressive regular-season records but also posted a great playoff record as well. Losses in 3 consecutive NFC Championships and a loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl had many fans thinking Reid could not win the big game for their franchise.

After an experiment with college coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles appointed former NFL quarterback Doug Pederson to head coach. A slow start was expected with a regressing Eagles roster, but Pederson managed to bring the franchise’s first Super Bowl win in their storied history.

With elite quarterback play from Carson Wentz, Pederson looks to add more Lombardi trophies for the City of Brotherly Love in these upcoming years.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

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  • Regular Season Record: 203-115-2
  • Division Titles: 9
  • Playoff Appearances: 12
  • Playoff Record: 15-10
  • Conference Championships: 3-3
  • Winning Seasons: 15
  • Losing Seasons: 1
  • Super Bowls: 1-1

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had only 3 head coaches for the last 50 years, and the stability under the helm is a huge reason why Pittsburgh comes in at our list at number 3. Arguably the most successful franchise of all time, they have continued their success into this new millennium.

Bill Cowher was on a mission to get back to the Super Bowl at the start of 2000. After multiple division titles, Cowher eventually nabbed a ring in 2005 and ended his coaching career in 2006. 

Enter Mike Tomlin, who inherited a great quarterback in Ben Roethlisbeger and a stifling defense. With these tools, Tomlin was able to win a Super Bowl in only his second year coaching. The Steelers have never logged a losing season yet with Mike Tomlin and hope to continue that trend going into the next decade.

2. Indianapolis Colts

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  • Regular Season Record: 203-117
  • Division Titles: 9
  • Playoff Appearances: 14
  • Playoff Record: 13-13
  • Conference Championships: 2-2
  • Winning Seasons: 14
  • Losing Seasons: 3
  • Super Bowls: 1-1

It seems like it has been a long while since Peyton Manning donned Colts blue and was running the most potent offense in the league. Due to him and Andrew Luck setting the offensive pace for the Colts, they climb all the way up to number 2 on our countdown.

The best rivalry of the new millennium has been the matchup of Patriots-Colts, Brady versus Manning. These teams do not play in the same division, but each year a matchup was held either in the regular season, postseason or both because these were the two elite teams of the league year-in and year-out.

After losing to the highly-touted Patriots defense a couple of times in the postseason, Manning eventually landed his coveted Super Bowl ring in 2006. Successful years followed, including another trip to the Super Bowl. But a complicated neck injury suffered by Manning led to his release in 2011.

Despite losing a once-in-a-generation type talent, the Colts rebounded fast after a Manning-less 2-14 season by drafting Luck. Luck would continue dominance in the division but has decided to call it quits this year after an extensive injury history. The Colts look to build with Jacoby Brissett going forward and continue their success.

1. New England Patriots

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  • Regular Season Record: 233-87
  • Division Titles: 16
  • Playoff Appearances: 16
  • Playoff Record: 30-10
  • Conference Championships: 9-4
  • Winning Seasons: 18
  • Losing Seasons: 1
  • Super Bowls: 6-3

If you are a fan of American football, you know this ranking was coming from the start of this list.  Just by looking at the numbers above, you can see why the Patriots have absolutely dominated the NFL since 2000.  

After owner Robert Kraft bought the team in 1994, two moves have made his franchise the most successful one to date.  27 days into the new millennium, he hired Bill Belichick from the Jets, and that same April drafted Tom Brady in the 6th round.

Since then, the Brady-Belichick duo has been the most successful in league history. The only gap in their dominance was a year in which Brady was placed on IR after the first game of the season (and the team still managed to go 11-5 that year).

Six Super Bowl titles are the most for any one player and/or coach in history, and the scary thing is that the duo is still going strong. Coming off a year where they have won yet another Super Bowl, Brady and Belichick look to continue this historic dominance for as long as they can into the next decade.

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Written by Fanable

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