The weirdest NFL teams of the 21st century

It’s hard to categorize these teams and their seasons. Their performances didn’t make any sense.

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This miracle catch by Nate Poole ended the 2003 Vikings’ playoff hopes.

When discussing an NFL team that’s “weird,” it doesn’t mean that they did terrible or great. It doesn’t exactly mean that they were a surprise either. It just means that they’re an outlier, a team that’s hard to describe, a team whose inconsistencies or successes can’t really be contributed to anything other than sheer randomness. That being said, here’s my list.

2001 Chicago Bears

Between 1994 and 2005, the Chicago Bears only made the playoffs once, which was in the 2001 season. After finishing 5-11 the season before and with low expectations, out of nowhere they went 13-3 and secured a number two seed in the NFC. Looking through their roster, the only player of note on their whole team is Brian Urlacher. Their starting QB was Jim Miller, who I doubt is a name that popped into anyone’s head. The Bears’ defense was the best in the league, which is why their record was so great, but they failed to win a playoff game. After this great season, the Bears came back down to earth and followed up with a 4-12 finish in 2002, making this team one of the weirdest and most random ever.

2003 Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings got off to a hot 6-0 start in the 2003 season. With Dante Culpepper as QB and Randy Moss at receiver, the team was sure to hold up and make a splash, right? Somehow, they managed to miss the playoffs all together. They did so by losing on a last second touchdown to a 3-12 Arizona Cardinals team in the last game of the season. Had they avoided giving up this 28-yard touchdown with time expiring, they would’ve won their division, but instead lost to the worst team in the league and cemented themselves as one of the weirdest NFL teams of the 21st century. The Vikings would face a similar fate in the 2016 season, where they started 5-0 but finished 8-8 and out of a playoff spot.

2008-2009 Tennessee Titans

In 2008, with Kerry Collins at quarterback, the Titans managed to start the season 10-0 and were even 12-1 at one point. After that, they lost three of their next four including being upset by the sixth seeded Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round. Despite this, hopes were high for the Titans headed into the 2009 season. They instead started 0-6, with their sixth game being quite possibly the most embarrassing loss in modern NFL history, a 59-0 loss to the Patriots on Sunday Night Football. After this though, they decided to start QB Vince Young to turn it back up and win seven of their next eight, somehow finishing the season 8-8. If you remove a horrible 1-9 stretch in the midst of these two seasons, the Titans were 18-3 in all other games, making them an enigma of a team.

2010 San Diego Chargers

This one’s for sure my favorite. In theory, the 2010 Chargers were a great team. In terms of yards, they actually ranked first in the NFL in offense, and first in the NFL in defense. The only catch was, that they missed the playoffs entirely. How could this be possible? There’s one answer, and it’s the special teams. The 2010 Chargers had an atrocious special teams unit, they had 4 punts blocked and 4 kickoffs or punts returned against them, most of which came in close games early on in their season. The Chargers in 2013 allowed 166 punt return yards for their whole season, the 2010 Chargers gave up 160 punt return yards in their first game. They started off 2-5 and were never able to recover, missing the playoffs despite going 9-7. Many people overlook the importance of special teams, but there’s three parts to an NFL team. This team should’ve been one of the greatest ever, but instead are an anomaly in the NFL’s history.

2014 Carolina Panthers

The 2014 Panthers started off their season with an abysmal 3-8-1 record. At that point, most teams would just give up on their year and tank for a better pick in the draft, except in this case, the Panthers were still in the playoff race. The Panthers somehow managed to pull off four straight wins and win the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record. They also won their wild card game and almost upset the heavily favored Seahawks in the divisional round. The Panthers rode this momentum to a 15-1 finish in 2015 and came up just short in Super Bowl 50.

2016 Detroit Lions

Lions fans were never treated to a dull moment in 2016. The Lions trailed in the 4th quarter for all but one game in their whole season but managed to win eight of those games where they were trailing, finishing with a 9-7 record. Call them the comeback kings, the Lions treated their fans to some intense and down to the wire games in which they mostly won. Their 9-4 start was a big surprise to many, but their magic didn’t last long, as they dropped their next four straight, including a wild card game loss to the Seahawks in the playoffs. The Lions hated winning normally, which makes them one of the weirdest teams of the 21st century.

2017-2018 Jacksonville Jaguars

This is the most confusing collapse I’ve ever seen of a team. If you want to talk about flash in the pan, the 2017 Jaguars were just that. After not making the playoffs for ten seasons, the Jaguars out of nowhere went 10-6 (with Blake Bortles as their QB!) and had they just held their ten point lead to Tom Brady’s Patriots in the 2017 AFC Championship, they would’ve been on their way to the Super Bowl. After this season, many had the Jaguars as Super Bowl favorites. The hype reached an all time high when they got their revenge on the Patriots in week two and started 2-0. But after that, something remarkable happened. The Jaguars just collapsed out of nowhere and finished the season 5-11. This disappointment makes these Jaguars teams a confusing affair.

These teams were all confusing in their nature, but as more seasons pass in the NFL, we might see teams that just get weirder or weirder. The 2020s are bound to help this list expand.