All-Time NFL Franchise Rankings, 2014 Edition

With training camp upon us and the 2014 NFL season just around the corner, it’s time to revisit my list ranking all 32 franchises from best to worst. For reference, here is last year’s list. And don’t forget to check out all my other fantastic sports lists as well!

I didn’t see the need to introduce any major changes to my calculation system, other than to penalize teams for losing seasons. Also, I did go back and correct some data entry errors I discovered. None of this had a noticeable impact on the rankings, as no team moved more than two places from the 2013 list.

The Criteria

The categories and point values are as follows:

  • 25 points for a championship game/Super Bowl win, 15 points for a championship game/Super Bowl loss (starting in 1932).
  • 5 points for a season with a playoff appearance (starting in 1967), and 8 points for a season with a playoff win.
  • 1 point for a winning regular-season record, -1 point for a losing regular-season record.
  • 3 points for any year with a regular-season winning percentage of at least .750, -3 points for a regular-season winning percentage of .250 or less.
  • Consecutive winning regular seasons are worth 2 points starting with the second, 3 points for the third, 4 points for the fourth, and so on. The counter is reset after any non-winning season. So if a team has three winning seasons in a row, they get a total of 5 points.
  • I apply a unique multiplier to a franchise’s all-time winning percentage, such that anything below .500 essentially incurs a penalty.

Feel free to share your thoughts on my rankings in the comments below. And as I did last year, I must give credit to two sites that helped form the basis of my own formulations — Bob’s Blog and Page 2.

All rankings are current through the 2013 NFL season. Last year’s ranking in parentheses.

The Top 10

New England Patriots#1.  Dallas Cowboys (#1) — 15.20 avg.

#2. Baltimore Ravens (#2) — 11.73 avg.

#3. Oakland Raiders (#3) — 11.00 avg.

#4. Green Bay Packers (#4) — 10.64 avg.

#5. San Francisco 49ers (#5) — 9.79 avg.

#6. New England Patriots (#7) — 9.69 avg.

#7. Miami Dolphins (#6) — 9.14 avg.

#8. Minnesota Vikings (#10) — 8.19 avg.

#9. Chicago Bears (#8) — 8.14 avg.

#10. Indianapolis Colts (#9) — 8.12 avg.

The Cowboys are so far ahead of all other franchises that it would take several more seasons of mediocre to bad football to see them tumble out of the top spot. But they seem determined to try anyway, as their average dipped .30 points from last season.

The Ravens had the second-biggest fall this year, and their average is down an eye-popping -0.77 points. This is mainly due to their age, as they have had so much success in their brief history that anything short of a Super Bowl appearance will have a negative impact on their numbers for awhile.

Elsewhere, only the 49ers and Patriots actually increased their averages from last year’s list. And two teams, the Patriots and the Vikings, climbed up the rankings. New England moved past Miami while Minnesota leapt past the Colts and Bears to assume the #8 position.

The Mediocre 12

Seattle Seahawks#11. New York Giants (#11) — 7.98 avg.

#12. Cleveland Browns (#12) — 7.65 avg.

#13. Denver Broncos (#15) — 7.10 avg.

#14. Pittsburgh Steelers (#13) — 7.07 avg.

#15. Washington Redskins (#14) — 6.05 avg.

#16. St. Louis Rams (#16) — 6.00 avg.

#17. Kansas City Chiefs (#19) — 5.93 avg.

#18. San Diego Chargers (#18) — 5.37 avg.

#19. Tennessee Titans (#17) — 5.25 avg.

#20. Seattle Seahawks (#22) — 4.92 avg.

#21. Buffalo Bills (#20) — 4.67 avg.

#22. Philadelphia Eagles (#21) — 4.36 avg.

This group had the most movement from 2013’s list, with just four teams standing pat. Both Super Bowl teams, Denver and Seattle, both moved up two spots, while the surprising Chiefs did the same.

If the Giants pull it together and rebound from last year’s disappointing finish, they stand the best chance of cracking the top 10. Still, they’d also need a really bad season from Colts, Vikings, or Bears.

Tennessee’s rotten 2013 campaign earned them the dubious distinction of being the only franchise to fall two spots this year, although they’re not in imminent danger of falling into the bottom of the list.

The Bottom 10

New Orleans Saints#23. New York Jets (#24) — 2.87 avg.

#24. Jacksonville Jaguars (#23) — 2.82 avg.

#25. Detroit Lions (#25) — 2.60 avg.

#26. Carolina Panthers (#26) — 2.43 avg.

#27. Cincinnati Bengals (#28) — 1.46 avg.

#28. Atlanta Falcons (#27) — 1.39 avg.

#29. New Orleans Saints (#29) — 1.37 avg.

