Let's dispense with any melodramatic suspense and just come right out and answer that question. In fact, let's answer it twice: Yes, and hell yes! The 2015 Carolina Panthers are unquestionably the best team in the history of the NFL.
And I say this as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, a franchise that knows a thing or two about outstanding teams, having won a record six Super Bowls. Speaking of which, the NFL needs to fear the Steelers in 2016, because they are going to be rested, healed and ready to take their revenge on the League.
Also, when the Steelers next play the Bengals, one Vontaze Burfict better watch himself because he will be a marked man. You can't expect to be as dirty a player as Burfict is and not have to pay the piper. Retribution comes in many forms, Mr. Burfict. Consider yourself warned.
Before anyone makes the mistake of pointing out the obvious, that there has only been one undefeated team in modern NFL history -- namely the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who went an amazing 17-0 -- let us point out that that was almost 45 years ago, back when the league was composed of haves and have-nots.
Back in the 1970s, I used to bet regularly on pro football, both with bookies and with those ubiquitous football cards that made their debut in the late 1960s. As anyone old enough to remember will tell you, back in those days it wasn't rare to see teams favored by 24 points or more. Indeed, 14 and 17-point spreads were common.
In the early 1970s, I vividly recall the San Diego Chargers being listed as a 28-point underdog in a game against the vaunted Miami Dolphins. Again, those monster point spreads reflected the disparity in talent that one found in the NFL during the 1970s, and into the 1990s.
But with the astonishing parity found in the NFL, can anyone even imagine a 28-point spread today?! For the Panthers to go 17-1 in today's environment is nothing short of phenomenal, and clearly grounds for being labeled the "greatest team in history."
Let's go back to the Steelers for a moment. Before the season started, the media noted that Pittsburgh had the "most difficult schedule" of any NFL team. Despite that tough schedule, the Steelers had a pretty decent year. It would've had even a better one if star receiver Antonio Brown had not been hurt by a cheap-shot artist in the Bengals game.
But tough schedule or not, it was an inferior team that hurt the Steelers. Pittsburgh lost TWICE to the lowly Ravens, who finished with a record of 5-11. As for the Ravens, while they were able to beat the playoff-bound Steelers twice, they couldn't beat Oakland, Jacksonville, San Francisco or the sorry Cleveland Browns, none of whom made the playoffs.
There's no doubt about it. It's an entirely different landscape today than it was in 1972. The NFL is simply too balanced not to expect upsets. In fact, the word "upset" may be an anachronism. Parity now rules. Which is why, when you see a spread of even 10 points, it stands out as an anomaly.
Because the Carolina Panthers are the best team in history, does that automatically mean they'll beat the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl? Of course, it doesn't. This is the NFL. Parity rules.