Super Bowl Champions Rankings: All 54 Super Bowl Winners
From LIV-th to I-st.
The Super Bowl champions rankings for your review, because we need to know this: What was the best Super Bowl winning team of all-time? Not only that, but what was the worst team to win the Super Bowl?
As of early 2020, 54 teams have won. From the days of the AFL-NFL World Championship Game to the modern Super Bowl, the league has changed, the fanfare around the game has changed, and hell, plenty of rules have changed. The importance of being a Super Bowl champion, however, remains. For as long as the National Football League exists, this will be the goal; the one of which young men dream the first time they put on a helmet.
Some have been fortunate enough to do it many times, while a number of franchises wait for their entry onto this list. Sorry, Cleveland, about losing the Browns right before they won it all.
Just like we did for the 100-plus World Series champions, every winner has a place on this list. Some might not like it, but at least you’re here.
Methodology for the Super Bowl Champions Rankings
To rank the Super Bowl champions, aside from going on some level of instinct and football knowledge (call it the “special sauce”), we relied in part on the following factors:
-Expected win-loss (equivalent to the Pythagorean W-L in baseball)
-Strength of schedule
-“Simple Rating System,” credit to Pro-Football Reference
-Halfway mark win percentage
Explanation of the “Simple Rating System” (SRS): Click on the Sports Reference blog link above for further information.
Why take the win percentage at the halfway mark? This is a very minor factor in the calculations, but we’re going for this: was a team consistently good all the way, or did they just get hot at the end of the season? A team that was 7-1 through the first half and remained a viable and dominant team is going to be regarded more highly than one that started 3-5 and went on a roll. If, however, you started 7-1 and limped into the playoffs but still won, then the win percentage factor took a knock, anyway. Teams that were strong in both halves of the season were rewarded more.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #54: 2011 New York Giants
The story of the New York Giants beating the New England Patriots again in the Super Bowl was surprising and, for some, gratifying. It must however be said that the 2011 Giants were objectively one of the least impressive Super Bowl champions. At 9-7, it’s not really up for debate. Yet, Big Blue got hot again at the right time and it felt almost like destiny that they would get the Pats again. The Giants smothered Atlanta, shocked the 15-1 Packers at Lambeau, and beat the 49ers to advance to Super Bowl XLVI. From there, to quote Yogi Berra, it was déjà vu all over again as the Giants took the lead late in the fourth quarter and held on for a 21-17 win.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #53: 2012 Baltimore Ravens
Never underestimate the power of emotion in football and how it can spur a team to a title. The 2012 Baltimore Ravens went into their postseason as a wild card, but knowing that Ray Lewis was going for his last ride. His team rallied around him, and the Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII by a 34-31 score over the San Francisco 49ers. You may remember this as the Harbaugh Bowl or the Blackout Bowl, but others will recall that Baltimore just held on after holding a 28-6 lead after a second half-opening kick return touchdown. They’re low on this list because many of the key factors we evaluated compared unfavorably to other champions. They did not have a top offense (10th) or defense (12th), 10-6 is far from the best record, and the strength of schedule was lacking.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #52: 2007 New York Giants
2007 will forever be the season that got away from the New England Patriots, who were 35 seconds from football immortality. The 2007 New York Giants had an up-and-down season, clinching a wild card berth in Week 16 and then giving the Pats a good effort in Week 17 at the Meadowlands. New England went 16-0 that night, but the tough play of Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin’s Giants propelled them to bigger things. New York blew past Tampa Bay in the wild card, and then turned the tables on Dallas in the divisional round. Finally, they went to frozen Green Bay and took the favored Packers to overtime, picking off Brett Favre and kicking the game winner to go to Super Bowl XLII. There, in a 17-14 win, the Giants defeated the 18-0 Patriots in one of the most memorable upsets in NFL history. Had New England won, they would have been in the pantheon of all-time great teams. This Giants team is not, but they earned their place in football lore.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #51: 2001 New England Patriots
The Rams lost Super Bowl XXXVI to the New England Patriots, 20-17, and in so doing created a monster. Or, if you are from New England, the greatest dynasty in NFL history. St. Louis and the Greatest Show on Turf was 14-2, and a two-touchdown favorite in the Super Bowl. Tom Brady and the Patriots, an 11-5 team that had two epic playoff wins to get there, were undaunted. Drew Bledsoe, the Pats’ starting quarterback, got Wally Pipp’d during the season. Bill Belichick and the Pats had the gameplan to limit the Rams’ high-flying offense. New England’s offense was ranked sixth in 2001, as was their defense. New England started the season at just 5-5, but got hot when it mattered.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #50: 1988 San Francisco 49ers
