Rating the NFL’s finest groups of the twenty first century: 18-1 Patriots prime record regardless of Tremendous Bowl loss

“It isn’t the vacation spot, it is the journey.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote got here to thoughts when compiling the record of the NFL’s finest groups of the twenty first century. Far too usually, the tip result’s the one factor he checked out when reviewing historical past. Sure, the ring is the factor in relation to legitimizing a season or perhaps a profession, however it’s not all the pieces. Generally, one of the best workforce is not the one that’s celebrating beneath a confetti blizzard.

That brings us to our record of the NFL’s biggest groups of the twenty first century. Whereas the bulk did win the Lombardi Trophy, a number of didn’t win a world title. However we did not let their lack of postseason success cloud our judgment.

Amongst our standards when making the record was: who do we predict would win a recreation between a specific workforce and the opposite nice squads of the twenty first century? For instance, would the 2000 Ravens or 2002 Buccaneers defeat the 2007 Patriots? As nice as Baltimore and Tampa’s defenses had been, it is laborious to fathom Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson taking part in nicely sufficient to defeat New England’s protection, given how Matt Ryan fell quick in his quest of doing so in Tremendous Bowl LI.

Right here is the remainder of our standards used to make the record.

  • total report
  • league rankings
  • roster expertise
  • postseason success

Now that the foundations have been set, let’s check out the best groups of the twenty first century, beginning with arguably the best workforce in sports activities historical past that didn’t win a championship.

1. 2007 Patriots

  • 18-0 begin
  • Season level differential (+315) bigger than complete factors allowed (274)
  • Led by league MVP Tom Brady (50 TD passes) and HOF WR Randy Moss (23 TD rec.)

You’ll be able to’t have a non-championship season higher than this one. Actually, the one factor the ’07 Patriots did not do was hoist the Lombardi Trophy. The one undefeated workforce in the course of the NFL’s 16-game common season format, the Patriots’ common margin of victory in the course of the season was a gaudy 19.7 factors. Brady set an NFL report for TD passes, whereas Moss’ single season report for TD receptions stays the all-time mark.

The protection included Corridor of Fame linebacker Junior Seau, two-time All-Professional security Rodney Harrison, and 2007 Professional Bowlers Vince Wilfork, Mike Vrabel, and Asante Samuel. The unit held 12 of their opponents to beneath 20 factors, together with their opponent in Tremendous Bowl XLII: the New York Giants. The Giants’ stress of Brady, together with a miracle helmet catch, prevented the Patriots from finishing the best season in league annals.

2. 2001 Rams

  • Offense led NFL in scoring, passing, third down and pink zone effectivity
  • Protection restricted opponents to beneath 20 factors 12 groups
  • Featured 4 HOF gamers on offense

Two years faraway from their Tremendous Bowl win, the “Biggest Present on Turf” was an Adam Vinatieri Tremendous Bowl kick away from presumably successful a second title. Warner led an offense that featured Corridor of Famers fellow Isaac Bruce, Marshall Faulk and Orlando Tempo. The unit scored 501 factors within the common season, 45 towards the packers within the divisional spherical and 29 towards a tricky eagles protection within the NFC Championship Recreation.

Many neglect that the Rams boasted the NFL’s seventh-ranked scoring protection that yr, led by Corridor of Fame cornerback Aeneas Williams, linebacker London Fletcher and defensive finish Grant Wistrom. The unit picked off Brett Favre six instances within the divisional spherical, then got here up with the game-winning decide of Donovan McNabb within the NFC title recreation. The Rams had been shocked by the Patriots within the Tremendous Bowl, 20-17.

3. 2016 Patriots

  • Completed third in NFL in scoring and 1st in factors allowed
  • Outscored playoff opponents 104-61
  • Biggest comeback in Tremendous Bowl historical past

The ’07 squad could also be their finest workforce, however the ’16 workforce might very nicely be the Patriots’ finest championship workforce of the Tom Brady/Invoice Belichick period. This was a balanced squad that had the league’s biggest quarterback at maybe his most pushed level, as he was compelled to look at the primary quarter of the season as a consequence of a suspension. The Patriots went 3-1 with out Brady, then proceeded to go 14-1 with him again beneath heart.

