NFL power rankings: 30 most dominant teams all-time

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As we count down the days to Super Bowl XLIX, it's only fitting that as we see who will be crowned the best team in the NFL in 2014, that we pay tribute to the past and the dominant teams that came before both Seattle and New England.

Besides, at the pace that both teams have been in throughout the past three years, it's only a matter of time before we talk about these two teams in the same light.

With that said, let the debates begin!
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NFL power rankings: 30 most dominant teams all-time
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NFL power rankings: 30 most dominant teams all-time

30.) 2009 New Orleans Saints

For the record, I still can’t get the image of Drew Brees holding his then-infant son Baylen on the stage while the Saints celebrated their Super Bowl win over the Colts.  The image of Tracy Porter picking off Peyton Manning to seal the win was just as memorable.

The ’09 Saints started the year 13-0 before resting their starters for the playoffs and dropping their last three games of the season, losing 24-17 to the Cowboys to end the hopes of a possible undefeated season and begin the skid into the playoffs.

Not that the losing streak held this team back.  Instead, sacrificing the undefeated year helped push the Saints to a blowout win over Arizona in the divisional round and a gutsy overtime win against Brett Favre and the Vikings in the NFC title game.

While the Saints rocked the NFL offensively, they also had one of the better defenses in the league, racking a team total 26 interceptions and forcing 15 fumbles.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

29.) 2012 San Francisco 49ers

The pro football world became obsessed with the spread-option offense in 2012, and nobody ran it better than Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers.

The Niners were continuing their franchise rebound and were in the process of putting together another solid season under then-head coach Jim Harbaugh when fate for both of their quarterbacks hit hard.

Starter Alex Smith, who was seen more as a pariah than a bust in the Bay Area was injured in Week 10 against the St. Louis Rams, forcing Kaepernick into duty.  Kaepernick would start the rest of the season, even after Smith was healthy again and used his mobility and rocket-arm to guide San Francisco to Super Bowl XLVII where, despite a furious second-half rally, they fell short on the final play of the game as Kaepernick’s pass to Michael Crabtree on a goal-line fade fell incomplete.

The Niners “Quest for Six” continues to this day.

(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

28.) 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers

The 2010 Steelers were like watching the modern version of the famous “Steel Curtain.”

Anchored by safeties Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, linebacker James Harrison and guided offensively by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Hines Ward, the Steelers went 12-4 in 2010 and found themselves in their second Super Bowl since their 2008 Super Bowl season, this time taking on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

If there was any game that defines this Steelers’ team’s season, it’s their divisional round matchup against rival Baltimore.  The Steelers won 31-24 in one of the hardest-hitting, intense games of the 2010 playoffs to spark their run to Super Bowl XLV.

(Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images)

27.) 2006 Indianapolis Colts

It was a Super Bowl full of firsts and one that put Peyton Manning on the pedestal we hold him on today.  But it should be known that Peyton and then-head coach Tony Dungy really owe a lot of that Super Bowl win to Bears quarterback Rex Grossman.

Nonetheless, the ’06 Colts flaunted an unstoppable offense and one of the fastest defenses in the league.

Indy went 12-4 during the regular season while Peyton threw for 4,397 yards with 31 touchdowns.

(Photo by Bob Levey/NFLPhotoLibrary)

26.) 2010 Green Bay Packers

“Double-check” this.

In the second year of Green Bay’s five-year playoff run from 2009-13, the Packers won their fourth franchise Super Bowl in a season that saw the Packers dominate on both sides of the ball.

While they were led to a 10-6 record behind Aaron Rodgers’ 3,922 yards and 28 touchdowns, it’s the Packers defense led by linebacker Clay Matthews and safety Charles Woodson who dislocated his shoulder breaking up what would’ve been a touchdown pass toward the end of the first half of Super Bowl XLV.

Although Sunday marks the Packers first trip to the NFC title game since their Super Bowl year, the 2010 season set the bar of what to expect from this team going forward with Rodgers and Matthews leading the way.

(Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)

25.) 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers

The 2005 season marked the first time the Steelers reached the Super Bowl since 1995 and the first time they won it since winning it all in 1979.  And they did it in traditional Steeler fashion, fearless and powerful.

Whether it was Hines Ward laying a hard crackback block or Jerome Bettis running through an opposing defense, or even the defense laying the wood on opposing offenses, the Steelers were undoubtedly one of the toughest teams of our generation (well, most of us younger guys at least.)

In just his second year, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 2,385 yards with 17 touchdowns in 12 starts and guided the Steelers to an eight-game win streak, including their Super Bowl win over the Seattle Seahawks in Detroit – which fittingly happened to be Jerome Bettis’ hometown, where he fittingly won the Super Bowl, in, fittingly, the final game of his career.

It was the beginning of the return of the Steelers, and the “Terrible Towel.”

(Photo by Sean Brady/NFLPhotoLibrary)

24.) 2002 Oakland Raiders

After getting screwed over by the refs and the “Tuck Rule,” the 20002 Oakland Raiders kept the show going despite some big changes.

After trading their head coach Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a move they fully regretted in Super Bowl XXXVII and still fully regret to this day, the Raiders brought in some of the best NFL veterans a team can acquire.  They signed former Niners Jerry Rice and Charlie Garner, along with bringing in safety Rod Woodson, linebacker Bill Romonowski, defensive tackles Sam Adams and John Parrella and drafted corner Philip Buchanon from the University of Miami.

Oakland opened the year 4-0 before losing four straight including a 23-20 overtime loss to San Francisco.  However the Raiders rallied back, winning seven of the next eight games to win the AFC West and cruise into the playoffs.

Despite strong wins in the playoffs against the Jets and the Titans in the AFC title game, Oakland fell apart In Super Bowl XXXVII against (guess who!?) Jon Gruden’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  It was the last time the Raiders made the playoffs and had a winning season.

(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

23.) 1999 Tennessee Titans

The ’99 Titans will forever be known for two things: “The Music City Miracle” and for coming one-yard short of forcing the first ever overtime in Super Bowl history against “The Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams on one of the gutsiest drives in Super Bowl history.

However the team had one of the best, most consistent seasons in recent NFL history, opening the season 3-0 with two wins by one-point.  They won seven in a row before the Super Bowl loss.

In Super Bowl XXXIV, the Titans came back from a 9-0 deficit, however holding that Rams team to just nine points in a half is worth mentioning on its own.

(Photo by Allen Kee/Getty Images)

22.) 1955 Cleveland Browns

Despite looking simply terrible in training camp just prior to the 1955 regular season, Browns quarterback great Otto Graham was convinced to return for one more season.

Keep in mind, this is the same Otto Graham that led the Browns to an incredible 10 league championship games in 10 seasons, and seven league titles (four AAFC, three NFL).  So it’s obvious why they wanted him back.

He led the originally less-than-stellar Browns to a 9-2-1 record, outscoring opponents 349-218 on their way to the NFL championship.  Their 349 points scored that year led the NFL while the 218 points allowed by the Browns’ defense also led the league.

Graham threw for 1,721 yards with 15 touchdowns in 1955, leading the Browns to a six-game win streak after Cleveland dropped their opener to the Redskins 27-17.  They went on to defeat the L.A. Rams 38-14 with Graham going 14-for-25 for 209 yards with a pair of touchdowns and three picks.

(Photo by Tony Tomsic/Getty Images)

21.) 2010 New England Patriots

There’s something about that Tom Brady guy after all.  Or, at least, for the most part.

Even though they didn’t reach the Super Bowl despite going 14-2 in the regular season, the 2010 Patriots were, at least on paper, one of the scariest teams in the NFL.  They had the top-ranked scoring offense and a top-10 scoring defense and won eight straight going into the playoffs.

