Super Bowl LVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams will be historic in that it will feature a matchup of the lowest-seeded teams ever. That doesn't mean it won't be a great game or that neither team deserves a shot at the Lombardi Trophy. After all, both earned this opportunity by winning two games. In fact, it's symbolic of the cruel truth of the NFL playoffs.
When it comes to the NFL playoffs, it's entirely possible that the best team, by whatever measure you choose to use, in a given season may not even make it to the Super Bowl, let alone win the big game. It also should be pointed out that in 2021, neither of the top seeds in the conferences — Tennessee (AFC) or Green Bay (NFC) — were truly "great" teams, something that became crystal clear when both lost at home in the Divisional Round.
So amidst the disappointment that these teams are feeling for coming up short, at least the Titans and Packers don't have to worry about becoming the latest members of a somewhat-exclusive club that no one wants to join — the best teams to never win a Super Bowl.
5. 1968 Baltimore Colts
The 1968 Colts were 13-1 and had the second-best offense and top-ranked defense in the NFL. Many sportswriters considered them to be one of the best teams in NFL history. That's what made Joe Namath’s guarantee and subsequent upset in Super Bowl III all the more shocking.
4. 1990 San Francisco 49ers
This team came the closest to three-peating as world champions in the Super Bowl era, going 14-2 and losing to the New York Giants in the final seconds of the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park. If Joe Montana had not gone down with an injury and Roger Craig had not fumbled in the final minutes, the 49ers may have actually pulled it off.
3. 1998 Minnesota Vikings
These Vikings steamrolled opponents with an offense powered by Randall Cunningham, Randy Moss, Cris Carter, and Robert Smith. They went 15-1 but a shocking loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game cut their season short. The Vikings became the first 15-1 team to not win a Super Bowl.
2. 2015 Carolina Panthers
As fans look back on this team that went 15-1 and cruised through the playoffs en route to Super Bowl 50, they likely will likely think only one other runner-up team was better.
1. 2007 New England Patriots
The only team to ever go 16-0 in the regular season would be considered the greatest team of all time if not for a gutsy, game-winning drive by the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. The Patriots entered that Super Bowl as 12-point favorites after beating opponents by an average of 18.6 points per game to get to 18-0.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.