Power Ranking Every Super Bowl Champion in NFL History

Nick Kostora@@nickkostoraContributor IIIJanuary 31, 2013

Power Ranking Every Super Bowl Champion in NFL History

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    Who is the greatest Super Bowl champion in NFL history?

    It is a question that is often asked, but one that is quite difficult to answer. Every team that has hoisted the Lombardi Trophy has been great, but some were just better than others.

    When power ranking every Super Bowl champion in history, who rises above the rest?

    Is anyone better than the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins? Where do the great 1985 Chicago Bears fit in?

    Let's answer these questions and more, starting with the "worst" team ever to win it all...

47. Super Bowl XL: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Sometimes it's not the best overall team that wins the Super Bowl, but the one that gets the hottest down the stretch.

    Enter the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Pittsburgh started the season 7-5 before catching fire and riding that momentum (and Jerome Bettis) all the way to the Super Bowl.

    The actual title game was marked by poor refereeing and trick plays, but the Steelers did enough to outlast the Seattle Seahawks.

    However, they did not do enough to move past the distinction of weakest Super Bowl champion of all time.

46. Super Bowl III: New York Jets

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    The mystique and aura surrounding Joe Namath's guaranteed victory in Super Bowl III helps to cloud the reality that the New York Jets were not a great team.

    Namath completed just 49.2 percent of his passes during the regular season that year and threw 17 interceptions compared to 15 touchdowns. Still, New York finished with an 11-3 record.

    It is hard to overlook the significance of the Jets legitimizing the AFL and proving that the league could compete with the NFL, but this New York team does not stack up well when compared to other Super Bowl victors.

45. Super Bowl XV: Oakland Raiders

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    As the first wild-card team to ever win the Super Bowl, the 1980 Oakland Raiders were bound to find themselves low on this list.

    Quarterback Jim Plunkett came off the bench early in the season and helped rescue the Raiders from turmoil. The 33-year-old signal-caller led the team to an 11-5 record and threw 18 touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions.

    The game was actually a rematch of a regular-season matchup that the Eagles won by a score of 10-7. In that contest, Plunkett was sacked eight times. Oakland kept him upright in the title game, though, and brought home the Lombardi Trophy as a result.

    Still, finishing second in the AFC West in an era when there were only three divisions is not exactly a symbol of strength.

44. Super Bowl XXXVI: New England Patriots

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    The first of three Super Bowls that the New England Patriots would win in four years, Super Bowl XXXVI was a proverbial "Cinderella story."

    Quarterback Tom Brady took over for the injured Drew Bledsoe during the regular season and led the Patriots all the way to their first title in franchise history. Few thought New England stood much of a chance against the St. Louis Rams, but even fewer knew what Brady would become.

    The Patriots did not set the world on fire during the regular season but posted a solid 11-5 record and overcame a 24th-ranked defense.

    New England was also the beneficiary of a generous "Tuck Rule" call against the Oakland Raiders in the divisional round of its playoff run that season.

43. Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants

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    The New York Giants won Super Bowl XXV by a few feet...literally.

    Buffalo Bills kicker Scott Norwood missed a potential game-winning kick and helped elevate the Giants to the status of the immortals.

    New York was a team that had to overcome plenty of adversity en route to the Super Bowl, as quarterback Phil Simms was injured during the team's playoff run.

    What helped the Giants win the Super Bowl was their elite defense, as the unit allowed just 13.2 points per game on the season—well, that and Norwood.

42. Super Bowl V: Baltimore Colts

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    The Super Bowl V champion Baltimore Colts were a great team. They marched to an 11-2-1 regular-season record and had stars like DL Bubba Smith and QB Johnny Unitas on the roster.

    But the big game was called the "Blunder Bowl" for a reason. There were 11 total turnovers in the game, and the Colts committed seven of them.

    The MVP of the contest was not even a member of the winning team. That distinction went to Dallas Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley.

41. Super Bowl XLII: New York Giants

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    Ah, yes, the year the Giants were "giant killers."