Of all the 49ers Super Bowl champion teams, this was one of them. While the 49ers were denied in 1987, they would not be in 1988. In a rematch of Super Bowl XVI, San Francisco defeated Cincinnati in Super Bowl XXIII in a 20-16 close call. It took a comeback down 16-13 with a few minutes to go for the Niners to win it all. Joe Montana led San Francisco on a 92-yard drive in 2:46 for the winning touchdown pass to John Taylor. Despite star power such as Montana, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott, the 1988 Niners were just 10-6, which was at the time the highest loss total for a champion.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #49: 1987 Washington Redskins
The Redskins sure did like winning Super Bowls during strike seasons. This 1987 campaign only shelved one week (and yes, there were replacement players), but just like 1982, Washington emerged as champions. Washington defeated Denver, who got blown out in the prior title game, in Super Bowl XXII by a 42-10 score. The Redskins posted an 11-4 season and were the NFC’s number three seed. No other NFC East team had a winning record that year. It’s not that they were the best team in the league that year, because you could probably argue it was San Francisco, and the Redskins were not even favored in Super Bowl XXII. Yet, they found ways to win a few close playoff games and then mopped the floor with the Broncos.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #48: 1980 Oakland Raiders
The 1980 Oakland Raiders felt a little wild, going 11-5 and becoming the first wild card time to emerge victorious by their Super Bowl XV victory. Oakland was the four seed in the AFC who took down the Philadelphia Eagles. The Silver and Black jumped on Philly in the first quarter and never looked back. This Oakland team did not lead the league in the major categories, but they had a few notable names like Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, and Super Bowl MVP Jim Plunkett. The Raiders started the season at 2-3 but got hot starting in Week 6, going 9-2 the rest of the way and 4-0 through the postseason. Including the playoffs, Oakland won seven games by a touchdown or less, a sign of a team that found ways to win.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #47: 2018 New England Patriots
The 2018 Patriots were not the best the franchise has ever seen. They were not the best team in the NFL, or even the best in the AFC. Yet, the Patriots won again in the most offensively-challenged Super Bowl in history. Just like how the Brady dynasty started, the Pats beat the Rams in Super Bowl LIII by a score of 13-3. New England went just 11-5 during the regular season, but won the AFC East with no credible competition (again). Their offense remained a force with Tom Brady at its helm, though the defense had nothing but its moments during the year. Super Bowl LIII, however, was another story, as the Pats confused what was one of football’s most prolific offenses. Compared to the other 52 winning teams, the 2018 Pats are a tough sell, but the Lombardi Trophy shines just the same.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #46: 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers
Super Bowl XL was not a very good game, and the best play was the Antwaan Randle El trick play touchdown, but the Steelers took it, finally getting “one for the thumb.” In so doing, Pittsburgh became just the third franchise to win five Super Bowls. This Steelers team had the distinction of being the first six-seed to win the Super Bowl. Now, we can’t possibly rate them highly on this list as an 11-5 six seed. Their defense was very good and on offense, they rode the Bus, Jerome Bettis. Some may remember the Super Bowl, a 21-10 Steelers win over Seattle, for an avalanche of bad officiating.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #45: 1970 Baltimore Colts
Baltimore sports had a great year in 1970, with the Orioles winning the World Series in October, and the Colts capping off their 1970 season with a Super Bowl victory in January 1971. Their opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, were stocked with Hall of Famers, but the Colts had the legendary Johnny Unitas at quarterback. Unitas was not a significant factor in a game that came down to a last-second field goal by Baltimore, which of course they made. In the first post-merger season, the champions had the sixth-best offense and seventh-best defense in the league. However, they played in the tragically bad AFC East, in which the Miami Dolphins were also good but the Jets, Bills, and Patriots were all horrendous. The AFC in general was also not great competition.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #44: 1968 New York Jets
It only took three Super Bowls for the AFL to win one, but it was one of the most significant games in the early history of what we now know as the NFL. The 1966 and 1967 Packers rocked their AFL competition, and going into the merger of the two leagues, the NFL was seen as of higher caliber. Just like in the two prior Super Bowls as well, the NFL team was a significant favorite. The Baltimore Colts were favored by 18, but Broadway Joe Namath and the Jets shocked the world. Aside from pulling one of the most improbably “guaranteed” Super Bowl victories ever, the 1968 Jets had a deserving team. New York won their division going away and owned one of the top offenses in the AFL. Their win over the Oakland Raiders in the AFL title game was legitimate quality.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #43: 1983 Los Angeles Raiders
