The debate over the greatest NFL teams of all time is likely to never end. Year after year, there are elite teams trying to both win a championship and prove themselves to be among the top teams in NFL history.
But even if this type of list requires frequent updates, we thought it was appropriate to create a list of the best football teams ranked.
Greatest NFL teams of all time
Of course, the NFL has been around for decades, including more than half a century since the merger. That doesn’t leave much margin for error for teams that want to be considered among the greatest NFL teams ever.
Obviously, teams that won a championship help, but some of the worst Super Bowl-winning teams made it nowhere near our list of the 25 greatest NFL teams of all time. Let’s take a look at the elite of the elite with our list of the best NFL teams ever.
25. 2015 Broncos
To be fair, the Carolina team the Broncos beat in Super Bowl 50 also deserves some consideration for our list. However, the edge has to go to the 2015 Denver Broncos, who were historically good defensively and completely shut down that 15-1 Panthers team in the Super Bowl.
This team was so good that they went 5-2 with Brock Osweiler starting at quarterback. Think about that for a second. An aging Peyton Manning and a dominant defense did the rest, beating a great team in the Super Bowl to become one of the 25 best NFL teams ever.
24. 1979 Steelers
The fourth and final Super Bowl win the Steelers had in the 70s under Chuck Noll was one of the better seasons in franchise history.
The 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers were only 12-4, but nobody could touch them when they had a good day. They had six wins during the season by at least 20 points and another in the playoffs. The Steel Curtain was still in force this season, as Mel Blount, Joe Greene, and Jack Lambert were among Pittsburgh’s 10 Pro Bowlers to lead one of the all-time great teams.
23. 1971 Cowboys
This was a special year for Tom Landry and the Cowboys. After losing either the NFL Championship or the Super Bowl three times in five years, the 1971 Dallas Cowboys finally got over the hump.
They did so in style, going 11-3 while averaging 29 points per game. Following a modest 4-3 start, the Cowboys won seven in a row to finish the season with five of those seven wins being lopsided affairs. They stayed just as hot in the playoffs, allowing just 18 total points over three games, including a 24-3 win over the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI to win the first Super Bowl in franchise history.
22. 1969 Vikings
Sorry, Vikings fans, but this won’t be the first time we see a Minnesota team on this list despite losing in the Super Bowl. The 1969 Minnesota Vikings were quite a team, especially with the great Alan Page leading the way defensively.
The Vikings lost their season opener but then rattled off 12 straight wins, keeping all 12 teams to 14 points or less. In fact, nine of their 14 opponents during the regular season were held to 10 points or less. However, a loss to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl spoiled what could have been a memorable year in Minnesota that ended in a championship.
21. 1966 Packers
Surely, the first-ever Super Bowl winners have to be mentioned among the best teams of all time. Vince Lombardi’s 1966 Green Bay Packers went 12-2 during the season before beating the Cowboys to win the NFL championship and then beating the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
Offensively, they didn’t light the world on fire. But only in two of their 16 games did the Packers allow more than 21 points. That turned out to be more than enough for Bart Starr in the only season that he took home MVP honors.
20. 2004 Patriots
This season came relatively early in their dynasty, but the 2004 New England Patriots were good enough to stand the test of time and be included on our list. They were 14-2 during the regular season, and one of those losses came by a single point.
Ultimately, 10 of their wins came by at least 10 points, not including two lopsided wins in the playoffs. The Pats had a tough game in the Super Bowl, holding off the Eagles 24-21 to solidify a place among the best teams ever.
19. 1996 Packers
Somehow, this team only sent three players to the Pro Bowl. That means it was a team effort, albeit with Brett Favre leading the way in his second of three straight MVP awards. Few teams had any hope of slowing down the 1996 Green Bay Packers.
They scored at least 28 points in 10 of their 16 regular-season games, winning by more than 20 points on eight occasions. Despite a few road losses during the regular season, the Packers flexed their muscles throughout the playoffs, winning by at least 14 points in all three games, including a 35-21 Super Bowl win that cemented their legacy as one of the best Packers teams ever.