    Super Bowl XLII will be remembered as the time that New York somehow found a way to take down the previously undefeated New England Patriots to capture the title.

    It was shocking, surprising and exciting to watch. Along the way, the Giants reeled off 11 straight road wins and beat the top two seeds in the NFC in the playoffs.

    New York would undoubtedly be higher on this list if it had posted a better record in the regular season than 10-6.

40. Super Bowl IX: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Would you believe that in 1974, Terry Bradshaw completed just 67 passes for 785 yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions after replacing Joe Gilliam?

    Super Bowl IX was just the first title for what would become a great decade for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it was certainly the weakest showing from the team.

    Pittsburgh went 10-3-1 in the regular season and had to grind out a tough 16-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings to capture the Lombardi Trophy. The Steelers were already showcasing one of the best defensive units of all time that season, but they were nowhere near the heights they would reach later in the '70s.

39. Super Bowl XXXV: Baltimore Ravens

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    There is a lot of love given to the 2000 Baltimore Ravens because of their exceptional play defensively. That love is justified, but it often overlooks just how pedestrian Baltimore's offense was that season.

    Trent Dilfer—yes, Trent Dilfer—was the starting QB for most of the season (having replaced Tony Banks), and the Ravens passing attack ranked just 22nd in the NFL. Jamal Lewis was an absolute tank as a rookie running back, but that did little to shield the average play of Dilfer.

    Again, though, the defense truly was one of the best ever; Baltimore allowed only 970 rushing yards all season. That said, the Ravens were far from being one of the best teams ever.

38. Super Bowl XXIII: San Francisco 49ers

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    Super Bowl XXIII was impressive if only for the fact that this was San Francisco's weakest team to win it all. Quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young alternated starts in the regular season until Montana eventually took the reins full-time.

    This team was also the weakest one out of all of Montana's Super Bowl runs. San Francisco finished just 10-6 during the regular season, and the team's receptions leader was none other than Roger Craig.

    You know it's a bit of an odd year when Craig beats out Jerry Rice in that particular department, but such was the case in 1988.

    The actual Super Bowl is most noteworthy for Montana leading one of his patented game-winning fourth-quarter drives.

37. Super Bowl XLVI: New York Giants

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    This was the only 9-7 team to ever win the Super Bowl.

    Few expected much out of the New York Giants in the postseason, but the offense got hot at the right time and was able to squeak its way into a Super Bowl rematch with the New England Patriots.

    Again the Patriots were favored, and again Eli Manning and the Giants overcame the odds to win. New York had just two Pro Bowlers in 2011.

    That is not meant as a detriment. This Giants team stepped up when it absolutely had to. Scrapping to the title just does not make for one of the greatest teams in NFL history, though.

36. Super Bowl XLV: Green Bay Packers

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    One of a few wild-card teams to ever make a run at the Super Bowl, the 2010 Green Bay Packers were not a great regular-season team.

    Green Bay went just 10-6 and relied on great postseason play from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to get to the title game.

    Super Bowl XLV featured a matchup between two historic franchises, as the Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers squared off, but Green Bay was able to outlast Pittsburgh to the tune of a 31-25 victory.

35. Super Bowl XXII: Washington Redskins

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    The story of Doug Williams becoming the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl is well known, but this was a balanced team that played consistent football at every position.

    This is one of two Redskins teams that won the Super Bowl in a strike-shortened season, but this time around, Washington posted an 11-4 record.

    A 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos put a cap on one of the greatest seasons in Redskins history.

34. Super Bowl XLVII: Baltimore Ravens

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    The Baltimore Ravens were not expected to win Super Bowl XLVII.

    They were the underdog against the Denver Broncos in the divisional round, the New England Patriots in the AFC Conference Championship Game and the San Francisco 49ers in the final contest.

    Each time the Ravens responded by silencing the critics and finding a way to claim victory, including a 34-31 win to take the Lombardi Trophy.

