With major rules changes coming every few years and the financial strength of each franchise being very different, I wouldn’t argue that any teams from this era deserve to be in the “best-ever” category. But they should be recognized.
This era began with the debut of the NFL draft in 1936 and ended with the formation of the AFL after the 1959 season.
10. 1955 Cleveland Browns
The Browns were 9-2-1 in the regular season, then went on to beat the Los Angeles Rams, 38-14, for the championship. Otto Graham led the top offense in the league.
9. 1958 Baltimore Colts
The Colts were 9-3 and outscored the rest of the league by a wide margin, going on to beat the New York Giants, 23-17 in the championship. A 25-year-old Johnny Unitas was just getting started on a career that many considered the best of any quarterback until the modern era.
8. 1940 Chicago Bears
The Bears were 8-3, then beat the Washington Redskins 73-0 in the title game, avenging an earlier loss. This is the most points ever scored in an NFL game. Sid Luckman led the offense.
7. 1954 Cleveland Browns
The 9-3 Browns crushed the Detroit Lions, 56-10, in the championship after losing to the Lions a week earlier.
6. 1948 Philadelphia Eagles
Tommy Thompson and the Eagles defeated the Chicago Cardinals, 7-0, in the championship. This was during the four-year period when the Browns left for the AAFC and barely lost a game while winning all four championships. The Eagles were 9-2-1 and outscored opponents by 18 points per game.
5. 1942 Washington Redskins
The Redskins interrupted the Chicago Bears’ four-year dynasty with a 14-6 victory in the NFL championship behind Sammy Baugh.
4. 1949 Philadelphia Eagles
The 11-1 Eagles shut out the Los Angeles Rams in the title game, holding the Rams to 109 total yards.
3. 1936 Green Bay Packers
The 10-1-1 Packers defeated the Boston Redskins in the league championship game. Hall of Famer Clarke Hinkle led the offense. He was also a dominating linebacker in a time when free substitution was not allowed.
2. 1942 Chicago Bears
The Bears were 11-0 – the only undefeated team in the entire era during the regular season. They outscored opponents by more than 26 points per game. No question this would be considered the greatest team in the era by far if they hadn’t lost to the Redskins in the title game.
1. 1941 Chicago Bears
The 10-1 Bears avenged their only loss of the season, to the Green Bay Packers, in a tie-breaker game. Then they beat the New York Giants 37-9 in the title game. This team scored more per game (35.8 points) compared to the league average (16.7) than any team in this era or later.