The 50 Best Teams of 2012

Zack PumerantzAnalyst IIIDecember 4, 2012

The 50 Best Teams of 2012

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    A year that brought us Gangnam Style, Round 2 of Titanic and Honey Boo Boo is nearing an end. According to ancient Mayan script, it may be our last.

    With that said, let's check out the best teams of 2012, a year dominated by handful of talented squads that truly inspired and escaped on top.

    Presenting the 50 best teams of 2012.

50. Cincinnati Reds, MLB

1 of 50

    2012 Record: 97-65

    2012 Result: Loss in NLDS

    Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are powerfully turning this team into the Big Red Machine of old. But not yet.

49. Indiana Pacers, NBA

2 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 42-24

    2012 Result: Loss in Eastern Conference semifinals

    Danny Granger and Paul George infused their Pacers with a remarkable grit that hasn't been seen around Indiana since the Reggie Miller days.

48. Chicago Bears, NFL

3 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 8-8

    2012 Result: 8-4 start to the current season

    The Bears became the first team in NFL history to return seven interceptions for touchdowns in the first eight contests in a season, proving to be more lethal on defense than many NFL offenses.

    Cutler-to-Marshall is the new fad.

47. Ohio State Buckeyes Basketball, NCAA

4 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 31-8

    2012 Result: Final Four loss

    Crafty 260-pound forward Jared Sullinger paved the way for Buckeye success with 17.5 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. And then came Kansas.

46. Chicago Bulls, NBA

5 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 50-16

    2012 Result: Loss in first round of Eastern Conference playoffs

    Derrick Rose's ACL tear sparked a lengthy depression. Chicago awaits its heart and soul.

45. Denver Broncos, NFL

6 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 8-8, loss in AFC Divisional Round

    2012 Result: 9-3 start to season, clinched playoff berth

    Forget Tebowmania, the Broncos are sitting at 9-3 after winning their seventh straight. Peyton Manning has the chance to win both the Comeback Player of the Year and MVP awards—in the same season.

44. Texas Rangers, MLB

7 of 50

    2012 Record: 93-69

    2012 Result: Loss in Wild Card Game

    After back-to-back World Series losses, the Rangers completely crumbled this past October. But they remain elite.

43. Florida Gators Football, NCAA

8 of 50

    2012 Record: 11-1

    2012 Result: Sugar Bowl berth

    Quarterback Jeff Driskel may not be Tim Tebow, but with 11 touchdowns and a 64.8 completion percentage, he's certainly not a surcharge-free ATM. Awaiting a trip to the Sugar Bowl.

42. Kansas Jayhawks Basketball, NCAA

9 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 32-7

    2012 Result: Loss in National Championship

    Led by ESPN.com National Player of the Year Thomas Robinson, Kansas nearly matched Kentucky in terms of perfection, but the Jayhawks couldn't quite match the Wildcats' youthful exuberance.

41. New York Yankees, MLB

10 of 50

    2012 Record: 95-67

    2012 Result: Loss in ALCS

    Another flashy year, another postseason debacle for Alex Rodriguez.

40. Chelsea FC, Soccer

11 of 50

    2011-2012 Finish: 18-10-10 (64 points)

    2012 Result: Seventh FA Cup and first UEFA Champions League title

    Despite its lowest domestic finish since 2001-02, Chelsea made some serious noise.

39. Stanford Cardinal Football, NCAA

12 of 50

    2012 Record: 11-2

    2012 Result: Rose Bowl berth

    Andrew Luck gone? No problem for David Shaw's focused unit.

38. Memphis Grizzlies, NBA

13 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 41-25

    2012 Result: Loss in first round of Western Conference playoffs

    Rudy Gay takes another step toward "franchise player," while Zach Randolph mans the paint.

37. Atlanta Falcons, NFL

14 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 10-6, loss in Wild Card Round

    2012 Result: 11-1 start to the season, clinched playoff berth

    After a disappointing finish to last season, the Matty Ice Falcons are off to an 11-1 start. Johnny Abraham has another double-digit sack total as well (10).

36. Kansas State Wildcats Football, NCAA

15 of 50

    2012 Record: 11-1

    2012 Result: Fiesta Bowl berth

    Before being upset by the Baylor Bears, 52-24, Kansas State was soaring up the charts. Now the Wildcats will face the high-flying Ducks in their third Fiesta Bowl ever.

35. Baltimore Orioles, MLB

16 of 50

    2012 Record: 93-69

    2012 Result: Loss in ALDS

    Unlikely contributions and the emergence of Taiwanese starter Wei-Yin Chen paved the way for a franchise-changing year.

34. Los Angeles Lakers, NBA

17 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 41-25

    2012 Result: Loss in Western Conference semifinals

    And then came the offseason revamp. We're waiting on the progress.

33. Borussia Dortmund, Soccer

18 of 50

    2011-2012 Finish: 81 points

    2012 Result: DFB-Pokal Champions

    Defeated Bayern Munich for the league championship, proving to be far from an afterthought.

