There are now only a couple weeks of the NFL season after the conclusion to Sunday night’s not-so-thrilling games. The New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons will face off on February 5th at NGR stadium with a chance to go down in history as Superbowl LI champions.
Ranking the Last Five Super Bowl Winners
The opening line has New England as favorites, with many feeling Atlanta are a bit of an unknown given their lack of playoff experience by comparison. For those looking to bet on the game, an NFL betting 101 guide might be worth checking out.
With the big game only a couple of weeks away, it’s a good time to look back at previous champions and how this year’s teams stack up.
Ranking The Last Five Super Bowl Champions
5. New York Giants (Super Bowl XLVI – 2012)
Everyone loves the dramatics in watching a villain get taken down. That is exactly what fans saw in the 2011 Super Bowl when Eli Manning took down his familiar foe, the New England Patriots and perennial GOAT candidate Tom Brady. What people forget is that the Giants barely made it to the playoffs in 2011. They went 3-5 in their last eight games but still landed on top of their division. That was all they needed as they ran through their first two opponents en route to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Kyle Williams did the rest by fumbling two times in regulation and once again in overtime. They then beat the Pats to claim Manning’s second Lombardy Trophy after a miraculous sideline catch from Mario Manningham.
As much as we love this Giants team, it is definitely the weakest of the past five winners. The offence is what stood out, containing deep ball weapon Hakeem Nicks and partners Manningham and Victor Cruz. The problem is that the Giants finished dead last in the NFL in rushing yards. On defence, the Giants had a stellar line lead by Justin Tuck and accompanied by Chris Canty, Linval Joseph and a ten-fingered Jason Pierre-Paul. Despite the talented defensive line the team finished the regular season with the sixth worst total defence. Antrel Rolle lead the secondary but even they only finished in the middle of the pack in interceptions.
The 2011 New York Giants may go down as one of the most memorable Super Bowl winners, but were not by any means the most talented.
4. Denver Broncos (Super Bowl 50 – 2016)
When you think of the 2016 Super Bowl, you think of the old beating the new. Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos took down league MVP Cam Newton and his 15-1 Carolina Panthers in a 24-10 defensive struggle. It wasn’t supposed to go down this way—NFL betting 101 said the Panthers would win. The opening line was set at 3.5 to 4.5 for the Panthers, which later moved up to the 6 to 6.5-point range. But the Broncos’ win was a feel good moment for the ages as one of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks retired on top of the world by claiming his second Lombardy Trophy.
Contrarily we will remember this team as one that was lead by defence. Denver’s defence carried Peyton Manning to the Super Bowl, only giving up an average of 14.6 points along the way after being top three in both rushing and receiving defence in the regular season. The Broncos defence was lead by arguably the best outside linebacker in the NFL—Von Miller. Miller lead his unit to the most sacks in the league with a front seven built almost exclusively of stars. The secondary was no slouch either. Consisting of elite corners Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr, and safeties TJ Ward and Darian Stewart; the secondary gave up the least passing yards in 2015. Denver’s defensive unit not only lead in total defense but forced the most fumbles with 22 in the regular season and added another three against the Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
So why so low in the top 5? The offence.
The Broncos didn’t score over 24 points in any one game in the playoffs and were middle of the pack in total offense during the regular season. The Broncos had the talent but Manning’s arm just wasn’t the same. Despite having speedy wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas, the attack had its flaws—so many flaws that it only managed 104 passing yards in the Super Bowl. The Broncos had an elite defense but would need more offense to compete with the other teams on this list.
3. New England Patriots (Super Bowl XLIX – 2015)
Remember how I said that people like watching villains fall? It seemed like Super Bowl 49 had two teams that were both portrayed as the bad guy. The experienced bad guy came out on top. Tom Brady captured his fourth Lombardi Trophy but Malcolm Butler’s last second interception is all that anyone remembers from the game that was called an instant classic. The Patriots probably had the toughest matchup of the the last five years. However, they were also one smart play call away from losing in a third straight Super Bowl appearance. The Patriots got the win and that’s what matters.
Leading the Pats was three-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback Tom Brady who put up an impressive 100.3 QBR over his three playoff games. Brady was playing as well as ever but don’t put this win all on him. The Patriots might not have had elite players at every position but they had no direct weakness. Stars at their individual positions included: Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski, Derrelle Revis, Vince Willfork and Sebastian Vollmer.
The numbers for the Patriots in 2015 are not very compelling but the Pats showed that they could play in the clutch. The Patriots came back from two 14-point deficits against the Baltimore Ravens, bowled over the Indianapolis Colts and then, with their backs against the wall, Malcolm Butler made the play of the year to help New England claim its first championship In 10 years.
2. Baltimore Ravens (Super Bowl XLVII – 2013)
I know what you’re thinking, but this particular Ravens team belongs here on this list. Baltimore stumbled into the playoffs at the end of the 2012 season but managed to pull everything together at the right time. The Ravens first beat Andrew Luck—the next Peyton Manning—then went into Denver and beat the real Peyton Manning. Up next was Tom Brady and New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. The Ravens trucked through them, too. Beating those three teams in order is no easy task.
The run to their second franchise Super Bowl was largely on the heels of quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco went on an unprecedented run throwing 11 TDs with no interceptions as the Ravens took down the favoured San Francisco 49ers. Jacoby Jones pitched in by coming up in the clutch by catching the tying TD in Denver—the mile high miracle—and another in the Super Bowl. He was also arguably the best returner in the league. This didn’t hurt when he returned a HUGE 109-yard kick to the house against the Niners.
Baltimore also had a defense with Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs—one of the best linebackers ever, perhaps the best safety, and the previous year’s defensive player of the year. However they were not able to get on the field together until the playoffs. Their number one corner was also ruled out for the season before the playoffs. The Ravens were never truly comfortable as a team until the playoffs because of all the key injuries they had. This defense had leadership and talent where it mattered but it only ranked 17th in total defense in the regular season.
Even though their numbers were not as insane as Flacco’s TD to INT ratio: there was only one team that would have beaten them.
1. Seattle Seahawks (Super Bowl XLVIII – 2013)
The Seahawks might not have been liked but they were a very good team. They were also one run away from winning back to back Super Bowls in 2014. The Seahawks were so good that their defense held the raining MVP and best statistical offence ever to just eight points. Their defense was not the only ‘lights out’ part about their team. Seattle’s offence helped the defense out by putting up 43 of their own points to absolutely dominate Super Bowl XLVIII. The Seahawks are the only team on this list to have to ability to flat out dominate everywhere on the field.
Seattle’s offence was not considered anything special going into the game but when you look back at it in the present day, you can understand how they were able to rack up the points with ease. Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch finished the regular season with the sixth most rushing yards and tied for first with 12 TDs. Couple that with a mobile quarterback in Russell Wilson and a healthy Percy Harvin, you are forced to account for the run every play. That is not easy to defend. The wide receivers contributed to the cause, too. Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate were not household names in 2013 but looking back now, everyone can understand why the Hawks were dangerous everywhere on the attack.
The defense was as scary as they get. The Legion of BOOM was in its prime and there were stars all over the front seven as well. Sherman, Thomas and Chancellor were the names everyone knew but Bennett, Avril, Wagner and Wright were coming into their own just fine. There was truly no weakness on the defense that finished the regular season as the number one total defence. The Seahawks also finished with five more interceptions than any other team. The next 11 teams after them finished five INTs apart.
Disagree with my Rankings? Let me know in the comments.
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