What makes a great Super Bowl winner? Is it a 15-1 team who blows their playoff competition away? Is it a 9-7 team that overcomes incredibly long odds to win the coveted prize? There are many opinions on the subject and consensus is hard to reach. The mighty ’72 Dolphins are often mentioned when discussing the NFL’s greatest Super Bowl champions. They went 14-0 in the regular season before winning all three playoff games to win the Super Bowl and finish the season a perfect 17-0. The 1994 San Francisco 49ers were a great team as well. They scored over 500 points and finished the regular season with a solid record of 13-3. They trounced all playoff opponents on their way to a Super Bowl celebration.
What about the team who wins the Super Bowl after sneaking in with a 9-7 or 10-6 record? Should they not be considered great champions? After all, who doesn’t like a good underdog story? The 1968 New York Jets were a whopping 18-point underdog when they faced the supposedly superior Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. The Jets stunned the Colts and the football world with a 16-7 win. Are the ’68 Jets great Super Bowl champions?
Really, any Super Bowl winner is a truly great champion. The road to the big game is full of obstacles and potential hazards. As gruelling as the season is, the Super Bowl champion needs to rise up and win every playoff game too. All of the teams on the following list had to overcome different challenges to become champions. Each one of them is a great team and deserving of mention as we rank every NFL Super Bowl championship team since 2000.
18 Super Bowl XL: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Seattle Seahawks had the league’s highest-scoring offense but were four-point underdogs to Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL. Would Jerome Bettis walk away from football as a champion? Would The Rolling Stones play Gimme Shelter at halftime?
The Seahawks opened the scoring with a field goal but Pittsburgh punched one in with under two minutes left in the half to take a 7-3 lead into the locker room. It was a pretty uninspiring half but the Stones were awesome at halftime. Unfortunately, they didn’t do Gimme Shelter.
In the second half, the Steelers struck quickly and then Seahawks were eventually done in by a trick play in which Antwaan Randle El completed a pass to Hines Ward for a 43-yard touchdown.
MVP: Hines Ward
17 Super Bowl XLVII: Baltimore Ravens
The big storylines surrounding Super Bowl XLVII between the Ravens and 49ers were the Harbaugh brothers going head-to-head and Ray Lewis’ pending retirement. Baltimore dominated the first half and took a comfortable 21-6 lead into halftime. Baltimore looked like they were going to cruise to victory especially after they started the second lf with a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
After the infamous poweroutage delayed the game for over 30 minutes, the 49ers decided to make a game of it. San Francisco dominated the third quarter by striking for a pair of touchdowns and a field goal. The Niners were suddenly within a touchdown and had the momentum but were unable to capitalize.
The Ravens were able to slow down the surging 49ers in the fourth quarter and hung on to win the game 34-31. Ray Lewis retired on top.
MVP: Joe Flacco
16 Super Bowl XLII: New York Giants
The Giants were full of surprises through the 2007 NFL playoffs. Their 10-6 record earned them a spot in the Wildcard game in which they beat the slightly favorite Buccaneers. They would overcome high odds to reach the Super Bowl where the faced the undefeated juggernaut Patriots.
The Patriots were major favorites. Aside from being on the verge of winning a Super Bowl, the Patriots were also trying to complete a perfect 19-0 season. Many people were expecting a blow out victory but what they got was pure excitement. The Giants defense frustrated Tom Brady and managed to keep it close. Trailing 14-10 and with less than two minutes left in the game, the Giants worked the clock masterfully and scored a touchdown to take a 17-14 lead. New York held off one more desperate Patriot possession to shatter New England’s Super Bowl hopes and their quest for the perfect season.
MVP: Eli Manning
15 Super Bowl XXXVII: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers were a modest underdog when they faced the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. With one of the best defenses ever, Tampa Bay went 12-4 in the regular season before steamrolling their way to the championship game. The Raiders had also powered their way to the Super Bowl after an 11-5 season.
The story line was the Raiders’ first ranked offense against the Buccaneers’ first ranked defense.
Defense prevailed in the first half. Well, at least Tampa’s defense did as they took a solid 20-3 halftime lead. After performances from Shania Twain and Sting, many were expecting the high-octane Oakland offense to come out hard and fast. Oakland fans cringed as the Bucs ran away with it in the second half. It was a 48-21 drubbing.
MVP: Dexter Jackson
14 Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2008 season was highlighted by stellar defense. The Arizona Cardinals snuck into the playoffs by winning the NFC West with a mediocre 9-7 record. The Steelers were obvious favorites when the two teams met in the Super Bowl.
Pittsburgh had a 17-7 lead going into halftime and extended that lead to 20-7 as they started the fourth quarter.
A boring affair suddenly took a turn in the last minutes of the game. After Arizona cut the lead to 20-16, Kurt Warner connected with Larry Fitzgerald for a 64-yard touchdown and just like that the Cards were in good shape to pull off the big upset with their 23-20 lead. Unfortunately, their defense didn’t hold and the Steelers reclaimed the lead. With under 30 seconds left, the Cardinals were unable to punch it in and lost 27-23.