#30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (#30) — 0.68 avg.

#31. Arizona Cardinals (#31) — 0.54 avg.

#32. Houston Texans (#32) — -1.78 avg.

Not a lot of movement here, although some historically bad franchises continue to gain ground in recent years. The 11-5 Saints returned to their recent winning ways and added roughly 30% to their franchise point average in the process. If things shake out right for them they could very well move past Atlanta and Cincy into the #27 spot.

The biggest losers in the bottom third were the Jaguars and Texans, who combined for six wins. The Jaguars fell behind the Jets in the rankings, while the Texans became even more entrenched in the basement. It could take several winning seasons in a row for them to even move into positive territory for point total and average.

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1970 ACFL program: Hartford Knights vs. Indianapolis Caps

Sports Graveyard: Hartford Knights

Several months ago I shared the story of the Indianapolis Caps, a minor league football team that played in the old Continental Football League in the late 1960s.

This post concerns the Caps’ next home, the Atlantic Coast Football League, which operated from 1962 until 1973. The Caps moved to the ACFL for the 1970 season and folded operations after that year. Here we have a program from early in the year, between the Caps and the Hartford Knights.

1970 ACFL program: Hartford Knights vs. Indianapolis Caps

The Knights, who were by this time aligned with the AFL’s Buffalo Bills, were one of the ACFL’s stronger squads. They met the Caps for a Saturday night game at Dillon Stadium in Hartford on September 5, 1970.

I’ve been unable to track down the result of this game, but I think it’s enough to just enjoy this very neat program cover from a piece of football history that is long gone.

In any case, the Knights stayed in the ACFL until the league essentially folded after the 1971 season. They spent 1972 in the Seaboard Football League, where they logged a perfect season, but returned to the reformed ACFL in 1973. It turned out to be the last gasp for the league and the Knights, who could not compete with the newly formed World Football League.

Pennant Fever

Pennant Fever #3: 1966 Atlanta Falcons

Since their founding in 1966, the Atlanta Falcons have maintained a fairly consistent brand identity. Sure, colors change and logos are modified, but the basic look has remained intact.

So that’s why I was surprised to see this pennant on eBay, purportedly from the team’s inaugural season.

1966 Atlanta Falcons pennant

Almost nothing from this pennant seems to have found its way into the team’s branding, apart from the shade of red. That makes me wonder if this wasn’t produced before the logo and wordmark for the team was ever made public. I don’t know what the lead time was for pennant manufacturing but I’m guessing this is the case.

Another possible explanation is that this was a prototype logo that lost out to the now-familiar one.

Either way, it’s another fascinating piece of 1960s NFL memorabilia.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of my Pennant Fever entries.

Pennant Fever

Pennant Fever #2: 1973 Philadelphia Eagles

Now here’s a curious one. At a glance this just looks like an ordinary vintage Philadelphia Eagles pennant, right?

Philadelphia Eagles pennant

Attentive Eagles fans, however, might notice something different with this pennant. It features the short-lived white helmet with green wings design, which the team only used from 1969 through 1973. But it also has the Eagles wordmark that Philly didn’t start using until the 1973 season (at least according to Chris Creamer’s site).

That makes this pennant not only a rather unique specimen, but easy to date as well. Unless some printer really goofed, this could only have been produced in 1973, possibly early ’74 depending on when the white helmets were ditched.

Personally I like the white helmets, but that’s a topic for another post.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of my Pennant Fever entries.

The Lions celebrated a Thanksgiving victory in 1999.

Football Friday: Thanksgiving’s Best NFL Teams

Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers, Thanksgiving 1962

The 1962 “Thanksgiving Day Massacre” saw the Lions hand the championship Packers their only loss of the season.

Thanksgiving turkey and the National Football League — one of the finest traditions in all of American sports. And, as it turns out, one of the longest-lived as well. Since the NFL’s inception in 1920, at least one game has been played every Thanksgiving, and since 2006 three are played. Most fans associate the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys with the now-dubbed Thanksgiving Classic series, and for good reason.

The Lions and Cowboys have played the most Thanksgiving games ever, with 72 and 44 respectively through the 2012 season. Following behind are the Green Bay Packers (34), Chicago Bears (31), and Arizona Cardinals (23). Of these five teams, however, only the Cowboys and Bears sport a winning Thanksgiving record.

Here are the ten NFL teams with the most wins and highest winning percentages on Thanksgiving Day since 1920 (includes AFL records). Totals are current through the 2013 regular season, and only franchises with a minimum of five Thanksgiving games are eligible for this list.

(For other fun and informative NFL records, as well as some from other major leagues, check out my Sports Lists page.)

