In all sports, it’s usually about how you finish rather than how you start, but that doesn’t mean the best NFL season starts in league history don’t matter. After all, teams that start the season fast get a huge leg up in the playoff race. We’ve also seen some of the greatest starts to an NFL season turn into some of the greatest and most historical seasons in league history.
Best NFL season starts
But which team has the most wins to start an NFL season? For some fans, there are a few that come to find right away. But we wanted to dig a little deeper and find out a few more of the best NFL season starts ever. With that, here is a ranking of the 10 best starts to an NFL season ever.
10. Bears, 1985 (12 wins)
This was one of the greatest teams in NFL history, nearly going undefeated.
After a 12-0 start in which only one game was decided by one score, the Bears suffered a 38-24 loss to the Dolphins. They would bounce back quickly and never lose again, ultimately outscoring their opponents 91-10 across three playoff games, including a 46-10 thrashing of the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
T5. Colts, 2005 (13 wins)
This won’t be the last time we see the Colts on our list of the best NFL season starts. Peyton Manning didn’t win his third straight MVP this year, although he did lead the Colts to a 13-0 start.
There were a couple of close calls, but only two of those 13 wins were decided by less than 10 points. That’s how dominant Indy was for most of the regular season.
Eventually, the Colts got a little complacent, losing in Weeks 15 and 16. However, after taking their foot off the gas and losing two of three to end the regular season, the Colts couldn’t get things started, losing their first playoff game to the Steelers, as their 13-0 quickly went down the drain.
T5. Packers, 2011 (13 wins)
The Packers finished the 2010 season with six straight wins, including the Super Bowl. They kept that going in 2011, starting the season with 13 straight wins for 19 total wins. That streak came to an end with a 19-14 loss to the Chiefs.
Green Bay bounced back quickly with a pair of wins, finishing the regular season 15-1 behind Aaron Rodgers in his first MVP season. However, that 15-1 season was all for naught when the Packers lost their first playoff game to the Giants 37-20 with the G-men ultimately winning the Super Bowl despite the Packers being heavy favorites going into the playoffs.
T5. Broncos, 1998 (13 wins)
Much like the 2011 Packers, the 1998 Broncos were reigning Super Bowl champs. After winning the Super Bowl as big underdogs the previous year, Denver was a dominant force in 1998. The Broncos cruised to a 13-0 start with only four of those games decided by a touchdown or less.
After wrapping up the top seed, the Broncos took their foot off the gas, losing two of their final three games when they might have had a chance at a perfect season. But all is well that ends well, as the Broncos found their groove again in the playoffs, outscoring three opponents 95-32 to win their second straight Super Bowl.
T5. Bears, 1934 (13 wins)
We have to roll back the clock a little to see one of the best NFL season starts in league history. Back when the regular season was only 13 games, the 1934 Bears won all 13 of them.
The first nine of those wins weren’t even close. Of course, Chicago’s closest game of the season was a 10-9 win over the Giants. Their three remaining games were all decided by a field goal, but the Bears survived to finish 13-0. Alas, they would have a rematch with the Giants in the NFL Championship, losing 30-13, spoiling their chance at a perfect season.
T5. Saints, 2009 (13 wins)
This was a historic season for the Saints in a variety of ways. For starters, they opened the season with 13 straight wins, with 10 of the first 11 being decided by at least 10 points.
But things changed a little down the stretch. Wins 12 and 13 came by just three points each. New Orleans then lost three in a row to close out the regular season at 13-3. But those losses didn’t cost the Saints the top seed in the playoffs.
They also got their act together during the postseason. In fact, they would eventually win the Super Bowl, knocking off the next team on our list.
4. Colts, 2009 (14 wins)
This was just one of Peyton Manning’s MVP seasons, although it was arguably Indy’s best regular season and one of the best NFL season starts in league history.
The Colts opened the campaign with 14 consecutive wins with six of them being decided by four points or less. The margins were small, but the Colts always found a way to win until losing in Weeks 16 and 17, ending the regular season 14-2.
After two easy wins in the postseason, the Colts fell short in the Super Bowl, losing 31-17 to the Saints, as their brilliant start didn’t have an ideal finish.
3. Panthers, 2015 (15 wins)
With 14 straight wins to open the regular season, the 2015 Panthers put together one of the best NFL season starts. The Carolina offense was nothing short of dynamic this year behind MVP Cam Newton.
In all but two of their regular-season games, the Panthers scored at least 24 points. While they didn’t always win in blowout fashion, Carolina was always able to outscore teams. With everything wrapped up, the Panthers finally suffered a loss in Week 16 but got back on track in the playoffs, including a 49-15 win in the NFC Championship Game.
Alas, their dynamic offense was finally stifled in the Super Bowl by a historically great Denver defense, losing Super Bowl 50 to the Broncos 24-10, spoiling an otherwise amazing season.
2. Dolphins, 1972 (17 wins)
To date, this is the only team in NFL history to complete a full season undefeated. With the expanded regular season, it’s unlikely that any team will be able to traverse the regular season and postseason without a loss.
This team achieved immortality by going 14-0 and then winning the Super Bowl. Each year, the surviving members still toast when the final undefeated team in the NFL suffers its first loss of the season.
Of course, things got a little tricky for the Dolphins in the playoffs, as all three postseason games were decided by a touchdown or less. But in the end, the Dolphins sealed the deal, going 17-0 to achieve the only perfect season in NFL history.
1. Patriots, 2007 (18 wins)
While they fell one game short of a perfect season, the 2007 Patriots still had the best start to any season in NFL history. They swept through the regular season 16-0 and then won two playoff games to reach the Super Bowl.
That’s 18 straight wins to begin the season, which is a feat that even the 1972 Dolphins didn’t reach because they had a shorter regular season. Of those 18 wins, only five of those games were decided by less than 10 points.
Tom Brady and the Patriots dominated one opponent after another and looked destined to achieve a perfect season and immortality. However, the same Giants team that pushed them to the brink in Week 17 in 38-35 win beat them in one of the great Super Bowl upsets of all time.
In the end, the 18-0 start wasn’t a complete waste, but it comes with a huge asterisk because the Pats couldn’t finish off the season with a Super Bowl win.