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Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Page 2's ultimate NFL power rankings, Nos. 1-10

By Thomas Neumann
Page 2

Which franchise is king of the NFL?

This is what 32 teams set out to decide each year through a 16-game regular season and subsequent playoff tournament. ESPN.com even breaks down its NFL power rankings on a weekly basis.

But which franchise is the best in the NFL … period?

To answer that question, Page 2 created power rankings on steroids -- the ultimate power rankings. This study analyzes data since the AFL-NFL merger in the 1970 season through the 2007 season. This starting point eliminates any question of competitive disparity between the NFL and its former rival leagues, the AFL and the AAFC. Teams that joined the NFL after 1970 are admittedly at a disadvantage for scoring in some categories, but they have a consequent advantage in negative categories. Additionally, regular-season winning percentage is weighted heavily to give these teams a fair appraisal.

Our formula measures the following criteria:

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• Super Bowl championships and appearances

• Postseason history (playoff wins and crushing defeats)

• Regular-season consistency (overall winning percentage, number of seasons with 12 or more wins and number of seasons with four or fewer wins)

• Individual star power (number of selections to the Associated Press All-Pro first team)

• Overall franchise stability (number of coaching changes and draft busts)

• Media buzz and fan interest ("Monday Night Football" appearances)

An exact description of the scoring mechanism can be found along the right column of this page.

Curious about where your favorite team rates among all others in "Monday Night Football" appearances? Coaching changes? All-Pros? Click here to check out the standings in each category.


Teams 11-20   |   Teams 21-32   |   Complete statistical rankings   |   Listranker



1. Dallas Cowboys

Pct. SB Play. W ≥ 12W ≤ 4W All-Pro MNF CC CPD Busts Total
.594 5-3 26 10 2 56 69 6 2 1 1,498

Emmitt Smith and Troy Aikman

The Cowboys might not be your team, but they are indeed America's Team.

Since the merger, no team has displayed as much consistent excellence across as wide a variety of criteria as Dallas. During the NFL's modern era, the Cowboys lead the NFL in Super Bowl berths and playoff victories. No other team has won a Super Bowl under three different coaches.

The Cowboys have ranked in the top three in scoring 11 times and in scoring defense eight times since 1970 -- advancing to the NFC Championship Game an astonishing 14 times in that period.

Only Pittsburgh has had more first-team All-Pros. Only San Francisco has had more seasons of 12-plus wins. Only Miami has had more "Monday Night Football" appearances. How good are the Cowboys? So good that they won a Super Bowl with Barry Switzer as coach.

Certainly, the Cowboys have had their share of off-the-field issues. That's a case study for another day. What we'd really like to know is … how did these guys ever lose to the Lions and Cardinals in the playoffs?!




2. Pittsburgh Steelers

Pct. SB Play. W ≥ 12W ≤ 4W All-Pro MNF CC CPD Busts Total
.603 5-1 23 6 0 62 57 2 0 2 1,495

Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw

The Steelers narrowly missed out on bragging rights to the top spot. But before you blame Page 2, notice that Dallas was penalized with two "crushing" postseason defeats to Pittsburgh's zero. Left off that list was the Steelers' loss to San Diego in the 1994 AFC Championship Game, which occurred days after some Pittsburgh players met with a choreographer to make plans for a music video for a Super Bowl rap song called "The Blitzburgh." Embarrassing? Certainly. Crushing? Probably not.

So if you need to blame someone, we suggest Neil O'Donnell. Those two dubious interceptions to the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX amount to a 50-point swing.

On the positive side, Pittsburgh has enjoyed the NFL's most stable coaching situation -- consider that the Steelers have employed as many head coaches since the merger (three) as the Falcons have in the past nine months. Pittsburgh also leads the league in first-team All-Pros since 1970, with nine players being so honored at least five times. The Steelers have advanced to 13 AFC Championship Games, winning six.




3. San Francisco 49ers

Pct. SB Play. W ≥ 12W ≤ 4W All-Pro MNF CC CPD Busts Total
.568 5-0 20 11 5 55 61 9 1 1 1,294

Jerry Rice

Most of the 49ers' glory came during a 14-year window of dominance from 1981 to 1994, when under Bill Walsh and George Seifert, they became the first team to win five Super Bowls. They're also the only team with more than two Super Bowl appearances to have a perfect record in the big game. They have the most seasons of 12-plus wins since the merger. Only the Cowboys and Dolphins have made more "Monday Night Football" appearances. If not for the rebirth of the Cowboys in the early 1990s, San Francisco likely would've added to its trophy case. Consider that the 49ers led the NFL in scoring each season from 1992 to '95 but won just one Super Bowl in that span. Recent history hasn't been as kind to the 49ers, as they haven't made a playoff appearance since coach Steve Mariucci was jettisoned after the 2002 season.




4. Miami Dolphins

Pct. SB Play. W ≥ 12W ≤ 4W All-Pro MNF CC CPD Busts Total
.608 2-3 18 6 2 56 73 6 1 0 1,276

Dan Marino

Even in the wake of the Cam Cameron era season, the Dolphins still maintain a slight edge over the Steelers for the highest regular-season winning percentage since the merger. The bulk of the credit goes to Don Shula, of course, who went 257-133-2 (.658) at the helm in Miami. Tony Sparano is the Dolphins' sixth coach since 1996, following the 26-season tenure of Shula. Miami loses out on a chance at the No. 3 spot based on the crushing 62-7 playoff loss to the Jaguars in the last game for Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson in 2000. Although the Dolphins came within 35 seconds of losing their exclusive claim to NFL perfection, Miami still boasts the only perfect championship season in NFL history … as Mercury Morris just reminded us.




