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Monday, January 22, 2007
Updated: January 24, 1:34 PM ET
How we ranked the teams

Page 2

When Page 2 decided to create The Ultimate Super Power Rankings, we knew we were sticking our hands into a hornet's nest. It's impossible not to enrage true football fans over such a debate.

Len Pasquarelli's Top 5 Super Bowl Teams
1. 1992 Cowboys: Annihilated a talented Buffalo team in every way imaginable, Aikman throwing four touchdown passes and the defense forcing nine turnovers.

2. 1989 49ers: Niners scored 13 or more points in every quarter, Montana and Rice at their best. Defense held Elway and company to 167 yards and 12 first downs.

3. 1978 Steelers: Score was closer than it should have been, but this was the pinnacle team of the Steelers' dynasty run. Bradshaw had come into his own and the defense was a year or two away from starting to show its age.

4. 1985 Bears: Bears never matched these heights again but, for one year, they were the best. Dominating defense and, despite a somewhat limited offense, could run the ball and control the game.

5. 1986 Giants: Pasting of the Broncos culminated a playoff run in which the Giants outscored their playoff opponents 105-23.

We know you're going to let us have it. We know you're going to let us know how wrong we are. That's the whole point of the debate.

But before you light us up via e-mail, consider that we ranked these 80 teams in the order that we believe reflects the best team down to the worst team. It doesn't necessarily indicate the best season down to the worst season. If we could line these teams up today in a giant Super Bowl tournament, this is the order we believe they would finish.

When composing the rankings, we considered myriad factors: offensive and defensive rankings, strength of schedule, record against teams .500 or better, point differential, postseason performance and, perhaps most importantly, the presence of difference-making players and coaches.

We wrestled with the decision of which team would take the No. 1 spot. We settled on three finalists: the 1978 Steelers, the 1985 Bears and the 1989 49ers.

The Steelers were a cut below the other two based in part on its ranking of 10th in offensive yardage that season. They also ranked just 23rd in yards per rushing attempt. Pittsburgh had nine Hall of Famers on its roster, but most were no longer in their prime.

Video: The Great Teams
Roger Craig on the 1989 49ers ESPN Video
Mark Schlereth on the 1991 Redskins ESPN Video
Mark Schlereth on the 1998 Broncos ESPN Video

That left us with the Bears and 49ers. Their rankings in major statistical categories were a mirror image. The Bears had a very good offense and an excellent defense. The 49ers had an excellent offense and a very good defense.

Indeed, the '85 Bears lost only once, and the 49ers lost twice. But the Bears' loss was by 14 points – almost triple the total margin of five points in the '89 49ers' two losses.

Our decision ultimately came down to this: If these teams lined up against each other, what would the outcome be?

John Clayton's Top 5 Super Bowl Teams
Being one of the great Super Bowl teams can't be a one-time thing.

The NFL is all about parity. Even before free agency and the salary cap, the NFL was structured to give weaker teams a better chance to improve. Winning has its price in the NFL, so to repeat is almost as hard as getting to the top level.

In picking my five top Super Bowl teams, I focused more on the multiple winners, the dynasties and the mini-dynasties.

1. 1966 Packers: The Super Bowl Trophy was named after Vince Lombardi, so it's only fitting the Green Bay dynasty would be at the top. The Packers were the dominant team when the Super Bowl started. They won the NFL championship in 1965 and came back with a 14-2 record and beat the Chiefs 35-10 in Super Bowl I.

2. 1975 Steelers: The Steel Curtain was in its prime. They went 15-2, including a Super Bowl X victory over the Cowboys. They had nine Hall of Fame players: Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Mike Webster, Mel Blount, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and Joe Greene. They destroyed opponents on defense and made big plays on offense.

3. 1972 Dolphins: You can't argue against perfection. Sure, the Dolphins played an easy schedule. Only two of the teams on their regular-season schedule finished with a winning record. But their 17-0 record, including a 14-7 victory over the Redskins, has been unmatched. They had six Hall of Fame players.

4. 1984 49ers: Bill Walsh revolutionized the sport with his West Coast offense. Receivers and tight ends ran the field with precise routes. It was basketball on grass, and it was a thing of beauty. The 49ers won their first Super Bowl with the 1981 team, but by 1984 they were a machine. They breezed through an 18-1 season and routed the Dolphins 38-16 in Super Bowl XIX.

5. 1992 Cowboys: This was a tough choice over the 1985 Bears. But this was in the middle of the Cowboys' run of three Super Bowl championships. Buffalo had a good team and the Cowboys completely dismantled them, 52-17.

As good as the Bears' defense was, it was vulnerable to the big passing play. With Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and John Taylor, the 49ers would have exploited this weakness. Conversely, the Bears' offense relied heavily on Walter Payton. It's likely George Seifert and the 49ers would find a way to slow Payton enough to challenge Jim McMahon to beat them with his arm. Did we mention that San Francisco had a future Hall of Fame quarterback sitting on the bench?

With apologies to Mike Ditka, the 49ers were the better team.

Another dubious decision involved which team would take the bottom spot.

We had several strong candidates: the 1979 Rams, the 1983 Dolphins, the 1985 Patriots, the 1986 Broncos, the 2000 Giants and the 2003 Panthers.

The first team out of the discussion was the Broncos, based on the presence of John Elway, who carried this team statistically and engineered "The Drive" to clinch the AFC championship. Also, this team led the Super Bowl at halftime before losing to a Giants team we rank in the top 10.

Next out was the Patriots. Even though they were blown out in the Super Bowl, the Pats won three playoff games on the road and had the best balance of offense and defense among this group.

The Dolphins were a mixed bag. Their offense was ranked a paltry 25th of 28 teams in yards, and starting quarterback David Woodley posted a 63.5 passer rating in 1982. Still, Miami only lost one regular-season game that didn't involve a snowplow controversy, and its defense was No. 2 in the league in points and yards.

The Giants had the best record in the NFC in 2000 and romped to a 41-0 NFC Championship Game victory. Also, its defense was better statistically than the Rams and Panthers. So they eluded the bottom spot.

That left us with the '03 Panthers and the '79 Rams. Both teams had nearly identical rankings in the major statistical categories. Both teams barely outscored their opponents over the course of the regular season. Both teams played well in the Super Bowl against heavily favored opponents. But the Rams separated themselves by having the most losses of any Super Bowl participant. Plus their starting quarterback in the Super Bowl, Vince Ferragamo, compiled a 49.0 passer rating in the regular season. Ouch.

There is no shame here Rams fans. At least you got there. Saints fans would like you to count your blessings.