Monday, January 14, 2008
Thirty-Five Years Apart
I would never argue that the 1972 Dolphins aren't one of the greatest teams in NFL history. It would be just plain silly to do so. Having changed the regular season from 14 to 16 games has caused a real change in what we see as a great team. I was too young to remember the Dolphin's historic run, I can only watch old videotape and look at numbers.
As I stated in an earlier post the best teams I've ever actually seen were the 1985 Chicago Bears and the 1998 Denver Broncos. Both teams were defeated during the regular season, but won when it really counted, the postseason, and walked away from their respective seasons as World Champions.
On January 14th, 2007, the New England Patriots, like the Miami Dolphins 35 years ago, are 17-0. The Pats have two more games to go before we can start talking about them as one of the all time great teams. One loss now, and they're remembered like the 1998 Minnesota Vikings, a team with a high powered offense who didn't go as far as they should have (and a team the 1998 Broncos would have beaten anyway...). One Patriots loss now and they'll be remembered as a failure.
It cannot be denied, however, that the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 2007 New England Patriots were both 17-0 on January 14th. So, right now, who's more impressive? I understand that the Pats haven't actually won a championship yet this year, but whose 17 wins were more impressive?
As great as the Dolphins were, they didn't play the greatest competition. In 17 games, their opponents had a combined record of 102-132-4 for a winning percentage of .429. They only played two teams in the regular season with winning records and the only playoff teams they played were the three they faced in the playoffs, none of their regular season opponents advanced to the playoffs.
The Patriots, on the other hand, have played a much more difficult schedule. Their opponents posted a 131-141 record, a .482 percentage. That percentage is more impressive when you consider that it's lower because it includes two games against the 1-15 Dolphins. During the regular season, seven of their opponents posted winning records, six of them eventually made the playoffs. While much of that can be attributed to the NFL's expanded playoff format, scheduled games against San Diego, Indianapolis and Dallas cannot be discounted, additionally, the Patriots also played the New York Giants who play for the NFC title this weekend.
The '72 Dolphins were great. Should they finish 19-0, the 2007 Patriots are better. And not just a little better. They will be the greatest team in NFL history.