32. Houston Texans, NFL

19 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 10-6, loss in AFC Divisional Round

    2012 Result: 11-1 thus far, clinched playoff berth

    Following their first playoff appearance, the high-flying Texans, without an injured Matt Schaub, beat the Bengals in the Wild Card Round before bowing down to the physical Ravens. This year, it's all about J.J. Watt and that roaring Houston defense.

31. Oregon Ducks Football, NCAA

20 of 50

    2012 Record: 11-1

    2012 Result: Fiesta Bowl berth

    Marcus Mariota with 30 passing touchdowns, Kenjon Barner with 1,624 yards and 21 rushing touchdowns, Oregon fans with smiles.

30. FC Barcelona, Soccer

21 of 50

    2011-2012 Finish: 28-7-3 (91 points)

    2012 Result: Copa del Rey, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, Supercopa de Espana

    Perhaps on the decline, but still among the elite.

29. Ohio State Buckeyes Football, NCAA

22 of 50

    2012 Record: 12-0

    2012 Result: N/A

    Postseason ineligibility didn't prevent the Braxton Miller-led Buckeyes from running the table.

28. Manchester City FC, Soccer

23 of 50

    2011-2012 Finish: 28-5-5 (89 points)

    2012 Result: First Premier League title in team history

    The championship marked Manchester City's first English title since 1968.

27. Oakland Athletics, MLB

24 of 50

    2012 Record: 94-68

    2012 Result: Loss in ALDS

    Lowest payroll in baseball at $59.5 million. Moneyball comes through again for Billy Beane and Co.

26. Georgia Bulldogs Football, NCAA

25 of 50

    2012 Record: 11-2

    2012 Result: Loss in SEC Championship, trip to Capital One Bowl

    Junior Aaron Murray's 3,466 passing yards and 31 touchdowns have quietly paved the way.

25. LSU Tigers Football, NCAA

26 of 50

    2012 Record: 10-2

    2012 Result: Chick-fil-A Bowl berth

    Jarvis Landry's one-handed catches have set the tone for another promising season under Les Miles.

24. Texas A&M Aggies Football, NCAA

27 of 50

    2012 Record: 10-2

    2012 Results: Cotton Bowl Classic berth

    In the tone of a Stephen A. Smith, freshman Heisman Trophy candidate Johnny Manziel is a "baaad" man.

23. Juventus FC, Soccer

28 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 23-15-0 (84 points)

    2012 Result: Serie A championship

    The third undefeated campaign in Serie A history was simply breathtaking.

22. Baylor Lady Bears Basketball, NCAA

29 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 40-0

    2012 Result: National Championship

    Brittney Griner, a 6'8" Sequoia of a center, ran the show.

21. New York Rangers, NHL

30 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 51-24-7 (109 points)

    2012 Result: Loss in Eastern Conference Finals

    After Marian Gaborik scored near the end of the third overtime of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to beat the Capitals, fans knew this year would be special. This optimism was further cemented when Brad Richards tied Game 5 with 6.6 seconds to go.

    Unfortunately, the gritty Rangers couldn't fend off the Devils in the conference finals.

20. Alabama Crimson Tide Football, NCAA

31 of 50

    2012 Record: 12-1

    2012 Result: BCS National Championship berth

    Despite losing tailback Trent Richardson to the NFL, the Crimson Tide have not lost a step as they prepare to defend their national championship.

    This time, against Manti Te'o and his golden Notre Dame unit.

19. Boston Celtics, NBA

32 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 39-27

    2012 Result: Loss in Eastern Conference Finals

    Led by Paul Pierce's 19.4 points, Rajon Rondo's 11.7 assists and Kevin Garnett's intensity, the aging Celtics continued to find success. They took the Heat to seven games before crumbling to a younger and more talented unit.

18. St. Louis Cardinals, MLB

33 of 50

    2012 Record: 88–74

    2012 Result: Loss in NLCS

    Losing all-world slugger Albert Pujols didn't keep the Cardinals from tempting the unlikely. Still running off the rally squirrel's energy, the Cards watched five players hit 20-plus home runs, Yadier Molina enjoy a MVP-type year and starters combine for a 3.62 ERA.

17. Phoenix Coyotes, NHL

34 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 47-27-13 (97 points)

    2012 Result: Loss in the Western Conference Finals

    Led by veteran winger Radim Vrbata's team-high 35 goals and Ray Whitney's 53 assists, this Coyotes squad shocked the hockey world and quietly progressed deep into the playoffs.

    And how could we forget the Phoenix wallpaper, goalie Mike Smith, who owned a 2.21 GAA, 38 wins and eight shutouts?

16. Green Bay Packers, NFL

35 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 15-1, loss in NFC Divisional Round

    2012 Result: Currently 8-4 entering Week 14

    After achieving the best record in Green Bay history, the Packers seemed nearly immortal. Aaron Rodgers, while breaking every quarterback record known to man, has climbed the ladder of greatness while tossing score after score.

