2. 1968 Baltimore Colts
If you weren’t around to witness this team — and chances are you weren’t — the only number you really need to know to understand the Colts’ dominance is 18.4. That was their average point differential during their 13-1 season. Only one team in this countdown can even come close to matching that, and they’re at No. 1.
Baltimore, coached by Don Shula, allowed only 144 points, while scoring 402. The Colts’ only loss came by 10 to the Cleveland Browns, a team they went on to obliterate, 34-0, in the league championship game.
Even with Earl Morrall under center instead of Johnny Unitas, Baltimore looked like an immovable force for the perceived weaker New York Jets of the AFL. The Colts, an 18-point favorite in Super Bowl III, fell behind 16-0 to Joe Namath and co. before Unitas stepped in and led Baltimore to a fourth-quarter touchdown. It was too little too late, and many people still consider it the greatest upset in Super Bowl history.
On the bright side, the Colts’ loss strengthened the credibility of the AFL and played a role in the AFL and NFL merging soon afterward.
9 of 10
1. 2007 New England Patriots
The difference between the New England Patriots topping the list of greatest teams to ever play, instead of this one, was an unsung wide receiver trapping a ball against his helmet and somehow holding on in Super Bowl XLII.
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning shed the grip of three would-be tacklers before flinging an ill-advised duck down the middle of the field and David Tyree snagged the ball with his right hand and pressed it hard against his helmet.
It kept the Giants in the game, and they made the Patriots pay when Manning connected on the game-winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress three plays later with 35 seconds to play.
The Patriots fell 35 seconds short of perfect and just about everyone was shocked. How could they not be after what New England did in the regular season? The Patriots became the first team to go 16-0, won 12 games by double-digits, and really only had two games that weren’t out of hand by the fourth quarter (Ravens, Giants).
Quarterback Tom Brady finally had the deep threat he had been waiting for and threw 23 of his 50 touchdown passes to Randy Moss (on two of the top three teams on this list). Both numbers were NFL records. The Patriots offense also scored a record 589 points and New England held a point differential of 19.7, the greatest mark in league history.
Nearly every statistic points to them being the greatest team ever, except the final score in the Super Bowl.
10 of 10
Heading into Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, much of the focus is on which team will have its greatness validated with a Lombardi trophy.
The winning team’s players will raise the trophy to the sky as confetti pours down, participate in a parade, and eventually will receive rings to commemorate a title that can’t ever be taken away from them.
Sounds pretty great, right?
Here’s the kicker: One of the teams is going to lose. Its players are going to spend the night wiping away their own tears and are going to have reoccurring nightmares about what could’ve been. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone from the 49ers, who had multiple chances at a ring over the last few years and continuously came up short. Or ask the Bills of the 1990s, who lost four straight Super Bowls, including one on the last play of the game.
This game isn’t always fair and someone has to lose. It might even be the better team. This isn’t baseball, hockey or basketball where a bad game can be overcome in a best-of-seven series. One mistake — a missed field goal for example — can cost a great team in the end. Some of the NFL’s greatest teams never received rings because they either lost in the Super Bowl or didn’t even make it there.
Here is the list of The Best NFL Teams That Never Won the Super Bowl, and here’s to hoping your team doesn’t join this list on Monday.
Follow Brett on Twitter at @bpoirierNB
image via The Sporting News/Getty Images