John Madden is a Hall of Fame coach, but it’s his successor, Tom Flores, who won more Super Bowls. In the 1983 season, Flores and his Raiders, now in Los Angeles, won Super Bowl XVIII. Their opponents were the defending champions Washington, and it was a 38-9 runaway. Both were the top seeds in their conferences, but Washington entered the game at 14-2. Los Angeles was 12-4 in large part due to their offense, which was ranked third in the league that season. They outscored the AFC West by a comfortable margin with Jim Plunkett and Marcus Allen leading the way. On defense, Pro Bowler (and Hall-of-Famer) Howie Long set the tone in his breakout year.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #42: 2019 Kansas City Chiefs
The 2019 Chiefs were a great comeback story, and not just because they erased double-digit deficits in all of their playoff games. Mahomes and crew came off of a stellar 2018 in which they were upset in the AFC Championship by the Patriots in OT. To rebound from a gut-wrenching title game loss to go all the way the following season showed that the Chiefs had drive and determination. Their 21-point, fourth-quarter comeback in Super Bowl LIV against the 49ers was a microcosm of their season. It’s a shame they did not end up higher on our list, but they did not dominate the entire season and did not lead the league in offense or defense. They did, however, make for fun viewing for the long-suffering Kansas City fans who saw their 50-year drought end.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #41: 2015 Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning was in the twilight of his career, but the Denver Broncos coaches limited him in Super Bowl 50 and let the defense do the rest. The result was a 24-10 Broncos win over the Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton and Carolina entered the game off of a 15-1 regular season. Denver, for their part, was also the top seed in their conference, but 12-4. The Broncos defense bent but did not break, and posted the first touchdown of the game. Their offense, average at absolute best, precludes them from being any higher on this list. Were it not for the defense, Denver’s season may have ended long before Super Bowl 50.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #40: 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers
The first Super Bowl championship for the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise came in January 1975. Before they could unleash the Steel Curtain defense on the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX, the Steelers put together a 10-3-1 regular season. Led by Terry Bradshaw on offense and players like Mean Joe Greene on defense, the Steelers got off to a rocky 1-1-1 start. This included a shutout loss to the Oakland Raiders at home. Pittsburgh would go 9-2 the rest of the way and won the AFC Central. The Steelers got another crack at Oakland in the AFC title game and returned the favor with a 24-13 win in California. Pittsburgh claimed a 16-6 victory in Super Bowl IX, recording the first safety in the history of the annual contest.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #39: 1981 San Francisco 49ers
If the team of the 1970s was Pittsburgh, this was the start of San Francisco as the team of the 1980s. This was the team that had the famous Montana-to-Clark “Catch” in the playoffs to get the 49ers to Super Bowl XVI. In the season in which they drafted Ronnie Lott, legendary coach Bill Walsh led the way to a 13-3 record for San Francisco. Following a 1-2 start, San Francisco would lose only one more game between Week 4 and Super Bowl XVI. The Joe Montana offense was only ranked seventh in the NFL that year, but the defense featuring Fred Dean was second-best in the league. San Francisco squeaked past the Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21, to win it all.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #38: 1967 Green Bay Packers
The 1967 Packers did not slice through the NFL in quite the same way their predecessor team did, but the year ended just the same: by winning the Super Bowl. Green Bay had nine players on their roster who would end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including Bart Starr, Willie Wood, and Ray Nitschke. This Packers team had to get through the “Ice Bowl” to make it to Miami, but there was hardly a doubt with this team’s talent and coaching. Just as in the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game, the NFL was perceived to have superior talent to the AFL. Not much changed between the two seasons, as the Packers blew out the Oakland Raiders, 33-14.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #37: 2000 Baltimore Ravens
