The NFL’s season-ending Super Bowl is arguably the biggest single-night sports event in the entire world.
Every winter, countless football fans around the world gather to watch the game. Some love the competition of the game, some just love the parties, and some love to gamble on the myriad of possibilities the NFL’s largest spectacle presents. You need only look at the statistics of how many people miss work the day after the Super Bowl to see its clear cultural significance in the United States.
Yet while those aspects of the game are front and center each Super Bowl weekend, they may overshadow what the NFL’s title game is truly about. The Super Bowl is the only place where NFL teams and players can cement themselves in the history of the sport. Regular-season and even playoff accomplishments come and go, but Super Bowl success is etched in stone.
With that said, each winning Super Bowl team is different, and some are better than others. Many steamrolled their competition the entire year while others came out of the woodwork to secure improbable title runs. We broke down all 53 Super Bowl winners ranked from worst to first right here, with season stats via The Sporting News:
53. 2012 Baltimore Ravens
The 2012 Ravens won a Super Bowl but just weren’t very good compared to other championship-winning teams. Their regular-season record was a respectable 10-6, yet that’s hardly the record you’d expect of a championship team. It could have been much better if the team hadn’t won only one of their final five games. They went into the postseason without much hype on their shoulders.
The team turned it on and won some huge, improbable games. They nearly lost to the Denver Broncos in Peyton Manning’s first year in Colorado. But a Joe Flacco Hail Mary sent them to New England, where they beat the Patriots for the AFC title. Flacco threw for 3,817 yards that year and still got one of the biggest and worst NFL contracts because of their late-season surge. Ray Lewis also went out on top with a title because of their run. That doesn’t change the fact that they’re arguably the worst Super Bowl-winning team in NFL history.
This was the season that defined the rest of Jon Gruden’s career and continues to do so to this day. Overall, “Chucky” isn’t the greatest head coach ever, but he has big rep thanks to this one-sided team’s success in 2002. It’s often discussed that Gruden largely inherited a stacked squad (at least on defense) from previous head coach Tony Dungy. People say that because he did.
Coming over from Oakland, Gruden and the Buccaneers steamrolled their way to a 12-4 record thanks to a paltry 12.2 points allowed per game by their all-time great defense. Their offense was bland by comparison. Star wideout Keyshawn Johnson had a decent enough year with 1,088 yards receiving, but quarterback Brad Johnson threw for 3,049 yards all year. That’s Flacco level. Michael Pittman led the team with 718 rushing yards. It’s safe to say that this team wasn’t an offensive juggernaut. They didn’t need to be, as Gruden faced his old team in the Super Bowl. He looked like he knew what they were going to do, and the Bucs’ defense blew the doors off the Raiders. Gruden got his career-changing title, but this team will always be among the worst Super Bowl winners.
There is simply no denying that the 2011 New York Giants are one of if not the most improbable Super Bowl winners in history. They had a middling 9-7 record in the regular season, going 2-4 in their final six games. The Giants had to go play away games at Green Bay and San Francisco to make it to the Super Bowl. They earned that opportunity by beating Atlanta at home in the Wild Card game. Somehow they did all of that, even trouncing the feared Packers in Lambeau field. New York rode a fearsome pass rush to a win over New England in the 2008 Super Bowl. Their defense was far from that frightening in 2011, however, when they ranked 25th in the NFL by allowing 25 points per game.
Eli Manning did throw for a ton of yards with 4,933 total, however. He also had the Patriots’ number, something hardly anyone in NFL history besides him can claim. Manning and the Giants beat New England in the Super Bowl yet again when normally sure-handed wide receiver Wes Welker dropped a pivotal first down in the game. This team got sizzling hot at the right time and beat the NFL’s most successful juggernaut. How they did so based on their regular-season record will always be a marvel.
Like Gruden’s 2002 Bucs, the 2015 Denver Broncos rode an all-time great defense and a bland, uninspiring offense to a grinding Super Bowl win. They had made the championship game in 2013 following what may be the single greatest offensive season in NFL history with Peyton Manning at the helm. But two years later, Manning seemed to be a quickly-fading shell of himself. Manning was even hurt and replaced by upstart Brock Osweiler, only to see him return right before their playoff run.
So the team limited his opportunities to pass the ball, choosing to run it and allow the defense to control the games. They did so, with defensive end Von Miller dominating the line of scrimmage. Their defense was stacked to the brim beyond that, with their “No Fly Zone” secondary making plays and causing turnovers. The Broncos faced a dangerous opponent in the 15-1 Carolina Panthers led by quarterback Cam Newton. They forced Newton to fumble en route to a 24-10 win. Their defense took them almost all the way, though, with Manning throwing for 2,249 yards as their leading passer. They just weren’t a well-rounded enough team to be up among the best Super Bowl winners.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took the NFL by storm in his rookie season of 2004, leading the Steelers to a 15-1 record. But it was his second year in 2005 where the Steelers truly found success. Like many Lombardi Trophy winners on this list, Pittsburgh got hot at the right time and things just fell into place. Their regular-season record was a solid 11-5, nothing amazing.
Similar to the unbelievable run of the 2011 New York Giants, Pittsburgh had to win three road games to even make it to the Super Bowl that year. They did so and met the Seattle Seahawks, emerging victoriously by a count of 21-10. That year, Roethlisberger only threw for 2,385 yards while the team was without a 1,000-yard receiver. Still, they had a solid core on offense with Hines Ward and Jerome Bettis, and also the NFL’s third-ranked defense. The 2005 Steelers continued the tradition of excellence for the franchise. They just weren’t an unbelievable team in terms of Super Bowl champions, and they caught a ton of breaks.
This was the season that brought the NFL’s greatest quarterback of all-time, Tom Brady, into prominence. And it’s also one that will forever go down in NFL infamy due to its controversy. The story goes that Brady, a sixth-round pick with a chip on his shoulder, replaced injured veteran Drew Bledsoe to lead the team. The most discussed game of that year was the infamous “tuck rule” game in the snow-covered playoff game against the Oakland Raiders. People still get into arguments about that game to this day.
