Welcome back to the futile exercise of ranking NFL teams. In honor of the NFL pretending to care about the Pro Bowl, here is a more useful assignment: ranking the last 10 Super Bowl winners. From the 2011 New York Giants to the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, here is the definitive ranking of which Super Bowl champion would reign supreme. For the sake of discussion, any hypothetical matchups between the teams would be held at a neutral site.
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No.10: 2011 New York Giants
Put down your pitchforks. Winning the Super Bowl is an accomplishment in its own right, but there are tiers to the kinds of teams that win the Super Bowl. The Giants are on the lowest of these tiers. While they were a good team, the other nine teams on this list are superior for a variety of reasons. After all, the Giants ranked in the bottom 10 in total defense, scoring defense, and they were last in rushing production.
No.9: 2012 Baltimore Ravens
Following in the mold of the 2011 Giants, the 2012 Ravens were a fairly pedestrian team. Sure, Joe Flacco was elite during the playoff run, but most quarterbacks elevate their game during the playoffs if their teams are to win. The defense, even with Ray Lewis, was just mediocre for the standards of Super Bowl winners. Like the Giants, this team was very good, but they are a class below the rest.
No.8: 2017 Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are an elite team, but they ran into an issue in the playoffs. Carson Wentz missed the final three games of the season and the entire playoff run. While Nick Foles was excellent in the playoffs, particularly in the Super Bowl, he is no match for six of the next seven quarterbacks. To the Eagles’ credit, they did build an elite roster, and they would contend for the top spot with Wentz.
No.7: 2018 New England Patriots
Tom Brady’s last Super Bowl team with the Patriots was the most underwhelming of the group. Brady was still excellent, but the rest of the team tends to fall in the good category rather than the elite category. The Patriots only had two Pro Bowlers in 2018: Brady and All-Pro Stephon Gilmore. It was a deserving Super Bowl champion, but there were better Patriots teams.
No.6: 2015 Denver Broncos
The elephant in the room is Peyton Manning. The 2015 Broncos had a legendary defense. It likely would have been even more statistically dominant if Manning and Brock Osweiler had not combined to throw 23 interceptions. While the defense might be the best unit that any of these 10 teams can offer, the offense actively blew games. Any simulation with these Broncos is a full crapshoot. They could be the best team here. They could also turn the ball over five times and lose.
No.5: 2019 Kansas City Chiefs
A look at the 2019 Chiefs’ statistical profile is strange. Even with Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce, they ranked just fifth in scoring. Similarly, the defense ranked seventh in scoring. Neither of these is indicative of the full Chiefs’ experience. The offense is much better than where they ranked, just ask the Houston Texans. On the other hand, the defense benefitted from five games in which they allowed fewer than 10 points. The quarterbacks they faced in those games were Derek Carr, Broncos Flacco, Carr again, Drew Lock, and Mitchell Trubisky.
No.4: 2013 Seattle Seahawks
The 2013 Seahawks were an upgraded version of the 2015 Broncos. Both defenses had exceptional secondaries and strong pass rushes, but the Seahawks had an offense. Russell Wilson may not be at full strength, but he is still a huge improvement over Denver’s duo. Factor in Marshawn Lynch, and the Seahawks are one of the more well-rounded teams here. The only trait they lack is the high-end offensive upside.
No.3: 2014 New England Patriots
That high-end offensive upside generally wears No.12. In 2014, Brady was his usual blend of spectacular. Rob Gronkowski played a full season, and the duo of Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman helped the offense work. The rushing game was nonexistent, perhaps the only knock on the team. Throw in All-Pro Darrelle Revis into the secondary, and the Patriots check off the defensive boxes. The defensive numbers are deflated slightly because of outlier games against the Chiefs (three giveaways) and the Broncos (garbage-time yardage).
No.2: 2016 New England Patriots
With Brady at the helm, the Patriots raced to a 15-1 record. They scored 30 points in 10 of those games including all three playoff games. The Patriots led the NFL in two major categories: giveaways and points allowed. They operated smoothly on both sides of the ball, and it coincided with an all-time season from Brady. The only aspect of this team that was lacking was overwhelming star power.
No.1: 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ironically, the 2020 Buccaneers only had one Pro Bowler, and they had zero All-Pros. However, this number is deflated because the Buccaneers made the Super Bowl, not allowing any of their players to be selected as alternates (which boosts the numbers). The Buccaneers had a star at nearly every position, and they had multiple superstars littered across the board. Brady was excellent, but he also had three potential All-Pro receivers if they were not splitting touches. Gronkowski was a Pro Bowl snub (compared to Evan Engram), and there were two elite offensive linemen in Ali Marpet and Tristan Wirfs. Even with that exceptional star power, the defense might have been even better.
Some Super Bowl teams may have better offenses than the 2020 Buccaneers. Some may have better defenses. However, few teams offered top-five units on both sides of the ball. The 2020 Buccaneers check off any criterion for a football team. They had elite quarterback play, a rushing attack, several go-to options in the passing game, a good offensive line, a good run defense, a good pass rush, and a good secondary. Even Ryan Succop hit 90.3% of his regular-season kicks and all nine of his playoff field goals.
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