<
>
Insider

Football Outsiders' 30 best NFL teams of the past 30 years

play
Who is the best NFL team from the past 30 years? (1:51)

Tedy Bruschi and Field Yates make their selection for the best team from the previous 30 NFL seasons. (1:51)

All week, we've been taking a look at the best NFL teams of the past 30 years, based on Football Outsiders' advanced DVOA metric. We've looked at offense, defense and special teams. Today we combine them all to look at the best overall teams of the past 30 years. There's an easy choice for No. 1: The one team that made the top 30 for all three units.

Once again, we can tell you that our DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) metric accounts for all of this, measuring success on each play based on down and distance, then comparing it to an NFL average baseline adjusted for situation and opponent. (You can read more of the details here.) It's built to balance a measurement of how well a team has played in the past with a forecast of how well a team will play in the future. Ratings each year are normalized, accounting for changes in the NFL's offensive environment over the past 30 years.

You can find DVOA stats for all 30 seasons on the stats pages at Football Outsiders, but the ratings we run here will be a bit different. That's because for the first time, we've added postseason performance, and that boosts teams that went on strong championship runs and lowers teams that dominated the regular season only to trip over their own feet in the playoffs.

It's important to remember that DVOA is measuring efficiency on a per-play basis, rather than looking at top-line wins and losses. As such, you'll see some teams ranked higher than teams they might have beaten in the playoffs. Although we are including playoff performance here, that doesn't render the regular season moot. Two teams that didn't make it to the Super Bowl made our top 10.

Note: 0 percent DVOA represents the league average, so a team with a +35 percent mark rated 35 percent better than an average unit. Also, stats other than total DVOA represent the regular season only, unless noted. Special thanks to Jeremy Snyder, who did most of the transcription work on the late 1980s and early '90s.


30. 1999 St. Louis Rams

+31.6 percent

As noted in the top-30 offenses piece, DVOA rates the 1999 Rams' offense surprisingly low, but it also rates the 1999 Rams' defense surprisingly high: third in the NFL. St. Louis also had a top-10 special-teams unit. But the Rams' overall rating took a huge hit from playing the easiest schedule of the past 30 years. Their average opponent ended the year with a DVOA of minus-15.7 percent. That'd be like playing the 2016 Bears or Jaguars every week.

29. 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers

+32.3 percent

The Steelers were the first 6-seed to win a Super Bowl, but they weren't really the kind of team we normally associate with the sixth seed. They went 11-5 and finished fourth in the league in total DVOA but lost both the AFC North and the 5-seed on tiebreakers. The Steelers finished in the top 10 in all three phases of the game. Still, they would be only No. 60 on this list if we didn't include DVOA for their fantastic Super Bowl run, which required beating the three teams that finished above them in DVOA: Indianapolis (1), Denver (2) and Seattle (3).

28. 2006 San Diego Chargers

+32.4 percent

Marty Schottenheimer's greatest team combined the No. 2 offense with the No. 3 special teams and an average defense. The Chargers' upset loss to the Patriots pivoted on a play on which Troy Brown stripped the ball from Marlon McCree after a Tom Brady pick.