Brady fumbled the ball in the extreme weather conditions, but the refs on duty chose to break down call and render a decision that is rued to the day. Say whatever you want about the Patriots and many will, but this was the year that kicked off their Super Bowl dynasty that’s now at six rings. Brady wasn’t even close to his record-breaking prime, yet he was good enough to win a Super Bowl over the vaunted “Greatest Show On Turf” the St. Louis Rams brought to the table. It was a close game that Adam Vinatieri won with a fourth-quarter field goal. While it began the Pats’ dominance, however, they just weren’t the best champs ever. The “tuck rule” call in their favor helped these Patriots win the title.
Here’s yet another Giants team who parlayed a merely okay regular-season record of 10-6 into a history-making Super Bowl title. They also derailed the team that would most likely be the No. 1 team on this list had they only won the Super Bowl. The Giants weren’t exactly dominant on either side of the ball that year, ranking 14th in points scored and 17th in points allowed. The New England Patriots, however, were one of the most offensively dominant teams the NFL had ever seen. Tom Brady threw for a then-record 50 touchdowns that season, with a record 23 of them going to star wide receiver Randy Moss alone. The Giants barely lost in a late-season game against New England, but they made up for it in the Super Bowl. After storming into Green Bay and winning the NFC title, New York rematched the great Pats in the biggest game of the year.
Their fearsome pass rush was on display thanks to Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora as they disrupted Brady’s rhythm throughout the low-scoring game. In the end, David Tyree’s fateful “helmet catch” saved the Giants when they needed it most, and Eli Manning created magic for the first of his two Super Bowl upsets of the Pats. An amazing story and game, but they weren’t among the best Super Bowl winners on paper regardless.
This was the fateful season that largely enabled Mike McCarthy to remain head coach of one of the most honored franchises in the NFL until 2018 despite evidence pointing to him losing his edge long before that. In any case, the 2010 Packers weren’t exactly a regular-season juggernaut, as they only went 10-6 that year. Like the 2011 Giants and 2005 Steelers, they faced the gauntlet of having to go into Philly and Atlanta to even make the NFC conference championship game. When they somehow won both of those games, they earned a trip to meet NFC North rival Chicago for a trip to the Super Bowl.
The Packers won and faced the Roethlisberger-led Steelers in the Super Bowl, What transpired was a high-scoring affair, with Green Bay winning by a count of 31-25. Aaron Rodgers was named the game’s MVP, a huge win that defined his career and pushed him out of the shadows of Packers legend Brett Favre. A great win and one that cemented Rodgers and McCarthy’s legacies. But they weren’t the best team overall; you could argue that the 15-1 Packers of the following year were actually much better despite losing in the playoffs.
The latest Patriots Super Bowl win was among their worst teams to hoist the trophy, but does that really matter? In any case, many seemed to write off a 41-year-old Tom Brady and an injury-riddled Rob Gronkowski. At times throughout the 2018 regular season, it was tough to doubt them. The Patriots were simply losing to teams they may not have during Brady’s prime years with a healthy ‘Gronk.’
But as the best teams do, the Patriots rose to the occasion. Although their defense was solid enough in the regular season, it truly ascended to a new level throughout the playoffs. Of course, Brady and coach Bill Belichick will always get the credit for this win, and they deserve a lot of it. Belichick may just be the best coach in NFL history. Yet his defense and their offensive line played off-the-charts in the 2018 postseason. In the final game of that run, the Pats faced the NFL’s trendy new darling, the high-scoring Los Angeles Rams. Belichick proceeded to shut down Los Angeles and their young head coach Sean McVay in a dominant fashion. Overall, the 2018 Patriots weren’t necessarily a dominant team, but they won big when it counted.
The 1980 Raiders were an improbable champion who rode Jim Plunkett to a title. Plunkett was a heralded star coming out of college, yet his early-career days in the NFL left much to be desired. In fact, it was to the point that Plunkett was largely considered a bust heading into the 1980 season. The Oakland Raiders gave him one last shot as their backup, and he was thrust into starting duties when original signal called Dan Pastorini suffered a serious leg injury early in the season. All Plunkett did was lead the team to a 13-3 record throughout their regular season and playoff runs. They ultimately toppled Philadelphia by a score of 27-10 in the Super Bowl. Plunkett won the MVP award as well.
Overall, Oakland etched their names into the history book by becoming the first-ever wild card team to improbably win a title. However, despite their offense ranking seventh in the NFL that year, it was far from a statistical juggernaut. Plunkett led the team with a mere 2,299 yards passing, while their leading receiver was Cliff Branch with 858 yards. Their leading rusher was Mark van Eeghen with 838 yards. The 1980 Raiders were a great feel-good story, but those numbers ultimately keep them on the lower end of Super Bowl winners.
The 2008 Steelers put together quite a Super Bowl run from the looks of things. But like several other one-sided teams who ended up on the lower end of this list, it was largely due to a dominant defense. Their defense allowed an average of 13.9 points per contest that year, good for first overall in the NFL. In terms of offense, they most certainly weren’t as prolific as some of the Steelers teams of recent memory. Overall, however, that didn’t matter as they won the Super Bowl. However, it wasn’t without some incredibly lucky breaks along the way. Pittsburgh faced the red-hot Arizona Cardinals in the championship and it was a close game. Arizona and quarterback Kurt Warner were threatening to score deep in Steeler territory late in the first half.
But in one of the most momentum-changing plays in Super Bowl history, Steeler linebacker James Harrison intercepted Warner and returned it an unreal 100 yards for a game-flipping touchdown. That still almost wasn’t enough, as Cardinal wideout Larry Fitzgerald eventually put Arizona up late in the game. Roethlisberger found lightning in a bottle despite some subpar season stats, finding eventual MVP Santonio Holmes with an unbelievable touchdown with less than a minute remaining. A great win in a great game, but ultimately not one of the greatest Super Bowl teams of all-time.
This team won the Super Bowl amidst some strange circumstances. First, the 1987 NFL season was shortened by a strike and somehow Washington won their second Super Bowl during such a season. But the biggest story of the year was quarterback Doug Williams. He became the first black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl that year, a record that stood on its own until Russell Wilson won a Lombardi Trophy with Seattle in early 2014.