MVP: Santonio Holmes
13 Super Bowl XLV: Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers entered the playoffs as a Wildcard and battled their way to the Super Bowl. The Steelers were coming off a strong year in which their defense led the way. The Packers were a slight favorite going into Super Bowl XLV and they carried an 11-point lead into the half. The Black Eyed Peas came out to perform during halftime and the viewing audience used the occasion to visit the washroom.
In the third quarter, the Steelers drew within four with a touchdown. They would exchange more points as the clock ticked down to the two-minute warning. Facing a 31-25 deficit and needing a score, Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense were unable to get crucial first down. Aaron Rodgers did a couple of kneel downs and the Green Bay Packers were champions once more.
MVP: Aaron Rodgers
12 Super Bowl XXXVI: New England Patriots
Tom Brady helped New England recover from a 0-2 start with an 11-3 run to finish his first season as the Patriots' starting quarterback. Meanwhile, the “Greatest Show on Turf” was looking for their second Super Bowl victory in three years. St. Louis was the heavy favourite when they faced the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI.
The Patriots were able to effectively defend against the St. Louis’ onslaught and took a 14-3 lead into halftime. After a third quarter field goal, the Pats seemed to have the game well in hand. Or did they?
The Rams struck midway through the fourth make it a seven-point game. With a minute and a half left in the game, Kurt Warner hit Ricky Proehl with a touchdown pass to knot it up at 17. With just 1:21 left, Tom Brady marched the Pats down to the Rams 30-yard line. A 48-yard Vinatieri field goal that left no time on the clock completed the improbable upset.
MVP: Tom Brady
11 Super Bowl XXXVIII: New England Patriots
By the time Super Bowl XXXVIII rolled around, Tom Brady was well-respected and the 14-2 Patriots were the team to beat. New England was looking for their second title in three years when they met the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Panthers were not to be taken lightly following their 11-5 season but they were the underdogs to the seemingly superior Pats.
The Pats controlled most of the game but couldn’t shut the door. At half time, the viewing audience watched in horror as Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunctioned. New England opened up an 11-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Then, things got crazy. Carolina stormed back and found themselves tied 29-29 with a minute left in the game. Brady, the consummate professional, quickly led the Patriots into field goal range. With just four seconds on the clock, Adam Vinatieri kicked a 41-yard field goal to win the game.
MVP: Tom Brady
10 Super Bowl XLI: Indianapolis Colts
Peyton Manning and the Colts put up a 12-4 season in 2006 and made the playoffs for the fifth straight year. With a reputation for not being able to win a big game, Manning led the Colts through the Wildcard game and they would win two more thrilling games to reach the Super Bowl.
The Bears were on a roll of their own after finishing 13-3 and dispatching the Seahawks and Saints to reach the big game. The Bears entered the game as the underdogs but Devin Hester, the guy the Colts wanted to keep the ball away from, returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Things looked even better for Bears fans when on his opening drive, Manning was intercepted.
The Colts would answer and take a 16-14 lead into halftime. Indy held Rex Grossman and the Chicago offense to just a field goal in the second half as Indy went on to win 29-17. In hindsight, isn't it crazy that Rex Grossman started a Super Bowl game?
MVP: Peyton Manning
9 Super Bowl XLVI: New York Giants
With a 13-3 season record, the New England Patriots were looking for revenge on the New York Giants who had beaten Tom Brady and crew in their previous Super Bowl meeting. The Pats were a narrow favorite to win. As in their last Super Bowl run, the Giants were a Wildcard team that defied the odds to make it to the Super Bowl.
The Giants built a 9-0 lead but the Patriots rebounded to take a 10-9 halftime lead. In the third quarter, the infamous Aaron Hernandez caught a touchdown pass to stretch the lead to eight but when the fourth quarter started, the Pats were clinging to a 17-15 lead. With time running out, the Giants took the ball downfield and into the end zone. A failed two-point conversion left the Giants up 21-17 with under a minute left. New York shut down New England’s last desperate drive to upset the Patriots once again.
MVP: Eli Manning
8 Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans Saints
A matchup featuring Drew Brees and Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLIV was greeted with great anticipation. The Colts were slight favorites to beat the Saints and fans were expecting a high-scoring affair.
Amazingly, there was only one touchdown scored in the first half in which the Colts took a 10-6 lead. The Who absolutely rocked at halftime and must have motivated the Saints because they dominated the rest of the way.
In the fourth quarter, New Orleans scored a touchdown and two-point conversion to take a 24-17 lead. With little over five minutes left in the game, the Colts started out on their own 30-yard line. With a lethal no-huddle offense, they got the ball down to the Saint’s 31-yard line.
Just when it was looking like the Colts would tie the game, Manning threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Tracy Porter. The Colts couldn’t recover and the Saints won their first Super Bowl title in franchise history.
MVP: Drew Brees
7 Super Bowl XXXV: Baltimore Ravens
The 2000 Baltimore Ravens had one of the best defensive teams in history. The New York Giants were a well-rounded team that possessed firepower and a solid defense. The two teams hooked up to battle for the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXXV.