Brady threw for 3,900 yards with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 36-to-4, or 9-to-1 for all of you math nerds out there.

The Patriots finished 2010 with a league-low 10 turnovers allowed and the Pats offense was one of the most efficient offenses in league history.

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

20.) 1998 Atlanta Falcons

The “Dirty Birds.”  Goodness, where has the time gone?

Led by Chris Chandler and Jamal Anderson, the ’98 Falcons went a franchise best 14-2 while talking more than enough trash on the field and also finding trouble off of the field.  (They had a player arrested the night before the Super Bowl for soliciting a prostitute.)

If this team won the Super Bowl over John Elway and the Denver Broncos, they could possibly take the top spot for the coolest team of all time – at least, in my books.

After suffering their second loss of the season to the New York Jets, 28-3 in Week 8, the Dirty Birds ripped 10 in a row leading into the Super Bowl, notching both playoff wins by a combined five points.

While the offense handled their business on the field, the veteran defense led by Jessie Tuggle and Keith Brooking handled the other half of the job.  The Falcons ranked in fourth in points allowed, eighth in yards allowed and had the second-best rushing defense in the NFL.

(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

19.) 2004 Philadelphia Eagles

The team that finally got over the hump that was the NFC Championship, the 2004 Eagles finally had it all: a complete offense led by Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and Terrell Owens and a tough, hard-hitting defense led by Jeremiah Trotter and Brian Dawkins.

The Eagles went 13-3 in 2004, starting the year 7-0 before losing 27-3 to Pittsburgh in Week 9.  They cruised through wins over the Vikings and the Falcons in the NFC playoffs before losing 24-21 to (who else but) Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX.

McNabb had one of the best years of his career, throwing for 3,875 yards and 31 touchdowns with just eight picks.  Westbrook ran for 812 yards and caught for another 703 with nine combined touchdowns and Owens caught 127 balls for 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns in his only season as an Eagle.

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

18.) 1989 San Francisco 49ers

They’re the “Team of the 80’s” and probably as close to the definition of perfect as one team can get without going undefeated.

The ’89 Niners won their second of the late 80’s back-to-back Super Bowls behind the west coast offense driven by Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana.

The Niners opened the year winning three in a row, then six in a row, then finished the year winning their last eight games including the playoffs and Super Bowl XXIV in dominating fashion 55-10 over the Denver Broncos.

Keep in mind this is a team that won a Super Bowl the year before, going 10-6 in Bill Walsh’s final season.  Also keep in mind that this team was even better in ’89 than in ’88 under a new head coach.  In short, Walsh and the ’88 Niners threw the pitch for greatness and Seifert, Montana and the ’89 Niners knocked it out of the park.

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

17.) 1971 Dallas Cowboys

The team that (finally) started the Dallas Cowboy dynasty and tradition, the 1971 Cowboys officially became “America’s Team” after six straight first-place finishes in the NFC.

Dallas went to their second-straight Super Bowl in 1971, defeating the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI as they featured two of the hardest hitters in NFL history in Bob Lilly and Mel Renfro a Dallas won their last 10 straight including the Super Bowl to end the year.

The Cowboys top-ranked offense also packed one hell of a punch, scoring a league-high 406 points behind Roger Staubach’s 15 touchdowns and 10-0 record as a starter and Duane Thomas’ 11 touchdowns on the season.

(AP Photo/Charles Bennett)

16.) 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Let’s be honest, the Bucs only Super Bowl year had to be fate considering the circumstances it all came upon.

However, you do have to give credit where credit is due.  The ’02 Bucs became the first team since the 1985 Bears to lead the league in total defense, points allowed and interceptions and held quarterbacks to a season-average 48.4 passer rating.

Their Super Bowl win over the Oakland Raiders that year was all you had to see to know how they performed that year.

It also helps to have a pair of Hall of Famers on the defense in Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks, along with should-be Hall of Famers in John Lynch and Ronde Barber.

