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Which NFL team is on longest drought without a Conference Championship Game appearance?

The Cincinnati Bengals have ended a 33-year wait for a spot in a Conference Championship Game, leaving the unwanted record jointly in the hands of two new teams.


The Cincinnati Bengals’ Divisional Round win over the Tennessee Titans ended the NFL’s longest active run without an appearance in a Conference Championship Game.

Bengals end 33-year Conference Championship Game drought

Prior to beating the Titans 19-16 on Saturday, the Bengals had not made it to the Conference Championship for 33 years: not since the 1988 season, when a 21-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills earned Cincinnati the AFC crown.

That victory took the Bengals through to Super Bowl XXIII, which they lost 21-16 to the San Francisco 49ers.

The Washington Football Team haven't reached the Conference Championship Game since the 1991 season.
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The Washington Football Team haven't reached the Conference Championship Game since the 1991 season.Chris UngerAFP

WFT, Lions now the longest Conference Championship absentees

Now, Cincinnati’s unwanted record has been passed to the Washington Football Team and the Detroit Lions, who have both failed to make the conference decider in 30 years.

The two franchises last reached the Conference Championship Game in the 1991 season, when they faced off for the NFC title. Washington defeated the Lions 41-10, before claiming their third Super Bowl championship by beating the Bills 37-24.

Conference Championship Game's longest active absentees

TeamYears since last appearanceSeason last appearance madeResult
1=Detroit Lions (NFC)
301991Lost 41-10 to WFT
1=Washington Football Team (NFC)301991Won 41-10 against Lions
3=Cleveland Browns (AFC)
291989Lost 37-21 to Broncos
3=Miami Dolphins (AFC)
291992Lost 29-10 to Bills
5Dallas Cowboys (NFC)261995Won 38-27 against Packers

Browns, Dolphins and Cowboys complete top five

The third-longest active run without reaching the Conference Championship Game is now in the joint possession of the Cleveland Browns and the Miami Dolphins.

Although the Browns last competed for the AFC title in the 1989 campaign - losing to the Denver Broncos - their drought is only counted at 29 years, as the organisation disappeared for three seasons, between 1996 and 1998, after being re-located to Baltimore.

The Dolphins haven't had a crack at the Conference Championship since the 1992 season, when a Miami team still featuring Don Sula and Dan Marino were beaten to the AFC title by the Bills.

Finally, the Dallas Cowboys have been waiting 26 years to return to the NFC Championship Game - since beating the Green Bay Packers in 1995, on their way to their fifth NFL title.


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