ESPN and advanced analytics service Football Outsiders have spent the last week taking a look at some of the top performances over the last 30 years in the NFL.
So far they have looked at the Top 30 Offenses, Top 30 Defenses, and Top 30 Special Teams.
Thursday they released their list of the Top 30 Teams of the last thirty years.
Before we get to the New York Giants’ appearance on the list, here is their explanation of Football Outsiders’ methodology.
You can find DVOA stats for all 30 seasons on the stats pages at Football Outsiders, but the ratings we run here will be a bit different. That's because for the first time, we've added postseason performance, and that boosts teams that went on strong championship runs and lowers teams that dominated the regular season only to trip over their own feet in the playoffs.
It's important to remember that DVOA is measuring efficiency on a per-play basis, rather than looking at top-line wins and losses. As such, you'll see some teams ranked higher than teams they might have beaten in the playoffs. Although we are including playoff performance here, that doesn't render the regular season moot. Two teams that didn't make it to the Super Bowl made our top 10.
Note: 0 percent DVOA represents the league average, so a team with a +35 percent mark rated 35 percent better than an average unit. Also, stats other than total DVOA represent the regular season only, unless noted. Special thanks to Jeremy Snyder, who did most of the transcription work on the late 1980s and early '90s.
25. 1990 New York Giants
The Bills were 7-point favorites in Super Bowl XXV, but if Football Outsiders had existed at the time, the Giants would have been an easy pick -- not just to cover but to win outright. Although the Bills finished the regular season 13-3, they finished just sixth in overall DVOA in 1990. The Giants ranked No. 1 overall, with the No. 7 offense, No. 4 defense and No. 2 special teams.
That was certainly a memorable season, and not just for the Giants winning it all in the end. Though it must be noted that the Giants riding an efficient offense and potent defense with a masterful scheme to a nail-biting victory over a favored opponent in the Super Bowl is a theme we saw again in 2007 and 2011.
It’s interesting that the Giants were the most efficient team — overall — on a per play basis that year, despite not being considered the best team in the league that year.
Oh, and about that 2007 team? They didn’t make the list, but the team they beat in the Super Bowl did.
They were second overall.
2. 2007 New England Patriots
No, they didn't win the last game of the season. But coming within three points of a perfect 19-0 season is still a remarkable accomplishment. The Patriots were not as well-rounded as most of the teams at the top of this list, finishing only 11th on defense and seventh on special teams. But though they faltered in the Super Bowl, the Patriots certainly had the most explosive regular-season offense in NFL history. New England scored at least 34 points in its first eight games and in 11 of 16 regular-season games total. The Patriots did so against an above-average schedule (ranked 10th in the league, to be precise). Five players were selected as first-team All-Pros: quarterback Tom Brady, wide receiver Randy Moss, left tackle Matt Light, linebacker Mike Vrabel and cornerback Asante Samuel.
The Giants’ victory in Super Bowl XLII has been considered one of the greatest upsets in NFL history, and just going by Fooball Outsiders, they have a very strong argument. It speaks to just how monumental the upset was that a team that is considered by some to be the worst team to ever win a Super Bowl took down the second best team of the last 30 years. For comparison, the Giants were 14th in DVOA that year and just 1.9 percent above average by Football Outsiders. Perhaps it was fate that they beat Bill Belichick, who was the mastermind behind that 1990 defense, for their third Lombardi Trophy.