(Note: three of the 100-win quarterbacks in NFL history, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, were in action in the 2013 NFL divisional playoffs. The list below, published before the divisional round, is updated to reflect those games.)
The New England Patriots may or may not beat the Indianapolis Colts Saturday night in the divisional playoffs.
But they’re a 7-point favorite for a reason.
After all, the Tom Brady Patriots are the greatest, most prolific and most unrelenting victory machine the NFL has ever seen.
And it ain't even close.
If worry-wart Bostonians are not confident in the ability of this team to beat the Colts, they’ll never really be confident about anything in the world of sports.
(We break down game in great detail here at CHFF Insider with our Real and Spectacular Playoff picks; we've gone 32-16 against the spread (.667) picking every postseason game since 2009.)
As we reported earlier this season, Tom Brady became the first player in NFL history to reach +100 in win-loss differential in the regular season.
We wanted to see how he sized up against all the greats in history when it comes to wins and losses, not just in the regular season but in the postseason, too. Well, folks, the results are pretty remarkable.
Brady is now +116 in win-loss differential, virtually lapping the field of greatest QBs in history.
But here’s the best part: arch-nemesis Peyton Manning, the other half of the greatest QB rivalry in NFL history, is No. 2 on that list at +93. After them, it’s a distant drop to No. 3: no less a legend than Joe Montana, who was +79 in win-loss differential.
Montana is the greatest Super Bowl QB in history, winning four championships in four opportunities, and a player who helped revolutionize our concept of modern football. Even he is 37 games behind Brady in win-loss differential.
Hell, there’s a reason why Manning-Brady battles draw epic ratings and why the Pigskin Public expects their Broncos and Patriots to square off in the AFC title game: because they win with machine-like precision.
We looked at every QB in NFL history who won at least 100 games to see who won most consistently. It’s a fairly short list of 21 performers. Most of those quarterbacks are in the Hall of Fame or will be in the Hall of Fame, with a couple exceptions.
None of these legends came even close to Brady’s Patriots at the most important task of all: winning games.
The 100 Win Club (ranked by win-loss differential)
|Rank||Player||W||L||T||PW||PL||All W||All L||Win %||Diff|
So much for parity, huh? If Brady and Manning are any indication, there is LESS parity now than ever before, for reasons we discussed in great detail here this month.
Some of the numbers above are dizzying.
The Great Montana is the only other player on the list besides Brady to win at least 70 percent of his career games.
Even he produced 33 fewer wins than Brady with four more losses.
Dan Marino was the Babe Ruth of pro football history, rewriting our concept of the passing game with records that shattered everything that came before and took decades to surpass.
He won 11 fewer games with 53 more losses.
The Great Peyton Manning, of course, is No. 2 on the win-loss differential list. He boasts 10 more career wins than Brady, but at the cost of 34 more losses.
Here’s the most remarkable part: Brady is +116 wins-to-losses in a sport in which only nine other QBs in the history of the sport have won even a total of 116 games.
Brady and the Patriots have been far from a dominant team in 2013. But as we noted before the start of the playoffs, they repeatedly found a way to win against the statistical odds. In fact, they won a league-high four games when losing the all-important battle of Passer Rating Differential.
The Patriots also lost 88 percent of their receiving production from 2013. They still finished No. 3 in scoring and with the third best record in football at 12-4.
No matter what happens around them, the Brady Patriots find a way to win.
The statistical secrets for success
Historically speaking, only one QB's team won games at a higher clip than the Brady Patriots. The Otto Graham Browns won at a .788 clip in the NFL (much higher rate in the old AAFC), solidly ahead of the .767 rate of Brady's Patriots.
But over an abbreviated NFL career of six seasons, Graham's Browns were only +45 in win-loss differential (61-16-1), and therefore he's not among the QBs in the 100-win club.
There are two statistical secrets to the unmatched success of the Brady Patriots, and it's not great defense. In fact, the Patriots haven't fielded a great defense since 2006. And Brady has played with the league's No. 1 scoring defense only once (2003).
For a little perspective, Manning has also played with the league's No. 1 scoring defense once (2007), while Marino twice played with the league's No. 1 scoring defense (1983, 1998).
The biggest key is this: in a sport in which QB mistakes kill teams game after game and year after year, Brady rarely makes them.
His career 2.03 percent interception rate is the second best in NFL history, as is his 2.68-to-1 TD-INT ratio -- in both cases second to Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers.
If Brady plays mistake-free ball against the Colts Saturday, or against any other team later in the postseason, the Patriots have as good a chance to win as anybody.
The 2013 Patriots are not dominant. They have flaws, including flaws in Brady's game. They're far from a Super Bowl-winning favorite amid a loaded field, especially among the strong contenders in the NFC.
But with all that said, the Brady Patriots are the greatest victory machine the NFL has ever seen.