Has there ever been an NFL franchise that has done more with less than the New England Patriots?

We are in Year 18 of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era, one that has included 15 division titles, eight AFC championships and five Super Bowl titles.

You’re looking at the NFL’s greatest dynasty.

Yes, fans in Pittsburgh (six Super Bowl titles) or Dallas (five) or San Francisco (five) may disagree. Even Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers of the 1960s can be mentioned in conversation. But their windows of greatness were much smaller.

The Steelers were dominant in the 1970s, winning four Super Bowls in six years.

San Francisco was the team of the 1980s, with four Super Bowl titles.

Dallas won three in four years in the 1990s.

Green Bay won five NFL titles, including victories in the first two Super Bowls, during a seven-year span.

The Patriots have had nearly two decades of sustained excellence despite the NFL’s salary cap, which was initiated in 1994 to create greater parity.

They have become must-watch television, even for those who root against them.

The Cowboys, who once promoted themselves as “America’s Team,” had a similar string of conference championship success from 1970-82, appearing in 10 over that stretch. But they only won two Super Bowls during that time.

The NFL has changed dramatically since then, the salary cap keeping teams from putting together superstar rosters. In the 1970s, rosters were built to last for years, not weeks.

What the Patriots have done is astounding. Coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are at the foundation of it all, the constants in the NeverEnding (Success) Story, two first-ballot Hall of Famers whenever they decide to retire.

But who have they been surrounded by? Yes, the Patriots have had outstanding players such as Willie McGinest, Ty Law, Randy Moss, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Vince Wilfork and the like.

Who among them are sure-fire Hall of Famers? Gronkowski, sure. Moss, probably, though he was only on the team for a little more than three years. Wilfork, should be. We’ll find out soon about Law. Adam Vinatieri should as well. But otherwise?

In the 2004 season, the Patriots won their third Super Bowl title (and second straight) despite injuries in the secondary that forced them to start Earthwind Moreland, Randall Gay and Dexter Reid. Tebucky Jones was a starter on the 2001 championship team. Tyrone Poole started in 2003, Kyle Arrington in 2014.

They’ve won Super Bowls with starting offensive linemen Russ Hochstein (released by Tampa Bay), Stephen Neal (a college wrestler signed as an undrafted free agent in 2001), Joe Andruzzi (undrafted free agent out of Southern Connecticut) and Tom Ashworth (released by San Francisco). Last year, the Patriots started an undrafted free agent at center (David Andrews) surrounded by rookies at guard (Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason).

Running backs? Corey Dillon was great for a couple years. But the best running back in the Brady/Belichick era might be Kevin Faulk, when you consider his value in catching passes out of the backfield and returning kicks. The current crew is good, too, though they follow the Patriot Way: Dion Lewis (drafted by Philadelphia, released by Cleveland and Indianapolis), James White (fourth-round pick), fullback James Develin (released by Cincinnati), and Rex Burkhead (signed as a free agent from Cincinnati).

Wide receivers? Moss was the most talented by far. Then there were Troy Brown, Deion Branch, David Givens, Jabar Gaffney, Reche Caldwell and Brandon LaFell, in addition to Welker and Edelman, and now Brandin Cooks.

All those players were blue-collar, hard-working guys, loved forever in New England, but not Hall of Famers.

When you look at previous dynasties, their rosters were filled with Hall of Fame royalty.

n From Green Bay: Lombardi, fullback Jim Taylor, tackle Forrest Gregg, quarterback Bart Starr, linebackers Ray Nitschke, Willie Davis and Dave Robinson, defensive backs Herb Adderley and Willie Wood, center Jim Ringo, running back Paul Hornung and defensive end Henry Jordan.

n From Dallas: Coach Tom Landry, quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman, running backs Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith, wide receiver Michael Irvin, offensive linemen Rayfield Wright and Larry Allen, defensive linemen Bob Lilly and Randy White, and defensive backs Mel Renfro and Deion Sanders.

n From Pittsburgh: Coach Chuck Noll, quarterback Terry Bradshaw, running back Franco Harris, wide receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, center Mike Webster, defensive tackle Joe Greene, linebackers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert, and cornerback Mel Blount.

n From San Francisco: Coach Bill Walsh, quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young, wide receiver Jerry Rice, defensive back Ronnie Lott and defensive end Fred Dean.

You could field a pretty good team there.

What the Patriots have shown over the years is the ability to adapt, to find players who fit into their system, and then get the most out of them in critical moments. The Patriots’ coaching staff, led by Belichick, make sure their players are ready for any situation at any moment. They quiz players routinely in the hallways of Gillette Stadium. If it’s cold and rainy, they practice outside because eventually they’ll play a game in the cold and rain. They pore over hours of game film, looking for the slightest edge over an opponent.

Belichick always has believed a roster is as strong as the weakest player. Many teams may have more stars than the Patriots, but they don’t have the same depth, down to the 53rd player.

The Patriots have won championships with discards from other teams, perhaps none better than linebacker Mike Vrabel, who was recently named head coach of the Tennessee Titans. Let go by Pittsburgh, he became one of New England’s most versatile players, excelling as an edge defender and catching passes as a tight end, including touchdown passes from Brady in two Super Bowls.

Last Sunday, after the Patriots beat Jacksonville to earn a trip to the Super Bowl, Belichick offered his insights on what makes a team: “Everybody pulling their weight, everybody doing their job when your number comes up, stepping out there and doing what’s right for the team, making the plays that the team needs you to make.”

And the Patriots do that better than anyone ever has.

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH