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 second round of polling closes at noon ET on Thursday, April 2.
1972 Miami Dolphins vs. 1994 San Francisco 49ers
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 won handily in the first-round fan vote over the other team that put up a perfect regular season in the Super Bowl era, the 2007 Patriots. The Dolphins’ all-around excellence will help them in a tough second-round battle against the 1994 49ers.
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 49ers got past the 1999 Rams in the first round, and this is a talented, loaded team. Ignoring a meaningless Week 17 game, the 49ers scored at least 31 points in 11 of their last 12 games counting playoffs.
1975 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. 1992 Dallas Cowboys
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
The Steelers had no problem against the 1998 Broncos in the first round, but will have a tough second-round test against their old rival, the Dallas Cowboys. A matchup of the famed Steel Curtain defensive line and the 1990s Cowboys’ offensive line would have been a treat to watch.
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
The Cowboys knocked off the 1966 Packers in the first round in a close fan vote, but it will be tough to advance against the 1975 Steelers, one of the most iconic teams in NFL history.
1984 San Francisco 49ers vs. 1991 Washington Redskins
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 quick note: The 1989 49ers weren’t in the field because of our NFL bracket rule that franchises needed more than a five-year gap between teams. And the 1984 49ers, who went 15-1, earned their spot in the field. They got 80 percent of the fan vote in a first-round win over the 2006 Colts.
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 closest fan vote in the first round was the 1991 Redskins against the 1971 Cowboys; Washington barely moved on. The ‘91 Redskins are a favorite of advanced stats. Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric ranks the 1991 Redskins as the best team since 1985 — yes, ahead of the 1985 Bears.
1985 Chicago Bears vs. 1976 Oakland Raiders
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 had the biggest blowout of the first round, getting 85 percent of the vote against the 1996 Packers. That Bears team is synonymous with NFL greatness even 34 years after their Super Bowl win, and it’ll be hard to knock them off.
No. 6: 1976 Raiders
13-1 regular season
Won final 13 games including playoffs
Beat Vikings 32-14 in Super Bowl XI
In the first round the 1976 Raiders cruised past the 2016 Patriots (the great Patriots dynasty does not have a team in the final eight of our bracket). The 1976 Raiders might not have been the best of John Madden’s Raiders teams, but they were great and the one that took home a Super Bowl.
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