In the National Football League, each decade has its dynasty. The 60s had the Green Bay Packers, winners of the first two Super Bowls. The 70s had the Pittsburgh Steelers, who played in six AFC title games and four Super Bowls in the decade. In the 80s, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice carved up defenses, and in the 90s the Dallas Cowboys’ triplets of quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith, and wide receiver Michael Irvin propelled Dallas to become the first team to win three Super Bowls in four years. The New England Patriots followed suit in the early 2000s under the leadership of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.
At the turn of the new year, we’re already halfway through the new decade and no team has won multiple Super Bowl titles in the 2010s. In fact, of the last ten Super Bowl champions, only the last two have gone on to win a playoff game the next year. The Saints fell in ‘09, then the Packers in ‘10, then the Giants in ‘11, then the Ravens in ‘12… the list goes on and on. Even last year’s Super Bowl contestants, the Panthers and Broncos, were stuck at home when the playoffs began. Will we have a team of the 2010s?
Teams with the best case right now
- New England Patriots
Over the last ten years, the Patriots lead the NFL in wins, and they never really fell from grace after winning their three Super Bowls in the 2000s. New England has played in the last six AFC championship games and in two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XLIX against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. The Patriots’ claim also boasts one of the best head coaches of all-time in Bill Belichick and one of the best quarterbacks of all-time in Tom Brady. Oh, and they haven’t missed the playoffs in the 2010s, the only team in the NFL to do so.
- Seattle Seahawks
During the first half of the decade, the Seahawks’ defense rose to a historic level of dominance. The unit, known as the Legion of Boom, ranked as the best in the NFL in points allowed for four straight years. In Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle shut down the best offense the NFL has ever seen in Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos 43-8, and came a yard away from repeating as Super Bowl champs. They may be on the downturn, but with many pieces still on the team such as quarterback Russell Wilson and cornerback Richard Sherman, the Seahawks could be in the mix.
- Denver Broncos
Like the other teams on this list, the Broncos reached two Super Bowls in this decade. Unlike the other two teams, the Broncos’ championship squads were polar opposites. The 2013 AFC Champions had the best offense in league history, while the 2015 Super Bowl champions won with a historic defense and pass rush. If Denver adds another title, their resume would be difficult to ignore.
Teams that could get there
- Atlanta Falcons
If the team of the decade hasn’t established itself yet, it will need to soon, so the Falcons, the NFC’s representative in the Super Bowl, have the best chance to get on the board quickly and establish themselves. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones lead the NFL’s best offense and the defense is taking steps forward, and an upset of the heavily favored Patriots could catapult the Falcons to legendary status. The key to becoming a staying power will be if they can retain Kyle Shanahan, an unlikely proposition, or at least the efficiency of his system and play-calling.
- Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys, the premier team of the 1990s, have a strong outlook thanks to the emergences of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott and came really close to a berth in the NFC Championship this year. Dallas should stay a Super Bowl contender the next couple years, and a pair of titles would make for a convincing case.
- Oakland Raiders
Like the Cowboys, the Raiders’ hope rests on their young players- quarterback Derek Carr, receiver Amari Cooper, and defensive end Khalil Mack. Behind the Patriots, the AFC is wide-open, so Oakland should have a decent shot at Super Bowl LII.