(Photo by Craig Jones/Getty Images)

15.) 1977 Dallas Cowboys

Two players in general were the faces of the Dallas Cowboys in 1977: Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Randy White.

The Dallas Cowboys featured one of the best defensive lines in NFL history and along with Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach and some rookie running back named Tony Dorsett, the Cowboys opened the year 8-0 on their way to defeating the Denver Broncos 27-10 in Super Bowl XII, the franchise’s second championship.

(AP Photo)

14.) 1990 Buffalo Bills

As dominant as this team was, the Bills last ditch effort to win a Super Bowl was all of not because of one name: Scott (freaking) Norwood.

With Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas and new Hall of Fame wideout Andre Reed, the Bills offense flew all over the field as much as their defense did.

That was the case until Super Bowl XXV against the Giants and a defensive coordinator named Bill Belichick and a backup quarterback who really had no business playing in Jeff Hostetler.

Two words simply define the 1990 Bills: “wide right.”


13.) 1999 St. Louis Rams

It seems as if everyone forgot about how good the 1999 St. Louis Rams were.

Oh right, because they weren’t supposed to be.  Especially after a preseason that saw the Rams believe they lost their franchise quarterback, but instead found their true franchise leader in a former grocery store stock person in Kurt Warner.

With Warner taking over, “The Greatest Show on Turf” was born.

Warner, along with running back Marshall Faulk, had the greatest seasons of any payer of their position in 1999 as the Rams started the year 6-0 with Warner throwing three touchdowns in each of his first three games and then five against rival San Francisco in Week 4.

But while the Rams offense was awesome, their defense picked their game up as well.  No team in the NFL in 1999 allowed fewer points than St. Louis and no team allowed fewer yards.  The Rams allowed more than 75 yards rushing just five times in 1999 and on three racked more than 350 yards of offense in a game.

They were a team that could win by any means necessary, and, especially in the playoffs, did win by any means necessary.

(AP Photo/Leon Algee)

12.) 1977 Oakland Raiders

Despite a defense that was mediocre at best, the then-Super Bowl defending champion Raiders nearly repeated, making it all the way back to the AFC Championship game, losing 20-17 to the Denver Broncos.

Led by Pro Bowlers (and Hall of Famers) Art Shell and Gene Upshaw on the offensive line, quarterback Ken Stabler threw for 2,176 yards with 20 touchdowns, six of which to Hall of Fame tight end Dave Casper and six others to Cliff Branch.

While nobody on the Raiders defense went to the Pro Bowl (not surprising given the Raiders were ranked 15th overall), the Raiders defense featured safety Jack Tatum along with linebacker Ted Hendricks and defensive ends Otis Sistrunk and John Matuszack.

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

11.) 1969 Oakland Raiders

Despite missing the first ever Super Bowl by losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1969 AFL Championship Game, the ’69 Raiders were without a doubt one of the best offensive teams in football history.  Defensively, had they kept defensive stats back then, they would probably be in the top-three overall that year as well.

They had a Pro Bowl quarterback in Daryle Lamonica who had a career-year in 1969, throwing for 3,302 yards with 34 touchdowns.

But he wasn’t the only star on that team.  The ’69 Raiders also had players on the roster who went by the familiar names of: George Atkinson, Gus Otto, Gene Upshaw, Fred Biletnikoff and Willie Brown.  George Blanda was Lamonica’s backup and was a Hall of Famer on that team along with Biletnikoff and Otto.

Oakland went 12-1-1, improving on their 11-2 record from 1968.

(AP Photo)

10.) 1992 Dallas Cowboys

Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin.  The original triplets along with the Cowboys near impenetrable offensive line dominated the NFL in the early-mid 90’s as the Cowboys went to win the first of their back-to-back Super Bowls in 1992, dominating the Buffalo Bills 52-17 in Super Bowl XXVII.

