The thing with these is one we need to all (myself included) remember that the requirements for being a strong team are different each season.
Things like remembering when judging seasons 1-4 that teams with great placement averages had to deal with the possibility of another team getting in first not to superior racing but due to their being a fast forward available in all but the final leg. One could certainly argue that that really handicaps teams from season 1-4. Then you have the fact that seasons 1-5 allowed one racer to do (though not all teams did some very much split their tasks and responsibilities during the race) which makes it difficult to compare seasons 6-16 to earlier races. Then you have seasons 13 and up that for the most part have removed what was one of the biggest factors of the race and that is the ability to drive and navigate long distance through various countries. Then you have things like the Yield or U-Turn where you can deliberately impede the progress of your fellow racers (something seasons 1-4 didn't have). Then you have your competitors, and let me say that no season has across the board strong racers, each has usually have 4 - 5 teams that simple suck. And I think its actually gotten worse. Look at seasons 13-15. Those seasons have the most penalties, teams that get eliminated through their own carelessness, and choices that just boggle the mind.
David Junior on some of your points.
If season 5 had to require the women to do half the tasks, I think it would have ended close to the same. Christie seemed the most driven of the women (in couples), their were no strong male teams at all (so no worries about that), in fact I think it a lot about that seasons that teams like Kami & Karli (who over all just sucked as racers), Charla & Mirna (who managed some flights well, but also had huge problems), and Linda and Karen (who had drive god bless them, but my god they weren't good racers) lasted so late in the race.
Nick & Starr didn't face strong competition from many teams. This was a season that is often considered the idiots seasons. Toni & Dallas (I loved them) killed themselves, Ken & Tina (a good team), Terence & Sarah (Sorry but they weren't that good, probably due to their inability to work well together), Then you had the idiot Frats (one of the most incompetent teams the race has ever had).
Then you had Meghan & Cheyne and lets face it, we have a season were three teams literally take themselves out of the race (Mika & Canaan, Zev & Justin, The Globetrotters), another team taken out due to the inability to perform either RB (and one of them shouldn't have been that hard), a father/son team that was never that competitive. That leaves you with Sam & Dan (who were good, but erratic and their ability to work together under pressure was a huge flaw), and Brian & Ericka who truly only made it due to two other teams self destructing (similar to what happen in getting the Frats in the final three of season 13).
although you are very right in the fact that in both Seasons 13 and 15, a majority of the teams ENDED with egg on their faces.
the fact that they had better all around races is what I'm looking at.
Season 13: Yes, 3/6 of the F6 teams can easily be considered blundering idiots, but they still raced pretty darn well.
Kelly and Christie - although they were one of the worst teams of all time in reading clues, they were strong, passionate, and in certain cases smart. They were only eliminated because Kenny/Tina decided to help the weaker Frat Boy team first. (which is a very good race strategy)>
Terence and Sarah - had some communication issues throughout the race, but also had all top 4 finishes (only 1 was 4th), until they went for the FF and landed 5th, which unfortunately for them was last and elimination.
Toni and Dallas - the only mistake Toni ever made was letting Dallas do that last Roadblock, and his mistake was being careless and leaving his fanny pack behind. They were the only other team outside of Ken/Tina to beat Nick/Starr for a 1st place finish that season, as well.
Andrew and Dan - took the term bumbling idiots to a new level. But, they did make a steady, consistent climb up the rankings. And they flourished in their "under the radar", "back of the pack" positioning. Although they got some amazing luck in the last half of the race, you definitely need some competitive drive to start off near last every leg and still survive to the end.
Ken and Tina - Perceived as the biggest competition for Nick and Starr. And it definitely showed in their general finishing order.
Yes, the F6 teams basically gave Nick and Starr a free pass to the finish line, but not before giving them some decent competition before tripping all over themselves.
Zev and Justin - had it not been for the Passport blunder, they would've easily have made the F3, and probably would've given Meghan/Cheyne a run for their money.
Maria and Tiffany - an extremely lucky team, who I will proclaim to this day, did not deserve to make it past the first leg. And I felt they went out in proper fashion.
Gary and Matt - although not the most driven and competitive team, they still were able to keep up with the "big boys" almost all the way to the end, and had they been a bit better with directions (and candelabras
), team "lucky" wouldn't have been so lucky. And they were pretty decent competition through the first 2/3 of the race.
Flight Time and Big Easy - although I will be one of the first to admit that Big Easy is one of, if not the, biggest idiot in race history for quitting that simple Roadblock. But, up until that point, they were BY FAR M/C's biggest competition.
Brian and Ericka - they were very very very lucky throughout the race. Not the strongest, not the fastest, not the brightest, but they had the grit and determination to keep plugging away each leg. And they always seemed to pull it out in the end. And, they probably would've won had it not been for the untimely judging blunder. Guess their luck ran out right at the end.
Sam and Dan - Bicker, bicker, whine, whine! That's all they ever did. But, they were super competitive, strong, quick, and not too dull. They also, were sneaky and shifty when they needed to be, which is something I feel a good team should have. Though I HATED them on their season, you can't deny that they were a good team. (look how many "bickering" couples made it really far in other seasons)
Meghan and Cheyne - although they basically dominated their season, they still had to face some stiff competition throughout, they were just fortunate that, like Nick/Starr, their strongest competition unraveled near the end of the race.
Charla and Mirna - as you have said many a time, the only thing that they were good at was finding flights. Honestly, if it wasn't for that fact, they probably wouldn't nearly as far as they did. And on top of that, they went out because of a mistake they made on the thing they were supposedly so good at.
Kami and Karli - if you looked for "dumb blond" in the dictionary, a picture of them would show up. The only thing that propelled them so far was their fitness and speed.
Linda and Karen - though they had the drive and the spirit, they weren't really that good of a team. They were spared 7th due to Marshall/Lance injury. And continued on mainly due to C/M flight problems, and Kami and Karli kicking the suck up a couple notches.
Brandon and Nicole - never really seemed like a factor throughout the race. They were sorta just there. And I feel this team would've been out earlier had Nicole actually done something.
Chip and Kim - Another team that didn't stand out too much for me, outside of (from what I remember) the show basically trying to cram them down our throats. And again, had Kim actually done more than 1 Roadblock, they might not have fared AS well as they did.
Then you had 2 overweight brothers in 7th, a really old dating couple in 8th, another old guy and his daughter in 9th, and then two teams that- at least on paper- should've survived at least the first 3 to 5 legs coming in 10th and 11th respectively.
Colin and Christie basically had this race in the bag from Day 1, at least until their car blew a flat on the last leg.... (terrible luck if you ask me)
for me at least, M/C and N/S had to work throughout their season to make it to the end (which they did with ease), and win. They were just fortunate in that some of their biggest competition kept shooting themselves in the foot along the way.
all Colin and Christie had to do was wait at the top whilst all the sucky teams fell off the pace, to cruise into the finals and win the million. and they couldn't even pull that off.
Colin and Christie - strong? No doubt about it. The strongest team on the race ever? I doubt it.
Nick and Starr - strongest team ever? eh, i felt there were stronger teams than them, but probably would've done just as well in S5
Meghan and Cheyne - I don't think they fit the label as strongest team ever either. But, they too would've dominated in S5 as well
believe me, I don't think S13 and S15 were even close to the most competitive season ever, by any stretch of the imagination. But, S5 doesn't pop up in my mind as a race that was full of competition and super strong teams either.