Defense, they say, wins championships. It did in 2000 for the Baltimore Ravens, who defeated the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV by a 34-7 score. Offense was not at all their calling card, but from Ray Lewis to Tony Siragusa, defense was. Some believe the 2000 Ravens were among the best defenses ever assembled. Baltimore was a wild card team but a 12-4 one at that, who beat an upstart Giants team that took the NFC’s number one seed. The Ravens held their four playoff opponents to a total of 23 points among them. Cleveland curses the day the Ravens won the Super Bowl, having lost the team just a few years earlier.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #36: 1971 Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys fell short in the 1970 season but were not to be denied in 1971, winning a championship under Tom Landry. This was one of the best teams in the NFL in 1971, and for certain the best offense. Dallas’s 406 points in 14 games was by far the most any managed that year. Things did not start off well for this team, with Dallas at just 4-3 halfway through the season. Yet, thanks in part to their offensive explosiveness and a resurgence of the defense, the Cowboys won out and captured the NFC East. In their seven games of the second half, Dallas allowed just 11 points per game. Hall of Famer Roger Staubach was Super Bowl VI’s MVP coming off of a dominant season.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #35: 2010 Green Bay Packers
The 2010 Packers were the kind of team that lost their fair share (six times), but none of them were by much. In fact, their largest margin of defeat was four points. It says a lot about a team that’s in every single game over sixteen of them. When the Packers, a wild card, then had to go on the road and win three playoff games to get to the Super Bowl, they were up to the task. Green Bay behind Aaron Rodgers defeated Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Chicago to advance to Super Bowl XLV. There, they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 31-25 contest. Green Bay’s defense was second-best in the NFL that year, allowing just 240 points in the regular season; Clay Matthews had 13.5 sacks, which was fourth-most in the league.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #34: 2014 New England Patriots
Seattle, you should have handed the ball to Marshawn Lynch. Boston was hit by a blizzard the day after New England won Super Bowl XLIX, but at least they would feel happy while stranded in their homes. The Pats were a 12-4 team, hoping to win their first Super Bowl in a decade. It didn’t go well for them most of the game, down 24-14 late. New England would storm back to take a 28-24 lead, only for the Seahawks to get to the one-yard line and call the dumbest play in football history. Whether the footballs were properly inflated or not, the Patriots were a fine team in 2014 (and the Colts wouldn’t have won that game if New England spotted them two touchdowns).
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #33: 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If you remember Super Bowl XXXVII, you may remember one of the worst Super Bowls ever. You also then remember the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning their only title to date in a 48-21 rout against the Oakland Raiders. Tampa Bay was 12-4 and the two seed in the NFC, and Jon Gruden, former coach of the Raiders, was now coaching against his ex-team in the big game. Brad Johnson’s offense was not stellar, just ranked 18th overall in the league, but the defense of Warren Sapp and John Lynch was the best.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #32: 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers
Who knows how this list may have changed had the Plaxico Burress incident not taken place. The defending champion Giants were 11-1 and on their way to a repeat, and then Burress was lost, and everything changed in the NFL. Arizona emerged as the top dog in the NFC, while on the other side, Pittsburgh returned to the Super Bowl after a three-year absence. The Steelers won their record sixth Super Bowl in XLIII, beating the Cardinals by a 27-23 score. Pittsburgh’s offense was not their strength, ranked only 20th in the league, but their top defense featuring James Harrison made up for it.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #31: 2003 New England Patriots
The Pats were back with a vengeance in 2003, going 14-2 and winning the AFC East. They would go on to win Super Bowl XXXVIII by a 32-29 score over the Carolina Panthers. Adam Vinatieri once again kicked a game winning field goal. All of the Patriots’ playoff games were decided by ten points or less, which is not unusual for a team that boasted defense — the number one defense, in fact. New England held six teams to ten or fewer points during the regular season. Following a 2-2 start, New England would not lose another game.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #30: 2017 Philadelphia Eagles
The 2017 Eagles came out of absolutely nowhere to win Super Bowl LII. A team with a quarterback controversy that finished in last place the prior year, Philadelphia soared to the top seed in the NFC. Little did they know their journey would end with a 41-33 Super Bowl LII victory over the Patriots. Whether Carson Wentz or Nick Foles at quarterback, the Eagles found ways to win week in and week out.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #29: 1995 Dallas Cowboys
Three Super Bowl victories in four years marked a new Dallas Cowboys dynasty. To do it, they had to vanquish an old dynasty looking to make a comeback: the Cowboys defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-17 in Super Bowl XXX. Deion Sanders came over to Dallas in 1995, helping them get back to the Super Bowl right away, surrounded by a cast of other Hall-of-Fame characters. Dallas led the entire game, which is fitting because they also led the NFC East from wire to wire. The Cowboys were near the top of the NFL in both offense and defense, coming in third in the overall rankings for each.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #28: 2006 Indianapolis Colts
