Biggest underdogs in Super Bowl history

Written by:
January 15, 2020
Rick Stewart // Getty Images

Biggest underdogs in Super Bowl history

Some folks partake in betting on the Super Bowl each year, while others prefer instead to take risks with their bodies on multiple-layer dips and wings. But whether it’s point spreads or food spreads, Americans gather for the Big Game, which this season takes place at 6:30 p.m. EST Sunday, Feb. 2, at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Through four hours of what is perennially the most-watched sports event, one thought is inescapable, even for the most casual viewer: Who is supposed to win?

Depending on the sincerity of the question (small talk versus real curiosity), there are always two answers: The first is explaining which team is favored; the second is elaborating by exactly how many points. The latter is most crucial to understanding this forthcoming list of the biggest underdogs in Super Bowl history, because as the point spreads climb higher, so does the improbability of the underdogs. Starting with one-point underdogs (aka +1), we make our way through the six decades and counting of the most beloved championship game, ultimately reaching the massive 18-point apex. 

Bettors typically only care insofar as their point spread is covered—that is, as long as their two-touchdown underdog loses by less than 14, for instance. That doesn’t mean, however, that underdogs don’t often pull off upsets and take the wins outright. Two of these “barking dogs” that come to mind—sorry, New England fans—are the 2008 and 2012 New York Giants, who, in spite of being installed as 2.5-point and 12-point underdogs against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, won both titles.

Using data from Vegas Insider, Stacker curated a gallery of the biggest underdogs in Super Bowl history, ranking them from the lowest to highest point spreads. Which of these famous title games do you remember learning about or hearing through the grapevine, which ones did you live through, and how many did you bet on?

You may also like: History of the NFL from the year you were born

1 / 52
Kidwiler Collection // Getty Images

#51. 1973: Miami Dophins vs. Washington Redskins (tie)

- Underdog: Washington Redskins
- Spread: +1
- Score: Miami Dolphins 14 Washington Redskins 7

Don Shula’s undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins handled the 11-3 Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII, 14-7, in Los Angeles. In a mostly defensive game, Miami safety Jake Scott took home MVP honors with two interceptions.

2 / 52
Andy Hayt // Getty Images

#51. 1982: San Francisco vs. Cincinnati (tie)

- Underdog: Cincinnati
- Spread: +1
- Score: San Francisco 26 Cincinnati 21

Though the Joe Montana-led 49ers held a 20-0 halftime lead, they were outscored by the Bengals, 20-6, in the second half, narrowly escaping with a five-point win. Played at the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit, Super Bowl XVI marked the first championship in Niners history and their first of four in the decade.

3 / 52
Focus On Sport // Getty Images

#47. 1971: Baltimore Colts vs. Dallas Cowboys (tie)

- Underdog: Dallas Cowboys
- Spread: +2.5
- Score: Baltimore Colts 16 Dallas Cowboys 13

Super Bowl V pitted the Colts against the Cowboys in Miami at the Orange Bowl. Baltimore (-2.5) bettors had to sweat the game out when they trailed 13-6 at the half. But with a 10-0 fourth quarter, the Colts squeaked out the three-point win. Ironically, it was Dallas linebacker Chuck Howley who was awarded MVP after his two picks.

4 / 52
Jamie Squire // Getty Images

#47. 2012: N.Y. Giants vs. New England Patriots (tie)

- Underdog: N.Y. Giants
- Spread: +2.5
- Score: N.Y. Giants 21 New England 17

Though the Giants went just 9-7 in the 2011 regular season, they were significantly smaller underdogs (+2.5) in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI than they were four years prior (+12) when they upset the undefeated Patriots. But once again, quarterback Eli Manning outdueled Tom Brady and a 13-win New England side, taking home his second MVP in as many title games.