15. Real Madrid C.F., Soccer

36 of 50

    2011-2012 Finish: 100 points

    2012 Result: 32nd La Liga title

    Scored a record 121 goals last season—the year of the torn history books.

14. Washington Nationals, MLB

37 of 50

    2012 Record: 98-64

    2012 Result: Loss in NLDS

    Never dropping below the .500 mark, the blossoming Nationals honorably plowed through the competition with prolific pitching and timely hitting. A brash 19-year-old infusion named Bryce Harper fueled the machine.

13. New Jersey Devils, NHL

38 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 48-28-6 (102 points)

    2012 Result: Loss in the Stanley Cup Final

    Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and David Clarkson combined for 98 goals, and goaltending legend Martin Brodeur did what Martin Brodeur does.

    Though, did anyone really predict a championship-round appearance?

12. New England Patriots, NFL

39 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 13-3, lost in Super Bowl

    2012 Result: 9-3 thus far, clinched playoff berth

    Thanks to Tom Brady's 5,235 yards and 39 touchdowns, Rob Gronkowski's bruising emergence and a missed kick by Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff in the AFC Championship Game, the Pats achieved another Super Bowl berth. And then became the fourth team to lose four Super Bowls.

11. Detroit Tigers, MLB

40 of 50

    2012 Record: 88-74

    2012 Result: Loss to Giants in World Series

    While baby-faced slugger Miguel Cabrera hauled in the Triple Crown hardware, his Tigers couldn't complete their journey toward the promised land as they were swept by the Giants.

10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football, NCAA

41 of 50

    2012 Record: 12-0

    2012 Result: BCS National Championship berth

    With 103 tackles, seven interceptions, 11 pass deflections and a fierce nature, Samoan linebacker Manti Te'o has led a rejuvenated unit back to golden-helmeted prosperity. The Fighting Irish continue to close in on perfection.

9. Kentucky Wildcats Basketball, NCAA

42 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 38-2

    2012 Result: NCAA Championship

    With a young crop of mostly one-and-dones, led by unibrowed phenom Anthony Davis, the Wildcats shattered all expectations and utterly dominated the collegiate hardwood.

    There was never really a doubt.

8. San Antonio Spurs, NBA

43 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 50-16

    2012 Result: Loss to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals

    After sweeping the Jazz and Clippers in the first two rounds, the Spurs appeared unbeatable. That was until they met the high-flying Thunder, who dropped San Antonio in six games. Still a marvelous season for Pop's seasoned squad.

7. FC Bayern Munich, Soccer

44 of 50

    2011-2012 Final Table: 73 points

    2012 Result: Loss in UEFA Champions League final

    A Champions League final only one week after the German Cup final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund proved Bayern to be among the best, most active teams in the world. Franck Ribery was at the heart of it all.

6. San Francisco 49ers, NFL

45 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 13-3, loss in NFC Championship Game

    2012 Result: 8-3-1 entering Week 14

    With fiery Jim Harbaugh at the helm, a potent defense shattering offenses and quarterback Alex Smith finally discovering a productive groove, the Niners made a serious statement in the 2012 postseason.

    Colin Kaepernick is making the rich even richer.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA

46 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 47-19

    2012 Result: Loss in the NBA Finals

    After defeating the steaming Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, the Thunder seemed destined for a first title in Oklahoma City. Kevin Durant's league-high 28.0 points per game and Serge Ibaka's league-leading 3.6 blocks paved the way. As did Russell Westbrook's swagger.

4. Los Angeles Kings, NHL

47 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 40-27-15 (95 points)

    2012 Result: Stanley Cup victory

    Finishing eighth in the Western Conference didn't stop the underdog Kings from gliding across opponents with ease. Behind Jonathan Quick's 1.41 goals allowed average in the playoffs and Dustin Penner's postseason beard, the Kings captured their first cup.

3. New York Giants, NFL

48 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 9-7, Super Bowl victory

    2012 Result: 7-5 entering Week 14

    Eli Manning won his second Super Bowl MVP as his Giants ran the table on a handful of potent powerhouses in the 2012 playoffs, ending with the Patriots.

    The Giants are off to a 7-5 start this season, as they keep the NFC East in their back pocket.

2. San Francisco Giants, MLB

49 of 50

    2012 Record: 94-68

    2012 Result: World Series title

    After becoming the first National League team in history to come back from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five series by sweeping the Reds in Cincinnati, the Giants rolled to a dominant championship victory, sweeping the powerful Tigers.

    Comeback-kid Giants win their second World Series title in three years.

1. Miami Heat, NBA

50 of 50

    2011-2012 Record: 46-20

    2012 Result: NBA Championship

    LeBron James gets his coveted ring; Dwyane Wade paves the way for his buddy to lead the team; Chris Bosh plays third wheel, willfully. A melting pot of dominance.