Peyton Manning had many good Colts teams that would glide through the regular season and then go limp in the playoffs. 2006 was different: Indianapolis had to fight for their position, and as a result, they had to find ways to win even when things were not going their way. At 12-4, they were the AFC’s three seed, but they started 9-0. Indy limped into the playoffs by going 3-4 down the stretch, but still won the AFC South going away. When the playoffs began, the Colts defense was the defining factor, allowing just eight points to Kansas City and six to Baltimore. Yet, Manning had to step up in the AFC Championship against the Pats. The Colts finally bested New England to get to Super Bowl XLI, a wet and sloppy contest in which they came back from 14-6 down to win. They are not higher on this list because their defense was ranked just 23rd overall in the NFL that season, comparing poorly to other Super Bowl champions.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #27: 1990 New York Giants
By 1990, we were not done hearing from the Big Blue Wrecking Crew. After winning Super Bowl XXI, the Giants faded into the background while San Francisco dominated the NFC. New York went 13-3, but if they were going to go all the way, they had to go through the 49ers. What made things worse was Phil Simms’ injury late in the season, making the Giants turn to Jeff Hostetler at quarterback. The good news for them is that their defense returned to form and made things nearly impossible for opposing offenses. The Giants would stun San Francisco in the 1990 NFC Championship and then famously win Super Bowl XXV over the Buffalo Bills in the Scott Norwood “Wide Right” game. So began four years of futility for the poor Bills.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #26: 1982 Washington Redskins
The NFL had only a few years earlier gone to a 16-game schedule, so the involuntary 9-game slate in 1982 gave us a compressed season. For that reason, it’s natural that we would be harder on whatever team emerged the champion. This was a strike season, but the Washington Redskins were the Super Bowl XVII champions and they’ll take it. Washington went 8-1 in what was left of the regular season, and then had to win four games to take the title (as would have any other team that year with no byes). Despite the efforts of Hall-of-Famers John Riggins and Art Monk, Washington’s offense was ranked just 12th in the league, but again with a smaller sample size. The Redskins boasted the NFL’s top defense that year. Washington defeated Miami by a 27-17 score in the Super Bowl to win their first championship in a rematch of Super Bowl VII.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #25: 1997 Denver Broncos
For decades, the Broncos were the Super Bowl bridesmaids, but never the brides. Even with John Elway on several of the prior Super Bowl teams, Denver got blown out in each one. Their luck would finally change in 1997, with Elway and Terrell Davis leading the Broncos to a championship. They took down the defending champion Packers in Super Bowl XXXII by a 31-24 score. Denver was a heavy underdog (+11) against Green Bay, and though they were 12-4, they entered the playoffs as the four seed. The Broncos went ahead in the final two minutes to seal the game and win their first Super Bowl. Denver went 6-0 before their bye and just 6-4 after the break, but beat the Jaguars in the Wild Card round and then took three close games to get to the Lombardi Trophy. Behind Elway and Davis, Denver’s offense was the most productive in the NFL that season.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #24: 1993 Dallas Cowboys
The renaissance for Dallas continued in 1993 as the Cowboys won back-to-back Super Bowls for the first time in franchise history. This was a 30-13 victory in Super Bowl XXVIII over the Buffalo Bills, the latter of whom had just lost their fourth Super Bowl in a row. Jimmy Johnson and Troy Aikman won their second together, though Johnson would take a hike thereafter because he could not stand Jerry Jones. That did not stop the 1993 Cowboys from going 12-4, taking the NFC’s top seed, and winning the whole thing despite an 0-2 start as defending champions. Aikman posted a career-best 69.1 percent completion percentage and threw for 3,100 yards.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #23: 1994 San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers became the first franchise to win a fifth Super Bowl with their 49-26 win over the San Diego Chargers. Steve Young, a Hall-of-Fame quarterback who took over for another one (Joe Montana), was the game’s MVP. San Francisco was 13-3 in the regular season, and in the NFC title game prevented the Dallas Cowboys from seeking a third Super Bowl win in a row. This would still be the third year in a row that those two teams met in the NFC championship. When the game began, San Francisco were 18.5-point favorites over San Diego, the biggest spread to date. Young’s team, with the help of Jerry Rice, had the top-rated offense in the NFL in 1994. Deion Sanders made his one year in San Francisco count, winning one of his two Super Bowl rings there.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #22: 2009 New Orleans Saints