You may also like: Iconic moments in sports that defined the '70s

5 / 52
Elsa // Getty Images

#47. 2014: Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos (tie)

- Underdog: Seattle Seahawks
- Spread: +2.5
- Score: Seattle 43 Denver 8

As a small underdog, Russell Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks obliterated Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos, 43-8, at MetLife Stadium. The first Super Bowl contested in a cold-weather city was marked by MVP Malcolm Smith’s nine tackles, fumble recovery, and interception-return touchdown.

6 / 52
Scott Cunningham // Getty Images

#47. 2019: New England Patriots vs. L.A. Rams (tie)

- Underdog: L.A. Rams
- Spread: +2.5
- Score: New England Patriots 13 L.A. Rams 3

The lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history ended undramatically with the Patriots stifling the Rams in Atlanta and hanging on to a late one-touchdown lead that was buoyed by a field goal in the final minutes. Wideout Julian Edelman was named MVP after exploding for 141 yards on 10 catches.

7 / 52
Sylvia Allen // Getty Images

#39. 1975: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Minnesota Vikings (tie)

- Underdog: Minnesota Vikings
- Spread: +3
- Score: Pittsburgh Steelers 16 Minnesota Vikings 6

Super Bowl IX in New Orleans matched Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” with Minnesota’s “Purple People Eaters,” as well as two QB greats in Terry Bradshaw and Frank Tarkenton. Ultimately defense ruled the day, as the teams combined for 22 points. The Steelers won by 10 behind MVP Franco Harris’ 158 yards and one score.

8 / 52
Sylvia Allen // Getty Images

#39. 1981: Oakland Raiders vs. Philadelphia Eagles (tie)

- Underdog: Oakland Raiders
- Spread: +3
- Score: Oakland Raiders 27 Philadelphia Eagles 10

The Raiders won outright as three-point underdogs in Super Bowl XV behind quarterback Jim Plunkett’s MVP performance (13-of-21, 261 yards, 3 TD). Oakland became the first wild-card team to win the title.

9 / 52
Allsport // Getty Images

#39. 1983: Washington Redskins vs. Miami Dolphins (tie)

- Underdog: Washington Redskins
- Spread: +3
- Score: Washington Redskins 27 Miami Dolphins 17

Played in the Rose Bowl, Super Bowl XVII saw the Redskins beat the Dolphins in a minor upset. Running back John Riggins set two Super Bowl records en route to the MVP award: rushing attempts (38) and yards (166). Washington trailed 17-10 at the half, only to pound Miami 17-0 over the final two quarters.

You may also like: 25 athletes who came out of retirement

10 / 52
Allsport // Getty Images

#39. 1984: L.A. Raiders vs. Washington Redskins (tie)

- Underdog: L.A. Raiders
- Spread: +3
- Score: L.A. Raiders 38 Washington Redskins 9

The following year from Tampa, the L.A. Raiders routed Washington as a three-point dog, 38-9. They led by seven after the first quarter, 18 at the half, 26 after three, and tacked on a field goal in a 3-0 fourth quarter. Hall of Famer Marcus Allen steamrolled Washington for 191 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

11 / 52
George Rose // Getty Images

#39. 1988: Washington Redskins vs. Denver Broncos (tie)

- Underdog: Washington
- Spread: +3
- Score: Washington 42 Denver 10

Denver’s 10-0 lead after one pleased backers of the three-point favorites—but it obviously was not an indicator of the rest of the game, in which Washington scored 42 unanswered, including 35 in the second quarter. MVP Doug Williams went 18-of-29 for a whopping 340 yards and four touchdowns, all four in the second frame. Williams was the first African American starting QB to win the title.

12 / 52
Andy Lyons // Getty Images

#39. 2001: Baltimore Ravens vs. N.Y. Giants (tie)

- Underdog: N.Y. Giants
- Spread: +3
- Score: Baltimore Ravens 34 N.Y. Giants 7

The Ravens easily covered as three-point favorites when they crushed the Giants, 34-7, in Tampa. Legendary linebacker Ray Lewis stole the show with five combined tackles and four passes defended. His vaunted defense prevented New York from a single offensive touchdown.

