At this time last year, the New England Patriots were undefeated and gearing up for a postseason run that would cement their status as the best NFL team of all-time, and they seemed poised to dominate the league for the forseeable future.
One surreal catch later, they had lost Super Bowl XLII and now they won't even be back in the playoffs to defend their AFC championship. Instead, New England has become just the second team in NFL history to miss the playoffs with an 11-5 record. Here are the five best teams to not make the playoffs in sports history.
1. 1974 Maryland Terrapins
Few teams in any sport have ever had a gripe so great that it led to a change in the playoff format itself. The Terps boasted three All-Americans in Tom McMillen, John Lucas and Len Elmore and after thrashing No. 6 North Carolina by 20 points in the ACC Tournament semifinals, they carried a 23-4 record and a No. 3 national ranking into the final against No. 2 North Carolina State. In what some still consider the best college basketball game ever played, N.C. State prevailed 103-100 and went on to win the national championship while the disappointed Terrapins turned down an NIT bid. The next season, the NCAA opened up the tournament to allow more than one team per conference.
2. 2004 Auburn Tigers
In the biggest instance yet of the BCS' flawed logic, the Tigers were one of five teams to finish the season undefeated, yet were left out of the national championship game. Despite running the table in the nation's toughest conference and beating five Top 25 teams along the way, the most of any team in the nation, Auburn was never able to leapfrog the top two teams from the preseason, No. 1 USC and No. 2 Oklahoma, which both marched undefeated to the title game in Miami, where the Trojans routed the Sooners 55-19. After beating Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, Auburn had to settle for No. 2.
3. 2008 New England Patriots
Given the loss of 2007 league MVP Tom Brady in the season opener, the Pats deserve credit just for reaching the 11-win mark. They scored more points than all but one team in the AFC, and their 6-2 road record equalled the best in the league. But they'll be home for New Year's while four teams with lesser records play on.
4. 1954 New York Yankees
The Yankees won five straight World Series from 1949 through 1953, and four consecutive American League pennants from 1955-1958 and in none of those seasons did they win as many games as the 1954 team that finished in second place. With a team featuring five future Hall of Famers, the Bronx Bombers rang up 103 victories yet still finished a full eight games behind the Cleveland Indians, who won a then-AL record 111 games. Their only consolation prize was Yogi Berra's AL MVP award.
5. 2008 Golden State Warriors
In the pitiful Eastern Conference, Golden State's total of 48 wins would have been enough for fourth place. In the powerful Western Conference, it wasn't even enough to make the playoffs. The Warriors finished ninth, two games out of the last postseason berth despite their best record in 14 years. They were also six games better than the previous season, when they not only reached the postseason with just 42 wins, but knocked off the league's best team, the Dallas Mavericks, in the first round.