The NFL works its way toward crowning another Super Bowl champion. The NFC and AFC Championship Game will determine the two finalists to take home the Lombardi Trophy. And there are still a handful of teams trying to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.
Heading into the 2023 NFL season, four teams had never taken part in a Super Bowl. Two of those teams are the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns. Their fans have dealt with rough histories and dealing with that has become a rite of passage for their fans. The other two teams are the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans. Both are expansion teams from the past 30 years that have had solid seasons, but have not been able to get over the top.
The Lions have won a world championship, but it came prior to the AFL/NFL merger and the development of the Super Bowl. Detroit won four World Championships, claiming a title in 1935 and then winning three titles between 1952 and 1957. Since the merger, their best performance was a loss in the NFC Championship in 1991. They finished 12-4 and won the NFC Central title. They had the second best record in the NFC and beat the Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional Round. They lost to the Washington Football Team 41-10 in the conference title game.
The Browns have also won world championships prior to the Super Bowl era, and were arguably the most successful pro football franchise prior to the AFL/NFL merger. Cleveland started in the All-America Football Conference and won four straight championships from 1946 to 1949. The league dissolved after those first four seasons and the Browns moved to the NFL. They won four championships in the NFL, including 1950, 1954, 1955, and 1964.
Since the launch of the Super Bowl era in 1966-67, the best the Browns have done is reach the AFC Championship. They lost in the conference title game in 1968, 1969, 1986, 1987, and 1989. The team relocated to Baltimore after the 1995 season, but the city of Cleveland retained the logo, team colors, and full franchise history for when they eventually got an expansion Browns team in 1999.
The Jaguars were one of the more successful expansion teams out of the game. They finished in last place in their first season (1995), but then reached the AFC Championship in their second season and again in their fifth season. They most recently reached the AFC Championship in 2017. They lost that game 24-20 to the New England Patriots.
The Texans joined the league in 2002 to replace the Oilers after the latter’s move to Tennessee. Unlike the Browns, the Oilers took the logo, team colors, and franchise history with them to Nashville. The Texans have seven playoff appearances, but have never advanced past the Divisional Round. They have reached the Divisional round five times.