We Ranked the NFL’s Top 5 Greatest Teams of All-Time: When discussing the best NFL teams of all time, we decided to stick to the Super Bowl era. Why? The great teams of the ’50s and ’60s didn’t have playoff games or a Super Bowl to compete in.
The early 1960s teams of the Green Bay Packers would certainly count among the greats, as well as the Cleveland Browns teams of the 1950s. But most fans alive never saw those teams, however deserving they are of their due.
So, here’s our list of the NFL’s Top 5 Greatest Teams of all time.
5. NFL’s Top 5 Greatest Teams of All-Time – Pittsburgh Steelers, 1975 Super Bowl Champions:
The Steelers were built on defense, “The Steel Curtain”, with a front seven of L.C. Greenwood, “Mean Joe” Greene, Ernie Holmes, Dwight White along the defensive line with linebackers Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, and Andy Russell. The secondary had Mel Blount, J.T. Thomas, Donnie Shell, and Mike Wagner. It was one of the finest defenses to ever play in any era.
Record 12-2, Points For: 373, Points Against:162, Defeated the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in Super Bowl X
The Steelers team had 11 players that wound up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and their +211 point differential remains as the best in franchise history. The Steelers won 11 games in a row after a Week 2 loss and won six games by 21 or more points. The defense racked up 27 interceptions while allowing only 9 passing touchdowns all season.
4. NFL’s Top 5 Greatest Teams of All-Time – San Francisco 49ers, 1984 Super Bowl Champions:
This Niners team narrowly edges out a few others from its franchise, notably the 1989 team. San Francisco would be the first team to win 15 games since the NFL went to the 16 game season, rolling to the top seed in the NFC and winning the Super Bowl easily. Joe Montana, who won his second Super Bowl MVP had arguably his best season, completing 279-432 passes, (64.6 %) for 3630 yards (8.4-yards per attempt) with 28 TDs and just 10 INTs.
Record 15-1, Points For 475, Points Against: 227, Defeated the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX.
The Niners rolled through the regular season, only a mid-season loss in October against the Steelers in Pittsburgh derailed what would have been a perfect season and the first in the 16-game era.
3. NFL’s Top 5 Greatest Teams of All-Time – Washington Redskins, 1991 Super Bowl Champions:
The Redskins were an absolute juggernaut in 1991, winning 14 games under head coach Joe Gibbs, leading the league in scoring with 485 points while having the #2 scoring defense allowing just 224 points having a point differential of +261. Mark Rypien had a fantastic year throwing for 3564 yards was 4th best in the league and had two 1,000-yard receivers, Gary Clark (1,340) and Art Monk (1,049).
Record 14-2, Points For: 485, Points Against 224, Defeated the Buffalo Bills 37-24 in Super Bowl XXVI
The Redskins led the NFL with a +18 turnover ratio, and their only two losses, in the final five weeks in the season against division rivals Dallas and Philadelphia were by a combined 5 points. Washington rolled through the postseason and easily crushed the Bills who were in the midst of a four straight year Super Bowl run with no wins.
2. NFL’s Top 5 Greatest Teams of All-Time – Chicago Bears, 1985 Super Bowl Champions:
The Bears had made it to the NFC Championship season the year before, losing to the 49ers 1984 team listed above. In 1985, the Bears rolled to an impressive record steamrollering everything in its path due to the famed “46 Defense”. They rolled through the first 12 weeks before losing an early December game in Miami. That would be the only blemish on their record.
Record 15-1, Points For: 456, Points Against: 198, Defeated the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX
The Bears were untouchable in the postseason as their defense, which forced 54 turnovers in the regular season, shut out the Giants and then the Rams before playing the Patriots, who they beat 20-7 in Week 2 of the regular season in Chicago. The Bears behind their defense dominated from start to finish setting the record (at that time) with 46 points scored and the point differential (36) in Super Bowl History.
1. NFL’s Top 5 Greatest Teams of All-Time – Miami Dolphins, 1972 Super Bowl History:
The Dolphins remain the only undefeated team in the Super Bowl era. The Dolphins led the league in points for and points against. Miami did it with a punishing running game, both Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris had over 1,000 yards rushing and a great defense, nicknamed “The No-Name Defense” by Cowboys’ coach Tom Landry. Miami had three running backs that were instrumental to their success as Jim Kiick played a valuable role. And the Dolphins rolled through the season mainly with their backup QB Earl Morrall as starter Bob Griese was injured early in the season.
Record 14-0, Points For: 385, Points Against: 171, Defeated the Washington Redskins 14-7 in Super Bowl VII
Miami had a tremendous season and football team that would win back-to-back Super Bowls. But they also benefitted from a cupcake schedule where the aggregate winning percentage of their opponents was .397. Only two opponents had winning records that season, (Kansas City, New York Giants) and both of them were just 8-6.
Honorable Mention: 2007 New England Patriots, Points For: 589, Points Against 274, points differential of 315, 16-0 regular-season record but lost Super Bowl XLI to the New York Giants 17-14. The Patriots were a velcro helmet catch by David Tyree from leapfrogging everyone on the list. And the amazing thing was they were able to do this in the era of the Salary Cap.
Bonus Photo Essay: Tom Brady, Meet the GOAT
Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 1945, he covers the NFL for PatsFans.com and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.