Led by head coach Jimmy Johnson, the Cowboys opened the season 8-1 and finished the 1992 regular season 13-3, ending the year winning five of their last six highlighted by blowout wins over the Giants and the Falcons.

But the Dallas offense wasn’t the only star of the show.  The ’92 Cowboys also had the best defense in the NFL led by Charles Haley, Ken Norton Jr., Tony Tolbert, and James Washington.

(Photo by James Smith/Getty Images)

9.) 1994 San Francisco 49ers

No Montana? No problem. If anything, 1994 helped Steve Young establish himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks in Niners history, along with getting some big monkey off of his back.

San Francisco’s blowout 49-26 blowout win against San Diego in Super Bowl XXIX was just one of many highlights for the ’94 Niners.

They went 13-3 in the regular season with the league’s highest-scoring offense led by Young, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Brent Jones and Ricky Watters.

Young had a career-year in ’94, throwing for 3,969 yards with 35 touchdowns (one shy of his career-most 36 in 1998) with a career-best 70.3 completion percentage and an NFL record 112.8 passer rating.  Rice was the recipient of a many of those passes, catching 112 balls for 1,499 yards with 13 touchdowns.

Everyone knew that San Francisco was going to win it all from the very first game, blowing out the Raiders 44-14.  It was the first of seven times that season San Francisco scored 40 points or more.

That offense was so dominant that even their opponents knew the Niners were going to win.

(Photo by Rogers Photo Archive/Getty Images)

8.) 1970 Baltimore Colts

In the history of the NFL, the Baltimore Colts will always be remembered for Johnny Unitas.  However, after struggling in 1969 to an 8-5-1 record the Colt rebounded strong in ’70, going 11-2-1 thanks to one of the best defenses in Colts history.

Unitas, for the record, didn’t have a great season, throwing for 2,213 yards with 14 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.  However, Bill Curry and Mike Curtis helped bail out Unitas in 1970 and helped lead the Colts to their first Super Bowl title, defeating the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 in Super Bowl V.

But with just average play by their quarterbacks in 1970, having the lethal style of play by both Curry and Curtis helped the Colts manage to win all but two games and intimidate opponents all throughout the season.

And also set the player safety rules we all know and love today.

(AP Photo/ Spencer Jones)

7.) 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers

The “Steel Curtain.”

That’s almost all that has to be said about the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers.

The first Steelers Super Bowl team established greatness is a new way in the 70’s: all through the draft.  Pittsburgh’s ’74 draft class included four future Hall of Famers, still an NFL record today.

The Steelers finished the regular season 10-3-1 highlighted by a 30-0 opening day win over the Baltimore Colts and dominated throughout the playoffs leading to their 16-6 win over the Vikings in Super Bowl IX.

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

6.) 2000 Baltimore Ravens

Keep in mind as we remember the 2000 Ravens that almost everyone on that defense is eligible for the Hall of Fame, they only allowed 165 points all season (an average of 10.5 points per game) and that their quarterback that “led” them to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title was Trent Dilfer.

Heck, the defense had to pitch shutouts or near-shutouts in order to win.

They nearly knocked out anyone who came in their way, set the bar for an NFL defense in the 2000’s and may have had someone kill someone after their 35-7 Super Bowl win over the high-powered Giants.  That person must’ve gotten in their way of something Raven-related.

Rob Burnett’s 10.5 sacks led a Ravens team who combined for 35 on the season, they forced 19 fumbles and picked off 23 passes.

Along with Burnett, the 2000 Ravens had Ray Lewis leading the way, along with Rod Woodson, Jamie Sharper, Kim Herring, Duane Starks, Michael McCrary, Chris McAlister, Peter Boulware, Corey Harris, Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa.

In short, outside of the innocent bystander Dilfer, the Ravens killed everyone on the field and possibly off of it as well.

(Photo by Andrew Savulich/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

5.) 1991 Washington Redskins

One of the amazing teams of the 1990’s, the Redskins dominated their opponents without having any “dominant” players.

