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Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Rodney Harrison, Patriots

Ranking the 10 best teams in New England Patriots history

The New England Patriots have appeared in 11 Super Bowls, the most of any NFL franchise. They reached the Super Bowl twice before the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick dynasty, losing both times. The Brady-Belichick tandem won six titles in nine Super Bowl appearances, as the two established themselves as the greatest QB-coach duo in league history.

Winners of six Lombardi Trophies—tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most of any team—the Patriots have put together plenty of historically great rosters.

Let’s pinpoint the 10 best teams of the six-time Super Bowl champion Patriots.

10. 2012 (12-4, lost AFC Championship)

The 2012 Patriots ranked first in total offense (roughly 428 yards per game), scoring a league-high 34.8 points per game. They eclipsed 40 points five times in the regular season and then once more in a 41-28 win over the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round.

Their biggest margin of defeat was seven points. The Patriots’ other three losses were by a combined four points.

The ’12 Patriots fell in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.

9. 2011 (13-3, lost Super Bowl XLVI)

A 13-win season secured the Patriots the top seed in the AFC. They ultimately rode their home-field advantage to an AFC title, before falling to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl for the second time in five years.

Brady set a career high in passing in a Week 1 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Playing in a stadium he had his share of struggles, Brady threw for 517 yards and 4 TDs.

The ’11 Patriots finished second in total offense and third in scoring. The defense was the Achilles heel of this Patriots club. Their 31st ranked defense yielded roughly 411 yards per game. And yet, it was the offense that was underwhelming in their 21-17 Super Bowl defeat.

8. 2017 (13-3, lost Super Bowl LII)

The 2017 Patriots ranked inside the top-5 in points scored (second) and points allowed (fifth). They went 13-3 and earned the AFC’s No. 1 seed.

Brady captured his third MVP trophy in his age-40 season, registering 32 touchdowns against just eight interceptions with 4,577 passing yards. Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski both eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark in a year that ended with an AFC title.

New England lost to the Philadelphia Eagles in a thrilling Super Bowl. Brady set a Super Bowl record with 505 passing yards, breaking his own mark that he set the year prior.

7. 2001 (11-5, won Super Bowl XXXVI)

In the first championship that jumpstarted a 20-year streak of dominance, the 2001 Patriots rode their stingy defense to the franchise’s elusive title.

Brady took over for an injured Drew Bledsoe in Week 2 and never looked back. Brady won 11 of his 14 starts in the regular season and then guided the Patriots to three memorable playoff victories. Antowain Smith, who signed with the team in the offseason, led the run-first Patriots’ offense with 1,157 rushing yards and 12 TDs.

In Super Bowl XXXVI, the Patriots defeated the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ Rams, despite being 14-point underdogs. Among Super Bowl contests, this is the second-biggest upset (in terms of point spread) ever.

Hall of Fame cornerback Ty Law spearheaded the loaded Patriots’ secondary. Law played a major part of the 20-17 victory over the Rams, intercepting a pass from Kurt Warner and returning it for a touchdown.

There’s a case to be made that Law deserved the Super Bowl MVP honors in this defensive battle.

6. 2018 (11-5, won Super Bowl LIII)

In the sixth and final championship of the Brady-Belichick era, the 2018 Patriots won 11 games and earned the second seed in the AFC. They finished fourth in points and seventh in scoring defense.

They went on the road to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship at Arrowhead Stadium. In a back-and-forth overtime thriller, the underdog Patriots defeated the Chiefs, led by that season’s MVP, Patrick Mahomes.

The Patriots held the Rams, the No. 2 scoring offense, to three points in Super Bowl LIII. Stephon Gilmore delivered the biggest play of the evening, intercepting an errant Jared Goff pass.

Julian Edelman had the best overall night and earned Super Bowl MVP, catching 10 passes for 141 yards, accounting for more than half of the Patriots’ receiving yards.

5. 2007 (16-0, lost Super Bowl XLII)

A perfect regular season ended with a gut-wrenching Super Bowl loss to the Giants, but the 2007 Patriots were still a legendary squad. Brady won MVP honors with a then-NFL record 50 touchdowns. Randy Moss caught 23 of those TDs, an NFL-record for receiving scores in a single season.

The ’07 Patriots accumulated an absurd +315-point differential. They won 10 games by 21+ points, including two victories by 45+ points. It was the most dominating regular season the league has ever seen.

4. 2014 (12-4, won Super Bowl XLIX)

After a 2-2 start to the year, the Patriots won 13 of their final 15 games (including the playoffs) to hoist their fourth Lombardi Trophy. One of those losses came in Week 17 when they sat Brady and the starters in the second half.

Brady came through with two of his best career performances during that postseason. In the Divisional Round win over the Ravens, Brady threw for 367 yards with three passing touchdowns, one rushing score, and one interception.

Brady took down the Seattle Seahawks’ No. 1 ranked defense in the Super Bowl. Up against the “Legion of Boom,” Brady snatched Super Bowl MVP honors by completing 37-of-50 passes for 328 yards, with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Coming up clutch, Brady completed 14-of-16 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

3. 2016 (14-2, won Super Bowl LI)

Brady missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, but the 2016 Patriots still managed 14 wins. They cruised to the top record in the AFC and blew out the Texans and the Steelers in the postseason, before an unforgettable Super Bowl victory.

Down 28-3 to the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, the Patriots stormed back behind Brady and running back James White. Brady, the game’s MVP, set Super Bowl records for completions (43) and pass attempts (62) in a 466-yard, two-touchdown outing.

White rushed for 29 yards and two TDs, and collected a Super Bowl-record 14 catches for 110 yards and a receiving touchdown.

2. 2003 (14-2, won Super Bowl XXXVIII)

Not only did the 2003 Patriots lose just two times, they ended their championship season on a 15-game winning streak following a Week 4 defeat. The ’03 Patriots knew how to win close contests, finishing 8-1 in games decided by seven or fewer points.

The Patriots yielded a league-low 14.9 points per game. They had three Pro Bowlers on that side of the ball: Ty Law, Richard Seymour and Willie McGinest. Free agent addition Rodney Harrison was a notable snub from the Pro Bowl squad, but earned First-Team All-Pro honors after leading the NFL in tackles (143).

Brady put the finishing touches on a championship season with his outstanding Super Bowl XXXVIII performance. He completed 32-of-48 passes for 354 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception to earn his second Super Bowl MVP.

1. 2004 (14-2, won Super Bowl XXXIX)

The 2004 Patriots could win in so many ways. Not only could a young Brady pick apart defenses, but tailback Corey Dillon was unstoppable on the ground. He rushed for a franchise-best 1,635 yards.

The defense was just as dominant, led by Harrison. The Hall of Fame safety amassed four interceptions in the playoffs, one of which was a pick-six in the AFC Championship Game at Pittsburgh. Harrison intercepted two passes, including the game-clinching pick, in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Eagles.

In the Patriots’ postseason run, they managed to defeat three teams (Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia) that combined for a 40-8 record over the regular season.