New Orleans waited for a championship for decades, suffering through the ‘Aints era and then dealing with tragedy via Hurricane Katrina. Super Bowl XLIV was a pivotal moment in the comeback of their city, and a 31-17 win over the Colts delivered it. New Orleans and Indy were in a fight for supremacy all season, before they even met in the Super Bowl. Both started 13-0 and seemed destined for a battle royale in February. The Saints’ high-flying offense served them well, led by future Hall-of-Famer Drew Brees. New Orleans lost their last three regular season games, but then demolished Arizona in the divisional round and squeaked by the Vikings in overtime to advance to the Super Bowl. There, the Saints poured it on in the second half to win their first title. On defense, they were nothing special, but their offense was one of the better ones you’ll see.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #21: 1969 Kansas City Chiefs
The 1969 Chiefs still had Len Dawson, the losing quarterback in Super Bowl I, but it wasn’t just the offense that guided Kansas City to a championship. These Chiefs had a stout defense that they rode all the way to the end of the line. Five Chiefs defensive players would end up in the Hall of Fame, namely Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan, Curley Culp, Willie Lanier, and Emmitt Thomas. Hank Stram had this defense humming, and it was one of the most feared in the AFL in its day. In Super Bowl IV, the last official game before the merger, the Chiefs shut down the Minnesota Vikings en route to a 23-7 victory. The knock on them, if any, is that they didn’t win their own division: the Oakland Raiders did, but the Chiefs got them when it mattered.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #20: 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers
The team of the 1970s in football were the Pittsburgh Steelers, who won it all four times. In fact, 1979 was a great season for Pittsburgh sports, with the “We Are Family” Pirates of Willie Stargell winning the World Series in October. The Steelers won Super Bowl XIV just a few months later in January 1980. (The Penguins stunk that year, so it wasn’t all good, but mostly.) It took a fourth-quarter comeback for the Steelers to top the Los Angeles Rams in the big game. No doubt, the Steelers deserved to be there, with a 12-4 record, another strong defense, and the top offense of the 1979 season, scoring 416 points. Of course, if you had told Steelers fans back then that they’d not see another Lombardi Trophy for over 25 years, they might not have believed you.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #19: 2016 New England Patriots
Atlanta will never, ever, EVER live down 28-3. New England will never let them forget, either. The first Super Bowl to go to overtime happened in February 2017 as the New England Patriots erased a 25-point deficit to win Super Bowl LI, 34-28. New England was 14-2 and in danger of having the whole season go for naught like the stellar Panthers of the year prior. Yet, while the Falcons got complacent, the Pats got tough, and dug their way back. Despite playing a less-than-sparkling schedule, the Pats were at or near the league lead in offense and defense and crushed the competition most of the way.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #18: 1973 Miami Dolphins
The 1973 Dolphins could not complete the same feat as the 1972 Dolphins, but their season ended the same way. Miami became the second franchise in history to win back-to-back Super Bowls. In a lot of respects, the 1972 and 1973 Dolphins were similar. The offense was surpassed by a few other teams, but the defense remained tops in the NFL.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #17: 2013 Seattle Seahawks
This may be remembered as the first cold-weather Super Bowl in history. Fine, complain all you want about the elements affecting the Super Bowl, but not every warm-weather one has been nice (reference: Super Bowl XLI). Further, you can play every other round of the playoffs in frigid temperatures; why is it mandatory that the Super Bowl has to be in a tropical paradise or indoors? I am off the soap box, but this game stunk, and it had nothing to do with the weather. The Seattle Seahawks won their first title by defeating the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, 43-8. Seattle’s Legion of Boom defense was feared, and may go down as one of the most productive in history. We won’t put them aside the Steel Curtain as the former won four Super Bowls and this group took only one. However, the combination of them and Russell Wilson’s offense made the Seahawks a very fundamentally sound team. As you’ve already seen, they were one decent playcall away from winning back-to-back Super Bowls with this group of players.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #16: 1976 Oakland Raiders
The Raiders had come close on a number of occasions. Oakland played in Super Bowl II and lost, and then lost in the AFL/AFC title game the next six times they’d be there between 1968 and 1975. They were another team’s stepping stone to greatness, but not in 1976. Oakland went 13-1 in the regular season to capture the AFC West by four games. Their only defeat was a blowout in Foxboro against the New England Patriots in which they allowed 48 points. The rest of the season, they would not allow even 30 points in a game. John Madden led his Raiders past the Pats, Steelers, and eventually the Vikings in Super Bowl XI. Ken Stabler’s offense was near the top of the league and the defense figured it out in plenty of time for Oakland to win big.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #15: 1998 Denver Broncos
