I know the 16-0 2007 team didn't win the Super Bowl -- thanks, in part, to David Tyree's miraculous helmet catch -- but that was the most complete team Bill Belichick has ever had. The number of difference-makers on both sides of the ball was almost unfair, from Randy Moss and Wes Welker on offense to Tedy Bruschi, Asante Samuel and Rodney Harrison on defense. We haven't seen a team that good since. The Patriots' defense in the early 2000s -- which featured my colleague Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Ty Law and others -- was one of the best units for much of New England's run. The group slowed great offenses -- the Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf," a dynamic Panthers attack and the Andy Reid-led Eagles -- to win three Super Bowl titles. The 2004 team's offense pushed that group over the top, scoring 27.3 points per game that season, at least four points per game more than the Pats teams that won prior to then. My pick for the best Patriots team during the Brady-Belichick era is the 2007 team that lost to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
It is the only 16-0 team in the history of the NFL. When you look at the Pats' teams early on, they were stronger on defense. As time went on, they became stronger on offense ... but weaker on defense. I thought the 2007 team was the most balanced, when you look at the breakdown of personnel on both sides of the ball.
On offense, they had QB Tom Brady, WR Randy Moss, WR Wes Welker, OG Logan Mankins and OT Matt Light. On defense, they had NT Vince Wilfork, DE Richard Seymour, LB Mike Vrabel, LB Tedy Bruschi and DB Rodney Harrison.
They lost the Super Bowl on an incredible catch by Giants WR David Tyree, but I looked at the whole season -- not one game. A lot of people will pick the '07 team, but that squad lost the Super Bowl. How can those Pats be considered the best of the Belichick-Brady era having lost the Super Bowl? They can't. With that said, I'm taking the 2014 Patriots. There were a ton of veteran players near the end of their careers whom the Patriots got the best out of (see: Darrelle Revis) and several young up-and-comers (like Malcolm Butler). The '14 team had great balance and made huge plays when it needed to. It has to be the 16-0 team. Obviously, some wouldn't consider this the best team of the Brady-Belichick era because it finished the season with a loss. But this group was so darn dominant in the regular season, breaking records all over the place ... How can it rank anything other than No. 1? Right, the whole Super Bowl thing. But hot damn, peak angry-Brady. Vintage Randy Moss. Running up the score on teams. It was great.
Tell me: If you absolutely needed to win one football game, which of these nine squads would you want? That's what I thought. As a former NFL quarterback, I have to go with the '07 team. It felt like Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker were running circles around the rest of the league. This team could score at will, and the defense was no slouch, either.