Williams will forever be etched into NFL history thanks to this run. Overall, it just wasn’t as impressive on paper as it was historic. He only started two regular-season games and wasn’t the team’s official starter in any of their 11 wins. In fact, their leading passer on the year was Jay Schroeder with a paltry 1,878 yards. George Rogers led the Redskins in rushing with a mere 613 yards. But despite all of those downfalls, Washington got hot at the right time and smoked the Denver Broncos by a score of 42-10. Williams was named the Most Valuable Player with a four-touchdown performance. This Super Bowl win was much more of a testament to Joe Gibbs’ prowess as a head coach.
This team will, unfortunately, go down as the year that all-time great Johnny Unitas began the inevitable downfall all great athletes eventually endure. In terms of overall statistics, this team was definitely one of the worst amongst all Super Bowl winners. Unitas threw for only 2,213 yards that year on the heels of a putrid 51.7 completion percentage. The team’s leading rusher was Norm Bulaich with 426 yards and their leading receiver was Roy Jefferson with 749 yards. Those numbers would be replacement-level in today’s game.
But the team still finished 11-2-1 in the regular season and won the Super Bowl over the famed Dallas Cowboys by a close margin of 16-13. Unitas started that game hot, but ultimately suffered an injury and was replaced by backup Earl Morrall. Unitas was unable to win the Super Bowl he led his Colts to that year. The following year, Unitas truly began to decline, throwing only three touchdown passes. In 1972, Baltimore benched Unitas after dropping four of their first five, and he went to the Chargers in 1973 before retiring. This was Unitas’ final run at greatness, and the team won with his backup. Overall, an unheralded title team in several aspects.
This season will forever go down as the year when fans and media members began predicting the imminent demise of the Patriots’ dynasty early in the season. Coach Bill Belichick coined his infamous “We’re on to Cincinnati” catchphrase after the Kansas City Chiefs trounced the Pats early in the year. The team was only 2-2 at that point, yet it seemed anyone and everyone was looking for a reason to declare the Patriots’ dominance finally over with. It was not. The Patriots won 10 of their final 12 games. They parlayed that into yet another successful postseason run, defeating the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC title game. They later topped Seattle in a nail biter to win the Super Bowl by a score of 28-24. On the surface, it was a resilient, impressive performance from the NFL’s most dominant team.
However, those accomplishments were marred by more controversy out of New England. The oft-maligned “deflategate” scandal was born when the Patriots were accused of deflating the footballs in an effort to supposedly limit Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck from airing it out. It resulted in a four-game suspension for Brady the following year. It just didn’t seem like they needed such a dirty advantage to beat the Colts as they did. Next, and this was not their fault, they benefitted from Seattle making the all-time foolish decision to throw the ball deep in New England territory with the Super Bowl on the line. They did this despite having one of the most powerful running backs in the NFL in Marshawn Lynch. Pats defensive back Malcolm Butler came up with an iconic interception to seal the improbable win for the Patriots. A great example of perseverance to silence their doubters, but this Patriots season had too many strange circumstances to rank among their best teams of all-time.
Jim Plunkett took the NFL by storm when he won the 1980 Super Bowl, but he wasn’t done there. This team was much more high-powered in terms of offensive output compared to their 1980 title team. Plunkett himself threw for more yards than he did in 1980 with 2,935 yards. It still wasn’t a great number by any stretch, especially by today’s standards. Their skill players recorded much better stats as well, with eventual Super Bowl MVP Marcus Allen rushing for 1,014 yards in the regular season. Todd Christensen led the team with an impressive 1,247 yards receiving.
Future Hall of Famer Allen was the star of this team, and he rightfully earned the MVP award in the Super Bowl that year. He rushed for a record 191 yards as the Raiders destroyed the Philadelphia Eagles by a dominant score of 38-9. The 1983 Los Angeles Raiders remain the only NFL team to ever win the Super Bowl for the city of Los Angeles. This season was also the time when Raiders’ owner Al Davis effused his classic, ‘Just win, baby!’ catchphrase. An underrated Super Bowl-winning team.
Peyton Manning’s first of two Super Bowl wins showcased his level of dominance in the passing game. The Colts ended with the second-highest scoring average in the league in 2006, riding that prowess to a 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears and their vaunted defense led by Brian Urlacher. That’s impressive enough in its own right, but the fact that Indy did so with the 23rd-ranked defense that allowed 22.5 points per game makes it even more impressive.
That year, Manning passed for 4,557 yards, a then-record 49 touchdown passes, and a then-record 121.1 passer rating. He threw only 10 interceptions all year. Those unreal numbers deservedly resulted in his second NFL MVP award. This Colts team may perhaps be an underrated Super Bowl team. While they were a bit one-sided because of their 23rd-ranked defense, they ultimately pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in AFC title game history by beating the Patriots after trailing 21-3. Their Super Bowl was also Manning’s first and best title win of his two total wins.
Some make take offense to this ranking. As a disclaimer, this game is and should be one of the most famous Super Bowls thanks to Jets quarterback Joe Namath’s guarantee that his underdog team would defeat the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts and Johnny Unitas. Namath delivered on that guarantee by a low score of 16-7. Overall, though, these Jets just weren’t the most impressive Super Bowl winners. Namath threw for 3,147 yards that season, decent enough numbers for that run-focused era of NFL football. However, he did so while maintaining a paltry 49.2 percent completion rate, a number that would not fly in today’s NFL. Their leading rusher was Matt Schnell with 742 yards. It is important to note that they featured great wideout Don Maynard, who racked up an excellent 1,297 receiving yards in the 1968 season.
Namath was a highly famous player who essentially made his career off of his guarantee. And that’s not to discredit what he did, as it was ultimately a climate-changing game for the entire sport of football. While that can never be taken away from these Jets, Namath ultimately ended up as a somewhat overrated quarterback. Nevertheless, Super Bowls aren’t about stats, and this put the AFL on the map in a huge way. It’s tough to rank this Super Bowl team due to the dynamics in play, but overall they weren’t among the greatest.
Among the many teams who won the Super Bowl thanks to a one-sided team featuring an all-time great defense, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens may be the most glaring example. They were led by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who narrowly avoided a murder charge to resume his playing career. Lewis led the Ravens’ defense as they held opponents to 10.3 points per game in the regular season, good enough for first in the NFL.
