NFL's greatest teams not to win the Super Bowl: 1-20

BY foxsports • January 27, 2014

20 -- 1999 Jacksonville Jaguars

Regular Season Record: 14-2
Home: 7-1 ... Road: 7-1
Per-Game Point Differential: +11.2
Turnover Margin: +12
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 10
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 0-2
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: None


OVERVIEW

It's not a stretch to draw eerie parallels between the 1999 Jaguars and 2007 Patriots, the kingpins of this countdown (spoiler alert).

Both clubs proffered double-digit excellence in point differential and turnover margin, while winning at least nine games by 10 points or more. The two head coaches, Tom Coughlin (Jags) and Bill Belichick (Patriots), are also direct descendants of the Bill Parcells coaching tree.

And both teams, excruciatingly, lost to only one franchise during their near-flawless campaigns.

Of course, New England (18-1) lost to the Giants in the waning moments of Super Bowl XLII ... whereas Jacksonville went 0 for 3 against division rival Tennessee. In a nutshell, that explains why the Jags are sitting at only No. 20.

20a. -- 1999 Tennessee Titans

Regular Season Record: 13-3
Home: 8-0 ... Road: 5-3
Per-Game Point Differential: +4.2
Turnover Margin: +18
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 6
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 1
Record vs. playoff teams: 3-1
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost in Super Bowl (Rams)


OVERVIEW

The 1999 Titans may have been omitted from this countdown if Frank Wycheck and Co. had never pulled off the Music City Miracle against the Bills (wild-card round) -- a ridiculous-looking, but legal lateral that saved Tennessee's season and helped propel the NFL into a new century.

But then again, it's proper to celebrate the elite-level production of running back Eddie George (1,762 total yards, 13 TDs) and the Titans' four crucial victories over the Jaguars (three times -- including the AFC title game) and Rams (regular season), the eventual Super Bowl champions.

19 -- 1990 San Francisco 49ers

18 -- 1975 Minnesota Vikings

Regular Season Record: 12-2
Home: 7-0 ... Road: 5-2
Per-Game Point Differential: +14.1
Turnover Margin: +16
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 8
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 0-0
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 2
Playoff Extra Credit: None


OVERVIEW

At first blush, the 1975 Vikings got the short end of the stick here. Is a top-20 ranking really commensurate for a Minnesota squad that started the season 10-0 and allowed only 22-plus points once that year?

In this case, yes.

As an unabashed devotee of NFL Films, I respect Jim Marshall (a Hall of Famer -- someday), Carl Eller and Alan Page for hailing the '75 team as the franchise's best during a scintillating run from 1969-78 (nine division titles, four Super Bowl berths and 87 regular-season victories); but there are a few knocks here:

The '75 Vikings played in a noticeably weak NFC Central and faced zero playoff opponents that regular season. It also doesn't help that Minnesota got booted from the playoffs by 10-4 Dallas, via the famous Hail Mary play.

What a shame. The Vikings could have gotten revenge on the Steelers in Super Bowl X ... but it simply wasn't meant to be.

18a. -- 2009 Minnesota Vikings

17 -- 2001 St. Louis Rams

Regular Season Record: 14-2
Home: 6-2 ... Road: 8-0
Per-Game Point Differential: +14.4
Turnover Margin: -10
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 9
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 1
Record vs. playoff teams: 6-1
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost in Super Bowl (Patriots)


OVERVIEW

We would love to reward the 2001 Rams (1st in scoring, 1st in point differential, 8-0 road record, 6-1 against playoff teams) with a top-10 ranking, but it's hard to look past the club's minus-10 output in turnovers.

When grading the NFL's greatest teams of the Super Bowl era without a curve, you won't find another one that invoked such a sloppy approach to closing out games -- especially one playing in a bone-dry dome.

Yes, QB Kurt Warner (4,830 yards passing, 36 TDs), tailback Marshall Faulk (2,147 total yards, 21 TDs), Torry Holt (81 catches, 1,363 yards, 7 TDs) and Isaac Bruce (64 catches, 1,106 yards, 6 TDs) registered monster numbers in Mike Martz's explosive offense, but there's really no justification for 38 forced fumbles and 22 Warner interceptions.

Ouch.

16 -- 2004 Indianapolis Colts

Regular Season Record: 12-4
Home: 7-1 ... Road: 5-3
Per-Game Point Differential: +10.7
Turnover Margin: +19
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 8
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 1
Record vs. playoff teams: 3-2
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost to Super Bowl champs (Patriots)


OVERVIEW

Peyton Manning (4,557 yards passing) set the sports universe ablaze during the 2004 campaign, amassing a then-NFL-record 49 touchdown passes for the Colts -- besting Dan Marino's 20-year-old record of 48 TDs in 1984.

As part of that prolific passing success, Indy enjoyed 10 games of 30-plus points, including six consecutive outings of 30 or more points from Weeks 8-13.