13 / 52
Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images

#39. 2011: Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (tie)

- Underdog: Pittsburgh Steelers
- Spread: +3
- Score: Green Bay Packers 31 Pittsburgh Steelers 25

Ben Roethlisberger’s slight underdog Steelers took on Aaron Rodgers’ Packers in Arlington but never fully overcame an 11-point halftime deficit. Green Bay scored 10 in the fourth and salt away the eventual six-point victory. Rodgers, the MVP, tossed three touchdowns and racked up 304 yards.

14 / 52
TIMOTHY A. CLARY // Getty Images

#39. 2017: Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots (tie)

- Underdog: Atlanta Falcons
- Spread: +3
- Score: New England Patriots 34 Atlanta Falcons 28 (OT)

Known as the “28-3” Super Bowl, the three-point underdog Falcons infamously blew their 25-point advantage to Tom Brady’s Patriots. Super Bowl LI from Houston was capped by James White’s two-yard overtime score, and New England lifted its fifth Lombardi Trophy. Brady completed an astonishing 43 passes for 466 yards in the comeback.

You may also like: Major sports headlines from the year you were born

15 / 52
Focus On Sport // Getty Images

#37. 1979: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys (tie)

- Underdog: Dallas Cowboys
- Spread: +3.5
- Score: Pittsburgh Steelers 35 Dallas Cowboys 31

MVP Terry Bradshaw led the Steelers to a four-point victory as 3.5-point favorites over the Cowboys. In a shootout from the first 15 minutes, the Pittsburgh signal-caller threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns.

16 / 52
Tony Duffy // Getty Images

#37. 1985: San Francisco 49ers vs. Miami Dolphins (tie)

- Underdog: Miami Dolphins
- Spread: +3.5
- Score: San Francisco 49ers 38 Miami Dolphins 16

In an epic battle of head coaches (Bill Walsh and Don Shula) and quarterbacks (Joe Montana and Dan Marino), the 49ers blew out the Dolphins by 22. Montana passed for 331 yards and three touchdowns, as San Francisco completed its one-loss season with a championship.

17 / 52
Focus On Sport // Getty Images

#33. 1977: Oakland Raiders vs. Minnesota Vikings (tie)

- Underdog: Minnesota Vikings
- Spread: +4
- Score: Oakland Raiders 34 Minnesota Vikings 14

A pair of powerhouses met up in the Rose Bowl for Super Bowl XI, though the Raiders dominated the Vikings in a 20-point victory for the franchise’s first title. Wideout Fred Biletnikoff caught four of seven targets for 79 yards, including one for 48. Vikings QB Fran Tarkenton’s 205 yards and one passing touchdown were not nearly enough to keep pace.

18 / 52
Donald Miralle // Getty Images

#33. 2003: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Oakland Raiders (tie)

- Underdog: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Spread: +4
- Score: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48 Oakland Raiders 21

In his first season at the helm of the Buccaneers, head coach Jon Gruden crushed his former team by 27 points to take Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego. Raiders QB Rich Gannon threw five picks, two of which were hauled in by MVP safety Dexter Jackson. Tampa wideout Keyshawn Johnson caught six passes for 69 yards while Michael Pittman rushed 29 times for 124 yards.

19 / 52
Jonathan Ferrey // Getty Images

#33. 2006: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks (tie)

- Underdog: Seattle Seahawks
- Spread: +4
- Score: Pittsburgh Steelers 21 Seattle Seahawks 10

Played at Ford Field in Detroit, Super Bowl XL matched up the #1 NFC seed Seahawks with the AFC #6 Steelers. After trailing 3-0 after the first quarter, Pittsburgh held Seattle to seven points the rest of the way, beating the four-point favorites by 11. Hines Ward was awarded MVP honors after totaling 123 yards and a score on just five receptions.