That defense can legitimately be called the greatest of all-time. If it’s not the best, it’s most definitely in the top three of all-time. Their offense was the polar opposite of that. Quarterback Tony Banks originally led them. But the fact he threw for only 1,578 yards that year meant he had to go. He still led the team in passing yards, however. His ineptitude led to Trent Dilfer becoming the starter. Dilfer was hardly an offensive juggernaut himself, but he had bruising running back Jamal Lewis to help control the clock and let the defense do their thing. The Ravens did just that throughout the playoffs, culminating in a 34-7 thrashing of the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. There is no denying the all-time greatness of the Ravens defense from this year. In terms of all-around Super Bowl teams, however, they aren’t exactly towards the top.
This season was simply magic for New Orleans and its fans, as it put to rest many years of futility and heartbreak. While they didn’t necessarily have any all-out superstar skill players, they didn’t need them. You need only look at the fact that Marques Colston was their leading receiver with 1,074 yards and Pierre Thomas led them in rushing with only 793 yards as proof. Despite that, the Saints led the NFL in scoring average that year with an unreal 31.9 points per game.
They also won a classic NFC title game when Brett Favre threw a foolish interception across the middle to trounce the Vikings’ hopes of making the Super Bowl. True, these Saints caught some breaks, but you need to win the Super Bowl. The Saints have been a force in the NFL for several years now thanks to their compatible coach-quarterback combo of Sean Payton and Drew Brees. But they’ve never quite been able to reach the heights they did in 2009 when they bested Peyton Manning’s Colts for the title.
The 1967 Packers were a strange mix of both dominance and sadness. On one hand, they won the Super Bowl by defeating the Oakland Raiders 33-14. They didn’t have the greatest record that year at 9-4-1, and they didn’t really rack up stats either. Bart Starr led the team with a meager 1,823 yards passing while Boyd Dowler led the team in receiving with 836 yards. Their leading rusher had 466 yards, a total some players reach in three games.
After 1967, Vince Lombardi – the man whom the super Bowl trophy is named after – left the Packers. That marked the end of his historic run in Green Bay that is still considered among the best in NFL history – if not the best. While winning the title in 1967 was nice for Green Bay, this wasn’t the best of teams Lombardi fielded and also the harbinger of worse things to come.
Of all the decorated 49ers’ Super Bowl teams of the 1980s, this one was probably the worst. They only went 10-6 that year, hardly the record of what you’d expect from San Francisco. Still, they won the division and actually sat in a good position headed into the postseason.
And when you have Joe Montana, who led the way 2,981 yards passing that year, you’re never out of it. He brought legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice, who had 1,306 receiving yards that year and running back Roger Craig, who rushed for 1,506 yards. They faced AFC rival Cincinnati in the Super Bowl that year, and defeat actually appeared near for the West Coast juggernaut. However, it was another classic ‘Joe Cool’ performance as Montana led them back to win with hardly any time left on the clock. Not the greatest of Bill Walsh’s Super Bowl teams in the Bay Area, but a title to retire on nonetheless.
There’s no denying that the Dallas Cowboys dynasty of the 1990s was the most dominant force that decade. With their trio of offensive stars, a massive offensive line, and a stifling defense, they were simply the best. And while the 1995 version of that squad was a Super Bowl-winning team, it was the worst of those three Super Bowls they won from 1992-95.
At the same time, it’s tough to argue with their success. Running back Emmitt Smith led the team with an unbelievable 1,773 yards while Michael Irvin had 1,603 receiving yards. Those are eye-popping numbers even for today. What was missing the most from this Dallas Cowboys team, however, was original Super Bowl head coach Jimmy Johnson. Former Oklahoma Sooners coach Barry Switzer took the helm, and ultimately got the job done by defeating the Steelers. The Cowboys won this Super Bowl and haven’t hoisted the Lombardi Trophy since. Harsh criticism for a team that went 12-4 and was third in the NFL in both points scored and points allowed per game. But that’s how high of a bar the Cowboys set for themselves in the early 1990s.
This Redskins championship team is tough to get a read on, and may or may not get all the credit it deserves due to the fact it was a strike-shortened season. Only nine games were played that year and Washington went 8-1 in them. Their famous running back John Riggins led the way with 553 yards while star quarterback Joe Theismann threw for 2,033 yards. He would have had a solid season if it were a full slate.
But it’s also hard to argue with their success. A new playoff format was instituted that year, and it just didn’t matter for the ‘Skins. Riggins won the Super Bowl MVP when they beat Miami 27-17. In fact, all of their playoff wins were largely one-sided beatdowns. It’s a shame we didn’t get to see this team play a full season. It’s also yet another testament to Joe Gibbs’ ability to win with many different players.
Another somewhat one-sided squad, but another one who was dominant because of that side. This was Bill Parcells’ second-best team of all-time. Their offense was middle-of-the-road, with Phil Simms leading the team with only 2,284 yards. By today’s inflated standards, that’s simply anemic. They also failed to record a 1,000-yard rusher or receiver.
Yet just like many of the defensive-minded teams on this list, New York won with their fearsome defense led by legendary linebacker Lawrence Taylor. Their defense ranked first in the NFL in points allowed that season, giving up only 13.2 points to opponents that year. Again, not a flashy team in any sense of the term, yet a historically efficient team that protected the ball and made their rivals cough it up. That’s a winning formula, and they did just that. These Giants outlasted the Buffalo Bills 20-19 in the infamous Scott Norwood “wide right” game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, despite being one of the NFL’s most time-honored franchises, have endured a seemingly endless amount of drama with former superstars Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell in recent years. This Super Bowl season that actually kicked off their historic dynasty of the 1970s may have had more but of a different kind.
For starters, the year began with a players’ strike. Quarterback Joe Gilliam refused to stop working and kicked off the season for the Steelers. He went 4-1-1 through the first six games, yet was still sent to the pine in favor of a young quarterback named Terry Bradshaw. He would obviously go on to become arguably the greatest quarterback in Steelers’ history, but he was also sent to the showers that season in favor of Terry Hanratty. Luckily for Pittsburgh, they still had a dominant defense led by “Mean” Joe Greene that allowed only 13.5 points per game. Although the volatile Greene threatened to leave the team midseason, he ultimately stayed and led them to a 16-6 victory over Super Bowl punching bag Minnesota. The first Super Bowl of the “Steel Curtain” dynasty was a bit of a messy one.
