The 1976 Oakland Raiders knocked the competition around and upside down, laughing now that they've conquered and won.
Pillaging just for fun in NFL.com's version of March Madness was the rough-and-tumble team of Hall of Fame coach John Madden that originally found its ultimate glory during professional football's romping-stomping 1970s heyday.
While the 1976 Raiders rampaged to a 13-1 regular-season finish and ransacked the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI, glory for the Silver and Black through a 64-team tournament of the greatest teams in NFL history came at the slightest of margins. A total of 5.2 million votes were cast by fans on NFL.com throughout the tournament, and in the final the 1976 Raiders edged the 2000 Ravens by the slimmest of margins -- winning 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent.
The 1976 Raiders -- a No. 5 seed -- were one of three Raiders squads (1980 Raiders and 1983 Raiders) in the tournament. A strong case could be made that the 1976 Raiders -- featuring six Hall of Fame players -- are the best team in franchise history, having finally emerged as champions after years of coming just short of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. The real-life 1976 Raiders had to finally conquer the Pittsburgh Steelers -- two-time defending champions -- to get to the Super Bowl. In NFL.com's Bracketology, the 1976 Raiders went up against all-time great Steelers teams twice, emerging victorious each time. In the first round, the 1976 Raiders topped the 2008 Steelers. Then after beating the 1993 Cowboys in the second round, the 1976 Raiders vanquished the 1978 Steelers in the third round. In the Elite Eight, the 1976 Raiders defeated the "Greatest Show on Turf" -- the Kurt Warner-led 1999 Rams -- before a semifinal showdown with one of the most dominant teams in NFL history, the 1985 Bears. The 1976 Raiders earned 51 percent of the vote against coach Mike Ditka's team to reach the finale against the 2000 Ravens.
The 2000 Ravens' run to the final was unprecedented. A team that failed to score a touchdown in five consecutive games during the franchise's lone championship season but was bolstered by one of the greatest defensive units in league history, Baltimore entered the tournament as a No. 9 seed. After eliminating the 2001 Patriots in the first round, the 2000 Ravens scored the biggest upset of the tournament by beating the top-seeded 1972 Dolphins in the second round. Following victories over the 1991 Redskins, 1998 Broncos and 1984 49ers, the 2000 Ravens were set up for their showdown to decide the "Greatest team of all time" title with the 1976 Raiders.
Among the No. 1 seeds, the 1985 Bears made it the furthest. The 1972 Dolphins fell in that aforementioned second-round upset against the 2000 Ravens. The 1978 Steelers fell in the third round to the 1976 Raiders. And the 1989 49ers lost to the 1984 49ers in the quarterfinals.
While the renegade Raiders of the 1970s fancied themselves as a rebelious outfit that went against convention, the place in football history for this wild bunch was up for debate. Often considered a great team, the 1976 Raiders weren't spoken of in the same vain as some of the NFL's all-time greatest: Coach Vince Lombardi's legendary Packers teams of the 1960s, the 1972 Dolphins, the 1985 Bears, coach Bill Walsh's 49ers of the 1980s, or the Silver and Black's 1970s nemesis, the Steelers of coach Chuck Noll. Now, the villian big and bold has robbed the other teams of their gold, swaggering boisterously as the greatest team ever.
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