18. 1977 Cowboys
Before the 90s, this might have been the best team the Cowboys had. The 1977 Dallas Cowboys suffered two losses in the middle of the season after an 8-0 start. But those losses became a blip on the radar.
Outside of those two games, they dominated opponents on both sides of the ball. Dallas allowed 10 points or less in seven of 14 regular-season games behind Defensive Player of the Year Harvey Martin. Meanwhile, Offensive Rookie of the Year Tony Dorsett was an immediate difference-maker for the offense. But what puts this team on another level is how they dominated in the playoffs, winning three games by a combined score of 87-23.
17. 1976 Raiders
John Madden’s 1976 Oakland Raiders were something special. Keep in mind the Raiders had lost in the AFC Championship Game in three consecutive seasons heading into 1976. They proceeded to go 13-1 during the regular season.
The caveat is that five of those wins were decided by four points or less and the one loss came by a 31-point margin, so they didn’t exactly dominate from start to finish. But Madden’s team only lost once and got it done when it mattered, avenging their only regular-season loss with a playoff win over the Raiders and then finally getting over the hump against the Steelers, beating them in the AFC Championship Game. By the time they met the Vikings in the Super Bowl, it was clear this team was among the best of the best.
16. 2016 Patriots
The 2016 New England Patriots deserve a lot of credit for their amazing comeback in the Super Bowl over the Falcons. But let’s not forget they went 14-2 during the regular season, including a 3-1 record during Tom Brady’s suspension.
Their two wins in the playoffs before the Super Bowl came by a combined score of 70-33. While he grew accustomed to the Patriots being elite during these years, this was one of the better teams the Pats had during their dynasty.
15. 1991 Washington
The 1991 Washington Redskins won’t be the last team on our list that beat the Bills in the Super Bowl during the early 90s, so at least Buffalo lost to some good teams along the way. This year’s Washington team finished 14-2 and asserted its dominance throughout the season, leading the league in points while also conceding the fewest points.
Washington started the year 11-0 with its two losses coming by a combined five points. The defense held three shutouts, all in the first five weeks of the season while holding nine teams to 14 points or less. The playoffs were also a breeze for this team, winning each game by at least 13 points, including a dominant 41-10 win in the NFC Championship Game, helping to elevate their resume among the best of all time.
14. 1968 Colts
Why was Joe Namath’s guarantee of a win in Super Bowl III so crazy? Well, it’s because the 1968 Baltimore Colts were an absolute juggernaut.
They dominated during a 13-1 regular season, keeping 10 of those 14 opponents to 10 points or less. They also had Johnny Unitas at quarterback, helping the Colts maintain consistency and score at least 26 points in all but three games.
They even avenged their only regular-season loss with a 34-0 thrashing of the Browns in the NFL Championship. Alas, that loss to the Jets in Super Bowl III spoiled what could have been an even more memorable season. But a Super Bowl loss shouldn’t take away from everything else the Colts accomplished this season.
13. 1994 49ers
San Francisco had some amazing teams in the 80s, but some of that spilled over into the 90s, as the 1994 San Francisco 49ers became an all-time great team. By this point, Steve Young had taken over for Joe Montana and put together one of the best seasons a quarterback ever had.
He completed over 70% of his passes and led the league with 35 touchdown passes. Naturally, he was one of 10 Pro Bowlers on a team that went 13-3 during the regular season.
If not for a puzzling 40-8 loss to the Eagles early in the season, we might look at this team in a different light. But they won 10 in a row after that loss, most of which were decided by at least 15 points before taking it easy in Week 17. But the 49ers kicked it into gear in the playoffs, ultimately blowing out the Chargers 49-26 in the Super Bowl to cap a brilliant season.
12. 1992 Cowboys
Of the three Dallas Cowboys teams that won the Super Bowl during the 90s, this is the team that stood out the most. The trio of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin maintained a high level all season and through the playoffs, culminating in a 52-17 Super Bowl win over the Bills.