This Patriots team may get a bit lost amidst all of their Super Bowl-winning teams. But make no mistake; this was a strong squad. New England went 14-2 that year, with Tom Brady passing for 3,620 yards. They didn’t have any huge skill player numbers. Antowain Smith led the team in rushing with 642 yards while Deion Branch led the team in receiving with 802 yards.
However, it was their sixth-ranked defense that kept them in the games with stifling performances. New England was able to shut down Peyton Manning in order to advance to the Super Bowl. There, they met the Carolina Panthers in an entertaining Super Bowl that they won by a score of 32-29. New England has many Super Bowl-winning years on their record. This has to be at least considered among their best.
These Seahawks were the height of their infamous “Legion of Boom” defense, which ranked first in the NFL at 14.4 points allowed per game in 2013. Indeed, the combination of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas, and others was a fearsome task for any opposing offense. But unlike many other Super Bowl teams on this list, Seattle didn’t win with just defense alone.
No, they had a blossoming offense in quarterback Russell Wilson’s second season in the NFL. He played a smart style of football with Marshawn Lynch anchoring the power run game out of the backfield. The combination was enough to take the NFL by storm that season, and they did. Ultimately the defense proved to be too much even for the record 2013 statistics Peyton Manning put up with the Broncos. It seemed like Denver was really never in the game from the start, and they lost 43-8. The team eventually had to get paid and it slowly fell apart from here. Wilson has yet to reach the heights he did in this fateful season. In his defense, it’s a lofty perch to obtain.
This was a great Broncos team that was obviously led by legendary quarterback John Elway. Indeed, Elway was solid with 3,635 yards passing that season. His leading receiver was Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe with 1,107 receiving yards. But it was the Broncos’ grueling ground game led by Terrell Davis and his 1,750 rushing yards that dictated the pace of games for the Broncos.
These Broncos were first in the NFL in points per game with 29.5. Their defense was far from a slouch as well. That combination resulted in a coveted Super Bowl ring for Elway when they beat the vaunted Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre 3124 in the Super Bowl. Davis took home the MVP award and the first of two consecutive Super Bowl victories was in hand for Denver.
These 49ers showed only a glimpse of what was to come from the San Francisco dynasty of the 1980s. Joe Montana was coming into his own as a quarterback and was yet to acquire all-time great receiver Jerry Rice. He also didn’t have his trusty running back Roger Craig by his side yet, either.
So Montana’s best receiver was Dwight Clark, who led the team with 1,105 yards receiving. The rushing game was considerably less effective. Ricky Patton led the team with 543 yards. Secretly enough, they didn’t require rushing output to win. This team was wholly well-balanced. They ranked seventh in the league in scoring and second in points allowed. More importantly, they beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl (for the first time) and launched coach Bill Walsh’s stardom. Football was soon changed dramatically, evolving from the antiquated, run-focused gameplans of yesteryear to something more sophisticated with his West Coast attack. And hey, who can forget Clark’s “The Catch” against Dallas in the 1981 NFC Championship game? A transcendent team, to say the least.
This defining Raiders team of the 1970s may be John Madden’s best work as an NFL head coach. While other Raiders Super Bowl teams ranked lower on the list, this version of the Black and Silver was much more deserving of a higher spot. Quarterback Ken ‘The Snake’ Stabler led the team with his gritty play and one of the best nicknames in NFL history.
He had weapons in the form of leading wide receiver Cliff Branch and also Fred Biletnikoff. Running back Mark Van Eeghen also provided a spark out of the backfield with 1,012 yards. They were fourth in the NFL in points scored that year with 25.0. But overall this team exemplified Al Davis’ well-known goal of you-know-what. These Raiders just won, baby, and they were good at it. Their efforts culminated when they smoked the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 in the Super Bowl, with Biletnikoff taking home MVP honors.
The Cowboys made their first season at Texas Stadium count. This was a prolific offense that led the NFL with 406 points scored in 1971. Famed Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach led the way, although he didn’t exactly light up the stat sheets with 1,882 yards passing.
Still, he threw for 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions, leading the NFL in passer rating with 101.8. Their defense, led by defensive tackle Bob Lilly, got hot at the right time and didn’t allow a touchdown for 25 quarters going into the Super Bowl. They smoked the Miami Dolphins 24-3 thanks to their stacked lineup on both sides of the ball.
The Kansas City Chiefs and their fans have been trapped since 1969. That’s when they last won the Super Bowl before their awe-inducing triumph of 2020, before which they were trying to get back ever since. Many fans of the team believe this is the year they’ll get back to many more of the big games thanks to unbelievable young quarterback Patrick Mahomes. We’ll see what happens. For the purposes of this list, however, the 1969 Chiefs were a force to be reckoned with.
They put up rather putrid numbers on offense that just haven’t stood the test of time. The fact that their starting quarterback, Len Dawson, threw for 1,323 yards that season is proof. A lot of current fans might not consider an AFL team like the Chiefs were to be among the best Super Bowl teams. But they were. Their defense was as dominant as any that has ever won the Super Bowl, and that’s saying a lot. They trounced the Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in that game and completed a postseason run where the defense forced opponents to turn the ball over an astonishing 13 times. This team was simply impossible to score on with any degree of consistency, ranking it among the great Super Bowl winners.
While the 1990 Giants may rank as Bill Parcell’s finest work, there are some signs that point to the 1986 Giants actually being his defining moment. This team went 14-2 and also had a dominant defense, evident by them only allowing 14.8 points per game.
They had a solid running back in Joe Morris, who had 1,516 yards that year. Quarterback Phil Simms led the offense and threw to top target Mark Bavaro, who led the team with 1,001 receiving yards. But we all know this Giants’ team was about one player: the man they call “L.T.,” Lawrence Taylor, was as destructive a force as the NFL has ever seen in 1986, smoking opposing quarterbacks for 20.5 sacks en route to the NFL MVP award. It was Simms who won the championship game’s MVP when they trounced the broncos 39-20 in the Super Bowl.
