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Ranking the historical Super Bowl teams

Posted by Doug on February 1, 2007

If not now, when? Everyone else is posting lists of the best and worst Super Bowl teams of all time, so I may as well pile on. This one will be different --- not better --- than most because it's completely objective. This is simply a list of all 74 Super Bowl teams since the merger, ranked according to this simple rating system. So really, I'm not ranking the teams. I'm ranking the teams' distance away from their competitors in the given year.

Recall that, under the simple rating system, the units on Rating are points. So the 1991 Redskins' rating of 17.3 means that they were 17.3 points better than an average 1991 NFL team.

Here is the list, Super Bowl winners are marked with an asterisk. A few observations follow:


TM YR Rating SOS Record
===================================
1. *chi 1985 18.1 0.3 18-1
2. *was 1991 17.3 0.4 17-2
3. *gnb 1996 16.3 0.6 16-3
4. *sfo 1989 15.2 -0.0 17-2
5. *mia 1973 14.8 0.4 15-2
6. *sfo 1984 14.4 -1.6 18-1
7. *pit 1975 14.2 0.1 15-2
8. *nwe 2004 13.8 2.7 17-2
9. was 1983 13.7 1.8 16-3
10. stl 2001 13.6 -0.1 16-3
11. *sfo 1994 13.5 -0.7 16-3
12. *dal 1992 13.3 1.0 16-3
13. *nyg 1986 12.9 1.4 17-2
14. *pit 1979 12.8 2.2 15-4
15. *stl 1999 12.2 -4.1 16-3
16. *tam 2002 12.0 0.5 15-4
17. *den 1998 11.9 -1.5 17-2
18. *den 1997 11.7 0.5 16-4
19. *bal 2000 11.7 -0.3 16-4
20. *dal 1971 11.5 -1.7 14-3
21. *was 1982 11.2 1.6 12-1
22. *dal 1993 11.2 1.1 15-4
23. *oak 1976 11.1 2.2 16-1
24. buf 1990 11.1 -0.6 15-4
25. dal 1978 11.0 0.1 14-5
26. *mia 1972 11.0 -2.6 17-0
27. *pit 1978 10.8 -0.6 17-2
28. mia 1984 10.8 -1.4 16-3
29. *dal 1995 10.8 1.1 15-4
30. *dal 1977 10.6 -1.0 15-2
31. den 1977 10.6 3.2 14-3
32. *rai 1983 10.4 1.1 15-4
33. oak 2002 10.1 1.9 13-6
34. mia 1982 10.0 1.8 10-3
35. *pit 2005 10.0 1.2 15-5
36. phi 1980 9.5 0.4 14-5
37. *nyg 1990 9.2 1.0 16-3
38. sea 2005 9.2 -1.3 15-4
39. min 1973 9.1 1.2 14-3
40. min 1976 9.1 1.0 13-3
41. atl 1998 9.0 1.5 16-3
42. *pit 1974 8.6 -0.5 13-3
43. chi 2006 8.6 -2.5 15-3
44. gnb 1997 8.2 -0.2 15-4
45. was 1972 7.9 -0.8 13-4
46. *sfo 1988 7.9 1.1 13-6
47. *nwe 2003 7.6 1.0 17-2
48. mia 1971 7.6 -0.9 12-4
49. dal 1970 7.4 2.2 12-5
50. ind 2006 7.3 2.3 15-4
51. *sfo 1981 7.3 0.6 16-3
52. dal 1975 6.6 0.1 12-5
53. den 1989 6.6 0.9 13-6
54. *oak 1980 6.6 1.4 15-5
55. phi 2004 6.5 -1.5 15-4
56. min 1974 6.4 -0.9 12-5
57. nwe 1996 6.4 -0.4 13-6
58. cin 1988 6.4 -0.7 14-5
59. cin 1981 6.4 -1.0 14-5
60. *was 1987 6.3 -1.3 14-4
61. nwe 1985 6.1 2.5 14-6
62. *nwe 2001 5.3 -0.6 14-5
63. den 1986 5.0 2.9 13-6
64. buf 1991 5.0 -3.1 15-4
65. buf 1993 4.9 0.0 14-5
66. pit 1995 4.8 -0.1 13-6
67. buf 1992 4.6 -0.7 14-6
68. den 1987 4.4 -0.5 12-5
69. nyg 2000 4.4 -1.2 14-5
70. ten 1999 3.9 -0.6 16-4
71. sdg 1994 3.2 0.2 13-6
72. *bal 1970 2.5 -4.4 14-2
73. car 2003 1.9 -0.8 14-6
74. ram 1979 -0.1 -0.8 11-8

Observations

  • As you can see, I put the Bears and Colts in there; they're 43rd and 50th respectively. The winner could conceivably move into top half of the list with a blowout. But regardless, this year's winner will rank among the weaker Super Bowl champs. The loser, on the other hand, will be fairly strong (for a loser).
  • Students of the basic mathematics of ranking systems and of AFL/NFL history will know why I have not included the pre-merger Super Bowl teams on the list. Had I included them, the 1969 Chiefs would have been #1, largely on the strength of what the system perceived to be an incredibly difficult schedule. Because all the information we have from that season (one game) indicates that the AFL was better than the NFL (by 16 points!), the system essentially starts from the assumption that the AFL is the much stronger league.
  • I was born in 1971. I definitely do not remember the Raiders/Viking Super Bowl of 1976. I definitely do remember the Cowboys and Steelers in 1978. I think I remember the rather forgettable Broncos/Cowboys game in between, but I may be fabricating those memories. Anyway, I had always filed that Bronco team away with the rest of the bumbling Super Bowl losers, but they were a terrific team. They were 14-3 against arguably the toughest schedule of any Super Bowl team in history. They only played four games against teams with losing records. Of their three losses, two were to the eventual champion Cowboys and the other was against the defending champs: an 11-3 Oakland team.
  • We all know the 1999 Rams had a weak schedule, but every time I see it it seems to get worse. Here are the regular season win totals of their opponents: 8, 5, 4, 4, 5, 2, 13, 8, 8, 4, 3, 8, 3, 7, 6, 5. And their playoff opponents were very weak (by playoff standards) too.

This entry was posted on Thursday, February 1st, 2007 at 5:08 am and is filed under General, History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.