The road to glory in the National Football League (NFL) is one that is hard fought and even harder to make a name for yourself. To be one of the teams that are remembered for years to come means that you have left your stamp on the game for doing what others couldn’t. A team wins the Super Bowl every year, but some teams dominate a year as no one else has. While the argument for the greatest NFL teams will vary person by person, there’s no doubt that each team on the top lists made an impact on the game. With that being said, we have compiled our list of the top 5 NFL teams of all time.
5. 2007 New England Patriots
The only team on this list not to win the Super Bowl is the New England Patriots from the 2007 season. One may be thinking, how can a team be an all-time great without winning the Super Bowl? However, what this team was able to accomplish during the regular season and postseason up to the Super Bowl was nothing short of incredible. If they were able to win the Super Bowl and complete the undefeated season, many would consider this team the greatest of all time.
Simply put, their offense and defense were far, far better than the rest of the league. The offense scored almost 70% more points than the average of the league. Their defense allowed 21% less than the league average. This means that combined, their offense and defense were roughly 91% better than the league average.
4. 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers
Chock full of Hall of Fame members, the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers had the Steel Curtain Defense, which led to their overall success. The defense was so successful that multiple rule changes were made in the NFL to help give offensive linemen better odds against defenses. The defense held opponents to just 12.2 points per game in the season.
This defense was led by “Mean” Joe Greene, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Playing with Greene were Hall of Famers Jack Lambert, Donnie Shell, Jack Ham, Mel Blount, and LC Greenwood. Leading the offense was Super Bowl and NFL MVP Terry Bradshaw at quarterback. With him were Franco Harris (running back), Lynn Swann (wide receiver), John Stallworth (wide receiver), and Mike Webster (center), all Hall of Fame members.
3. 1989 San Francisco 49ers
The 1989 San Francisco 49ers know a thing or two about dominance. They still hold the record for the biggest blowout in Super Bowl history, defeating John Elway’s Denver Broncos by a score of 55 to 10 in Super Bowl XXIV. You know you have a star-studded team when your backup quarterback, Steve Young, eventually makes it to the Hall of Fame. This team is an all-time great on name power alone. Jerry Rice, for instance, is considered by most to be the greatest wide receiver of all time.
Other names like legendary quarterback Joe Montana, cornerback Ronnie Lott, and running back Roger Craig led the team to an overwhelming success in the 1989 season. While many see the offense as the dominant force, the defense had more interceptions than passing touchdowns allowed in the season. Jerry Rice led the league in receiving touchdowns and yards, while Montana led the league in eight different passing categories in the league.
2. 1985 Chicago Bears
The thing that sets these teams apart from the rest of the league is their pure dominance when they played in their season. Their run during the playoffs consisted of a 21-0 shutout of the Giants, a 24-0 shutout of the Rams, and then finally, a 46-10 defeat of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX. The result of an all-time great team doesn’t just happen on one side of the ball, they need to be dominant on both, which the 1985 Chicago Bears were. They ranked second in offense and first in defense.
The Bears only lost one game in the regular season, led by 9 Pro Bowlers and 11 AP All-Pros. The offense was led by all-time great running back Walter Payton as well as the overly confident quarterback Jim McMahon. The defense created 54 total turnovers and gave up just 12.4 points per game. The defense alone had three AP All-Pros and 5 Pro Bowlers.
1. 1972 Miami Dolphins
The argument for why the 1972 Miami Dolphins are the greatest NFL team of all time is fairly simple. They are the only team in the history of the NFL to win every game they played during the regular season and postseason, capping off the year with a 14-7 win over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII. As we touched upon earlier, the 2007 New England Patriots came close to the undefeated season but came just short in the Super Bowl.
They were the fastest team to clinch the division title, doing so in only 10 weeks. They were also the first team to rank at the top of the league in both offensive and defensive points. For the whole season, they scored 385 points and only gave up 171. A team of firsts also became the first team to have a running back pair rush for over 1,000 yards each in one season.