This list recounts some of the greatest teams from 2010 up until now. I’m defining a “team” as a unit from one in particular year or season, so collective wins or consecutive Super Bowl appearances wasn’t considered in my decision making. The teams I’ve selected have made the list because of their great regular season or playoff runs, records, and star power. Essentially, these are the types of teams you would hear about in football lore. The teams are listed in order of the year they played, they are not ranked in any way.
2011 New England Patriots
Key Players: Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Brian Waters, Andre Carter, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty, Stephen Gostkowski
The 2011 Patriots went 13-3 in the regular season and were the second Patriots team to lose to Eli Manning and the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. The offense featured tight ends Rob Gronkowski and the disgraced Aaron Hernandez. The offensive line was stacked that year with talented veterans and the defense had leaders at every level. Defensive ends Andre Carter and Mark Anderson both recorded ten sacks that year. The team finished second in total offense and passing yards per game behind 5,235 yards from Brady.
2013 Seattle Seahawks
Key Players: Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Max Unger, Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor
In 2013 the Seahawks had the best passing defense, the best total defense, and the seventh best rushing defense. The offense featured the leagues fourth ranked rushing attack and, unbeknownst to most, also had two future Pro Bowl wide receivers. In the Super Bowl the Seahawks ran over Peyton Manning’s record setting offense in a landslide 43-8 victory. The Legion of Boom cemented itself as one of the greatest defenses in history with the victory.
2014 Denver Broncos
Key Players: Peyton Manning, C.J. Anderson, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas, Ryan Clady, DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, T.J. Ward
The 2013 Broncos had one of the greatest offenses in NFL history, but their own historic defense that won them the Super Bowl in 2015 wasn’t assembled yet. In 2014 the pieces came together. Ware, Talib, and Ward joined the team and linebacker Brandon Marshall was promoted to a starting position. While this team never made it to a Super Bowl like the 2013 and 2015 squads, it boasted the best combination of offense and defense between the three years.
2015 Carolina Panthers
Key Players: Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, Greg Olsen, Ryan Kalil, Trai Turner, Kawann Short, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Josh Norman
The 2015 Panthers had the league’s MVP in Cam Newton and a 15-1 record in the regular season. They also had a lethal defense with arguably the league’s best middle linebacker and cornerback, at that time. The defense also had veteran support from players like Charles Tillman and Jared Allen. After an incredible season and a huge 29-15 victory in the NFC Championship game it seemed like they were destined to win the Super Bowl, but the Broncos soundly stomped their hopes out.
2017 Philadelphia Eagles
Key Players: Carson Wentz, Jay Ajayi, Zach Ertz, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox, Malcolm Jenkins
Out of all of the teams on this list, the reigning Super Bowl champions have the fewest star players, but their team works together so well that it’s impossible to deny they deserve this spot. Of course, the team is headlined by almost-MVP Carson Wentz and the best backup quarterback in the NFL, Nick Foles. The Eagles were the most complete team all season long and in the playoffs they shredded the Minnesota Vikings before toppling Brady and the Patriots.
2011 Green Bay Packers
Key Players: Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley, Scott Wells, T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton, B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields
While they won the Super Bowl in 2010, the 2011 team was even better. They finished the regular season with a 15-1 record and the third best passing and total offense in the league. That’s why Rodgers won the league MVP that year. Defensively they were terrible though, ranking worst in the league in several categories. Their imbalance lead to an early exit from the playoffs.
2013 Denver Broncos
Key Players: Peyton Manning, Knowshon Moreno, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas, Louis Vasquez, Von Miller, Chris Harris, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
I already mentioned them earlier when I talked about the 2014 Broncos. Manning won the MVP for setting NFL records in passing yards and passing touchdowns. He finished the season with a 115.1 quarterback rating and led the team to a 13-3 record. The offense was decked out with all kinds of weapons, but the Seahawks crushed this team in the Super Bowl.
2014 New England Patriots
Key Players: Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Chandler Jones, Vince Wilfork, Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty, Stephen Gostkowski
The 2014 Patriots won the Super Bowl on a horrendous play call by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, but a win is a win. While the offense and defense were both above average, neither were exactly dominant, as reflected by the teams 12-4 record and narrow escape against the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round (they won 35-31). But it was a typical Patriots team that got the job done with role players and several top tier players like Brady, Gronkowski, and Revis.
2017 Jacksonville Jaguars
Key Players: Leonard Fournette, Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, Malik Jackson, Myles Jack, Telvin Smith, Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye
The 2017 Jaguars were built as a defensive juggernaut. Many great draft picks, and some key free agency signings transformed the once flimsy team into one of the greatest in the league. The offense led by Blake Bortles and Fournette wasn’t bad, but they weren’t exactly special. The Jaguars lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC Conference Championship after producing just six points in the second half.
2017 Pittsburgh Steelers
Key Players: Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuester, Alejandro Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Cameron Heyward, Ryan Shazier, Chris Boswell
This Steelers team was the basically the opposite of the 2017 Jaguars. The team was built around the offense and the idea that they could simply win a shootout if they had too. Roethlisberger, Bell, and Brown are the greatest triple threat in the NFL and at least Roethlisberger and Brown are headed to Canton and Bell might join them. The Steelers lost to the Jaguars in a shootout in the Divisional Round of the playoffs because of poor defense which was amplified by the absence of Shazier who suffered a serious injury earlier in the season.