This Dallas Cowboys team deserves a spot a bit higher than their previously discussed 1971 championship team. They were wholly well-rounded in 1977, ranking second in the NFL in scoring average and eighth in points allowed per game. Quarterback Roger Staubach also threw for many more yards than he did in 1971 with 2,620. It’s not a huge number by today’s standards but it certainly got the job done in 1977.
But the story of this team was undoubtedly their rushing game led by rookie (and future Hall of Famer) Tony Dorsett, who led the team with 1,007 yards. Staubach was also effective on the ground, and teams just didn’t have an answer for how these Cowboys drove the football down the field. Their Randy White-led defense was effective as well, playing right into what these Cowboys were looking to do. It ultimately played out perfectly, with the team dismantling the Denver Broncos 27-10 in the Super Bowl.
The 2016 Patriots will forever live on in NFL infamy thanks to their unreal comeback over the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl, where they somehow overcame a 28-3 deficit. That was no doubt amazing. However, that one game overshadows just how great these Pats were the entire season. For example, they were third in the NFL in average scoring with 27.6 points per game. Their defense was even better, giving up an average of 15.6 points per game, which led the league.
On paper, these Patriots were just a well-balanced, dominant team overall. LeGarrette Blount led the team in rushing, rolling up 1,161 yards with his punishing style. Julian Edelman led the team in receiving, compiling 1,106 yards. And while Tom Brady didn’t have his best season statistically with 3,554 yards, he didn’t have to. This team steamrolled all of their competition en route to a 14-2 regular-season record. You can argue that Atlanta simply gave away the Super Bowl with foolish mistakes, and they did. But that doesn’t take away from how good these Patriots were that year.
Some may agree with this ranking, while others believe that these Eagles are too high up on the list of Super Bowl winners. What cannot be denied is that the Eagles simply had a magical season in 2017. They came out guns blazing early under coach Doug Pederson, with second-year quarterback Carson Wentz appearing to be every bit of the MVP candidate the team traded up to acquire in the 2016 draft. The 2017 Eagles seemingly scored at will, averaging 28.6 points per game that season. Not to be outdone, their defense averaged 18.6 points allowed, good enough for fourth in the league.
However, everything changed when Wentz went down with a torn ACL late in the season. Backup Nick Foles took over under center, and the magic only continued. Foles had a hot hand that just didn’t stop throughout the playoffs. The longtime backup played flawlessly in dissecting the hyped Minnesota Vikings in the NFC title game before trouncing the feared Patriots in the Super Bowl by a score of 41-33. Say what you will about these Eagles, this was an improbable, all-time great Super Bowl run.
This Dolphins team is rarely if ever brought up because of their all-time great team yet to be discussed on this list. However, it absolutely must be pointed out that the 1973 Dolphins accomplished something few Super Bowl-winning teams do, and that’s avoiding the almost inevitable regression. These Dolphins won the Super Bowl for the second time in as many years by implementing a punishing ground attack led by Larry Csonka and his 1,003 rushing yards. They controlled opposing teams by allowing a paltry 10.7 points per game, good enough for first in the NFL.
They didn’t need to pass much to win, evident by their leading passer, Bob Griese, only having 1,422 yards passing that season. It didn’t matter. They went 12-2 and while they weren’t quite up to the level of the previous year, they were a dominant, all-time great Super Bowl champion nonetheless. Don Shula’s repeat winners deserve their due in the annals of NFL history.
As effective as the previously-mentioned 1997 Broncos were, the 1998 version of the team was even better. Although this year ultimately ended up being John Elway’s fond farewell, it was running back Terrell Davis who led the team in 1998. Davis racked up an insane 2,008 yards rushing in what is still legitimately one of the best seasons ever produced by a running back.
Elway didn’t have to do much, passing for only 2,806 yards that year. That didn’t matter, as the Broncos rolled to a 14-2 record by averaging 31.3 points per game under coach Mike Shanahan. They eventually sent the “Dirty Bird” Atlanta Falcons packing with a 31-19 win in the Super Bowl. Elway could have retired after they won the Lombardi in 1997, but this proved he made the right choice to come back and compete one last time. He retired on top after this season, which is something few longtime NFL players can lay claim to.
This 49ers team may get a bit lost among all of their decorated Super Bowl teams of the 1980s, but make no mistake – this was a solid squad. By this time, Joe Montana had left San Fran for the Kansas City Chiefs and his backup Steve Young had taken over the reins. The team missed no beats on offense, averaging a lofty 31.6 points per game to lead the NFL in scoring average.
Of course, this came on the strength of Jerry Rice’s 1,499 yards receiving. Young was more than effective as well, passing for 3,969 yards on a 70.3 percent completion rate. All told, these 49ers largely steamrolled the competition, racking up a 13-3 record in the regular season before blowing the doors off the San Diego Chargers 49-26 in the Super Bowl. The AFC never had a chance this year.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were no doubt the team of the 1970s, winning four Super Bowls in that decade. However, this may have among the lesser of those teams. That’s not to say it was a bad team – they did win the Super Bowl – but the Steelers had simply set such a high bar for themselves. There were signs that cracks were beginning to form in the vaunted “Steel Curtain” defense by this point. They were still fifth in the NFL in points allowed.
That didn’t matter as much thanks to the effectiveness of the Steeler’s offense that year, however. Terry Bradshaw led the way with 3,724 yards passing and Franco Harris rushed for 1,186 yards. They led the NFL in points per game with an average of 26.0 that year. Ultimately this would be the final ring Chuck Noll won in Pittsburgh, and they went out in style. Bradshaw was named the MVP after they topped the Los Angeles Rams 31-19 in the big game.
This is a classic Super Bowl team that is tough to rank due to the discrepancy in how the game was played then and how it’s played now. But as Vince Lombardi’s first Super Bowl-winning team, it deserves a spot amongst the greats. In terms of pure counting stats, this team didn’t offer too much on paper. Bart Starr led the team with only 2,257 yards, and the team didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher or receiver.