5. Denver Broncos

Pct. SB Play. W ≥ 12W ≤ 4W All-Pro MNF CC CPD Busts Total
.586 2-4 15 7 1 39 57 6 2 1 1,138

John Elway

Although the Broncos didn't break into the championship club until the 1997 season, Denver has been a model of consistency. Only the Cowboys have played in more Super Bowls, and only once has Denver failed to win at least five games in a nonstrike season since 1970. Under coach Mike Shanahan, Denver has a regular-season record of 130-78 (.625) with two Super Bowl victories and a 20-6 mark against the hated Raiders. Shannon Sharpe leads the Broncos with four first-team All-Pro selections. Surprisingly, John Elway never was an All-Pro first-teamer, although he was named to nine Pro Bowl squads.




6. Oakland Raiders

Pct. SB Play. W ≥ 12W ≤ 4W All-Pro MNF CC CPD Busts Total
.558 3-1 19 6 5 49 60 10 4 3 1,028

Marcus Allen

Although the past five seasons in Oakland have been brutal, the Raiders still boast a fine postmerger winning percentage. That's how excellent the team was in the 1970s and early '80s. Oakland went 56-13-1 (.807) from 1973 to 1977 under John Madden, reaching the AFC Championship Game five consecutive times and winning one Super Bowl. The Raiders won three Super Bowls, had just one losing season and made only one coaching change from 1970 to '86. Since then, they've lost their only Super Bowl appearance, suffered 10 losing seasons and made nine coaching changes. The Raiders are the only team in our study saddled with four crushing playoff defeats, culminating with Super Bowl XXXVII. For those who might not consider that loss to the Bucs to be of the "crushing" variety, consider that Oakland is 19-61 since that game.




7. Minnesota Vikings

Pct. SB Play. W ≥ 12W ≤ 4W All-Pro MNF CC CPD Busts Total
.572 0-3 16 4 1 52 47 6 3 0 1,024

Adrian Peterson

Ultraconsistent Minnesota checks in as the highest-ranked team in our study without a Super Bowl title. The Vikings boast the highest winning percentage, the most playoff wins, the most "Monday Night Football" appearances and the most first-team All-Pro selections since 1970 of any team not to win the big game. Only once since the merger have the Vikings failed to win at least four games, and for that embarrassment in 1984, the team fired coach Les Steckel after one season. So although Vikings fans have endured more than their share of postseason misery and seem to be stuck in a rut right now (they haven't won 10 or more games since 2001), at least they've enjoyed a persistent winner.




8. Washington Redskins

Pct. SB Play. W ≥ 12W ≤ 4W All-Pro MNF CC CPD Busts Total
.558 3-2 17 3 2 31 55 10 1 3 998

John Riggins

A three-time Super Bowl champion ranked behind a team that has never laid its hand upon the Lombardi Trophy? Blasphemy, you say? Consider this: Despite the disparity in Super Bowl success, the Vikings have a better winning percentage and 21 more first-team All-Pro selections. Washington also has 10 coaching changes -- to Minnesota's six -- with five of those during Daniel Snyder's ownership. Despite Snyder's big spending in recent years, the Redskins have made the playoffs just three times in the past 15 seasons; in fact, they've made the playoffs 11 times since the 1977 season -- 10 times with Joe Gibbs as coach.




9. St. Louis Rams

Pct. SB Play. W ≥ 12W ≤ 4W All-Pro MNF CC CPD Busts Total
.534 1-2 15 6 4 44 53 11 1 1 947

Marshall Faulk

Despite the high-flying "Greatest Show on Turf" years, the Rams' record since 1990 is worse than .500 (126-130). So it's easy to forget how consistently good the Rams were during the 1970s and '80s. Back in their Southern California days, the Rams went to the playoffs 14 times from 1973 to 1989. Ultimately, they captured their first Super Bowl championship in their fifth season in St. Louis, and earned their third conference title two years later. However, 11 coaching changes -- including George Allen's two-game stint during the '78 preseason -- indicate periods of instability.




10. New England Patriots

Pct. SB Play. W ≥ 12W ≤ 4W All-Pro MNF CC CPD Busts Total
.519 3-3 17 4 6 27 36 12 2 0 905

Tom Brady

As any Pats fan could tell you, the team's fortunes under Bill Belichick stand in stark contrast to its previous history. Since 1970, New England is 91-37 (.711) under Belichick and 212-244 (.465) under all other coaches. The Pats raised their postmerger winning percentage from .505 to .519 during the 2007 season alone, but the shocking manner in which their season ended must be considered "crushing." Surprisingly, the Pats have just 27 first-team All-Pro selections since joining the NFL -- just one more than the much-maligned Bengals.


Teams 11-20   |   Teams 21-32   |   Complete statistical rankings   |   Listranker

Thomas Neumann is an editor for Page 2. You can contact him here.