Most Wins

Detroit Lions Logo (1952 - 1960)

Detroit’s last Thanksgiving win was in 2003.

1. Detroit Lions — 33

2. Dallas Cowboys — 28

3. Chicago Bears — 16

4. Green Bay Packers — 14

5. New York Giants — 7

6. Arizona Cardinals — 6

7(t). Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans — 5

Highest Win Percentage

1. Minnesota Vikings (5-1) — .833

2. Philadelphia Eagles (4-1) — .800

3(t). Miami Dolphins (5-2) and Tennessee Titans (5-2) — .714

5. San Francisco 49ers (3-1-1) — .700

6. New England Patriots (3-2) — .660

7. Dallas Cowboys (28-15-1) — .636

8. New York Giants (7-4-3) — .607

9. New York Jets (4-3) — .571

10. Chicago Bears (16-13-2) — .548

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AFL/NFL Pins, Late 1960s

Here’s Some Neat Late ’60s NFL and AFL Pins

Based on a number of things I see in this photo of classic AFL/NFL pins, I’m guessing these were produced between 1968 and 1971.

AFL/NFL Pins, Late 1960s

The reason I’m guessing ’68 at the earliest is that we have a Cincinnati Bengals pin, and they didn’t start play in the AFL until that year. Likewise, the Boston Patriots changed their name to New England Patriots in the spring of 1971, so it seems unlikely that these were produced after then.

Elsewhere, we’ve got some sweet old logos for the 49ers, Rams, Oilers, Cardinals, and Packers.

Continental Football League (1965-1969)

Sports Graveyard: Indianapolis Capitols

Indianapolis Capitols pinI ran across this interesting pin while looking for old sports memorabilia, and was immediately intrigued. The only football team I ever thought called Indianapolis home is the Colts.

So who were the Indianapolis Caps?

Turns out the Caps — actually the Indianapolis Capitols — were a member of the short-lived Continental Football League. The CFL began play in 1965, five seasons after the American Football League, and folded after the 1969 season. The Caps joined the league in 1966 as the Montreal Beavers before moving to Indiana two years later.

In their first year in Indianapolis, the Caps won the Central Division with an 8-4 record. They repeated that record in the league’s final season, but managed to also win the last-ever CFL championship by beating the San Antonio Toros.

Perhaps the biggest splash the franchise ever made took place off the field, when it offered star USC running back O.J. Simpson a $400,000 contract in 1969 to play for them. Simpson, of course, opted to sign with the Buffalo Bills of the AFL instead.

The Caps, along with the CFL’s Jersey Jays, Norfolk (VA) Neptunes, and Orlando Panthers, defected to join the minor league Atlantic Coast Football League (ACFL) for the 1970 season. The CFL folded without playing another game, while the Caps ceased football operations after the 1970 ACFL season.

"Out of Mind's Reach" by Jack Kirby

Jack Kirby’s 1973 NFL Artwork Is Fantastic, Trippy As Hell

It’s hard to believe now, but in the early ’70s the National Football League wasn’t nearly as stifled and humorless as it is now. As proof of that, I present these pieces of original, commissioned artwork drawn by the legendary Jack Kirby for the NFL in 1973.

These fantastic illustrations were included as part of the October 21, 1973 issue of Pro!, the official magazine of the National Football League that was sold at every game, in a piece entitled “Out of Mind’s Reach.” They depict, among other things, futuristic versions of NFL players in action. I think my favorite one is for the Packers, who have somehow adopted an aquatic theme. Perhaps Wisconsin has warmed enough in the future to make that a practical move.

"Out of Mind's Reach" by Jack Kirby

Cleveland Browns

Cleveland Browns

San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco 49ers

New York Giants

New York Giants

Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers

"Out of Mind's Reach" by Jack Kirby

Vintage NFL Team Pennants from the Early 1950s

Behold These Vintage NFL Team Pennants from the Early 1950s

I stumbled across this beautiful set of six NFL team pennants recently, and had to share. The listing states that these are from the 1940s and ’50s, but I suspect they all probably date from either 1950 or 1951. I say this because of the pennant for the New York Yanks, a now-defunct franchise that played as the New York Yanks, New York Bulldogs, and Dallas Texans (not the same as the AFL Texans of the ’60s).

The Yanks only existed under that moniker for the 1950 and ’51 seasons, so no way the pennant was made before then. Likewise, the San Francisco 49ers didn’t join the NFL until 1950. And while it’s possible the pennants for the Rams, Steelers, Packers, and Lions pre-date 1950 I don’t think they do.

Vintage NFL Team Pennants from the Early 1950s

Click on the image for the full-size version, and enjoy some vintage mid-century NFL paraphernalia. To see how five of these franchises stack up in my all-time NFL rankings, click here.