You may also like: Biggest comeback wins in golf major history

20 / 52
Patrick Smith // Getty Images

#33. 2018: Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots (tie)

- Underdog: Philadelphia Eagles
- Spread: +4
- Score: Philadelphia Eagles 41 New England Patriots 33

Philadelphia made an improbable postseason run behind backup QB Nick Foles, ultimately defeating the defending champion Patriots for the Eagles’ first Super Bowl title. Though New England’s 25-point comeback from the prior year made them seem invincible—and despite 503 yards from Tom Brady—Philly won by 12 as a four-point dog behind MVP Foles’ 373 yards, three passing touchdowns, and one famous “Philly Special” trick play receiving score.

21 / 52
Ezra Shaw // Getty Images

#32. 2013: San Francisco 49ers vs. Baltimore Ravens

- Underdog: Baltimore Ravens
- Spread: +4.5
- Score: Baltimore Ravens 34 San Francisco 49ers 31

A blackout at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans suspended play for over half an hour during the third quarter. But Baltimore, who led by 22 at the time, hung on to a three-point win despite San Francisco’s comeback attempt. QB Joe Flacco outdueled Colin Kaepernick, taking home MVP behind 287 yards and three touchdowns.

22 / 52
Larry French // Getty Images

#30. 2010: New Orleans Saints vs. Indianapolis Colts (tie)

- Underdog: New Orleans Saints
- Spread: +5
- Score: New Orleans Saints 31 Indianapolis Colts 17

In a Super Bowl known for a surprise second-half onside kick, New Orleans beat Indianapolis as a five-point dog. The Saints recovered their kick after trailing 10-6, and went on a 25-7 run to end the game and clinch the franchise’s first Super Bowl. MVP Drew Brees tossed two touchdowns and compiled 288 yards.

23 / 52
Kevin C. Cox // Getty Images

#30. 2016: Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos (tie)

- Underdog: Denver
- Spread: +5
- Score: Denver 24 Carolina 10

Super Bowl 50 from Santa Clara pitted the 15-1 Cam Newton-led Panthers against Peyton Manning’s 12-4 Broncos. Despite being installed as five-point favorites, Carolina trailed the entire game and never closed a gap that ballooned to 14 with three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. In a surprise for his position—not his stat line—linebacker Von Miller won MVP. The Denver pass-rusher racked up five sacks of Newton and forced two turnovers, one of which was returned to the end zone by teammate Malik Jackson.

24 / 52
Walter Iooss Jr. // Getty Images

#28. 1972: Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins (tie)

- Underdog: Miami Dolphins
- Spread: +6
- Score: Dallas Cowboys 24 Miami Dolphins 3

Dallas legend Roger Staubach’s MVP performance included two touchdown passes as his Cowboys rolled over the 10-win Dolphins, 24-3. Super Bowl VI was the only title game in which the winner held its opponent without a touchdown until the Patriots pulled it off in 2019.

You may also like: Golfers Who Lost Major Money On A Final Stroke

25 / 52
Focus On Sport // Getty Images

#28. 1978: Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos (tie)

- Underdog: Denver Broncos
- Spread: +6
- Score: Dallas Cowboys 27 Denver Broncos 10

Dallas once again easily covered the six-point spread with a 27-10 victory over Denver. Staubach got the win, but it was two defensive linemen that shared MVP honors for stifling the Broncos: defensive tackle Randy White and end Harvey Martin.

26 / 52
Focus On Sport // Getty Images

#26. 1974: Miami Dolphins vs. Minnesota Vikings (tie)

- Underdog: Minnesota Vikings
- Spread: +6.5
- Score: Miami Dolphins 24 Minnesota Vikings 7

Minnesota bettors needed the Vikings to win by at least one touchdown, a feat made easier by limiting the Dolphins to just one of their own in a 24-7 beatdown. The wire-to-wire win capped off yet another great campaign for Don Shula and his second ring cemented his Hall of Fame legacy. Larry Csonka was the game’s MVP with 145 rush yards.