The Dallas defense wasn’t too shabby this year either, holding seven opponents to 10 points or less. One of their three losses this season was a lopsided loss to the Eagles. But that was the only game they weren’t competitive in. The rest of the time, the Cowboys were the better team and one of the best in franchise history.
11. 1999 Rams
Without question, the 1999 St. Louis Rams in their first season as “The Greatest Show on Turf” deserve to be recognized as one of the greatest NFL teams of all time. The difference between this team and most teams on our list is that the Rams came out of nowhere.
Nobody had heard of Kurt Warner, but he won MVP honors and led one of the most prolific offenses in league history. They scored at least 30 points 12 times and surpassed 40 points three times. They also kept it going with a 49-point performance in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Of course, the St. Louis defense also sent three players to the Pro Bowl this season, so it was more than just Warner and the offense leading them to a Super Bowl victory.
10. 1975 Steelers
The 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers were an example of a team being better in the second half of back-to-back championships. After winning the Super Bowl the previous year, the Steelers proceeded to go 12-2 in 1975 while sending 11 players to the Pro Bowl. Of those 12 wins, nine came by more than a touchdown.
A defense that featured all-time greats like Joe Greene, Mel Blount, Jack Lambert, and others held eight of 12 opponents to 10 points or less. The Steelers proceeded to give up just 37 total points in the playoffs. While both the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl were decided by less than a touchdown, going 15-2 overall and winning a Super Bowl puts the 1975 Steelers in rarified air.
9. 1962 Packers
In the pre-Super Bowl era, there should be no question that the 1962 Green Bay Packers are the best of the best. The great Vince Lombardi had one of the all-time best defenses in NFL history.
Even for an organization that had already become accustomed to winning, the 1962 Packers were special.
They kept three shutouts during a 13-1 regular season and then beat the Giants 16-7 to win the NFL Championship. In that game, the Giants scored on a blocked punt, so that easily could have been the fourth shutout for a team that gave up just 10.8 points per game. They also scored at least 30 points in eight of 15 games, as the Pack got it done on both sides of the ball this season.
8. 1998 Vikings
Unfortunately for the folks in Minnesota, the 1998 Vikings have the distinction of being one of the best teams to not win the Super Bowl. For much of the season, they looked destined to make franchise history. The Vikings went 15-1, suffering only a three-point road loss against the Buccaneers.
In those 15 wins, seven came by at least 202 points, as only five of 16 opponents managed to keep Minnesota’s offense below 30 points. That’s what happens when you have Cris Carter and Randy Moss on the same team, not to mention eight other Pro Bowlers. The Vikings had another 20-point victory in the Divisional Round, but it wasn’t meant to be with Gary Anderson missing his first kick of the season in the NFC Championship Game, preventing one of the all-time best teams from getting to the Super Bowl.
7. 1984 49ers
In their second championship season of the 80s, the 1984 San Francisco 49ers nearly ran the table. They were the first team to win 15 games during the regular season and if not for a 20-17 loss to the Steelers at home would have achieved perfection.
While there were a few close calls along the way, nine of those 15 wins came by at least 10 points. That was largely due to a team of 10 Pro Bowlers, including the entire secondary. Joe Montana and the San Francisco offense also had a good season, making the playoffs rather comfortable for the 49ers.
Following a 38-16 win over the Dolphins in the Super Bowl, the 49ers won their three playoff games by a combined score of 82-26. This team is sometimes overlooked among those that almost achieved perfection, but it deserves to be ranked among the best ever.
6. 1998 Broncos
One year after pulling off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, the Broncos were undoubtedly the best team in football in what would become John Elway’s final season. This team started the season 13-0 and might have had a chance to run the table but they took their foot off the gas just a little.
That led to two December losses, causing Denver to finish 14-2. During that 14-2 season, they had seven wins by at least 17 points. They also won all three of their playoff games by at least 13 points, outscoring teams 95-32 in three playoff games. Including Elway, there were 10 Pro Bowlers on this team.
