Call it the best of the failures. Label them teams that time may overlook.
1. 2007 Patriots. I know the defense got weary at the end of the year with injury. One could argue the defense (237 points allowed vs. in 2006) was better the year before, but was struck by the flu in the Championship Game against the Colts. It’s impossible to ignore the ridiculous numbers the 2007 Patriots put up, with the 18-0, the 50 TD-to-8 INT ratio for Brady (who went on to put up 26-28, 262 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT on the Jaguars in the divisional round), and the +315 point differential.
2. 2007 Cowboys. Week 17 against the Redskins, they rested Romo after a half and lost 27-6. In the 15 games he played all the way through, they lost only two: one vs. the Eagles by 4 points, and they were within a touchdown of the eventually undefeated Patriots going into the fourth.
3. 2009 Vikings. Brett Favre’s first appearance on this list.
4. 2003 Panthers.
5. 2004 Eagles. They outplayed the Patriots in the Super Bowl, save for a dry-heaving Donovan McNabb, who couldn’t hold onto the ball in the red zone. McNabb was taken out in the regular season after they got to 13-1. The 2nd-ranked scoring defense had five Pro Bowlers that year: Lito Sheppard, Brian Dawkins, Jeremiah Trotter, Ike Reese, and Michael Lewis.
6. 2003 Rams. Lovie’s defense forced the most turnovers in the NFL in his last season calling plays there, forcing at least 2 in all but one of their last 13 games, smoking quarterbacks for 42 sacks. Their offense adjusted to a new QB, and they pushed the Panthers to double overtime in the divisional round.
7. 2007 Jaguars. Featuring a lot of good defensive players in their prime, and the last good season for the Taylor/MJD tandem.
8. 2006 Chargers.
9. 2008 Jets. If not for Brett Favre’s shoulder injury, they could have pushed the Steelers for the AFC title. He got hurt right after they hit their stride.
10. 2011 Ravens. Rarely did all phases of the team show up, but they were so good at not making costly mistakes, so good at outlasting teams physically, and really should have beaten the Patriots. That would have made them 8-0 against postseason teams going into the Super Bowl.
Honorable mention goes to the 2010 Steelers. It seemed like one player’s health – Troy Polamalu’s – was the difference between them being the best team in the NFL and them getting fairly outplayed in the Super Bowl (even with Packers drops). I know Ben threw a bad pick 6, but the Steelers were really good that year (1st-ranked defense, 48 sacks, 17 TD-to-5 INT for Ben in 12 games, +17 turnover differential), it just seemed like their secondary went from amazing and physical to below mediocre in the Super Bowl.
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