They had a lot of great players in Mark Rypien, Art Monk, Earnest Byner and Darrell Green however and, along with “The Hogs,” found a way to win Washington’s second Super Bowl title.

Rypien threw for 3,564 yards (his second-best total) with a career-high 28 touchdowns in 1991, leading Washington to a 14-2 regular season record.

The Redskins opened the year 11-0 before losing 24-21 to Dallas as their comeback attempt down 14 points in the fourth quarter fell just short.

Despite ending the year with a two-point loss to the Eagles, the Redskins got hot in the playoffs, winning their playoff games and Super Bowl XXVI by an average of about 20.3 points.

(Photo by Dan Honda/Getty Images)
4.) 2007 New England Patriots

Remember when the Pats acquired Randy Moss and everyone thought he’d disappoint an entire franchise the same way he did the Vikings and the Raiders earlier?  Yeah, he became anything for the Pats but a pariah.

Instead, Moss as exactly was Tom Brady needed as Tom Brady set a then-NFL record 50 touchdown passes with the New England offense scoring an NFL record 589 points, going 16-0 during the regular season.

Oh, and Moss you ask?  He caught a record 23 touchdowns in 2007, revitalizing his career in one single move.

Defensively, while they didn’t seem dominant, the Pats defense was clutch, coming up with key turnovers and plays in big spots.

Let’s just not talk about that Super Bowl thing that happened in Arizona though.

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

3.) 1962 Green Bay Packers

One of the best teams in NFL history, the 1962 Packers set a record that has stood for over 50 years, and despite the changes in the league over the decades, might still stand.  They ran for a combined 36 touchdowns and also had a Hall of Fame quarterback to lead the charge in Bart Starr.

The amount of talent on this team doesn’t end at Starr or Jim Taylor, but flows onto the defense as well in linebacker Ray Nitschke, possibly the toughest linebacker to play the game and the NFL’s interception leader in ’62: Willie Wood.

The key to stopping the 1962 Packers was knowing that you can’t stop them, but only do anything possible to slow them down.

The Packers won the NFL Championship in 1962, going 13-1 with their only loss coming to the Detroit Lions in Week 11, 26014.  The Packers were 10-0 going into the game and already posted three shutouts, two games of which they won 49-0.  They opened the season outscoring their opponents 100-7 before barely reaching 4-0 with a 9-7 win over Detroit.

Next: That team that actually finished perfect

(AP Photo/Preston Stroup)

2.) 1972 Miami Dolphins

So what if they had an easy schedule, they still won their games and went undefeated.  And are STILL the only team to finish an entire season undefeated.

For the record, their opponents combined for a 39.6 percent winning percentage (which is a pretty bad overall record for those wondering).  The Dolphins went 14-0 in the regular on their way to winning Super Bowl VII over the Washington Redskins 14-7.

At least Washington kept it close.

However the Phins had the top offense and defense in the NFL in ’72 with both quarterbacks Earl Morrall and Bob Griese combining for 15 touchdowns and both Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris rushing for over 1,000 yards each with Morris scoring 12 touchdowns on the ground.

(Photo by: Kidwiler Collection/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

1.) 1985 Chicago Bears

They’re engrained in NFL history and have one of the greatest (insert sarcasm here) dances to celebrate one of the greatest seasons ever.

They shuffled to a 15-1 record and defeated the Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX with Hall of Famers Mike Singletary, Richard Dent and Walter Payton leading the charge.  Toss in one of the greatest home-field advantages in Soldier Field and the Bears really had it all.

They started the year 12-0 before losing their only game to the Dolphins 38-24 on Monday Night Football as some kid named Dan Marino threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns against Chicago in the national spotlight.

Of course the Bears would have the final laugh in the end after a 36-point Super Bowl win that featured the greatest fat guy touchdown in the history of the sport.

(Photo by James V. Biever/Getty Images)


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