But they didn’t need one, as the team allowed an NFL-leading 10.9 points per game. This defense was truly fearsome at points during the 1966 season. A lot of teams were downgraded due to the one-sided nature of their squads on this list, and you could argue that these Packers deserve to be in that boat. However, it’s not to say that their offense was outright bad, as they scored 23.9 points per game. That was good enough for fourth in the NFL during that more low-scoring era. They ended up trouncing Kansas City by a count of 35-10 in the Super Bowl. The Packer’s Super Bowl dynasty was born and will forever be etched into NFL history.
This team is simply an unheralded Super Bowl winner that nevertheless deserves its due among the great Super Bowl winners of all-time. Going down their list of starters doesn’t produce a ton of names that people talk about to this day. But they should. Mark Rypien led the team in passing with 3,564 yards. His top receiver was Gary Clark with a solid 1,340 yards and his top rusher was Earnest Byner with 1,048 yards. They had another receiver who put up solid numbers in Art Monk. Those are all solid players, but not ones you’ll often hear discussed among the greats.
Under head coach Joe Gibbs, that just didn’t matter. Gibbs showed he was a master of making his talent work together as this team bulldozed its way to a 14-2 record. The team was first in the NFL in scoring average and second in the league in points allowed per game. It doesn’t get much more balanced than that. The Redskins trounced the Buffalo Bills 37-24 in the Super Bowl. Rypien was named MVP, and he was also the third quarterback Gibbs had won a Super Bowl with. This team is underrated to this day.
Brett Favre had a lot of strong teams throughout his legendary run with the Packers, but this was by far his best. It’s hard to argue against that considering this was his only Super Bowl victory. In any case, this team was stacked on both sides of the ball. They led the league in both points scored per game and points allowed per game, a difficult feat to accomplish.
Favre led the way with 3,899 yards passing, yet this team dominated all the way to a Super Bowl win without a 1,000-yard rusher or receiver. Edgar Bennett led the team with 899 yards rushing while Antonio Freeman led the team in receiving with 933 yards. Individual stats didn’t matter. Mike Holmgren’s team won 13 games and beat the Patriots 35-21 in the Super Bowl that year. Green Bay is often remembered for Vince Lombardi’s dynasty of the 1960s, but this was also one of the greatest teams they’ve fielded.
The year of “The Greatest Show On Turf” almost didn’t even happen. Head coach Dick Vermeil went into the 1999 season expecting veteran Trent Green to be his starting quarterback. When Green went down with a torn ACL in the preseason, unheralded backup Kurt Warner came in and history was made. Warner was billed as the former Arena League quarterback who had been stocking shelves at a local Hy-Vee supermarket to make ends meet.
He immediately started bagging unbelievable amounts of yards and touchdowns with the Rams in 1999. The team averaged 32.9 points to lead the NFL. Warner threw for 4,353 yards, with 1,165 of those going to leading receiver Isaac Bruce. Second wideout Torry Holt was also a force to be reckoned with, and they had one of the best all-around running backs in NFL history in Marshall Faulk. He ran for 1,381 yards that year. To top it all off, they beat the Tennessee Titans when the game down to the wire in what is still considered one of the best Super Bowls of all-time. This team will never be forgotten in the retelling of NFL history, and it shouldn’t be. Warner eventually made the NFL Hall of Fame, and this season launched his career.
This was the year that the Cowboys dynasty of the 1990s truly came into focus. Led by quarterback Troy Aikman, this version of the ‘Boys was second in the NFL in points per game with 25.6. Emmitt Smith racked up a massive 1,713 yards rushing, while Michael Irvin had 1,396 yards receiving. All told, the Cowboys went 13-3 that year.
This combination of offensive talent was perhaps the best three-headed monster the NFL has seen to this day. You could argue that San Francisco’s combo of Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Roger Craig trumps the Cowboys’ trio. That’s a close – and tough – argument to make, however. This Cowboys offensive machine was simply dominant. Proving that, they steamrolled the Bills 52-17 in the Super Bowl, with Aikman taking home the MVP. And thus, a new Cowboys dynasty was born.
It’s almost tough to keep track of the Patriots’ many Super Bowl-winning teams of the Belichick-Brady era. But that’s what this list is for, and the 2004 Patriots are the best of that infamous, history-making duo. Like their Super Bowl-winning team, the Patriots went 14-2 this year, steamrolling the hapless AFC East yet again. It was a well-rounded team (of course it was) that was fourth in the NFL in points per game and second in the league in points allowed per game.
Perhaps the story of the offense was not Brady or his receivers, however. Brady threw for less than 4,000 yards with 3,692 that year. And his leading receiver David Givens only had 874 yards. But this Patriots team was able to control the clock and punish opponents thanks to the rushing prowess of Corey Dillon, who racked up an insane 1,635 yards on the ground that year. They ultimately topped the hyped Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 in the Super Bowl that year. It seemed like much of the press was on Philly and the drama that receiver Terrell Owens created in 2004. When the dust settled, New England was the true team to watch that season.
This Steelers team was dominant on their way to a Super Bowl victory, racking up a 12-2 record in the regular season. They were strong enough on offense, averaging 26.6 points per game to land fifth in the NFL. But it was once again their feared “Steel Curtain” defense that carried this team. The defense allowed only 11.6 points per game, second in the NFL.
Terry Bradshaw led the way with only 2,055 yards passing, but he did have blossoming young receiver Lynn Swann on his side by now. Swann eventually won the Super Bowl MVP award that season. And once again, Franco Harris was a staple of the offense, rushing for 1,246 yards. Chuck Noll’s team ultimately beat the Dallas Cowboys 17-13 in a tight, low-scoring Super Bowl that year. It may not have been the most exciting or pretty win, but this well-rounded Steelers team is among the great Super Bowl winners of all-time.
While the 1992 Super Bowl champion Cowboys were impressive in their own right, head coach Jimmy Johnson’s final Super Bowl with the Cowboys was his finest work overall. Many have talked about the Super Bowl hangover many teams experience after winning the big game the year before. Indeed, it is a real phenomenon often witnessed. And these Cowboys had it. They were at 7-4 through 11 games in the 1993 season before putting it together and winning their final five regular-season games.
