Best Teams Ever bracket: NFL edition, Round 1
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! The first round of polling closes at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT on Tuesday, March 31.
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1972 Miami Dolphins vs. 2007 New England Patriots
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.
The Dolphins get the No. 1 overall seed due to their perfect season they won’t let you forget. Miami didn’t face the toughest schedule, but there’s a reason no other NFL team has ever run the table. Nine Dolphins made the Pro Bowl in 1972.
No. 16: 2007 Patriots
Only 16-0 regular season in NFL history.
Highest point differential in NFL history (plus-315).
No. 2 all-time in points scored (589).
The 2007 Patriots destroyed the rest of the league ... until they met the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Tom Brady threw 50 touchdowns and Randy Moss caught a single-season record 23 of them. Why are the Patriots the No. 16 seed? They’re the only non-champion in the field.
1999 St. Louis Rams vs. 1994 San Francisco 49ers
No. 8: 1999 Rams
13-3 with three losses by a combined 14 points.
Led NFL in points scored and yards gained.
Marshall Faulk: 1,000 yards rushing and receiving.
The “Greatest Show on Turf” is perhaps the most unexpected great team in NFL history. Kurt Warner got the starting nod after Trent Green suffered a knee injury in preseason, and Warner ended up winning regular-season MVP and Super Bowl MVP.
No. 9: 1994 49ers
Won 13 of last 14 including playoffs.
Averaged 43.7 points in three playoff wins.
Steve Young won MVP with 35 passing TDs.
The 1994 49ers started 3-2 with a 40-8 blowout loss against the Eagles. Then they caught fire, with Steve Young and Jerry Rice leading the offense and in-season addition Deion Sanders winning NFL defensive player of the year.
1992 Dallas Cowboys vs. 1966 Green Bay Packers
No. 5: 1992 Cowboys
13 regular-season wins set a new team record.
Three playoff wins were by an average of 23 points.
Six offensive starters named to Pro Bowl.
One rule in selecting the field: There had to be more than five years separation between teams for a single franchise. Otherwise the 1992, 1993 and 1995 Cowboys could have been in. The first title team for Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin got the nod.
No. 12: 1966 Packers
Second of three straight NFL championships.
12-2 with two losses by four combined points.
11 Hall of Fame players.
The 1962 Packers were Vince Lombardi’s best team, but we only considered Super Bowl-era teams for the bracket. The Super Bowl I champs were still great, with eight players getting first-team All-Pro.
1975 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. 1998 Denver Broncos
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.
You can make an argument for any of the four “Steel Curtain” teams, but the 1975 team had a point differential of plus-15.1 points per game in the regular season. It’s a team filled with iconic players on offense and defense.
No. 13: 1998 Broncos
Started season 13-0.
Second of two straight Super Bowls.
Terrell Davis (2,008 rushing yards) was NFL MVP.
John Elway’s final season was a dominant one for Denver, which won its three postseason games by 35, 13 and 15 points. Davis had one of the great seasons for a running back in NFL history and seven offensive starters made the Pro Bowl.
1984 San Francisco 49ers vs. 2006 Indianapolis Colts
No. 2: 1984 49ers
15-1 regular season.
Second of four Super Bowls in 1980s.
Allowed 10 or fewer points nine times including playoffs.
The 1988 and 1989 49ers were great too, but the 1984 edition is one of only two 15-1 teams in NFL history that also won a Super Bowl. Their 38-16 demolition of a great 1984 Dolphins team was a highlight of Joe Montana’s great career.
No. 15: 2006 Colts
No. 2 in NFL in points scored, No. 3 in total offense.
Allowed 14 combined points in first two playoff wins.
Five-time MVP Peyton Manning’s only Super Bowl title team in Indianapolis had a fantastic offense with Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Then the defense suddenly came alive in the playoffs.
1991 Washington Redskins vs. 1971 Dallas Cowboys
No. 7: 1991 Redskins
14-2, two losses by five combined points.
12 wins by double digits including playoffs.
Led NFL with 485 points scored.
The 1991 Redskins didn’t have a lot of big-name stars but are a favorite of analytics. Led by a shocking breakout season by quarterback Mark Rypien, the Redskins came very close to having the only 19-0 season in NFL history.
No. 10: 1971 Cowboys
Nine Hall of Fame players.
Led NFL in points scored and yards gained.
Won final 10 games including playoffs.
This was the year Roger Staubach finally became a star. The Cowboys went 13-0 in Staubach’s starts, including playoffs. This was Tom Landry’s first Super Bowl after years of criticism that he couldn’t win the big one.
1976 Oakland Raiders vs. 2016 New England Patriots
No. 6: 1976 Raiders
13-1 regular season.
Won final 13 games including playoffs.
Beat Vikings 32-14 in Super Bowl XI
John Madden’s only Super Bowl title team was a great one. They beat the Steelers and Vikings, two of the best teams of the 1970s, by a combined 35 points in the playoffs to win it all.
No. 11: 2016 Patriots
14-2 regular season.
Greatest Super Bowl comeback ever vs. Falcons.
Fifth of six Super Bowls for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick
Plenty of Patriots teams could have been in the field, but 2016 was a great year. The Patriots finished in the top eight in points scored, total offense, points allowed and total defense. Brady posted an astonishing 28-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, an NFL record.
1985 Chicago Bears vs. 1996 Green Bay Packers
No. 3: 1985 Bears
15-1 regular season.
Allowed 10 points in three playoff wins.
Led NFL in points and yards allowed.
The 1985 Bears are probably the most famous single team in NFL history, thanks to their cast of characters, the great “46” defense and an offense with Walter Payton. They’re one of two teams in NFL history to go 15-1 and also win a Super Bowl.
No. 14: 1996 Packers
Led NFL in points scored and allowed.
Won last eight games, all by double digits.
Brett Favre won second of three straight MVPs.
An underrated team that had 14 of 16 wins, including playoffs, by double digits. The offense was led by Favre, the defense by Reggie White and the special teams were great too with a record-setting season from Super Bowl XXXI MVP Desmond Howard.
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