    Quarterback Joe Flacco elevated his play to new heights, throwing for 287 yards and three touchdowns against the 49ers.

    Ray Lewis was able to ride off into the sunset in style, and while the team only went 10-6 in the regular season, Baltimore will forever be remembered for its resiliency.

33. Super Bowl XLI: Indianapolis Colts

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    This was Peyton Manning's Super Bowl.

    Some say that Manning still needs another title to define his legacy, but I say that is ludicrous. One of the greatest QBs of all time, Manning has consistently proven himself, and Super Bowl XLI was his crowning achievement.

    The Colts won the Super Bowl 29-17 over the Chicago Bears after finishing the season with a 12-4 record.

    Perhaps more impressively, Indy won the title despite allowing 5.33 rushing yards per attempt on the season, which was the seventh-worst mark in league history.

32. Super Bowl XXVIII: Dallas Cowboys

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    The Dallas Cowboys started the 1993 season with an 0-2 record and a holdout from star running back Emmitt Smith. Smith relented, and found himself with the MVP award after rushing for 1,486 yards and nine touchdowns.

    This Cowboys team was great on offense, but everyone knows that. The defense is what is often wrongly overlooked. Dallas featured Pro Bowlers like defensive tackle Russell Maryland and linebacker Ken Norton Jr.

    Dallas kept opposing offenses on their heels. The best example of this may have actually come in Super Bowl XXVIII, as the Cowboys came back from a 13-6 halftime deficit and shut the Bills out in the second half, winning by a score of 30-13.

31. Super Bowl II: Green Bay Packers

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    The 1967 Green Bay Packers were not quite the dominant force that was displayed a season prior, and as such, they belong much lower on the list than their previous incarnation.

    Green Bay went 9-4-1 during the regular season and had a considerable drop-off in offensive prowess. Quarterback Bart Starr lost his MVP form from a season prior, throwing for 1,823 yards, nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 14 games.

    Luckily, the Packers still had an elite defense that was able to carry them all the way to the Super Bowl.

30. Super Bowl XXXVII: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The prolific Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense led the team all the way to Super Bowl XXXVII.

    OK, so that was just a bit of dry humor.

    In reality, this will be a team forever remembered for its defense and head coach Jon Gruden. Tampa Bay featured five AP All-Pro selections (all on defense) and six Pro Bowlers.

    The Buccaneers utilized that defense to confuse the Oakland Raiders and win the Super Bowl by a score of 48-21.

29. Super Bowl XXXII: Denver Broncos

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    "This one's for John."

    We all remember that famous quote from Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, but what many don't remember is that there was more to this Broncos team than just John Elway.

    Running back Terrell Davis asserted his dominance to the tune of 1,750 rushing yards that season, and the defense was among the best in football.

    After a tough playoff loss to the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars a season prior, 1997 was a great turnaround for the Broncos and helped set the table for an even better 1998 season.

28. Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Where the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers were not the most impressive Super Bowl champion ever, the 2008 version was tremendous.

    The team went 12-4 and had a heroic victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII that saw Santonio Holmes tiptoe his way into history.

    James Harrison would go on to win the the Defensive Player of the Year award, and three players went to the Pro Bowl.

27. Super Bowl VIII: Miami Dolphins

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    A 12-2 output was not quite as good as the undefeated effort that the Miami Dolphins posted the season prior, but it is no easy task to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

    The '73 team actually played a much tougher schedule than the '72 iteration, facing three playoff teams, while their predecessors did not play anyone with a record better than 8-6.

    This team may not be remembered as much as the '72 squad, but this Miami was team was great in its own right and beat the Minnesota Vikings 24-7 in the Super Bowl.

26. Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans Saints

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    The revival of the New Orleans Saints culminated in a 13-3 record in the 2009 season and a Super Bowl XLIV victory over the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 31-17.

    Drew Brees threw for a staggering 4,388 yards and 34 touchdowns, while six other Saints joined him as Pro Bowl selections that season.