Denver’s first Super Bowl win was so nice, they did it twice. The Broncos went back-to-back, winning Super Bowl XXXIII, and this time as favorites themselves. They defeated Atlanta 34-19 in a battle of 14-2 teams. This would be John Elway’s last rodeo, and he went out a winner. Many of the same faces on the Super Bowl XXXII team were there, and Denver, having finally changed their perception, was the favorite to win again. In fact, they started the season 13-0, but lost to the Giants in Week 15; they would fall just one more time the rest of the way. They were statistically not as good as the 1997 Broncos, and played a weaker schedule, but they did what they set out to do: repeat.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #14: 1986 New York Giants
New York, America’s largest city and a town with two NFL franchises, had not seen a championship since the 1960s. 1986 proved to be the Giants’ year. A 14-2 team led by Bill Parcells, the team that made the Gatorade bath a thing also gave us the Big Blue Wrecking Crew, featuring Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, and Carl Banks. Quarterback Phil Simms helped the Giants close the regular season on a nine-game win streak, and is remembered for having one of the most statistically-perfect Super Bowls ever under center. Before the Giants claimed a 39-20 win in Super Bowl XXI against Denver, they obliterated the 49ers and Redskins to get there.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #13: 1999 St. Louis Rams
The Greatest Show on Turf was one of the most high-flying offensive teams to that point in NFL history. They scored 526 points in the regular season and allowed just 242, which tells you all you need to know. You would wonder how they even lost three games. Needless to say, they had no competition in the NFC West. Their playoff games were all over the place, however: a shootout win over the Vikings, an ugly, low-scoring victory against Tampa Bay, and then the 23-16 win against the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV, with Kevin Dyson coming up one yard short. The Rams did a lot of things well that season with Kurt Warner and company, and were a highly deserving Super Bowl champion.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #12: 1977 Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys won their second Super Bowl championship in 1977, defeating first-timers Denver in Super Bowl XII. All of the game’s Hall-of-Famers, from the sidelines to the field, belonged to Dallas. This Cowboys squad had one of the best offenses in the NFL that season, and they got better in that year’s draft by taking Tony Dorsett second overall. Dallas was consistent, suffering only one hiccup during their 12-2 regular season, outscoring the next-most potent NFC East offense by 73 points. They could put up points in a hurry, and they did in the NFC Divisional round against Chicago in a 37-7 win. That defense, however, showed up for the playoffs as well, allowing ten or fewer points in all three contests.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #11: 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers
Winning the Super Bowl was so nice, the Steelers did it twice. The National Football League had only held ten Super Bowls, and there were already now three back-to-back winners. 1975’s Steelers went 12-2 in the regular season, and their roster was a who’s-who of future Hall of Famers. They included Terry Bradshaw, Mel Blount, Mean Joe Greene, Franco Harris, and Lynn Swann. The Steel Curtain was still in full effect, and would remain as such for several more seasons. This team was in fact better than the 1974 Steelers that won the Super Bowl, but what can you do to prove it except win it again? Pittsburgh took down the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X by a 21-17 score.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #10: 1992 Dallas Cowboys
The Troy Aikman era was in full swing by 1992, and a franchise that prided itself as “America’s Team” was 15 years without a championship. That ended with Super Bowl XXVII and a 52-17 Dallas Cowboys win over the Buffalo Bills. This was the first appearance for Dallas after Tom Landry’s departure, the man who had to that point been their only head coach. Jimmy Johnson was the second, and he won the Super Bowl within a few years. Dallas went 13-3 and, like several other NFC teams before it, had to go through San Francisco to get to the big game. The offensive trifecta of Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith powered them through a respectable regular season and to the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #9: 1966 Green Bay Packers
The first team to win the Super Bowl, the 1966 Green Bay Packers, took part in a championship between two rival leagues. Few referred to it as the Super Bowl back then, when it was officially the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. When Super Bowl I was played, it was known that the NFL and AFL would merge a few years down the track. Nevertheless, each wanted supremacy to prove their league’s worth. The Green Bay Packers were the best the NFL had to offer, up against the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL.
