Welcome to the Best Team Ever bracket series, where the greatest of all time have their most dominant seasons stacked up against each other until we ultimately crown a champion in each sport. The tournament will be decided by fan vote, so be sure to submit yours below! Check out the first round of voting here and the second round of voting here. Final Four polls will close at noon ET on Saturday.
Well, the committee did a good job seeding the NFL bracket.
The NFL’s “Best Teams Ever” bracket has been dominated by the higher seeds. While there have been many great teams and a few dynasties through the NFL’s 100 years, it’s easy to identify the most dominant teams we’ve seen.
Four of the most recognizable teams in football history are left standing. There’s the only perfect team in NFL history, the famed “Steel Curtain,” an entrant from the great 1980s 49ers dynasty and the immortal ‘85 Bears. Those were our top four seeds. You can’t ask for a better Final Four than that.
Now the challenge begins: Picking which of these four titanic teams is the best of all time.
1972 Miami Dolphins vs. 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers
No. 1: 1972 Dolphins
Only perfect season in NFL history (17-0)
Led NFL in points scored and points allowed
Led NFL in total offense and total defense
Running the table in the NFL still resonates with fans. The 1972 Dolphins cruised by the 2007 Patriots and 1994 49ers in the first two rounds. Critics will say the 17-0 Dolphins caught some breaks with their schedule — it’s one of the softest of any Super Bowl champion, without one regular-season opponent who made the playoffs that year — but that hasn’t mattered to their legacy. The fact that no other team has been able to duplicate the Dolphins’ perfect season has made the accomplishment even more meaningful.
No. 4: 1975 Steelers
Second of four Super Bowls in 1970s
Eight defensive starters made Pro Bowl
Allowed 17 points or fewer in 15 of 17 games
Fans love offense. But a great defense can become immortal too. The “Steel Curtain” Steelers have one of the greatest defenses in history. They breezed past the 1992 Cowboys in Round 2 of our bracket. You can argue about which of the Steelers’ four Super Bowl teams was best, but the 1975 team set a franchise record with a plus-211 scoring differential. They finished top five in the NFL in points scored and points allowed. Not only was it a dominant team, it was filled with future Hall of Famers at the start of their primes.
1984 San Francisco 49ers vs. 1985 Chicago Bears
No. 2: 1984 49ers
15-1 regular season
Second of four Super Bowls in 1980s
Allowed 10 or fewer points nine times including playoffs
A great argument can be made that this wasn’t even the best team of the 49ers dynasty. Many would pick the 1989 team. But a rule with this bracket is each franchise had to have more than a five-year gap between teams, so it was either 1984 for 1989 for the 49ers. And the 49ers are one of two 15-1 teams in NFL history to also win a Super Bowl (they face the other 15-1 champion in this semifinal). The 49ers had a staggering plus-246 point differential (the 1989 team was 14-2 with a plus-189) and were second in points scored and first in points allowed. They easily beat the 1991 Redskins in the second round of our bracket. The 1984 49ers’ only loss was a 20-17 defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game they led in the fourth quarter and could have sent to overtime if not for a missed field goal in the final seconds.
No. 3: 1985 Bears
15-1 regular season
Allowed 10 points in three playoff wins
Led NFL in points and yards allowed
This is the only team in the Final Four that didn’t win multiple championships. It’s also the only one without a Hall of Fame quarterback or coach (Mike Ditka was 121-95 as a coach and likely wouldn’t have made the Hall if not for his great playing career). But the legend of the ‘85 Bears grows every year. They had a devastating defense, Walter Payton and went on one of the best playoff runs ever. With all due respect to any other team in the other sports’ brackets in this contest, it’s fair to call the 1985 Bears the most famous single-season team in major American sports history. The mention of ‘85 Bears is synonymous with dominance. They’ve gotten more than 80 percent of the fan vote in both rounds, including an easy win over the 1976 Raiders in the second round.
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