Ranking the 8 Best NFL Teams Tom Brady Has Played for

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2021

Ranking the 8 Best NFL Teams Tom Brady Has Played for

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    Despite what it seems like sometimes, Tom Brady has never done it alone.

    Throughout his legendary career, a few elite offensive players and several high-ranking defenses have complemented the Hall of Fame-bound quarterback.

    Without question, Brady has elevated many rosters and deserves credit for that. Still, the New England Patriots successfully built around him for nearly two decades. And when he left the Pats, Brady hand-picked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a reason.

    This ranking is subjective, but it considers the team's overall performance. While playoff results are naturally influential, that final outcome in the postseason doesn't tell the whole story.

8. 2010 Patriots

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    This is the Patriots team that got away.

    Brady threw for 3,900 yards and 36 touchdowns with four interceptions, winning the league MVP and leading 14-2 New England to an NFL-high 32.4 points per game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis topped 1,000 yards rushing, and four players eclipsed 500 receiving yards with Gronkowski catching a team-high 10 scores.

    Although the defense started slowly, it limited the last five opponents to 47 points. And the Green Bay Packersthe future Super Bowl champsaccounted for 27 in a game New England won anyway.

    However, the Pats collapsed in the Divisional Round of the postseason and lost to the New York Jets.

7. 2011 Patriots

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    One year later, Brady uncorked the lone 5,000-yard campaign of his career. It's not his greatest single-season performancehello, 2007but the 5,235 yards would have set an NFL record had Saints quarterback Drew Brees not amassed 5,476 in the same year.

    New England cruised to a 13-3 record and the AFC East crown, registering the second-most yards and third-most points per game. Wes Welker (1,569) Gronkowski (1,327) and Aaron Hernandez (910) each set career-best marks in receiving yards.

    The defense gave up plenty of yards and points, but that can partially be attributed to a quick-strike offense and lopsided games. New England still averaged a 10.7-point margin of victory

    Unfortunately for the Pats, a familiar foe stopped them short of a Super Bowl victory.

    This time around, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning hit Mario Manningham for the famous sideline catch. New England fell to the Giants 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI.

6. 2020 Bucs

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    When he departed the Patriots, a simple question appeared: Was it Brady or Bill Belichick who meant most to the New England dynasty? The right answer is a combination, but the 2020 campaign showed Brady could do just fine elsewhere.

    Brady moved to Tampa, where he oversaw an 11-5 season that featured the NFL's third-best scoring offense. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin combined for 1,846 yards and 20 scores, while Brady's old friend Rob Gronkowski caught seven touchdowns, too.

    Plus, the Bucs defense held top-10 rankings in both yards and points allowed per game. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers collected more tackles for loss (103) than Tampa's 91.

    Although the New Orleans Saints grabbed the NFC South title, Tampa won when it mattered most.

    Brady guided the Bucs past Washington, New Orleans, Green Bay—all on the road—and the Kansas City Chiefs to win Super Bowl LV.

5. 2003 Patriots

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    From 2001 to 2004, the Patriots won three Super Bowls. That stretch also announced Brady as one of the league's top quarterbacks.

    But defense carried the 2003 team.

    New England ceded a league-low 14.9 points per outing, largely thanks to a devastating pass defense. While ranking sixth in sacks (41), the Patriots paced the NFL in yards allowed per attempt (5.6), interceptions (29) and passes defended (121).

    Brady, meanwhile, led a relatively average offense. New England ranked 12th in points per game and, perhaps most importantly, committed the seventh-fewest number of turnovers.

    Defense propelled the Pats to the AFC title. Then, in Super Bowl XXXVIII, Brady racked up 354 yards and three touchdowns and set up Adam Vinatieri's heroics to clip the Carolina Panthers 32-29.

4. 2014 Patriots

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    Early in 2014, the Patriots looked sunk. Capped by a hideous 41-14 loss to Kansas City on a Monday night, they started 2-2 and seemed to lack any threats on either side of the ball.

    Yeah, so, that was wrong!

    Belichick's iconic "we're on to Cincinnati" press conference preceded a seven-game winning streak that featured 39.6 points per game and righted a drifting ship. New England ended the year 12-4 and with the fourth-most points in the NFL. Julian Edelman, Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell each posted 900-plus receiving yards, too.

    On defense, the Patriots recovered to be a league-average unita major improvement, given the ugly opening stretchthat allowed only 18.6 points per game after the Kansas City shellacking.

    New England edged the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX behind Malcolm Butler's memorable goal-line interception.

3. 2004 Patriots

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    The previous year's championship, as a reminder, is primarily a credit to New England's defense. But as that strength remained in 2004, Brady and the offense became more dangerous.

    Brady notched a career-high 7.8 yards per attempt, and offseason addition Corey Dillon rushed for a franchise-record 1,635 yards. The offense rose from 12th and 17th in points and yards per game, respectively, to fourth and seventh.

    Still, it was the defense's show. New England ceded the second-fewest points per contest at 16.3. Plus, the unit ranked third in takeaways (36), sacks (45) and red-zone touchdown rate (40.8)

    Playoff wins over the Indianapolis Colts, Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles handed the Pats a third championship in four years.

2. 2016 Patriots

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    After serving a four-game suspension for the "Deflategate" saga, Brady returned with a vengeance. And the league's stingiest defense sure didn't hurt the revenge tour, either.

    Brady inherited a 3-1 team and launched the Patriots to 14-2 overall, throwing for 3,554 yards and 28 touchdowns to only two interceptions. LeGarrette Blount provided some powerful balance with 1,161 rushing yards and a franchise-best 18 scores.

    Opponents scored just 15.6 points per game on this defense, whichinterestingly enoughdramatically outperformed the eye test. In particular, the secondary could be problematic. Yet the Pats consistently kept teams out of the end zone.

    Had the Atlanta Falcons finished the job in Super Bowl LI, perception of this roster assuredly would be different.

    Nevertheless, Brady engineered the unforgettable 28-3 comeback and earned his fifth Super Bowl MVP in a 34-28 overtime win.

1. 2007 Patriots

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    The lone moment separating the 2007 Patriots from a 19-0 season is one of the most implausible receptions in NFL history.

    Brady threw for 4,806 yardsthe third-highest output in league history at the timeand an NFL record 50 touchdowns to win his first MVP. Randy Moss set another NFL record by catching 23 touchdowns, and he totaled a team-high 1,493 yards. Welker set a franchise record with 112 receptions, producing 1,175 yards and eight scores.

    While the offense averaged a league-high 36.8 points, the defense ranked fourth at 17.1 allowed per game. The Pats registered the second-most sacks (47) in the regular season and forced multiple turnovers in 13 of their 19 total games.

    New England finished 16-0, reached 18-0 and lost to the Giants 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII. David Tyree's extraordinary, one-of-a-kind play, though, should not send the 2007 Patriots spiraling from their deserved place atop the list.