27 / 52
Rick Stewart // Getty Images

#26. 1993: Dallas Cowboys vs. Buffalo Bills (tie)

- Underdog: Buffalo Bills
- Spread: +6.5
- Score: Dallas Cowboys 52 Buffalo Bills 17

Super Bowl XXVII was a great day to back 6.5-point favorite Dallas when they obliterated the 11-win Bills, 52-17. The loss was Buffalo’s third consecutive loss in the Super Bowl, and the following year they notoriously made it four. Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith rushed 22 times for 108 yards and a score, while MVP Troy Aikman threw for four touchdowns and 273 yards.

28 / 52
Heinz Kluetmeier // Getty Images

#17. 1976: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys (tie)

- Underdog: Dallas Cowboys
- Spread: +7
- Score: Pittsburgh 21 Dallas 17

Seven-point favorite Pittsburgh briefly was covering the spread at 21-10 at the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter. But the Cowboys backdoored Steelers bettors when they cut it to 21-17 inside two minutes to lose by just four. Lynn Swann recorded a staggering 161 yards on only four catches, including a famous 64-yard beauty from Terry Bradshaw that sealed the game.

29 / 52
Rick Stewart // Getty Images

#17. 1989: San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals (tie)

- Underdog: Cincinnati Bengals
- Spread: +7
- Score: San Francisco 49ers 20 Cincinnati Bengals 16

Cincinnati covered the seven-point spread, but San Francisco won Super Bowl XXIII behind Joe Montana’s 357 yards and two touchdowns and MVP Jerry Rice’s whopping 215 yards on 11 catches. The win was the Niners’ third title in a string of four during the 1980s.

You may also like: 30 famous athletes who received lifetime bans

30 / 52
George Rose // Getty Images

#17. 1991: N.Y. Giants vs. Buffalo Bills (tie)

- Underdog: N.Y. Giants
- Spread: +7
- Score: N.Y. Giants 20 Buffalo Bills 19

The “wide right” game lives on for fans of both franchises, as the Giants won their second Super Bowl and the Bills lost their first of four consecutive championship games in the most painful fashion. Scott Norwood attempted a game-winning 47-yard field goal, but the ball drifted right, and the Giants celebrated. MVP Ottis Anderson rushed 21 times for 102 yards and a score.

31 / 52
Rick Stewart // Getty Images

#17. 1992: Washington Redskins vs. Buffalo Bills (tie)

- Underdog: Buffalo Bills
- Spread: +7
- Score: Washington Redskins 37 Buffalo Bills 24

Buffalo obviously lost the following year, but they also failed to cover the seven-point spread, losing by 13 to Mark Rypien’s Redskins. Washington led 17-0 at halftime and never looked back. Rypien’s 292 yards and two scores sealed the MVP decision.

32 / 52
DON EMMERT // Getty Images

#17. 2000: St. Louis Rams vs. Tennessee Titans (tie)

- Underdog: Tennessee Titans
- Spread: +7
- Score: St. Louis Rams 23 Tennessee Titans 16

The “One Yard Short” game resulted in a push for the seven-point spread, when Titans receiver Kevin Dyson was tackled just short of the end zone to end Super Bowl XXXIV. One of the best Super Bowls and finishes in NFL history saw the rightful #1 seed Rams victorious due in large part to MVP Kurt Warner’s mind-boggling 414 yards and two touchdowns.

33 / 52
Andy Lyons // Getty Images

#17. 2004: New England Patriots vs. Carolina Panthers (tie)

- Underdog: Carolina Panthers
- Spread: +7
- Score: New England Patriots 32 Carolina Panthers 29

In their second title game appearance in three years, the Patriots were favored by seven in Super Bowl XXXVIII over the Panthers. After establishing a 14-10 lead at the midway point, New England put up 18 fourth-quarter points highlighted by a famous game-winning Adam Vinatieri field goal. Tom Brady took home his second MVP trophy, and the win began to cement the idea of an imminent Patriots dynasty.