There’s nothing new here. The team was led by Troy Aikman’s 3,900 passing yards, 1,330 of which went to Michael Irvin. Once again, Emmitt Smith compiled an eye-popping rushing total with 1,486 yards carrying the football. The Cowboys were again dominant throughout their postseason run this year. They once again beat the Bills, this time by a count of 30-13. This time around, Smith won the MVP award as the team furthered their legacy as the greatest squad of the 1990s.
There were obviously many great Steelers teams throughout their great dynasty of the 1970s. However, this is the one that rates as the best. The Steelers posted an impressive 14-2 record that year, and everything just seemed to come together for the team. The defense was the best in the NFL in terms of points allowed per game, as opposing teams averaged only 12.2 points against them.
On the other side of the ball, the Steelers were in their prime. Bradshaw manned the controls with a host of dangerous weapons at his disposal. Franco Harris was effective as always, grinding out 1,082 yards rushing. Lynn Swann led the team in receiving yards. There’s not much else to say other than this was an all-time great team that delivered on its potential to win the Super Bowl. They did so by defeating the Cowboys 35-31 in a shootout. Bradshaw took home the MVP award, and the ’78 Steelers were cemented in NFL history as one of the best Super Bowl teams ever.
The 1980s 49ers were similar to the 1970s Steelers dynasty in that they fielded teams who dominated both sides of the ball and played exceptionally well together. This team may be the second-best of the great 49ers squads of the ’80s, but it deserves its spot among the list of greats nonetheless. You know how the story goes.
Joe Montana quarterbacked an all-time great offense that led the league in per-scoring with 27.6 points per contest. Head coach George Seifert had seamlessly taken the reigns from the legendary Bill Walsh, and the results were spectacular. Jerry Rice was well, Jerry Rice, racking up 1,483 yards receiving. Roger Craig was once again stellar on the ground, rushing for 1,054 yards. His prowess as a receiver out of the backfield in the 49ers’ West Coast offense cannot be understated as well. When this team got to the postseason, it wasn’t even a question if they’d win the Super Bowl looking back. They smoked the Denver Broncos by a score of 55-10 and Joe Montana became the greatest playoff quarterback ever – at least until Tom Brady came along.
This is undoubtedly one of the most dominant Super Bowl teams in NFL history, and it’s also one of the most popular as well. While we have been a bit reluctant to rank one-sided teams high on the list of Super Bowl winners, the 1985 Bears somewhat unfairly have that moniker due to their historic defense, which certainly ranks up among the best ever in NFL history. It may even be the best. They were first in the NFL with an average of 12.4 points allowed that year. They also had a record of 15-1. But they were far from slouches on offense as well. True, they didn’t depend on the passing game as much as teams do today, with Jim McMahon their leading passer. He only threw for 2,392 yards that year. With a defense like that, you rarely have to air it out.
These Bears averaged 28.5 points per game – second in the NFL – on the strength of their rushing attack led by all-time legend Walter Payton. ‘Sweetness’ led the team with 1,551 rushing yards that year. The team became well-known for their cringe-worthy “rap” video, “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” and also for a massive lineman who moonlighted as a running back in William “Refrigerator” Perry. In truth, it didn’t need all of that hype because the on-field performance was by far enough. The Bears demolished the New England Patriots 46-10 in the Super Bowl and earned a spot high among the greatest Lombardi Trophy winners of all-time.
What’s this, you say? The only undefeated Super Bowl team ever is somehow ranked only No. 2 on the list of all-time great Super Bowl-winning teams? Well, yes, it’s true, as this team hasn’t exactly translated well over the years. That’s not to say it isn’t an all-time great team, because it is certainly in the running for the best of all-time. However, based on how the game is played has evolved, these Dolphins simply wouldn’t have been undefeated. For example, Bob Griese threw for 1,360 yards that year, a number that would almost certainly see him released from most teams had he been a full-time NFL starter today. Their leading receiver was Paul Warfield with 606 yards. True, it was just a different era of football back then, but it would be a wholly predictable gameplan in today’s NFL.
Either way, these Dolphins are still the only team to accomplish what they did. They were first in the NFL in both average points per game and points allowed per game. Larry Csonka was a stalwart rushing the ball with 1,117 yards. Yet the paper stats of this Dolphins team don’t tell the whole story. In truth, they were close to losing several games that season. Even their playoff run to the Super Bowl wasn’t exactly dominant. They won each game by single-digit points and even had to fight back to top the Steelers in the AFC title game. When they reached the Super Bowl, they again found the result a close one. True, they got up by two touchdowns on Washington, but only won by seven points. We won’t deny the 1972 Dolphins are one of the greatest Super Bowl teams of all-time. But to call them the outright best is a bit short-sighted. It’s safe to say they might struggle if they played the final team on our list…
Some, perhaps even many, believe that the 1972 Dolphins belong at the top of this list. But it’s this dominant San Francisco team that is actually the best Super Bowl winner of all-time. This was head coach Bill Walsh and his West Coast offense at the height of its powers, as the team went 15-1 that year. They, too, would have been undefeated if not for a narrow three-point loss to the Steelers in the regular season. These 49ers were second in the NFL in average points scored per game and first in average points allowed. Of course, Joe Montana led the way. This time he did so, once again, without having his future Hall of Famer Jerry Rice by his side.
Montana threw for 3,630 yards that season, good enough for that era, but his stats didn’t really matter. What defines this team is the manner in which they won the Super Bowl. In 1984, a young quarterback by the name of Dan Marino was absolutely tearing up the NFL.
He was light years ahead of the game that season, throwing for 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns with only 17 interceptions. The yards and touchdowns were records that stood the test of time until the all-out offensive explosion in the NFL of the last 12 or so years. Marino and the Dolphins came in with real hype behind them. But this 49ers team immediately threw them off of their game.
Marino did throw for 318 yards in the Super Bowl, but he only threw for one touchdown as opposed to two interceptions. The 49ers had Miami on the ropes before the fourth quarter had even begun. Sadly enough, this ended up being Marino’s only Super Bowl appearance. While it was far from Montana’s only trip to the big game, it may have been his finest year overall. He took home the Super Bowl MVP and his 49ers put together the best Super Bowl-winning season in NFL history.