I have the 1974 Oakland Raiders at No. 9, but John Madden believed that they were the best. I guess that's why he has them rated so high among his historical teams in his video game.
They did have six Hall of Famers in kicker George Blanda, corner Willie Brown, receiver Fred Biletnikoff, center Jim Otto, guard Gene Upshaw and tackle Art Shell. With most of the Hall of Famers included, the Raiders had nine players make it to the Pro Bowl that year.
The offense was the mainstay of that team, ranking No. 2 overall, No. 3 rushing and No. 6 passing. The defense was average, ranking No. 16 overall, No. 13 against the pass and No. 21 against the run.
But the defense stepped up in the playoffs, ranking No. 4 overall, No. 1 against the pass and No. 7 against the run. The Raiders compiled the rankings on the way to a 12-2 record and an AFC Championship game.
Manny believed the Raiders loss was due to complacency after beating the defending champion Dolphins. Madden did provide some bulletin material by saying, "The two best teams in the NFL just played today."
The Steelers did hear that, but I believe the Raiders lost because of the exciting, emotionally draining "Sea of Hands" game they just won. In the closing seconds, Kenny Stabler on the way down but somehow threw ball, and Clarence Davis pulled it in from a "Sea of Hands" to score the winning touchdown.
I saw it on NFL Films, and the celebration was at least as big as any AFC Championship win. Unfortunately, it was only the divisional round so there was no week off before they play again like the Super Bowl.
The Pittsburgh Steelers then showed the drained Raiders how to start a dynasty.