As of 2021, there are only four NFL franchise teams that have never made that all-important trip to the game's premier event, the Super Bowl. These teams are the Cleveland Browns, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Detroit Lions, and the Houston Texans.
This commonality begs the question, which of these four franchises could realistically compete in the Super Bowl in the next three years?
By process of elimination, let's take a look.
Will the Houston Texans make the Super Bowl in the next three years?
It's fair to say that the Texans will not make the Super Bowl within the next three years.
With Deshaun Watson, Houston has a franchise quarterback who can carrry the team on his back all the way to the season finale, as he almost did back in 2019.
But Houston has a major problem. Watson and his quest for a trade away from the team looms large this offseason.
Plus, the NFL's best wideout DeAndre Hopkins and star defensive end J.J. Watt have already left the team, so this franchise is in flux right now. It's hard to picture the Texans winning the AFC South within the next three years, let alone making it to to the Super Bowl for the first time.
Anything can happen in the NFL, so there's always a chance. If Watson opts to stay and the team arms him with quality weapons, the Texans could be a playoff team. On the other hand, if the Texans trade Watston and get an elite player in return, the team's rebuild could be much shorter than expected.
But at this point, Houston look like it's stuck in the middle of an extensive rebuild.It could take a long time before the Texans contend for the Super Bowl.
Will the Detroit Lions make the Super Bowl in the next three years?
Again, the short answer is no, the Lions won't be heading to the playoffs anytime soon. They're a long way away from their first trip to the Super Bowl.
Some of the main factors can be linked to the limitations of new QB Jared Goff and the possible departure of star receiver Kenny Golladay during free agency. Plus, the team's lackluster 2020 draft class could prolong its current mediocrity
But even the Lions quickly improve, they'll have a hard time overcoming some of the NFC's other elite teams. Specifically, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New Orleans Saints are standing in their way.
The Saints have won the NFC South for four years in a row , and with Tom Brady throwing passes for the Buccaneers, they lifted the Lombardi Trophy this past season.
Because the NFC is a stacked conference, it doesn't matter what happens in Detroit. The Lions won't be going to the Super Bowl in the next three years because Sean Payton, Bruce Arians and other exemplary coaches won't allow them to.
Will the Jacksonville Jaguars make the Super Bowl in the next three years?
Jacksonville fans had to endure a horrendous 2020 season. Their team only won one game all season, and the Jaguars finished last in the AFC South. Jacksonville looked like it was many years away from a potential Super Bowl run. Still, the Jaguars could quickly become one of the best teams in the AFC.
Jacksonville has the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and the franchise ahas another first-round pick (Pick 25) and two selections in the second round.
Almost every analyst predicts that Jacksonville will take Trevor Lawrence with the first pick. In fact, if not for the strict COVID-19 regulations, incoming head coach Urban Meyer would probably be sitting at Lawrence's house right now, selling him his visions for the future. Lawrence looks set to be a bonafide superstar in the NFL.
Lawrence could be surrounded by a talented offense right awya if he lands in Jacksonville. James Robinson (1,414 yards from scrimmage and 10 TDs in 2020) is a dynamic playmaker. The team could also use one of its high draft picks to bolster the offensive line in order to protect Lawrence under center.
If the Jaguars spend the rest of their picks wisely, the team could contend for the AFC South next season. It's not exactly the best division in the NFL right now, so Jacksonville could become a divisonal powerhouse sooner rather than later.
Regardless, the team's future hinges on the potential arrival of Lawrence and his adaptation (or lack thereof) to the NFL.
At this moment, even with Lawrence, it's unlikely that the Jaguars will be strong enough to reach the Super Bowl within the next three years.
The Cleveland Browns can reach the Super Bowl within the next three years
Of all teams who have never been to the Super Bowl, the Cleveland Browns have the best chance to make it to the NFL's championship game in a few years.
The reigning Coach of the Year Kevin Stefanski's team came a lot closer to making the title game in 2020 than many fans expected. Another year of his excellent leadership could see the Browns take the leap and go all the way.
Cleveland's roster is packed full of talent in all areas. The Browns have the best running back combination in the league with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and they have two of the league's premier receivers in Odell Beckham Jr and Jarvis Landry.
On defense, the Browns boast an impressive pass rush that features Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon. In theory, Cleveland has all the pieces in place, so it's easy to see how quarterback Baker Mayfield could take the team to the Super Bowl, epecially when an elite coach is leading the way.
Which of these teams do you expect to compete in the Super Bowl? Sound off in the comments below.