16a. -- 2005 Indianapolis Colts

Regular Season Record: 14-2
Home: 7-1 ... Road: 7-1
Per-Game Point Differential: +12
Turnover Margin: +12
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 9
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 5-1
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost to Super Bowl champs (Steelers)


OVERVIEW

Sure, the Colts captured the Super Bowl crown one year later. But the 2005 club stands out as Indy's best team of the Peyton Manning era.

Indy opened with 12 straight wins, posted a 5-1 mark against playoff teams, tallied nine blowout victories and enjoyed a symmetrical bonanza in point differential (+12) and turnover margin (+12).

The only things missing from that special season: A battle-tested kicker (Mike Vanderjagt) and a bit of good fortune after goal-line fumble recoveries (Ben Roethlisberger's season-saving tackle off Jerome Bettis's gaffe).

15 -- 1998 Atlanta Falcons

Regular Season Record: 14-2
Home: 8-0 ... Road: 6-2
Per-Game Point Differential: +8.6
Turnover Margin: +20
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 8
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 2-2
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost in Super Bowl (Broncos)


OVERVIEW

There's plenty to love about the 1998 Falcons, from their perfect home record and monster turnover margin (+20) to the eight decisive victories against top-notch competition.

Throw in a major upset win in the NFC title game (over the Vikings) and a respectable loss to John Elway's greatest Broncos team (in Super Bowl XXXIV) ... and you have one of history's most undervalued clubs.

The reasoning behind the Falcons' lack of respect? Their three biggest offensive weapons were QB Chris Chandler (3,154 yards passing, 25 TDs), tailback Jamal Anderson (2,165 total yards, 16 TDs) and wide receiver Tony Martin (1,181 yards, six TDs).

14 -- 1992 San Francisco 49ers

13 -- 1967 Los Angeles Rams

Regular Season Record: 11-1-2
Home: 5-1-1 ... Road: 6-0-1
Per-Game Point Differential: +14.4
Turnover Margin: +16
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 10
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 2-0
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 4
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost to Super Bowl champs (Packers)


OVERVIEW

The 1967 Rams, led by QB Roman Gabriel and the Fearsome Foursome (Lamar Lundy, Roger Brown and Hall of Famers Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones), enjoyed a sublime regular season -- 10 blowout victories, one signature win over the eventual champion Packers, plus impressive margins with point differential (14.4) and turnovers (+16).

Simply put, this might have been the Rams' second-greatest team of their 48-year tenure in Los Angeles (after the 1951 NFL champions -- led by the immaculate QB tandem of Norm Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield).

But ay the rub: Due to the NFL's archaic system of scheduling playoff games in the 1960s (rotating division hosts every year), the 11-1-2 Rams had to travel to Green Bay for the NFL semifinals, even though Los Angeles had a better record and the previously mentioned win over Green Bay for Week 13).

Of the last 50 years, it may stand as the NFL's greatest miscarriage of justice, logistically speaking.

12 -- 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers

Regular Season Record: 15-1
Home: 8-0 ... Road: 7-1
Per-Game Point Differential: +7.6
Turnover Margin: +11
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 8
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 3-0
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost to Super Bowl champs (Patriots)


OVERVIEW

The NFL has churned out only five 15-1/16-0 teams since the league expanded the regular season to 16 games in 1978. So, the following statement shouldn't be constituted as a slap in the face to the Steel City faithful:

The '04 Steelers are the worst 15-win team of the bunch.

Humor aside, there aren't enough superlatives to describe the balance between the Pittsburgh defense, ranked No. 1 in scoring that season, and the offense helmed by rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger (2,621 yards passing, 18 total TDs) and veteran RB Jerome Bettis (13 TDs).

Following a Week 2 defeat to Baltimore, Big Ben and Co. ripped off 14 straight victories to finish the regular season. The Steelers were similarly stellar in three major areas: Turnover margin (+11), blowout victories (eight) and 3-0 against playoff teams.

Similar to the 1979 Chargers, Pittsburgh posted easy regular-season wins against the future Super Bowl combatants -- New England and Philadelphia (back-to-back weeks).

11 -- 2006 San Diego Chargers

10 -- 1990 Buffalo Bills

Regular Season Record: 13-3
Home: 8-0 ... Road: 5-3
Per-Game Point Differential: +10
Turnover Margin: +14
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 9
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 4-2
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 3
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost in Super Bowl (Giants)


OVERVIEW

The 1990 Bills ruled the AFC through fear ... and a devastating, quick-strike offense (27 points per game) that had no peer.

Behind Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith (sorry, Andre Reed -- for now), Buffalo enjoyed a problem-free run to the East title and AFC championship, thumping the Dolphins and Raiders in the playoffs before suffering a gut-wrenching loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XXV.

But that franchise-defining defeat -- capped by kicker Scott Norwood's wide-right miss with seconds to spare -- doesn't obscure double-digit excellence in point differential and turnover margin, nine blowout victories or a 4-2 mark against playoff teams (including the Giants in December).

Unfortunately for Buffalo, New York got its revenge in January.

9 -- 1984 Miami Dolphins

Regular Season Record: 14-2
Home: 7-1 ... Road: 7-1
Per-Game Point Differential: +13.4
Turnover Margin: +8
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 10
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 1
Record vs. playoff teams: 2-1
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 2
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost in Super Bowl (49ers)


OVERVIEW

The 1982 Dolphins reached Super Bowl XVII on the strength of a dominating defense, affectionately dubbed The Killer B's.