Green Bay was a heavy favorite — 14 points — and few questioned why. The Packers (12-2) and Chiefs (11-2-1) had almost identical records, but the quality of NFL wins was in those days superior. Despite a war for talent, the NFL’s was better. Both teams had Hall of Fame quarterbacks, but Bart Starr of the Packers ruled the day. Oh yeah, and their coach was some guy named Lombardi. Seems like they had a pretty good team.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #8: 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers returned to glory in the 1978 season, becoming the first franchise to win a third Super Bowl; this one was Super Bowl XIII. Their opposition in the game were the defending champion Dallas Cowboys. Pittsburgh navigated through the first season of 16-game schedules to get to 14-2. As the top seed in the AFC that season, they breezed through their conference. Pittsburgh won their two playoff games against Denver and Houston by a combined score of 77 to 15, as if there was any doubt who ruled the AFC. Nobody was touching the Steel Curtain defense that season, which allowed just 195 points in the 16-game slate. What could reasonably have been called the two best teams that season met in the Super Bowl, but Pittsburgh had the best of it in a tight game.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #7: 2004 New England Patriots
Three Super Bowls in four years for the New England Patriots, and that makes you a dynasty. The Pats beat Donovan McNabb (of Chunky Soup fame) and the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX by a 24-21 score. You guessed it: Adam Vinatieri at the end to win it. Just like the year before, New England went 14-2 in the regular season and got through some of the AFC’s best to make it to the big game. New England had the fourth-rated offense and second-best defense in the league in 2004. As you might expect, they were also quite consistent and played a schedule with some meat on it. The legend of Brady and Belichick only grew.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #6: 1996 Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls, both of which were pre-merger. They’d then go on to wander the football wilderness for almost 30 years before even sniffing another. It wasn’t until Brett Favre and Mike Holmgren got together that Green Bay returned to the promised land. A team with a top-ranked offense and defense, the Packers went 13-3, cruising to the NFC Central title while ending the season on a five-game win streak. This was a time when the NFC was still seen much more favorably as a conference, so Green Bay entered Super Bowl XXXI as a 14-point favorite. That happened to also be the final margin, 35-21. The late, great Reggie White was another famous name on the victorious Packers team.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #5: 1984 San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers were back on top in the 1984 season, winning another title under Joe Montana and Bill Walsh. San Francisco was the first team to win 15 regular-season games, and anything short of a championship would have been a massive disappointment. Their only loss during the season was a nailbiter against Pittsburgh, a team they did not have to see in the big game. San Francisco defeated Miami, in NFL MVP Dan Marino’s only Super Bowl appearance, XIX. The two teams in that game combined for a record of 29-3. Nevertheless, it was the 49ers’ day, as a team at or near the top of the NFL in all major categories finished what they started in a 38-16 win. The 49ers would win future Super Bowls, but this was a special season for San Francisco, going a final record of 18-1 and slicing through the postseason.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #4: 1991 Washington Redskins
There was no season-eating strike in 1991, which made it surprising in a way that the Redskins won. Washington beat the Buffalo Bills by a 37-24 score in Super Bowl XXVI, as a reward for a complete team having an outstanding season. The Redskins went 14-2 thanks to their stellar performances on both offense and defense, blowing away the rest of the league on a regular basis. Their +261 regular season point differential alone makes them one of the best teams the NFC has produced. Mark Rypien threw 28 touchdown passes that season, including six against Atlanta. The top-tier defense featured Hall-of-Famer Darrell Green.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #3: 1989 San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco won their fourth Super Bowl of the decade in 1989, closing it with a bang. If the Niners were the team of the 1980s, the Denver Broncos were the lovable losers of said decade. They fell to San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIV by an embarrassing 55-10 score. Bill Walsh was gone, but the 49ers still clicked, and this team may have been the equal of, or superior to, the 1984 team that won 18 total games. San Francisco won their three playoff games by a combined 126–26 score, a run not since surpassed by any franchise. Joe Montana’s 1989 season was a virtuoso performance, ending a quarterback controversy (for a little while) and winning a third Super Bowl MVP.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #2: 1972 Miami Dolphins
This was not just the best Super Bowl championship team ever, but perhaps the best team ever, at least if you listen to Mercury Morris and others. History may have changed with a different outcome in Super Bowl XLII, but it didn’t happen, so we present to you the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins. Miami had playoff appearances in the previous few seasons, but the 1972 team made the record books, going 14-0 in the regular season and then winning three close playoff games to claim Super Bowl VII. The “No-Name Defense” was actually the top-rated in the NFL that season, while Bob Griese’s offense was also ranked first overall. In spite of perfection, the Dolphins were only one-point favorites over the NFC champion Washington Redskins. Larry Csonka made sure his team wouldn’t be denied, rushing for 112 yards in the Super Bowl while the Miami defense forced three turnovers. This is to date the only NFL team to complete an undefeated season with a championship.
Super Bowl Champions Rankings, #1: 1985 Chicago Bears
One year after the first 15-win team, the Chicago Bears did it. The Fightin’ Ditkas were the best team in the NFC, and the National Football League, in 1985, noted for their fearsome defense. They got their paws on the New England Patriots, a franchise making its first Super Bowl appearance that had made a thrilling run through the postseason. That luck and good fortune ran out in Super Bowl XX as the Bears won, 46-10. From Refrigerator Perry down to Mike Singletary and Walter Payton, Chicago was loaded. You may remember them as being the “Super Bowl Shuffle” crew, which would have been a lot less memorable if they lost, but that was never this team’s destiny. The Bears allowed 157 fewer points than the next-best defense in the NFC Central that year.