    Many started to lose faith in New Orleans after the team closed the regular season with three consecutive losses, but this team knew how to put together offensive efficiency when it mattered most and rode that momentum all the way to the Lombardi Trophy.

25. Super Bowl XXX: Dallas Cowboys

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    The final Super Bowl in the Dallas Cowboys dynasty of the 1990s was a 27-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX.

    Emmitt Smith had one of the best seasons of his career, as he rushed for 1,773 yards.

    The actual Super Bowl is perhaps most remembered for Steelers quarterback Neil O'Donnell's multiple poor interceptions. His failures helped the Cowboys claim their third title in four years.

    Dallas went 12-4 in the regular season and won the organization's only championship under head coach Barry Switzer.

24. Super Bowl XVII: Washington Redskins

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    It's tough to fully gauge where the 1982 Washington Redskins belong in power rankings like this. The 1982 season was shortened due to a strike, so the Redskins posted just an 8-1 regular-season record.

    Still, the Redskins were clearly commanding and beat their playoff opponents by an average of 16 points. 

    Washington even had the league MVP on its roster. Any guess who it was?

    Kicker Mark Moseley, of course.

23. Super Bowl XVI: San Francisco 49ers

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    "The Catch."

    The play that defines the San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s set the table for an era of dominance and firmly took the mantle away from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    The dynasty began with a 13-3 record and a huge Super Bowl XVI victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

    Drafting Ronnie Lott before the season turned out to be a pretty smart move as well.

22. Super Bowl XIV: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    A common theme we will see on this list is that the second team of back-to-back title winners lags behind the first.

    That theme holds true for the 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers. This is not to say they weren't great, though. In fact, Pittsburgh went 12-4 and soundly beat the Los Angeles Rams 31-19 in the Super Bowl.

    The defense was still good, but the unit allowed 16.4 points per game in 1979 compared to just 12.2 during the previous season.

    This team was still impressive, but not as amazing as the 1978 squad.

21.Super Bowl XXXVIII: New England Patriots

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    The middle of three title teams can sometimes get lost in the shuffle, but the 2003 New England Patriots are worthy of being remembered.

    Posting a 14-2 record and slipping by the Carolina Panthers 32-29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII, New England relied heavily on the arm of Tom Brady.

    Brady threw for 3,620 yards and 23 touchdowns during the season, which was all the more impressive when you consider no one rushed for more than 650 yards for the Pats that season.

    Similarly, the Patriots defense became masters at the "bend but don't break" philosophy.

20. Super Bowl XVIII: Los Angeles Raiders

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    It's no easy task to knock off the defending Super Bowl champions, but that is exactly what the Los Angeles Raiders did in Super Bowl XVIII, as they beat the Washington Redskins by a score of 38-9.

    In doing so, the Raiders brought the first-ever title to the city of Los Angeles. The Raiders were led by the rushing prowess of Marcus Allen, who ran for over 1,000 yards.

    L.A. went 12-4 on the season and provided the AFC's only Super Bowl victory for the next 13 years.

19. Super Bowl IV: Kansas City Chiefs

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    The 1969 Kansas City Chiefs victory in Super Bowl IV came against a great Minnesota Vikings team.

    Kansas City stepped up to the plate in a big way, led by five future Hall of Famers on the roster. Head coach Hank Stram and quarterback Len Dawson helped lead the Chiefs to an 11-3 record.

    The defense was no slouch either, as ESPN.com ranked the unit the seventh-best in NFL history.

18. Super Bowl XXXIV: St. Louis Rams

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    One yard.

    One yard separated the St. Louis Rams from losing Super Bowl XXXIV and falling from the land of the immortals.

    Alas, Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson did not make it into the end zone, and the Rams will forever be remembered as the "Greatest Show on Turf."

    The Rams averaged 32.9 points per game and went 13-3 on the season.

17. Super Bowl VI: Dallas Cowboys

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    The 1971 Dallas Cowboys did just about everything right on their way to Super Bowl VI.

