Ranking the 25 Greatest NFL Teams of the Super Bowl Era
When looking at the greatest NFL teams of the Super Bowl era, you have to consider a wide variety of characteristics.
You see, you can't just look at offensive statistics because of how the game has evolved. You also can't look purely at records because they too can be misleading.
No, when ranking the 25 greatest teams of the Super Bowl era, you need to dig deeper. That's what we've done, and here is the list.
25. 2011 New Orleans Saints
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It's been a record-breaking year for the New Orleans Saints in 2011.
Just this Monday, Drew Brees broke Dan Marino's record of passing yards in a single season. They are currently one of the hottest teams in the NFL, and they run one of the most efficient and high-powered offenses the game has ever seen.
If this team should win the Super Bowl this year, it would climb these rankings rather rapidly.
24. 1998 Minnesota Vikings
The 1998 Minnesota Vikings were the ones who really brought back the explosive offense to the NFL.
With Randy Moss as just a young, innocent rookie playing alongside Cris Carter and Randall Cunningham, the Vikings set the NFL record for team points in a single season.
They finished the regular season 15-1 and were an overtime loss away from the Super Bowl.
23. 1983 Los Angeles Raiders
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Where the 1983 Los Angeles Raiders really separated themselves as an elite football team was in the postseason. Sure, their 12-4 regular-season record was nice, but in the playoffs they simply dominated.
They outscored their three opponents in the playoffs by a score of 106-33. Their defense was brutal, and Marcus Allen provided all the offense this team would need.
While the Raiders' stay in Los Angeles was short, they made the most of it with their 1983 Super Bowl victory.
22. 1969 Minnesota Vikings
Led by legendary coach Bud Grant, the 1969 Minnesota Vikings are often considered one of the best teams to not win a Super Bowl.
They came up short in the final game against the Kansas City Chiefs, but up until that point they were a force to be reckoned with.
What made them such a difficult team to beat was their fantastic defensive line. This unit contained players like Alan Page, Gary Larsen, Jim Marshall and Carl Eller. They were ferocious and brought everything they had every single time they stepped on the field.
Famously christened the "Purple People Eaters," few defensive lines have ever been as good as the one the Vikings had back in 1969.
21. 1986 New York Giants
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If you want to talk about great defenses, one team that needs to be brought up is the 1986 New York Giants.
This team featured Lawrence Taylor, who was the consensus pick for league MVP that year. In the playoffs leading up to the Super Bowl, the Giants beat their two opponents by a score of 66-3.
It was also the first Super Bowl victory for Bill Parcells and really launched his career into elite status.
20. 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers
The 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers were the beginning of the dominance of the NFL by this franchise.
They were led by Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, John Stallworth and Jack Lambert. They had six players make the Pro Bowl and seven be named to the All-Pro team.
This was just the start of a very successful decade for the Steelers.
19. 2000 Baltimore Ravens
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In just their fifth year as an NFL franchise, the Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV against the New York Giants.
This was a defensive team to the core and was led by the one and only Ray Lewis. In fact, many consider the 2000 Ravens to have the worst winning quarterback in Super Bowl history with Trent Dilfer taking that honor.
The Ravens gave up only 970 rushing yards over the course of the year and five rushing touchdowns. They are considered one of the best defensive groups in NFL history.
18. 1996 Green Bay Packers
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Who could forget the 1996 Green Bay Packers?
With a young and energetic Brett Favre, the "Minister of Defense" Reggie White and super return man Desmond Howard, Green Bay steamrolled the rest of the NFL.
The Packers had the highest-scoring offense, and they allowed the fewest points on defense. When you do that, it usually means your team is going to be really, really good.
17. 1999 St. Louis Rams
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The 1999 season was the beginning of "The Greatest Show on Turf" for the St. Louis Rams.
It was an improbable run at greatness by a team led by the unknown Kurt Warner. He teamed with Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt to form one of the most potent offenses the league had ever seen.