New England blew previous the Texans and Steelers within the AFC playoffs earlier than discovering themselves on the fallacious facet of a lopsided rating towards the falcons in Tremendous Bowl LI. However in a second that may outline their dynasty, the Patriots overcame a 28-3 deficit to win the primary Tremendous Bowl that was determined in extra time. Brady was his masterful self of him in the course of the comeback, however it was a workforce effort. Brady’s talent place teammates, particularly Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and James White, made a bevy of massive performs in the course of the comeback. The protection additionally got here up with a number of vital performs, none larger than Dont’a Hightower’s strip-sack of Matt Ryan that jumpstarted the comeback.

  • Tremendous Bowl LIV champions
  • First workforce to beat 10-point deficits in three consecutive playoff video games

After a sluggish begin, the Chiefs closed out the season on an eight-game successful streak, capped off by their 31-20 win over the 49ers within the Tremendous Bowl. When Kansas Metropolis discovered its momentum, its offense was nearly unstoppable throughout that run. The Chiefs scored 51 unanswered factors of their divisional spherical playoff win over the texans after trailing 24-0. Trailing 20-10 late within the Tremendous Bowl, the Chiefs scored three touchdowns in 5 minutes to assert the franchise’s first title in 50 years.

Patrick Mahomes led the offense whereas turning into the primary participant to win league and Tremendous Bowl MVP honors earlier than his twenty fifth birthday. He was complemented by tight finish Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, who each made huge performs down the stretch towards the 49ers. Kansas Metropolis’s protection was bolstered by security Tyrann Mathieu, whose play helped the Chiefs discover their stride in the course of the second half of the season.

5. 2013 Seahawks

  • Tremendous Bowl LVIII champions
  • Remaining Held 8 opponents to a median of 11.5 factors per recreation
  • Completed 4th in NFL in speeding and 1st in move protection

An especially balanced workforce, Seattle dominated a proficient Broncos workforce on soccer’s greatest stage. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch led an offense that was prime 10 in most main classes. The Seahawks’ protection, considered one of many league’s finest for the reason that begin of the millennium, was led by a dominant secondary that featured Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Cam Chancellor.

Within the playoffs, Seattle’s protection held a Drew Brees-led offense to a mere 15 factors. They then held the defending NFC champion 49ers for simply 17 factors within the convention title recreation. However these performances paled compared to what they did in Tremendous Bowl XLVIII. The Seahawks’ protection scored as many touchdowns as Denver’s record-setting offense and did not enable a Broncos’ rating till the sport was nicely out of hand. Appropriately, a member of Seattle’s protection, linebacker Malcolm Smith, was named Tremendous Bowl MVP.

  • Tremendous Bowl XLIV champions
  • Defeated three future HOF quarterbacks in postseason

New Orleans stormed out to a 13-0 begin, then proceeded to defeat the defending NFC champion (Cardinals), the NFC’s No. 2 seed (Vikings) and the AFC’s top-seeded workforce (Colts) within the playoffs. Drew Brees led a Saints offense that led the league in scoring in the course of the common season, then scored 45, 31 and 31 factors in three playoff video games.

The Saints’ offense was the headliner, however the protection performed a key function in New Orleans’ first championship. It compelled eight turnovers within the playoffs, together with Tracy Porter’s game-clinching pick-six of Peyton Manning within the Tremendous Bowl.

  • Tremendous Bowl XL champions
  • First sixth seed to win the Tremendous Bowl

This was a battle between Pittsburgh’s two title-winning groups of the 2000s. The node in the end went to the ’05 Steelers primarily based on their superior play on the offensive facet of the ball. Led by Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis, Pittsburgh completed fifth within the NFL in speeding that season. The offensive line, which included Corridor of Fame guard Alan Faneca, supplied strong safety for Ben Roethlisberger, whose efficiency in the course of the AFC playoffs has been vastly underrated and under-appreciated.