    Before running over the Miami Dolphins by a score of 24-3 in the big game, the Cowboys posted an 11-3 regular-season record. Quarterback Roger Staubach helped the offense post 29 points per game, and the defense was consistent all year.

    These Cowboys may not have been the greatest Super Bowl winners in history, or even the best Dallas team to bring home the Lombardi Trophy, but they were a tremendous group nonetheless.

16. Super Bowl XXVI: Washington Redskins

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    The best of all Washington Redskins Super Bowl winners, the 1991 team went 14-2 in the regular season and scored over 30 points per game.

    Quarterback Mark Rypien finished the year with 3,564 passing yards, which was the most in the NFC that season. Earnest Byner rushed for over 1,000 yards, and both Art Monk and Gary Clark had over 1,000 yards receiving as well.

    The offense was downright lethal, and that was proven when the team won Super Bowl XXVI 37-24 against the Buffalo Bills.

15. Super Bowl XXIX: San Francisco 49ers

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    1994 was the year that Steve Young officially got the proverbial monkey off his back.

    Constantly questioned about whether or not he could win the Super Bowl like Joe Montana before him, Young answered the critics with a resounding "yes."

    The 49ers marched into Super Bowl XXIX and decimated the San Diego Chargers by a score of 49-26. Young finished the season with 35 touchdown passes...and a little less back pain.

14. Super Bowl XXI: New York Giants

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    Look deep in the background of the above picture.

    Charging behind Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway is New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor. In 1986, he was at the height of his powers and was a big reason that the Giants posted a 14-2 record.

    Taylor would win league MVP and Defensive Player of the Year that season and help the Giants blow out the Broncos 39-20 in Super Bowl XXI.

    More Super Bowls may have been expected from this team, but there is no overlooking the Giants' dominance in 1986.

13. Super Bowl XII: Dallas Cowboys

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    The Dallas Cowboys scored the most points in the NFC in 1977, and it was the main reason the team went 12-2 and eventually won Super Bowl XII over the Denver Broncos.

    Those Broncos featured quarterback Craig Morton, predecessor to Roger Staubach, and this dynamic helped give the game even more of an edge. However, Morton completed just eight passes for 61 yards in the game and was a non-factor.

    The Cowboys' sound 27-10 victory proved just how good their "Doomsday Defense" was, as the unit forced eight turnovers in the contest.

    With players like Staubach and Tony Dorsett, it is surprising that this squad was unable to win more titles together.

12. Super Bowl XXXI: Green Bay Packers

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    There are simply not enough good things to say about the 1996 Green Bay Packers. Green Bay went undefeated within the friendly confines of Lambeau Field and went 13-3 overall in the regular season.

    The Packers posted the league's highest-scoring offense and allowed the fewest points on defense. Quarterback Brett Favre also won his second straight NFL MVP award as the team made it to Super Bowl XXXI against the New England Patriots.

    Once there, the Packers won by an impressive margin of 35-21.

11. Super Bowl XI: Oakland Raiders

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    This game was responsible for the birth of the John Madden legend.

    The 1976 Oakland Raiders lost just one game all season on their way to a 32-14 Super Bowl win over the Minnesota Vikings. Those poor Vikings make quite a few appearances on the wrong side of this list, but I digress.

    For the Raiders, Ken Stabler led the offensive charge, but it was the defense that stole the show, allowing only 16.9 points per game.

    After three consecutive AFC Championship Game losses, these Raiders broke through. Oakland's great season earns it a fairly high ranking on this list.

10. Super Bowl XXXIII: Denver Broncos

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    The 1997 Denver Broncos were great, but the 1998 version was that much better.

    A 14-2 regular season was marked by 2,008 rushing yards and 23 total touchdowns from running back Terrell Davis.

    And just when everyone expected Davis to carry the offensive load in the Super Bowl against the Atlanta Falcons, John Elway instead took on that role. He walked away with Super Bowl MVP in the process and firmly cemented himself among the best quarterbacks the game has ever seen.