For a majority of the season, there was little doubt that the Broncos were the best team in the league, and they were able to fulfill their promise as one of the best NFL teams of all time.
5. 1978 Steelers
In the long and storied history of the franchise, the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers were the best of the bunch. In the first year that the regular season expanded to 16 games, the Steelers went 14-2.
With the Steel Curtain Defense holding eight of those 16 opponents to 10 points or less, the Steelers had no trouble looking like a dominant team. In addition to being able to win close games, the Steelers won nine games during the regular season by at least 10 points.
Perhaps more importantly, they dominated on their way to the Super Bowl, winning two playoff games by a combined score of 67-15. The Steelers ultimately survived a late rally by the Cowboys to win what would become their third of four Super Bowls in a six-year span, making this team among the best of all time.
4. 1989 49ers
After capping off the season with a 55-10 win in the Super Bowl, there was no doubt that the 1989 San Francisco 49ers would go down as one of the best NFL teams of all time. That Super Bowl win capped off a postseason in which the 49ers outscored their three opponents 126-26. Those games were supposedly against the best of the best and came after the 49ers went 14-2 during the regular season.
Joe Montana had truly one of the best seasons that any quarterback has ever had with help from fellow Pro-Bowlers Roger Craig, Jerry Rice, and John Taylor. San Francisco’s two losses came by a combined five points while 10 of their 14 wins during the regular season came by at least 10 points.
It was rare to see any team stay close to them, which is why they deserve to be mentioned among the best of the best.
3. 2007 Patriots
As we all know, the 2007 New England Patriots were painfully close to immortality, putting them among the greatest NFL teams of all time. Tom Brady and company were the first team to finish the regular season undefeated after it was expanded to 16 games.
Of course, they also entered the Super Bowl undefeated and looked poised to beat the Giants as 12-point favorites. But the G-Men stood tall after giving the Pats a run for their money in Week 17.
Thanks to a terrific performance by the New York defense, David Tyree’s famous “Helmet Catch,” and a few other throws by Eli Manning, the Giants pulled off a monumental upset. Until that point, only four teams, including the Giants in Week 17, had lost to the Patriots by fewer than 10 points. In fact, New England had 10 wins that season by at least 20 points, showing how much better they were than everyone else until the final game.
2. 1972 Dolphins
Being the only perfect team in NFL history doesn’t make the 1972 Miami Dolphins the best team in NFL history. Admittedly, we had to put them close to the top because it says a lot about a team that won 17 games and lost none.
But keep in mind the regular season was only 14 games during this era. Plus, they weren’t quite as dominant as that record suggests.
All three of their postseason wins came by one score or less in addition to three wins during the regular season coming by four points or less. Nevertheless, they were in a class of their own, becoming the first team in NFL history to feature two 1,000-yard running backs in Mercury Morris and Larry Csonka. The amazing thing is that backup quarterback Earl Morrall had the reins for most of the season before Bob Griese returned in the AFC Championship Game after getting hurt in Week 5. That’s a testament to how good the Dolphins were from top to bottom in 1972.
1. 1985 Bears
They may not have gone undefeated, but the 1985 Chicago Bears were the best team the NFL has ever seen. They were all kinds of dominant, to the extent that words just won’t be them justice.
The fact of the matter is they won three playoff games (including Super Bowl XX) by a combined score of 91-10. The Chicago defense held shutouts in two playoff games and didn’t allow a touchdown during the postseason until garbage time of the Super Bowl. During the regular season, they held 11 opponents to 10 points or less, including two more shutouts.
Fittingly, it was the Dolphins who handed them their only loss, preventing the Bears from matching Miami’s unbeaten season. But even in that loss, Dan Marino and company needed a lot of favorable breaks. The Bears immediately went back to dominating teams with five Pro Bowlers on their defense, not to mention Jim McMahon and Walter Payton leading a very capable offense, making this the best team in NFL history.