Coming up with a list of the top 10 NFL teams of all time was an interesting challenge, but one I met with relish because I knew it would be a subject that would be met with passionate rebuttals from diehard NFL football fans, and as a sports fan there is nothing I enjoy more than a good old fashioned knock ’em down, drag ’em out debate. In North America there is arguably no more passionate or knowledgeable fan base than those that follow NFL football. Thousands of armchair quarterbacks around the continent can quote up to the minute stats from the current or previous seasons, and NFL fantasy football leagues are liberally peppered with NFL football gurus whose knowledge could rival that of a NASA astrophysicist. Now, I don’t pretend to be a walking NFL football encyclopedia like some folks, so I’m sure my list of the top 10 NFL teams of all time will meet with some intense criticism from those who sleep, eat and breathe NFL football. Well, bring it on! I eagerly await your bashing. Use the comments and don’t forget to point out who you think has been unfairly included or excluded. Here is my list of the Top 10 greatest NFL teams of all time:
10 – 1996 Green Bay Packers – This one might be a controversial pick, but the 1996 Green Bay Packers put up the numbers to make the list (barely). Quarterback Brett Favre was in his prime in 1996, and captured the title of NFL MVP that year with an astounding pass completion percentage just a hair under 60%. The Packers not only boasted the NFL’s best offense, but were also the league’s best defensive team that year. They finished the regular season an impressive 13-3, but saved their best work for the playoffs where they scored 100 points in 3 games, and won by an average margin of victory of 17 points.
9 – 1971 Dallas Cowboys – The Dallas Cowboys have had a lot of stellar teams throughout their history, but in my opinion the ’71 Boys were the best of the bunch, and good enough for inclusion on the list of the top 10 greatest NFL teams. Roger Staubach led a powerful offense that was almost impossible to defend on the ground or in the air. However, it was the defense that really stole the show in the playoffs that year, limiting both the 49ers and the Dolphins to 3 points apiece as they took home glory in Super Bowl VI
8 – 1999 St. Louis Rams – An offensive juggernaut led by the one-two punch of Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk the ’99 Rams put up an incredible 526 points in a season that saw them go 13-3. Faulk was a one-man offensive wrecking crew, rushing for 1,381 yards and receiving for another 1,048. The Rams’ nickname “The Greatest Show On Turf” could have been applied to Faulk himself, and that season really goes down as one of the greatest performances by an athlete in NFL history. To gain a spot on the list of the top 10 NFL teams of all time, however, a team must boast more than a great offense. The Rams could get it done on defense as well, and finished the season averaging only 15 points per game allowed. They capped off their magnificent season with a 23-16 Super Bowl victory over the Tennessee Titans.
7 – 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers – The Pittsburgh Steelers were the most dominant team of the 1970s and it can be argued that any of their 4 Super Bowl Championship teams from that decade could be included in this list of the top 10 greatest NFL teams. In the interest of variety I’ve chosen what I believe to be the best of those great Steel Curtain teams. Terry Bradshaw was lights out that season throwing for 3,724 yards and 26 touchdowns. The legendary Steelers defense was still operating at their stingy best, throwing a blanket on opposing offenses with an efficiency arguably exceeded by the 1985 Chicago Bears. The Steelers didn’t have as dominant a regular season as other teams on the list, but still finished a respectable 12-4. They further cemented their legend by winning their 4th Super Bowl of the decade, dispatching the Rams 31-19 to capture the NFL’s greatest prize.
6 – 1991 Washington Redskins – This team was a no-brainer for a spot on the list of the top 10 NFL teams of all time. The Redskins dominated their opposition all season long, outscoring them on average by better than a two to one margin as they marched to a 14-2 regular season record. Quarterback Mark Rypien might not be the household name like Montana, Starbauch, or Favre, but in that season he was as good as any of those guys, throwing for 3,564 yards on just 421 attempts, for an amazing 8.5 yards per attempt. The dream season continued into the playoffs as the Redskins crushed both the Falcons and the Lions, before downing the luckless Buffalo Bills 37-24 to capture Super Bowl XXVI.
