The 5 biggest upsets in Super Bowl history

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(Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

NFL legends are born on Super Bowl Sunday.

The Super Bowl remains the largest and grandest stage (by far) in American professional sports. And while the oddsmakers in Las Vegas technically have a full season’s worth of data to consider when establishing the game’s betting lines, it’s still kind of a crap shoot given the pageantry and magnitude of the Super Sunday.

How will players respond to the pressure that comes with playing on Super Bowl Sunday? How will players deal with the added attention of Super Bowl week? How will coaches scheme up their gameplans with two full weeks to prepare?

These questions (and more, obviously) make establishing an accurate Super Bowl betting line extremely difficult.

Most games in recent years have closed with fairly small point spreads. There have been several instances, however, where one team is favored by double-digits entering the game. And given that “anything can happen on Super Bowl Sunday,” it should come as no surprise that several massive upsets have occurred during the big game.

With that being said, here’s a look at the five biggest upsets (against the spread) in Super Bowl history.

Super Bowl XXXII – Denver Broncos vs. Green Bay Packers

  • Spread: Packers (-11.5)
  • Over/Under: 49
  • Final Score: Broncos 31, Packers 24
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There was a point in time where it is seemed as if John Elway would be remembered as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history to never win a Super Bowl.

After losing his first three Super Bowl appearances by an average of 29 points in each game, the Vegas oddsmakers were expecting a similar result from the Elway-led Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII.

The difference in this game was Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis. Despite battling migraines, Davis was outstanding, rushing for 157 yards and three touchdowns en route to winning MVP honors.

This game also provided what many consider to be the most memorable play of Elway’s illustrious career.

Here’s a flashback:

Super Bowl IV – Minnesota Vikings vs. Kansas City Chiefs

  • Spread: Vikings (-12)
  • Over/Under: 39
  • Final Score: Chiefs 23, Vikings 7
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Leading up to Super Bowl IV, the NFL was widely considered to be vastly superior to the AFL (despite what happened in Super Bowl III, which you’ll read about shortly).

In ugly (wet and rainy) conditions, the Chiefs limited the Vikings to only 239 yards of offense and forced five turnovers. Kansas City quarterback Len Dawson was named MVP.

This game also marked a significant milestone in the broadcasting/production world, as Chiefs coach Hank Stram was mic’ed up during the game, becoming the first head coach to wear a microphone during the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XLII – New England Patriots vs. New York Giants

  • Spread: Patriots (-12.5)
  • Over/Under: 54.5
  • Final Score: Giants 17, Patriots 14
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Practically everyone outside of the New York/New Jersey area (Vegas oddsmakers included) expected the Patriots to roll through the Giants in Super Bowl XLII, thus completing a perfect 19-0 season.

Instead, the Giants’ defense suffocated one of the best, most explosive offenses in league history allowing them to win the franchise’ third Super Bowl title (they would also beat the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI four years later).

Side note: This game is widely remembered for David Tyree’s “helmet catch.”

Super Bowl XXXVI – St. Louis Rams vs. New England Patriots

  • Spread: Rams (-14)
  • Over/Under: 53.5
  • Final Score: Patriots 20, Rams 17

This game resulted in the Patriots’ first Super Bowl title and the beginning of the greatest dynasty in NFL history.

The Rams were considered to be one of the greatest teams of all-time by practically everyone around the NFL entering this game. Their offense, nicknamed “The Greatest Show on Turf” (led by Hall of Famers Kurt Warner, Orlando Pace, and Marshall Faulk) set numerous records throughout the regular season, and their defense was quietly great as well.

Thanks to a trio of turnovers and a walk off 48-yard field goal from legendary, future Hall of Fame kicker Adam Vinatieri, the Patriots were able to walk away victorious despite being outgained 427-267 in total offense.

Super Bowl III – New York Jets vs. Baltimore Colts

  • Spread: Colts (-18)
  • Over/Under: 40
  • Final Score: Jets 16, Colts 7

This game will forever be remember because of the “guarantee.”

The biggest upset in Super Bowl history came days after “Broadway” Joe Namath personally guaranteed the Jets would defeat the Colts despite the seemingly overwhelming odds.

The Jets’ Super Bowl III victory remains the only Super Bowl title in franchise history.

Of course, this game is also arguably the main reason Namath remains one of the most iconic figures in NFL history today.

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