5. 2001 Patriots (11-5; Won Super Bowl XXXVI)
This was Tom Brady’s second season in the league. Even in his second year, he was still riding the bench up until Week 2. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who had signed a 10-year contract extension that offseason, suffered an injury against the New York Jets and Brady’s time had come.
He led them from a 1-3 start to an 11-5 finish and the second seed in the AFC. The road to the Super Bowl wasn’t so easy. A controversial call in the Divisional Round against the Oakland Raiders known as the Tuck Rule could have gone the other way. If that was the case, we wouldn’t be talking about this dynasty.
After winning that game in overtime thanks to a Vinatieri kick and defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game, they lost a 14-point lead to the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI before Vinatieri kicked a field goal as time expired. That has been the toughest path to a title for New England thus far.
For what it was, the fact that the Patriots held a 14-point lead over the Rams, who were a heavy favorite, was a big surprise to the NFL world.