But when Miami reached The Big Game two years later, it had seamlessly morphed into an offensive machine, coinciding with the emergence of receivers Mark Duper, Mark Clayton and QB Dan Marino, who would break new ground with 48 TD passes in 1984 (an NFL record that stood for 20 years).

With Marino (the sixth QB taken in Round 1 of the heralded '83 draft) leading the charge, the '84 Fins were virtually unstoppable, notching 10 blowout victories and a sizable point differential (13.4).

The only drawbacks: In Week 11, Miami suffered its first loss to an underwhelming San Diego club (in overtime); and in the AFC playoffs, the Dolphins were fortunate to avoid the defending champion Raiders (knocked out in the wild card round).

8 -- 2010 New England Patriots

7 -- 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers

Regular Season Record: 10-4
Home: 6-1 ... Road: 4-3
Per-Game Point Differential: +12.7
Turnover Margin: +15
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 9
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 0-3
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 5
Extra Credit, Part I: NFL modern-day record of 5 shutouts
Extra Credit, Part II: Lost to Super Bowl champs (Raiders)


OVERVIEW

And now for some controversy ...

At the very least, the 1976 Steelers are the greatest team to start 1-4 in any NFL season. In their final nine regular-season outings -- all Pittsburgh victories -- the famed Steel Curtain defense surrendered a TOTAL of 28 points (or 3.1 per game), a ferocious, awe-inspiring run that included three consecutive shutouts (an NFL record).

In the playoffs, the Steelers demolished the Colts in Baltimore, 40-14 ... before bowing out to the eventual champion Raiders in the AFC title game, a consequence of playing without injured running backs Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier.

On the flip side, Pittsburgh lost to every playoff-bound foe during the regular season and was a pedestrian 4-3 away from Three Rivers Stadium. But for us, 'tis better to stay on Jack Lambert's good side.

(The Hall of Fame linebacker declared the '76 team as the Steelers' greatest of the 1970s.)

6 -- 2011 Green Bay Packers

5 -- 1998 Minnesota Vikings

4 -- 1969 Minnesota Vikings

Regular Season Record: 12-2
Home: 7-0 ... Road: 5-2
Per-Game Point Differential: +17.6
Turnover Margin: +12
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 9
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 2
Record vs. playoff teams: 2-0
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 4
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost in Super Bowl (Chiefs)


OVERVIEW

The 1969 Vikings achieved the rare triple crown of leading the NFL in points scored (379), points allowed (133) and per-game point differential (17.6). Throw in nine blowout victories, a perfect mark against 1969 playoff teams and three outings of 50-plus points ... and we're talking about one of the greatest single seasons in league history.

But just like the 1968 Colts, the '69 Vikings will forever be stained by a Super Bowl loss to a seemingly inferior team (Kansas City) from a supposed second-class league (AFL); and while the Chiefs get full props for taking down the Vikings when it mattered most -- 65 Toss Power Trap, anyone? -- it's important to include one gut-wrenching footnote:

In Week 1 of the 1970 campaign -- roughly eight months after the Super Bowl debacle and the inaugural season of the NFL-AFL merger -- Minnesota exacted some revenge on Kansas City, rolling to an emotionally charged 27-10 win in Bloomington (Minneapolis).

3 -- 1983 Washington Redskins

2 -- 1968 Baltimore Colts

1 -- 2007 New England Patriots

Regular Season Record: 16-0
Home: 8-0 ... Road: 8-0
Per-Game Point Differential: +19.7
Turnover Margin: +16
Wins Of 10 Points Or More: 12
Losses to sub-.500 teams: 0
Record vs. playoff teams: 5-0
Strength of division (minimum to maximum scale of 1 to 5): 2
Playoff Extra Credit: Lost in Super Bowl (Giants)


OVERVIEW

The Patriots' perfect regular season in 2007 was more than just an unblemished record. It was an across-the-board reckoning for a club that genuinely wanted to win every game 45-7, no exceptions.

How else should one reconcile otherworldly production in point differential (19.7), turnover margin (+16), wins by 10 points of more (12) and a 6-0 mark against playoff teams -- including three division winners?

But alas, there's a fine line between being universally hailed as the greatest club in NFL history (on the precipice of 19-0) ... and begrudgingly accepting one writer's meaningless award for Best Team Not To Win A Super Bowl.

It's a consequence from the ultimate bittersweet season.

On the positive side, Tom Brady set a then-NFL record with 50 touchdown passes, with Randy Moss also collecting an NFL-record 23 TD receptions. And realistically speaking, only the Ravens and Giants had fourth-quarter opportunities to spoil the Patriots' run of perfection during the regular season -- a stunning achievement in a parity-driven era.

But a loss in Super Bowl XLII slightly downgrades New England's once-in-a-generation dominance from September-December ... to a simple footnote in NFL history.

Best Teams Not To Win The Super Bowl: 21-40


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