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Super Bowl Champions- Efficiency Rankings, 40-36

For the next two weeks, time permitting, I'm going to try to post my efficiency rankings, brief thoughts, and video clips for all 45 of the NFL champions as we head towards the Super Bowl. My plan is 5 teams a day, but if I get pressed for time may just go to the rankings. For those unfamiliar my efficiency grading is based strictly on scoring for a team. The way that the numbers are calculated are by determining just how many points a team scored or allowed in a season and comparing with that of the schedule they played that season. Their schedule is adjusted by taking their stats out of the equation. The numbers represent by what percentage a team scored above or below the schedules average and how much more points were allowed or not allowed on the season.

I find them to be decent indicators of performance in a game, though neither is a measure solely of offense or defense. Special teams scores and defensive scores would be credited to the "Scoring" category, which is primarily offense while the "Defense" category would also include points allowed by specials and pick six and fumble scores. I think they provide a decent picture of the overall team success/failures. The Total score is simply a combination of both sides of the ball. The higher the overall score the better a team is expected to perform. For example an efficiency of 0% means that, on average, a team simply played to the level of their competition that year and its reflected in the margins between points scored and allowed. A score of 60% means their margins on the year would be 60% better than their schedules average margin.

Many of these teams are before my time as my real recollection of football starts in 1982 and is much better from 85 onward, so feel free to share thoughts about the teams if you have a good memory of watching them. Onto the rankings…

40. 2006 Indianapolis Colts (12th Scoring, 45th Defense)- The crowning moment for QB Peyton Manning came after years of playoff failures when he led his team to an amazing comeback against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game. Down 21-6, Manning led his team back from the dead to tie the game 3 times before eventually going ahead for good with no time remaining to earn his first ever trip to the big game. This was perhaps the least likely Colts team to win the championship during Manning's tenure. The offense, a perennial powerhouse, was not as strong as in years past and the defense was historically bad. Most years the Colts were the playoff favorite, but in 2006 the Colts were left for dead limping into the playoffs with a 2-3 record and another disappointing exit was expected. But the Colts were able to turn it on at the right time and shore up the defense for 2 playoff games before Manning did his thing against the Patriots. A win against the overmatched Chicago Bears was a foregone conclusion and for Peyton Manning and head coach Tony Dungy they were able to escape an underachiever label that would have followed them forever.

39. 1988 San Francisco 49'ers (26th Scoring, 35th Defense)- Of all the great championship teams in San Francisco, the 1988 version was the most surprising of all of them. A 10-6 regular season record, during which there was a span where they were 2 and 4, these 49'ers were certainly not considered the best team in the NFC, let alone the entire league. After numerous quick exits by the 49'ers there were questions about starting Joe Montana over Steve Young and head coach Bill Walsh tinkered with using both during the season before Montana took over the job for good down the stretch of the season. A solid balance of good defense and offense the 49'ers pulled off one of the most unlikely upset wins in the playoffs when they took on a tremendous Bears defense in Chicago on a day where winds made for near zero temperatures, yet Montana and the warm weather 49'ers dominated the Bears on their way to a 28-3 victory. The 49'ers would go on to win the Super Bowl against the Cincinnati Bengals when Montana engineered one of the greatest game winning drives in NFL history, a 92 yard drive with about 3 minutes left on the clock. And with that drive Joe Montana became a bonafide NFL legend and made for the 88 49'ers to be remembered as a team for the ages.

38. 1983 Los Angeles Raiders (24th Scoring, 36th Defense)- A significantly better team than their 1980 championship team, the 83 Raiders, now residing in Los Angeles, used a very good all around offensive attack to get through the regular season before the defense went on an amazing playoff run, allowing only 33 points in 3 games, among the most convincing playoff runs in NFL history. The offense again turned to Jim Plunkett to lead the way and he had the best season of his career. With RB Marcus Allen in the fold to go along with all world TE Todd Christensen the Raider offense carried the team through most of the season. Unlike 1980 there was no break to be found in the Super Bowl when they matched up with the defending champion Washington Redskins, who were 14-2 with an unstoppable offense that had not been held under 23 points all season long. The Raiders did the impossible, holding them to 9 points in one of the most lopsided and surprising wins in history. It would be the last time the AFC would win the big game for 14 years.

37. 1981 San Francisco 49'ers (41st Scoring, 23rd Defense) – The first 49'er title is often remembered as the start of the Montana/Walsh offensive dynasty, but similar to the first New England championship in 2001, this team was all about the defense. Their -24.07% efficiency makes them the first strong defense to make the countdown, a unit that held 13 of their 16 opponents to 17 points or less during the course of the year. This was a unique team that began the short passing craze by utilizing the short pass as a way of ball control rather than relying on a running game. Once the playoffs began the offense sparked to life which led to one of the most famous plays in NFL history- "The Catch" by Dwight Clark to beat the Dallas Cowboys and advance to the Super Bowl where they defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21.

36. 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers (38th Scoring, 19th Defense)- The first of many championship teams for the Steelers and the first of many great championship defenses that became the backbone of the organization. Only twice in 1974 did an opponent score more than 17 points on the Steel Curtain and there was no question that the offenses primary job was to not mess things up and turn the ball over. RB Franco Harris put the offense on his shoulders and carried the load for the team on his side of the ball, which really had no quarterback. His 158 yards in the Super Bowl earned him MVP honors, but the defense once again showed their merit in the title game limiting the Vikings to 119 yards of total offense with their only points coming from a blocked punt. There would be better Steeler teams that would win Super Bowls, but this was the start of the blueprint that has defined the Steelers to this very day.

Super Bowl Champion Efficiency Rankings

Rank Year Team Off Def Total
36 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers 8.66% -25.50% 34.16%
37 1981 San Francisco 49'ers 6.42% -24.07% 30.49%
38 1983 Oakland Raiders 20.68% -8.27% 28.95%
39 1988 San Francisco 49'ers 19.16% -8.88% 28.04%
40 2006 Indianapolis Colts 32.58% 7.96% 24.62%
41 1980 Oakland Raiders 12.23% -6.33% 18.56%
42 1987 Washington Redskins 7.13% -10.26% 17.39%
43 2001 New England Patriots -1.54% -12.58% 11.04%
44 2007 New York Giants 9.94% 0.61% 9.33%
45 1970 Baltimore Colts 8.02% 0.07% 7.95%

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