A lot has been written about how great this year's Patriots are. With their win yesterday, they are now 18-0 and can become the only team to complete a perfect season at 19-0. The 1972 Dolphins are certainly great, and this Patriot team's success doesn't take anything away from the '72 Dolphins. They played in different eras, and can't really be compared.
But, I took a look at relatively recent Super Bowl history. Looking back through Super Bowl XXIV in January 2000, here's the number of times that teams have been in the Super Bowl:
Titans, Ravens, Buccaneers, Raiders, Panthers, Eagles, Seahawks, Steelers, Colts, Bears: 1 each
The Rams were a strong team for a few years, but they have faded away. The Giants of 2000 season doesn't have a lot in common with this year's Giants. The Patriots have the same coach, quarterback, and a significant core that has been there all the way through. Only the Colts have been as consistent as the Patriots through this whole era, and the Eagles have been almost as consistent. Every other team has been up and down, which is a testament to how tough it is to maintain a competitive team in the salary cap era.
It's great for the NFL. 13 different teams have filled one of these 18 Super Bowl slots. Every team has a chance to get there. In that environment, to have the Patriots go to the Super Bowl 4 times in 7 years clearly makes them the best team of the salary cap era.
This is a darn good Patriots team. Is it better than the '72 Dolphins or the '85 Bears? I don't know. Those teams could hold their talent together in a way that isn't possible nowadays. What has been most impressive of the Patriots through this whole run is how they find ways to win almost all of the close games. When you see how the Colts, Cowboys, and Packers lost this year in the playoffs, you have to appreciate how the Patriots have done what no other team has done -- beat close competitors, over and over again.
I'll be in Arizona, hoping to witness some football history. Go Pats!