It was a one-sided game. A young Ray Lewis was a huge factor in the Ravens defense’s stifling the Giants' attack. They kept the Giants off the scoreboard through the first 30 minutes. A Super Bowl first happened late in the third quarter. After an interception return for a touchdown to make it 17-0, the Giants returned the kickoff for a touchdown. The Ravens answered by returning the Giants' kickoff to the house. Three straight plays and three straight scores but that would be all that the G-Men could muster. They couldn’t crack the tight Raven’s defense and the game ended 34-7.
This Baltimore team, which was primarily known for its legendary defense, impressed many with their scoring ability.
MVP: Ray Lewis
6 Super Bowl XXXIX: New England Patriots
Behind Donovan McNabb, the 2004 Eagles went 13-3 and they had little trouble reaching Super Bowl XXXIX. The 14-2 Patriots were looking to win their second of back-to-back championships and were favorites going into the big game, as the Patriots normally are. A big question marking heading into the game was the health of Terrell Owens, who was hurt before the playoffs and missed the rest of the playoffs.
A game that appeared one-sided turned out to be a tight contest. Tied at 14, the Patriots put up seven early in the fourth quarter to take the lead. They followed that up with a field goal. With just under two minutes left, McNabb connected with Greg Lewis for a 30-yard touchdown. Trailing 24-21 with just 46 seconds left and no timeouts, the Eagles had a chance but fell far short of pulling off the miracle. The Patriots had squeaked out another Super Bowl, even though Owens was terrific, finishing with 122 yards on nine catches.
MVP: Deion Branch
5 Super Bowl XXXIV: St. Louis Rams
The Titans and Rams both had 13-3 regular season records when they faced each other in Super Bowl XXXIV. Steve McNair’s offense was a threat but it was the Rams who had one of highest scoring offenses in NFL history. On top of that, they boasted one of the league’s best defenses.
The defenses dominated the first half. St. Louis was limited to three field goals and the Titans were held scoreless. By the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, Tennessee had come back to tie it up at 16.
On the first play of the next drive, Kurt Warner fired a pass to Isaac Bruce who went 73 yards for the score. Tennessee had 1:54 to answer. The Titans marched down to the Rams’ 10-yard line. With time for one last play, McNair flipped a pass to Kevin Dyson but despite his best stretch, the wide receiver fell a yard short and the "Greatest Show on Turf" was victorious.
MVP: Kurt Warner
4 Super Bowl 50: Denver Broncos
There were plenty of storylines surrounding Super Bowl 50 between the Broncos and Panthers. It was Peyton Manning’s last stand and he would have to keep up with Carolina’s high-scoring offense. Cam Newton was on a roll while Manning had clearly lost a step or two. The Panthers were slight favorites as they took the field but they got off to a rough start.
Denver’s aggressive defense recovered a fumble in the Panther end zone to take a 10-0 lead. They took a 13-7 lead into halftime. The Denver defense was all over Carolina in the second half and limited the Panthers to just a field goal while scoring 11 second half points to win the game 24-10. The great play of Denver’s defense resulted in four turnovers and Manning did enough to go out on top, before delivering a hilarious post-game interview, where he said that he wanted to drink a lot of Budweiser.
MVP: Von Miller
3 Super Bowl XLIX: New England Patriots
The Seattle Seahawks were looking for their second straight Super Bowl title when they faced the potent Patriots in February 2015. Both teams boasted a 12-4 record and both sides had plenty of weapons in their arsenals. Tom Brady’s offense vs. Seattle’s disruptive defense was a matchup for the ages.
It was a back-and-forth game which ended up with the Patriots leading 28-24 with less than two minutes left to play. What happened next will go down as one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history. After a masterful drive which took the Seahawks to New England’s one-yard line, it looked like Seattle was going to win. In a baffling decision, Seattle opted to pass but the throw was easily picked off by Malcolm Butler and the Patriots had yet another championship. If they had handed the ball off to Marshawn Lynch, one of the best RBs in the league, things might've ended much differently...
MVP: Tom Brady
2 Super Bowl XLVIII: Seattle Seahawks
There have been countless close Super Bowl game, but Super Bowl XLVIII between the Seahawks and the Broncos was not one of them. Despite the hype, this game ended up being one of the biggest blowouts in Super Bowl history.
The Denver Broncos gave up a sloppy safety on the very first play and it was all downhill after that. Seattle had a comfortable 22-0 lead at the half.
In the second half, it was more of the same. Seattle scored a touchdown on the first play of the third quarter. It was 36-0 when Denver got on the board with a 14-yard touchdown from Manning to Demaryius Thomas to end the third. With the two-point conversion, the Broncos were down by 28 with one quarter left. They would not score again and Seattle cruised to a 43-8 victory.
While their offenses clicked, Seattle’s defense anticipated especially well. It was one of the finest defensive displays ever seen in a Super Bowl game.
MVP: Malcolm Smith