5 – 1989 – San Francisco 49ers – Arguably the deadliest quarterback/receiver combination in NFL history Joe Montana and Jerry Rice were at their dominant best in 1989. Montana’s 112.4 quarterback rating that season was the highest in NFL history to that point, and Jerry Rice had 1,483 yards receiving while romping for 17 touchdowns. The 49ers weren’t just the Montana and Rice show though. They had numerous weapons like John Taylor, Brent Jones, Roger Craig and Ronnie Lott. Oh, and let’s not forget about Montana’s back-up that year. Some of you may have heard of Steve Young. He fired 8 touchdown passes and threw for 1,001 yards that year. The team finished the regular season 14-2, but perhaps the greatest tribute to their greatest was the humiliating 55-10 stomping they gave the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV.
4 – 1962 Green Bay Packers – Not all of the greatest teams in NFL history took the field in the last 30 years. Before the Super Bowl even existed the Green Bay Packers were grinding their opponents into the mud. With NFL legends like Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr the 1962 version of the Packers was all but unstoppable, going 13-1 and outscoring their opposition by a mind-boggling 415-148. The Packers would put a cap on the incredible season by capturing the NFL Championship that year with a 16-7 victory over the New York Giants.
3 – 2007 New England Patriots – The New England Patriots have the dubious distinction of being the only team on the list of the top 10 greatest NFL teams not to have won the Super Bowl in this season in question. However, anyone who watched this dominant team dismantle opposing defenses week after week can hardly argue with their inclusion on this list. Tom Brady and Randy Moss combined for the greatest season ever between a quarterback and receiver. Brady launched an incredible 50 touchdown passes (an NFL record), while passing for 4,806 yards (an NFL record), and finishing with a quarterback rating of 117.2 (an NFL record). Randy Moss might not have been quite so impressive, but the 23 touchdowns he caught that season beat Jerry Rice’s NFL record of 22 TD catches in a single NFL season. This dynamic duo helped the Patriots to only the second undefeated NFL regular season in the history of the sport of football. They reeled off 2 more impressive post-season victories before their dream season evaporated at the hands of the New York Giants. Don’t deceive yourself folks: this was an upset of monumental proportions. Forget the videotaping scandal, and even the Super Bowl loss. The 2007 New England Patriots are one of the greatest NFL teams of all time.
2 – 1972 Miami Dolphins – Speaking of perfect seasons there is only one NFL team who has gone wire to wire without losing a single game, and that is the 1972 Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins went 14-0 in the regular season, and would not be denied in the playoffs, with narrow victories over both Cleveland and Pittsburgh, before downing the Redskins 14-7 to capture Super Bowl VII. So, if the 1972 Miami Dolphins were the only team to have a perfect season why aren’t they considered the greatest NFL team of all time? Quite simply they had one of the easiest regular season schedules of all time. The combined records of the teams they played was well below .500. In fact, despite their 14-0 regular season record Don Shula’s Dolphins were actually considered an underdog against the Redskins in the Super Bowl. However, their tough playoff schedule, and the fact that they overcame the odds to complete the perfect season (something the superiorly talented New England Patriots failed to do) still earns them the number 2 spot.
1 – 1985 Chicago Bears – When I sat down to write this list of the top 10 greatest NFL teams of all time I knew, without a sliver of doubt, which team would be sitting at the pinnacle when all was said and done. The 1985 Chicago Bears, led by cocky quarterback Jim McMahon may not have had a perfect season (they finished 15-1), but their incredible offense, and the most stifling defense in NFL history helped them cruise through the NFL playoffs with an ease that has never been duplicated. This legendary team, coached by the equally legendary Mike Ditka, didn’t even surrender a point in the first two games of the playoffs, beating the Giants 21-0, before dispatching the Rams 24-0 in the NFC title game. The defense faltered ever so slightly in Super Bowl XX, giving up 10 points, but the offense, with the help of huge lineman, William “The Refrigerator” Perry, picked up the slack, and when the dust settled on Super Bowl XX the Bears had crushed the Patriots 46-10. Had the 2007 New England Patriots captured the Super Bowl there could have been some argument, but since they did not there can only be one clear choice for the greatest team in NFL history: The 1985 Chicago Bears.