Biggest Super Bowl Upsets: Will The Steelers Join This List?
by Robert Ferringo - 1/24/2011
The early odds for Super Bowl XLV are in, and we’ve already had our first Super Bowl upset.
Green Bay has been posted as a slim 2.5-point favorite over Pittsburgh, according to NFL odds. That is a surprise decision by the books, who will most certainly be taking the heaviest action from the rowdy (and numerous) Steelers faithful.
But if Pittsburgh manages to topple Green Bay on Super Bowl Sunday, I don't think that anyone would be that shocked. They've won six championships already and they are looking for their third Lombardi Trophy in six years.
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In the 44 Super Bowls preceding this year's installation, the underdog has walked away with the Lombardi Trophy 15 times. When you consider that half of the games (22) saw the spread equal to or greater than a touchdown at kickoff, that's no small feat.
Also, the dog has pushed or covered the number on 23 occasions.
The favorites are a mere 4-9-2 ATS over the last 15 years, including the current 2-7 stretch. The NFC went on a savage 13-game straight-up winning streak from 1984-1997. But since Denver beat Green Bay in 1998, the AFC is 9-4 SU and 7-5-1 ATS.
The success of the underdogs puts The People in a contradictory position. On the one hand, the general public loves to root for the little guy. No matter how many times they see it, the hackneyed David-slays-Goliath storyline never gets old. It's just one of those things, like Saturday morning cartoons or funneling 40's, that people never tire of.
On the other hand, the general betting public usually plays it safe. The heavy street action usually comes in for the favorite. A loss by the King Fish usually means a tidy profit for a select group of brash bettors, and a windfall by the books.
So an upset makes for drama, and a chalk pick makes for payday - sometimes. And with that in mind, here's a short list of the Most Shocking Upsets in Super Bowl history:
Super Bowl XXV - New York 20, Buffalo 19
Not only was this one of the biggest upsets of all-time, but also one of the best games of all time.
The line on this game was only seven points, the reality was that most people though the Bills would smoke their downstate neighbors with that devastating no-huddle offense.
Well, using the tried-and-true method of pounding the football on the ground and playing punishing defense, they did just that. The defense kept the K-Gun holstered. The offense just kept the ball (for 40 minutes). Oh yeah, there was also the small matter of a 47-yard field goal that sailed wide right.
Super Bowl IV - Kansas City 23, Minnesota 7
With a 28-point swing in the expected and actual outcomes, this is second to only SB III (29) for the largest upset ever.
Even after the Jets subdued the Colts in Super Bowl III, the wise guys still didn't respect teams out of the AFL. The Chiefs were given a robust 12-point cushion against the Purple People Eaters.
However, Kansas City responded by stomping on Minnesota's throat and taking a 16-0 lead into halftime. Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson (12-for-17, 142 yards and a touchdown) shook off allegations that he was consorting with big-time gamblers to post an MVP performance.
Super Bowl XXXII - Denver 31, Green Bay 24
I think this is one of the most underappreciated upsets in pro football history. People seem to forget that the defending-champion Packers were solid 12-point favorites in this game. And rightly so, they were the defending champions and seemed poised to create the Next Dynasty.
What's more, the NFC had won an astounding 13 consecutive championships. And the games weren't close. In the eight games prior to SB XXXII the NFC won by an average of 20 points.
But John Elway, who watched his teams get outscored 158-50 in his first three Super Bowl appearances, was able to exorcise the demons. Well, he had a little help from a guy named Terrell Davis (30 carries, 157 yards, 3 TD's).
Super Bowl XXXVI - New England 20, St. Louis 17
The Greatest Show on Turf had run roughshod over the NFL in 2000-01. The Rams were absolutely blasting people, winning by an average of two touchdowns per game.
New England came in looking like the Bad News Bears. Between the Tuck Rule and a fluky conference championship win, the Patriots seemed like they would be no match for St. Louis.
But like Parcells managed 10 years before, Bill Belichick devised a game plan that kept the Rams offense off the field. St. Louis tied the game with 90 seconds remaining, but Adam Vinatieri's 48-yard field goal capped this stunner.
Super Bowl XLII – New York Giants 17, New England 14
Sorry Broadway Joe, but this may be the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. The New England Patriots were attempting to put a cap on the first completely undefeated NFL season since the 1972 Dolphins. New England had devastated its previous 18 opponents by an average score of 37-17. They had broken just about every conceivable offensive record in the books and many were dubbing this Pats team The Greatest of All Time.
But a funny thing happened on the way to History, and the Giants avenged a close defeat earlier in the year (in a way, that made this game very similar to another momentous upset by the Giants when they beat the Buffalo Bills). Not only was this an amazing upset but it was also an incredible game. The lead changed hands twice in the last three minutes of the game and when the G-Men scored with just 35 seconds left they completed this incredible upset.
Super Bowl III - New York 16, Baltimore 7
What can I say about this game that can't already be said? The Jets started as 18-point underdogs, and watched as the line actually steamed to 20 by kickoff.
Three touchdowns. When adjusted for inflation, that's like a 42-point line. Those are Baylor numbers. But Joe Willie came through, and the rest is history.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his Insider Page here.
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