They led the NFL in almost every offensive category on their way to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIV.
16. 1971 Dallas Cowboys
To be considered one of the greatest teams ever, you often need to have one of the greatest coaches ever. I think it would be safe to say that Tom Landry falls into that category.
Surprisingly, the strongest part of this team wasn't quarterback or wide receiver, but the offensive line. With players like Forrest Gregg, Rayfield Wright, Ralph Neely and John Niland, this unit was one of the greatest to ever play the game.
This team was actually rather mediocre until Landry settled on Roger Staubach as his starting quarterback. When that happened, this team took over the league.
15. 1976 Oakland Raiders
The 1976 Oakland Raiders posted a 13-1 regular-season record and won Super Bowl XI.
Their only loss came in Week 4 against the New England Patriots, but after that loss, this team become unbeatable. Teams couldn't even get close to beating the Raiders.
Thanks to the brilliant coaching of John Madden and the receiving trio of Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch and Dave Casper, this season was the greatest season in Raiders history.
14. 2004 New England Patriots
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The 2004 season was the final season of the New England Patriots' dominance in the early century. Their Super Bowl victory was their third championship in four years.
Their roster was absolutely stacked with playmakers. From Tom Brady and Corey Dillon to Rodney Harrison and Asante Samuel, this team basically read like a Pro Bowl roster.
The Pats finished the regular season 14-2 and cruised through the playoffs to land another title.
13. 1998 Denver Broncos
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If there was a ever a way to end a career, back-to-back Super Bowls would be quite the way to go out.
That is exactly how John Elway ended his career by winning the Super Bowl in 1997 and 1998. The 1998 season was the better of the two Denver Broncos teams.
Of course there was Elway and then 2,000-yard rusher Terrell Davis. On defense, Steve Atwater and Bill Romanowski held down the fort.
At the end of the season, the Broncos sent nine players to the Pro Bowl.
12. 2001 St. Louis Rams
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The 2001 season marked the third straight season that a member of the St. Louis Rams won the MVP Award.
Kurt Warner brought home his second award in three years as he led an incredibly potent offense in St. Louis. They destroyed teams in the regular season and during the NFC divisional game and NFC championship game.
However, they met their match when they played the New England Patriots and Tom Brady in Super Bowl XXXVI. Their loss started the legend of Mr. Brady.
11. 2011 Green Bay Packers
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This may seem a little high for a team that hasn't even finished the current season yet, but people were talking about the Green Bay Packers possibly being the best team in NFL history if they completed the perfect season.
While that didn't happen, I believe they still deserve consideration for just how good they have been. Aaron Rodgers is having one of the better seasons by a quarterback that anyone has ever seen. While their defense has been pedestrian at best, their offense has been nearly unstoppable.
If this team repeats as Super Bowl champions, it would have to be considered one of the top five teams to ever play the game.
10. 1973 Miami Dolphins
While everyone remembers the Miami Dolphins' 1972 season, they often seem to forget that their 1973 team finished with only two losses and also produced a Super Bowl.
With a much more difficult schedule, the Dolphins still posted the best record in the NFL. Their roster had most of the same pieces of the previous year's team, including Larry Csonka, Bob Griese and Nick Buoniconti.
In their three playoff games, they only allowed 33 points while scoring 85. This team wasn't as dominant as the 1972 squad, but it was still one of the better teams in NFL history.
9. 1992 Dallas Cowboys
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I think people forget just how good the Dallas Cowboys were in the early 1990s. Even though they had such a young team, they all played like seasoned veterans.
The offense was explosive and led by Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, and the defense was the best in the league.
This team played one of the better NFC championship games against the San Francisco 49ers, and many people expected a similarly exciting game against the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl. However, the Cowboys showed their true dominance on their way to a 52-17 blowout victory over Buffalo.
8. 1991 Washington Redskins
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The 1991 Washington Redskins fielded one of the best receiving corps to ever step on the field.
With Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders at his disposal, quarterback Mark Rypien completely shredded opposing defenses on the way to a 14-2 regular-season record and a Super Bowl victory.
One interesting fact about this Redskins team was that during the playoffs they never trailed their opponent. Now if that doesn't prove how good you are, I don't know what does.
7. 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers
The 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers had a ridiculous 10 players named to the Pro Bowl at the end of the season.
This was the team's third Super Bowl season. At this point in the '70s, the "Steel Curtain" was at its best. Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and L.C. Greenwood absolutely terrorized opposing offenses.
Quarterback Terry Bradshaw had a career year thanks to Lynn Swann and Franco Harris. The Steelers crushed their opponents in the AFC playoffs and won a memorable Super Bowl over the Dallas Cowboys.
What's scary is that this wasn't even the Steelers' best team of the decade.
6. 1994 San Francisco 49ers
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I'm just going to list some of the players on the 1994 San Francisco 49ers roster: Steve Young, Ricky Watters, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Richard Dent, Bryant Young, Ken Norton Jr. and Deion Sanders.
How could any other team compete with that? Well, the truth is that no other team really could, as the 49ers finished the regular season with a 13-3 record.
They beat the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX by a score of 49-26. In that game, Young threw six touchdown passes. He also led the team in rushing with 49 yards.
5. 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers
I told you the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers weren't the franchise's best team of the decade. No, that honor went to the 1979 squad.
The roster was basically the same; the players were just older, wiser and better. Their defense continued to be the most feared in the league, and no one had enough weapons on defense to stop their numerous playmakers on offense.
This was a truly dominant team and the last great team of a decade that was owned by the Steelers.
4. 1989 San Francisco 49ers
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No other team was as dominant throughout the playoffs as the 1989 San Francisco 49ers.
They outscored their opponents by a score of 126-26 in just three games. They dropped 55 points in the Super Bowl against John Elway and the Denver Broncos.
This team didn't simply beat you; it tore you up into tiny pieces and ate you for breakfast. It's likely that there will never be another team as good as the 49ers were in the playoffs this year.
3. 2007 New England Patriots
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It's crazy to think that the 2007 New England Patriots were one ridiculous catch away from completing the second perfect season in NFL history.
On their way to a 16-0 regular-season record, the Patriots broke numerous NFL records. Tom Brady threw for a record 50 touchdown passes, and Randy Moss caught a record 23 of those touchdowns.
Their defense wasn't too shabby either with Vince Wilfork, Mike Vrabel and Asante Samuel all making the Pro Bowl. All in all, this team had eight players voted to the Pro Bowl, and nine players landed on the All-Pro team.
Had David Tyree not made that one catch, it's likely the Patriots would have been considered the greatest team ever.
2. 1972 Miami Dolphins
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As the only team in the Super Bowl era to finish the year with a perfect record, the 1972 Miami Dolphins need to be considered one of the best teams to ever play the game.
Some might say that they had an easy schedule, and while that may be the case (they didn't play a team with a record better than 8-6 all season long), they still did something that no other team has ever done.
They didn't have a spectacular offense or a stingy defense. They simply had a well-coached team and gave 110 percent every time they stepped on the field.
Of course, Mercury Morris might think this team was the best to ever play the game, but that honor belongs to a different team. He'll have to settle for second place.
1. 1985 Chicago Bears
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If you want the best team of the Super Bowl era, look no further than the 1985 Chicago Bears. I will warn you that if you look too far, you may come up with something you won't like.
This team was led by the greatest defense to ever step on the field. They only allowed 198 points during the regular season.
People often forget that their offense wasn't too shabby either. Led by Walter Payton and Jim McMahon, the '85 Bears could put some points on the board.
They finished the regular season 15-1 and won Super Bowl XX by a score of 46-10. There is little doubt that this is the best football team of the Super Bowl era.