When Roethlisberger struggled (as he did in Tremendous Bowl XL), Pittsburgh’s protection was there to select him up. The unit dominated the top-seeded Colts within the divisional spherical and overwhelmed the Broncos’ offense within the AFC recreation. The unit featured a number of of one of the best gamers at their respective positions in Troy Polamalu, Joey Porter, Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton and James Farrior.

  • Received 4 playoff video games whereas holding first two playoff opponents to 14 complete factors
  • Offense featured 5 Professional Bowlers and Corridor of Famers Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison

On paper, the ’05 Colts had been the higher workforce. However that workforce fell quick towards the Steelers within the divisional spherical, partly due to their kicker. The ’06 Colts fastened that by buying Adam Vinatieri, arguably the best kicker in league historical past. The previous Patriot made 5 subject targets within the Colts’ 15-6 playoff win over Baltimore. Every week later, he helped his new workforce defeat his previous one because the Colts overcame a 21-3 deficit towards New England.

The Colts’ full workforce steadiness was on show within the Tremendous Bowl. Enjoying in lower than very best situations, Indianapolis leaned on operating backs Dominic Rhodes and Joseph Addai, who mixed who tally 264 complete yards on 51 touches. Manning threw a key landing move to Reggie Wayne, whereas the Colts’ protection, which included move rusher Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders, sealed the 29-17 win over Chicago with a pick-six.

9. 2010 Packers

  • Tremendous Bowl XLV champions
  • Received three highway playoff video games by mixed rating of 90-51
  • Defeated Steelers’ top-ranked protection within the Tremendous Bowl

Inexperienced Bay’s 2011 squad that went 15-1 was thought of right here, however their Tremendous Bowl-winning workforce was a way more balanced unit, which is an enormous purpose why they completed the season with the Lombardi Trophy. The 2010 Packers misplaced six video games, however each was by single digits and two of these defeats occurred in OT.

After an 8-6 begin, the Packers gained their closing six video games that included playoff wins in Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago. Aaron Rodgers, who performed like a person possessed all through Inexperienced Bay’s playoff run, gained Tremendous Bowl MVP honors after carving the Steelers’ formidable protection to the tune of 304 yards and three touchdowns. Regardless of Corridor of Fame defensive again Charles Woodson’s damage, the Packers’ protection was nonetheless in a position to give you two of the sport’s greatest performs: Nick Collins’ pick-six and Clay Matthews’ compelled fumble that arrange the game-winning rating.

  • 15-1 common season report
  • 9 Professional Bowlers, together with league MVP Cam Newton

The fourth NFC workforce in historical past to win 15 common season video games, the Panthers dethroned the two-time defending convention champions within the divisional spherical earlier than blowing out a proficient Arizona workforce within the NFC title recreation. Peyton Manning, Von Miller and the remainder of the Broncos prevented the Panthers from successful the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.

Newton loved a banner yr; he turned the primary participant in NFL historical past to throw 35 touchdowns and run for 10 in the identical season. Carolina’s protection, led by All-Professionals Luke Kuechly, Josh Norman and Thomas Davis, compelled 11 turnovers within the playoffs after tallying 39 takeaways in the course of the common season.

Honorable point out: 2006 Chargers

The Chargers boasted one of many NFL’s all-time nice offensive trios in Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Antonio Gates. Tomlinson gained league MVP after scoring an NFL report 31 touchdowns. Linebacker Shawne Merriman led a protection that recorded a whopping 61 sacks in the course of the common season.

San Diego’s quest for the franchise’s first Tremendous Bowl got here crashing down within the divisional spherical towards (who else?) the Patriots. The Chargers took an 11-point lead earlier than Brady caught hearth with three landing passes. 4 turnovers and a missed subject purpose on the sport’s second-to-last play sealed the Chargers’ destiny.

Leave a Comment