9. Super Bowl XIX: San Francisco 49ers

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    The 1984 San Francisco 49ers finished the season with a 15-1 record and a 38-16 win over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX.

    Joe Montana also won his second Super Bowl MVP award, a feat accomplished only by Terry Bradshaw and Bart Starr to that point.

    He was no slouch in the regular season either, throwing 28 touchdown passes and leading an offense that managed just under 30 points per game.

8. Super Bowl X: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    While the 1974 version of the Pittsburgh Steelers was a little underwhelming, the 1975 team was flat-out dominant.

    The defense, one of the best in league history, allowed 11.6 points per game and paved the way for a 12-2 regular season.

    Super Bowl X also saw a classic showdown between the Steelers and the rival Dallas Cowboys. Great catches from Lynn Swann and tremendous linebacking play from Jack Lambert and Jack Ham were the highlights of this game.

7. Super Bowl XXXIX: New England Patriots

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    Remember that lack of a running game we talked about with the 2003 New England Patriots?

    Well, that all changed in 2004 when Corey Dillon gained 1,635 yards on the ground and took pressure off quarterback Tom Brady.

    The Patriots went 14-2 for the second consecutive season and beat the Eagles 24-21 in the Super Bowl.

    New England made a habit of winning tight battles in the Super Bowl, but that's what great teams do.

6. Super Bowl XXVII: Dallas Cowboys

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    In 1992, the NFL's youngest team was also its best, as the Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVII 52-17 over the Buffalo Bills.

    The Cowboys featured the league's top-ranked defense and an offense led by future Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.

    The team's 13-3 record was impressive and set the table for Dallas' early '90s dynasty.

5. Super Bowl I: Green Bay Packers

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    By the time the first Super Bowl rolled around, the Green Bay Packers were already in the midst of a bona fide dynasty. This would be the Packers' fourth championship since 1961 and featured an MVP campaign from Bart Starr.

    A little-known fact about the 1966 Packers is that they were actually the NFL's second-worst rushing team that season, averaging 3.5 rushing yards per carry.

    That does little to detract from the fact that Green Bay was truly dominant. Vince Lombardi's squad went 12-2 and ensured that the first Super Bowl trophy did not end up in AFL hands.

4. Super Bowl XXIV: San Francisco 49ers

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    Consider this for just a minute: The San Francisco 49ers outscored their opponents 126-26 in the playoffs.

    To call this team "overpowering" would be an understatement.

    Quarterback Joe Montana had perhaps the best season of his illustrious career, Jerry Rice caught 17 touchdown passes and the defense allowed just 15.8 points per game.

    Beating the Denver Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV was just the icing on an already delicious cake.

3. Super Bowl XX: Chicago Bears

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    "Da Bears."

    When the greatest defenses of all time are brought up, the 1985 Chicago Bears are always in the discussion, featuring Mike Singletary, William Perry, Dave Duerson and many others.

    The Bears defense had it all, and unlike many other Super Bowl winners, they also had a great offensive force in Walter Payton. Payton ran for over 1,500 yards in 1985 and led the Bears to a 46-10 drubbing of the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

    It's just too bad Payton couldn't get a rushing score in the final contest.

2. Super Bowl XIII: Pittsburgh Steelers

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    The 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers were the best team of the "Steel Curtain" era, and that is a tremendous distinction.

    Including head coach Chuck Noll, Pittsburgh featured 10 future Hall of Famers. The Steelers dominated opponents early and often, finishing the season with a 14-2 record and an eventual victory over the rival Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl.

    Oh, and that Steel Curtain allowed just 12.2 points per game all season. 

1. Super Bowl VII: Miami Dolphins

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    Could the Miami Dolphins be anywhere else on this list?

    Forget that other teams may have had better offenses or better defenses.

    Heck, other Super Bowl champions may have been able to completely dominate the 1972 Dolphins.

    We will never know, but what we do know is that no other team in NFL history has ever gone undefeated wire-to-wire. Until another team does, the 1972 Miami Dolphins will forever be No. 1.