Jim Bourdier/Associated Press
1972 Miami Dolphins
Regular-season finish: 14-0
The '72 Dolphins will forever be remembered for going untouched all the way to a Lombardi Trophy, as well as celebrating whenever a competitor to their unblemished record fell late in the season. That Miami team has never gotten the respect it deserved, partially because in the regular season it faced no team with better than a 7-7 record. Here's the bottom line: This same group went to Super Bowl VI and lost to a loaded Cowboys team, won Super Bowl VII (the perfect season), won Super Bowl VIII, and it took a miracle play for the Raiders to beat them in the 1974 playoffs (the infamous Sea of Hands play). They were pretty damn good.
Mark Foley/Associated Press
1984 Miami Dolphins
Regular-season finish: 14-2 (lost in Week 12)
In 30 years of watching football, I've never seen an offense as good as the '84 Dolphins. Dan Marino's 48-touchdown, 5,084-yard performance is still the gold standard for quarterbacks, a performance that drove this team to an 11-0 start. Ironically, Don Shula's second greatest Miami team fell to the Chargers in Week 12, a club that could go toe-to-toe offensively with Marino, wideouts Mark Clayton and Mark Duper, and company. San Diego was led by veteran passer Dan Fouts and the Air Coryell offense. It took an overtime period for this one to be settled, as the offensive juggernauts racked up 971 yards of total offense in the 34-28 shootout. How did the '84 Fins finish? As NFL runner-up, due to a loss in Super Bowl XIX to a great 49ers team.
Kathy Willens/Associated Press
1985 Chicago Bears
Regular-season finish: 15-1 (lost in Week 13)
While not as prolific as the '84 squad, the '85 Dolphins maintained enough firepower to derail the 12-0 Bears in arguably the most famous game in "Monday Night Football" history. The mighty Bears fell that night because:
» Starting quarterback Jim McMahon was hurt.
» The mighty Bears defense couldn't play nickel effectively against Mark Duper, Mark Clayton, and third wideout Nat Moore.
» And, Buddy Ryan's famed 46 defense never faced a quarterback with Marino's hair-trigger release.
With members of the '72 Dolphins team in attendance at the Orange Bowl, the home team prevailed 38-24. The Bears finished 18-1 while winning Super Bowl XX, with that famous game being their only loss.
Greg Gibson/Associated Press
1991 Washington Redskins
Regular-season finish: 14-2 (lost in Week 13)
Redskins fans north of 30 will forever remember Steve Beuerlein, a journeyman (but good) quarterback who ended their team's hope of going undefeated in 1991. The 11-0 Redskins fell to the 6-5 Cowboys, even after Troy Aikman left the game with an injury. Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson sent a message early, having his backup throw deep immediately upon entering the game .. .as if to say, "we're not stopping what we do because of one little injury." Beuerlein and Michael Irvin abused Darrell Green in the second half, as the Cowboys prevailed 24-21. The Cowboys would win out from there, going 11-5 en route to their first playoff appearance under Johnson. Meanwhile, the 'Skins would lose just once more before going on to demolish the Bills in Super Bowl XXVI.
John Dunn/Associated Press
1998 Denver Broncos
Regular-season finish: 14-2 (lost in Week 15)
"Who can beat the Broncos?" was the question being asked throughout the 1998 season. After a very impressive 13-0 start in which John Elway and friends proved they carried no hangover from winning it all the year before, an unlikely antagonist arose. The 5-8 Giants? As in, Jim Fassel's underachievers? Yep. The stingy Giants defense, even without stud corner Jason Sehorn, were eighth in the NFL in points allowed. Led by a motivated defensive coordinator in John Fox, the G-Men shut Elway, Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey and the rest of Mike Shanahan's passing attack down at the Meadowlands. Elway had one of his worst days of the season, going 19-36 for 180 yards and an interception. The Giants proved that a good defense can win on any given Sunday. Yet, those Broncos went on to capture their second straight Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXXIII.
G. Newman Lowrance/Associated Press
2005 Indianapolis Colts
Regular-season finish: 14-2 (lost in Week 15)
There was a time that the San Diego Chargers flat out had the Colts' number. From 2005 to 2010 -- right in the heart of Peyton Manning's dominance -- the Chargers won five of six from Indy. The big win was the Bolts' 26-17 win at the RCA Dome in 2005, a game in which Wade Phillips' pressure-based 3-4 defense was too much for Manning and the offense. The Colts couldn't generate a running game with Edgerrin James (25 yards), while Manning was sacked four times. The Colts went a very un-Colts-like 5 for 13 on third downs. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau must have been taking notes, as his 3-4 would give Manning fits in the divisional playoffs later that season. The 2005 Colts became the first team to start at least 11-0 and not make the Super Bowl.
Kathy Willens/Associated Press
2007 New England Patriots
Regular-season finish: 16-0
It's tough to point out deficiencies in the 2007 Patriots, but running their vertical attack against a really good front four was not optimal when it counted most. While Tom Brady was lobbing deep balls to Randy Moss, and even 8-yard ins to Wes Welker all season, fans forgot that those things required something not quite as sexy: Pass protection. Enter the Giants, who didn't need to blitz often to get pressure. In one of the better Super Bowls ever played, the Giants rushed, hurried, and hit Brady often, all the while not exposing their secondary with risky blitzes. Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck disrupted the Patriots' offense enough to send a seemingly unbeatable team down 17-14.
Brian Spurlock/US Presswire
2009 Indianapolis Colts
Regular-season finish: 14-2 (lost in Week 16)
Our first introduction to Curtis Painter was no fun (interestingly enough, this year's reintroduction has felt about the same.) Painter was inserted for Manning in Week 16 versus the Jets, as Colts coach Jim Caldwell started resting his starters midway through the game. Winning the Super Bowl was important to team brass, not going 16-0 in the regular season. A 15-10 Colts lead evaporated immediately when the Jets returned a Painter fumble for a touchdown. It was the blonde (not-so-much) bomber's fourth play from scrimmage. Circumstances would only get worse in the 29-15 loss. Ironically, the Colts would beat the Jets in the AFC Championship, before falling to the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.
Jim Mahoney/Associated Press
2009 New Orleans Saints
Regular-season finish: 13-3 (lost in Week 15)
While the Colts were streaking to a 14-0 start in the AFC, the NFC featured a surprising Saints team that pulled off an unblemished record of their own at 13-0. Then they got DeMarcus Ware'd. Wade Phillips' attack-based 3-4 was at it again, featuring Ware coming off the edge with a nice compliment in Anthony Spencer. Spencer got 1.5 sacks, while Ware got to Drew Brees twice. No. 94 forced the Saints' all-world quarterback to cough up the ball twice, while the Tony Romo-led offense staked Dallas to a 24-3 third quarter lead and eventual 24-17 win. The 13-0 Saints would lose their next two as well, but ultimately win the year's biggest game: Super Bowl XLIV.
Paul Sancya/Associated Press
2011 Green Bay Packers
Regular-season finish: TBD
Much like the '98 Broncos, many are wondering who's gonna stop the Packers. It might have been the Bears in Week 16, who were playing great before Jay Cutler went down. Then again, maybe Caleb Hanie can channel some of the magic he displayed in last year's NFC Championship toward a solid performance Christmas Day, at Lambeau. Stranger things have happened. Like those 1998 Giants, the Bears can play bend-but-don't-break defense. That's what it will take to slow down Aaron Rodgers and all those receivers running free in the secondary like kids at a public pool. Either way, let's not hand the Packers a 16-0 record just yet.