34 / 52
Brian Bahr // Getty Images

#17. 2005: New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles (tie)

- Underdog: Philadelphia Eagles
- Spread: +7
- Score: New England Patriots 24 Philadelphia Eagles 21

Speaking of a Patriots dynasty, New England won the Super Bowl for a consecutive year, this time over Philadelphia, but still with common denominators: The Pats were favored by seven but won by just three, and Vinatieiri hit a late field goal to put them up 10, essentially clinching the title. Deion Branch recorded 133 yards on 11 receptions to win MVP.

You may also like: Biggest blowout wins in golf major history

35 / 52
ROBERTO SCHMIDT // Getty Images

#17. 2007: Indianapolis Colts vs. Chicago Bears (tie)

- Underdog: Chicago Bears
- Spread: +7
- Score: Indianapolis Colts 29 Chicago Bears 17

Peyton Manning’s Colts won and covered the spread in a 29-17 victory over the Bears in Miami. Despite an eight-point deficit after the first quarter, Indianapolis closed the game out 23-3, picking off Bears QB Rex Grossman twice and riding performances from Manning (247 yards, 1 TD) and running back Dominic Rhodes (113 yards, 1 TD).

36 / 52
Al Bello // Getty Images

#17. 2009: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals (tie)

- Underdog: Arizona Cardinals
- Spread: +7
- Score: Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Arizona Cardinals 23

Santonio Holmes became the third Steeler wide receiver, and sixth wideout ever, to win Super Bowl MVP when he hauled in nine catches for 131 yards and a score. Kurt Warner’s 344 yards and three pass touchdowns were not enough to overcome Pittsburgh’s 27 points. The game is remembered for Holmes’ iconic game-winning catch in the back corner of the end zone with 35 seconds remaining.

37 / 52
Al Bello // Getty Images

#16. 1999: Denver Broncos vs. Atlanta Falcons

- Underdog: Atlanta Falcons
- Spread: +7.5
- Score: Denver Broncos 34 Atlanta Falcons 19

MVP John Elway—today the general manager of the Broncos—threw for 336 yards and one touchdown en route to taking down the Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII in Miami. The Broncos trailed by three early but led the remainder of the contest, including as many as 25 after Elway’s three-yard rushing score at the 11:20 mark of the fourth quarter.

38 / 52
Rick Stewart // Getty Images

#15. 1987: N.Y. Giants vs. Denver Broncos

- Underdog: Denver
- Spread: +9.5
- Score: N.Y. Giants 39 Denver 20

The Giants won their first title since 1956 and their first Super Bowl in dominant fashion over the Broncos. Quarterback Phill Simms was stellar, going 22-of-25 for 268 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. The two-time Pro Bowler was an obvious choice for MVP, and the Giants easily covered the 9.5-point spread after a 30-10 second-half outburst.

39 / 52
Mike Powell // Getty Images

#14. 1986: Chicago Bears vs. New England Patriots

- Underdog: New England Patriots
- Spread: +10
- Score: Chicago Bears 46 New England Patriots 10

The 10-point cover was never in doubt for Chicago backers who had a laugh during Super Bowl XX from New Orleans. After the Patriots led 3-0 early, the Bears steamrolled them 46-7. Accounting for Chicago’s five touchdowns were two rushing scores from QB Jim McMahon, one from Matt Suhey, one from defensive lineman William “The Refrigerator” Perry when he was brought in on offense at the 1-yard line, and one interception return TD from Reggie Phillips. But it was defensive end Richard Dent who was awarded MVP after 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

You may also like: Most Lethal NBA Duos Of All Time

40 / 52
Robert Riger // Getty Images

#12. 1980: Pittsburgh Steelers vs. L.A. Rams (tie)

