Super Bowl XLII Champions
The 2008 Patriots were clearly one of the best teams of the past 15-20 years, maybe ever, but the road-warrior Giants were driven to shake up the 2008 playoffs and boy did they ever do it. The Giants set an NFL record for consecutive road wins with 11 in a row to close out the season (after their opening week loss) and none of their playoff victories came easy. The team’s last three victories (over the Cowboys, Packers, and Patriots) were by a combined 10 points. While this past Super Bowl also came as a bit of a surprise as well, we knew the Giants had history on their side with a proven track record when the games matter most.
2. St Louis Cardinals
2011 World Series Champions
The 2011 Cardinals suffered their biggest loss before the team even took the field, losing star pitcher Adam Wainwright to Tommy John surgery for the entire season. Despite a slow start from Albert Pujols, and a season where his RBI total would be under 100 for the first time in his career (alright, it was 99), the Cardinals stuck in the National League playoff race until September came around. Then an Atlanta collapse allowed the Cardinals to grab the NL wildcard on the last day of the regular season. Against a loaded Texas squad in the World Series, the Cardinals found help from an unexpected hero by the name of David Freese, who had only 15 career home runs in his fragmented career when the Cardinals entered the playoffs. Game 6 will live on in World Series infamy, an 11-inning thriller where the Rangers were two strikes away from clinching their first ever World Series twice. Freese hit a walk-off homer in the 11th, then helped produce a pair of runs with ace Chris Carpenter on the mound in a 6-2 game 7 victory.
1. The New England Patriots
Super Bowl XXXVI Champions
Yes, there was a time when we didn’t expect the Patriots to make it to the super bowl every season. In 2001, franchise quarterback Drew Bledsoe was sidelined in the second game of the season due to internal bleeding, and second-year quarterback Tom Brady stepped in and never looked back. The Patriots were coming off of a 5-11 season and started the 2001 campaign 1-3, but Brady rallied the team to victories in 13 of their last 15 games, including a shocking Super Bowl upset of a Rams team declared “the greatest show on turf,” which featured the passing attack of Kurt Warner, Torry Holt and Issac Bruce, along with the versatile running game of Marshall Faulk. The Rams were looking for their second Super Bowl in three years, but Brady and company came out on top 20-17 with a 48-yard field by the king of clutch, Adam Viniateri as time expired.