There are few sporting leagues more instantly recognisable than the NFL. Founded all the way back in 1920 in Canton, Ohio, the NFL has gone on to become a multi-billion dollar industry, spawning some of the most iconic players, franchises, and moments in sporting history. We don’t have enough room to list every iconic NFL team that has taken the field, but we can take you through some of the highlights. Here are the 10 most iconic NFL teams of all time.
1. Pittsburgh Steelers
It doesn’t get more rough-and-tumble than the Pittsburgh Steelers. During the 1970s, the NFL was going through a more physical, more gritty reinvention (something reflected in the wider media industry as well), and the Steelers were perfectly poised to take advantage of that moment. Since then, they’ve simply gone from strength to strength. In an interview with NFL betting site Betway, Steelers legend Santonio Holmes ascribes the team’s success to going into every game “ready to play” and boasting a “winning attitude”. It’s hard to argue with that.
2. New York Giants
The New York Giants are one of the only teams to have tackled the New England Patriots (more on whom later) in their prime and taken them down, so their name is well-earned. The Giants have been an incredible team to watch all the way back to the 1920s, when the franchise first began, and they’re still sitting pretty today, although they’re not quite at the same standard as they used to be. Still, given that every era appears to be the Giants’ era, that will probably change soon.
3. New England Patriots
The Patriots are a somewhat controversial team within the NFL. They’ve got a reputation not only of being effortlessly victorious across many competitions (which isn’t particularly a sin), but also of never needing to take on a team that can genuinely challenge them. Still, the fact that they emerge from pretty much every clash victorious should speak to their skill and quality as a football team. Whether you love or hate the Patriots, you’ve got to admit they’re a great squad.
4. Green Bay Packers
Even if you’re not a football fan, you’ve probably heard of Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre, right? That’s because they’re unquestionably two of the greatest players to ever take the field, and their status as legendary quarterbacks is tied in with the status of the Green Bay Packers as one of the best teams ever. The Packers have won 4 of their 5 Super Bowls, which is not a record to be sniffed at, and they’ve managed to score a remarkable 17 division titles as well.
5. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are another team that people unfamiliar with NFL football probably know. Fans refer to the Dallas Cowboys as “America’s Team”; there’s a sense of downhome bonhomie both among the players and in the way they play. Tom Landry led the team to victory time and time again during its glory days, and although the Cowboys, much like the Giants, are a shadow of their former selves, that’s still pretty impressive considering how great their former selves were.
6. Oakland Raiders
On the opposite end of the spectrum to the Dallas Cowboys, we have the Oakland Raiders, who drape themselves in the regalia of pirates. Raiders fans also daub themselves in war paint and cut a pretty imposing figure, so that might go some way towards explaining why the team has such a reputation for being fierce. The Raiders may not be at the heights of their iconic mid-70s to mid-80s run, but they’re still very much a force to be reckoned with.
7. San Francisco 49ers
It’s a good thing this list isn’t ranked by number, because if it was, we’d have a lot of angry 49ers fans coming to us and demanding we place the team higher. Easy, folks; they’re not seventh because they’re the seventh-best NFL franchise. Far from it, in fact; the 49ers achieved Super Bowl victory across three decades in a row, and their legendary victory against the Denver Broncos is swiftly becoming the stuff of NFL myth, such is their reputation.
8. Denver Broncos
We know we led into this team by telling you about one of the occasions on which they got absolutely destroyed, but honestly, being thrashed by the 49ers is an honour, and the Denver Broncos are still very much a force to be reckoned with. Many fans consider them to be one of the NFL’s most consistent teams; while they don’t necessarily chase glory, they’re reliable when it comes to achieving victory, and there’s something to be said for that in modern football.
9. Washington Commanders
This team has something of an ugly history with naming itself, so it was a pleasure to see the squad rebranded as Washington Commanders this year, even if some publications did consider the rebrand to be a touch gauche. However you slice it, though, the Commanders are one of the NFL’s most iconic teams, and they supersize everything they do; their quarterbacks are enormous, their stadium is massive, and their win rate is impressive too.
10. Chicago Bears
The Super Bowl hasn’t been kind to the Chicago Bears. They’ve only won the event once, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to offer as a winning NFL side. The Bears’ 1985 defence has become the stuff of legend; football fans speak in hushed tones about the impossibility of breaching the Bears’ back line back then. While they’ve never quite attained that level again, the legend continues, mostly spurred on by those halcyon days.