- Underdog: L.A. Rams
- Spread: +10.5
- Score: Pittsburgh Steelers 31 L.A. Rams 19

Rams bettors lost their wagers by just 1.5 points when 10.5-point dog L.A.—in spite of a 19-17 advantage at the start of the fourth quarter—allowed 14 unanswered points resulting in a 12-point loss. Terry Bradshaw took home his second Super Bowl MVP after 309 yards and three touchdowns. He found familiar friend Lynn Swann for one of those, but it was his 73-yard strike to John Stallworth with 12 minutes remaining that put Pittsburgh up 24-19 to effectively clinch the win.

41 / 52
George Rose // Getty Images

#12. 1994: Dallas Cowboys vs. Buffalo Bills (tie)

- Underdog: Buffalo Bills
- Spread: +10.5
- Score: Dallas Cowboys 30 Buffalo Bills 13

Under the tutelage of head coach Jimmy Johnson, Dallas crushed Buffalo in Super Bowl XXXVIII—the Bills’ fourth consecutive championship appearance and demise. The 17-point victory covered the 10.5 points set by Vegas, and Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith was unstoppable that night, going off for 132 yards and two touchdowns on 30 attempts.

42 / 52
DON EMMERT // Getty Images

#11. 1998: Denver Broncos vs. Green Bay Packers

- Underdog: Denver Broncos
- Spread: +11
- Score: Denver Broncos 31 Green Bay Packers 24

In a rare upset, Denver not only covered as an 11-point betting underdog, but won the game outright by seven over the defending champion Packers. Brett Favre threw three touchdowns, but Denver kept pace via the ground, as Terrell Davis rushed for three of his own and 157 yards. His third came with 1:45 left in a tie game to lock up the MVP and Denver’s first Super Bowl title.

43 / 52
Neil Leifer // Getty Images

#8. 1970: Kansas City Chiefs vs. Minnesota Vikings (tie)

- Underdog: Kansas City Chiefs
- Spread: +12
- Score: Kansas City Chiefs 23 Minnesota Vikings 7

Kansas City shocked Minnesota in Super Bowl IV, upsetting the two-loss Vikings as a 12-point underdog. The Chiefs forced five turnovers, completely shut down the Vikings offense, and leaned on quarterback Len Dawson (142 yards, 1 TD) and receiver Otis Taylor (6 rec, 81 yards, 1 TD) for the win.

44 / 52
Rick Stewart // Getty Images

#8. 1990: San Francisco 49ers vs. Denver Broncos (tie)

- Underdog: Denver Broncos
- Spread: +12
- Score: San Francisco 49ers 55 Denver Broncos 10

Joe Montana’s 49ers were covering the 12 points by halftime, leading 27-3, and they cruised to an eventual 45-point victory over the Broncos. Montana went 22-of-29 for 297 yards and five touchdowns (three to Jerry Rice), as the QB won his third Super Bowl MVP and fourth title.

You may also like: Iconic sports moments that defined the '60s

45 / 52
Donald Miralle // Getty Images

#8. 2008: N.Y. Giants vs. New England Patriots (tie)

- Underdog: N.Y. Giants
- Spread: +12
- Score: N.Y. Giants 17 New England 14

Still the greatest upset in 21st-century sports, the “helmet catch” game saw the unlikely six-loss Giants meet the undefeated Patriots in Phoenix for Super Bowl XLII. New York hung in a low-scoring game, never trailing by more than four. Eli Manning got the ball down 14-10 inside three minutes, and after escaping a sack on third down, launched a prayer that David Tyree hauled in and pinned against his helmet. A few plays later, Manning threw the game-winning touchdown to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left.

46 / 52
Bettmann // Getty Images

#6. 1968: Green Bay Packers vs. Oakland Raiders (tie)

- Underdog: Oakland Raiders
- Spread: +13.5
- Score: Green Bay Packers 33 Oakland Raiders 14

Vince Lombardi led his Packers into Super Bowl II looking for back-to-back titles. Green Bay easily met expectations when they crushed Oakland, 33-14, covering the 13.5-point spread and earning Bart Starr his second consecutive MVP trophy.

47 / 52
Rick Stewart // Getty Images

#6. 1996: Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (tie)

- Underdog: Pittsburgh Steelers
- Spread: +13.5
- Score: Dallas Cowboys 27 Pittsburgh Steelers 17

Their third Super Bowl title in the 1990s, Dallas failed to cover the 13.5 points but still took down Pittsburgh by double digits. Cornerback Larry Brown was the surprise MVP—the first at his position to win—after two picks set up two Emmitt Smith touchdowns.

48 / 52
Focus On Sport // Getty Images

#3. 1967: Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs (tie)

- Underdog: Kansas City Chiefs
- Spread: +14
- Score: Green Bay Packers 35 Kansas City Chiefs 10

The first Super Bowl matched up the NFL’s 12-2 Packers with the AFL’s 11-2-1 Chiefs in Los Angeles. Any questions about the NFL’s superiority over the AFL were handily answered after Lombardi’s squad put the beatdown on K.C. by 25 points. QB Starr was the first Super Bowl MVP.

49 / 52
Al Bello // Getty Images

#3. 1997: Green Bay Packers vs. New England Patriots (tie)

- Underdog: New England Patriots
- Spread: +14
- Score: Green Bay Packers 35 New England Patriots 21

Green Bay prevailed in a shootout over New England in Super Bowl XXXI. Ironically a special teams player earned MVP honors despite 56 combined points. Desmond Howard inconceivably totaled 244 kick return yards—154 on kickoffs, one of which was a 99-yard touchdown, and 90 punt return yards.

You may also like: Stories behind every NFL team name

50 / 52
Ezra Shaw // Getty Images

#3. 2002: New England Patriots vs. St. Louis Rams (tie)

- Underdog: New England
- Spread: +14
- Score: New England 20 St. Louis 17

Super Bowl XXXVI was New England’s first championship as a franchise and the start of the Brady-Belichick dynasty. Adam Vinatieri (who else?) converted a game-winning 48-yard field goal as the clock hit zeroes, and Brady won his first MVP behind a pedestrian 145 yards and one touchdown. Holding Kurt Warner’s high-flying Rams—The Greatest Show on Turf—to 17 points was just as shocking as the Pats’ outright victory as two-touchdown underdogs.

51 / 52
Herb Scharfman // Sports Imagery via Getty Images

#2. 1969: N.Y. Jets vs. Baltimore Ravens

- Underdog: N.Y. Jets
- Spread: +18
- Score: N.Y. Jets 16 Baltimore Ravens 7

Super Bowl III is perhaps best remembered for Jets quarterback Joe Namath’s guarantee of victory over the 13-1 Colts. Whether or not the eventual MVP knew the Jets were a massive 18-point underdog is questionable, but Broadway Joe completed 17 of his 28 pass attempts for 206 yards to topple Johnny Unitas and Baltimore in wire-to-wire fashion.

52 / 52
JEFF HAYNES // Getty Images

#1. 1995: San Francisco 49ers vs. San Diego Chargers

- Underdog: San Diego Chargers
- Spread: +18.5
- Score: San Francisco 4934s 49 San Diego Chargers 26

The biggest underdog in Super Bowl history, the San Diego Chargers (+18.5) were much less successful than the Jets three decades prior. But there was a difference when you faced Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and the Niners in the ‘90s. San Diego trailed by seven after the first quarter, 18 at the half, 24 after three, and by as many as 31 during the fourth. Young compiled 325 pass yards and six touchdowns, half of them to Rice, as the lefty signal-called earned game MVP honors.

You may also like: Iconic jerseys of the MLB then and now

Trending Now