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The Best Underdogs in the History of the NFL

The Best Underdogs in the History of the NFL
The Best Underdogs in the History of the NFL

The National Football League has a long history of producing remarkable results in the playoffs. Teams that are fancied going into the postseason are the ones who get knocked out in the first or second round, while an underdog goes on to the Super Bowl.

When you assess NFL betting odds ahead of each year’s playoffs and then compare them to the teams that made the Super Bowl that year, there are often many discrepancies. There are only rare instances where the top two fancied teams are the ones who play each other for the trophy.

Despite the NFL being prone to having such underdog stories, it does not mean they become normal or common. Some remarkable results still stand out over time, as they showcased a team punching above its weight and beating a clear favorite.

Below are the top five underdog shocks in NFL playoff history.

1. Chargers Beating the Colts in 2008

When the Chargers took on the Indianapolis Colts in 2008, the Colts were led by Peyton Manning in his prime. Manning was seen as the best player in the NFL at the time, while his team had a 12-4 record in the AFC before the playoffs.

Interestingly, the Chargers had gone into that game 8-8 in the regular season, but they won the AFC West, which meant they played at home. The Chargers took advantage of that home-field advantage, winning a remarkable playoff game by scoring 23-17 in overtime.

Manning could not believe that he had been knocked out of the playoffs at an early stage again in his career, while the Chargers were in true dreamland at the time.

The Best Underdogs in the History of the NFL
The Best Underdogs in the History of the NFL

2. Jaguars Over the Steelers in 2017

Another incredible result came in the NFL playoffs in the 2017 season when the Jacksonville Jaguars defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers. Going into the game, the Steelers were heavy favorites to win the clash and go deep into the playoffs.

The Jaguars, however, had other ideas about this matchup. They were taking on a team that had gone 13-3 in the regular season, but they did not let that phase them. Instead, they put up one of the best offensive performances you will see in the playoffs.

A remarkable game finished 45-42 to the Jaguars, who played Blake Bortles at quarterback throughout the game. Given Bortles’ struggles in the NFL, it was a very big surprise, even though Leonard Fournette did run for three touchdowns for his team.

3. Vikings Beating the 49ers in 1987

We have to go way back for the next iteration in this series, with the Vikings beating the 49ers in an intense playoff game in the 1987 season. The 49ers had a star-studded team with the likes of Jerry Rice, while they also managed a 13-2 record going into the game. 

However, Minnesota was the team who played lights out in this Divisional Round clash. The 49ers were not up to speed for the playoffs, as they may have coasted in their final one or two regular season games. They were undone by a team that was hungry and building momentum.

The 49ers were losing 20-3 at halftime, which led to them benching legendary quarterback Joe Montana. That did not help them much, as they lost the game 36-24 in the end.

The Best Underdogs in the History of the NFL
The Best Underdogs in the History of the NFL

4. Broncos Beating the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII

When the Denver Broncos bested the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII, no one could believe what they had witnessed. The Packers were heavy favorites going into the game, as they were the team that everyone was betting to claim both the MVP and Super Bowl trophy.

Unfortunately for Green Bay, John Elway played a good game for the Broncos, helping them win the Super Bowl, which was his first. Remarkably, the Broncos won this game despite star player Terrell Davis being unable to play, as he had a migraine in the contest’s first half.

5. Giants Beating the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII

Another incredible Super Bowl that saw an underdog in the New York Giants, beat the heavily favored New England Patriots. With Tom Brady at quarterback and coming into the game 18-0 for the entire season, the Patriots were everyone’s bet to take the trophy and Brady the MVP.

New York, however, played shutout defense for the whole contest. They did not allow Brady and his Pats to get any rhythm, which resulted in them winning a tight game.

Damond Talbot

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at

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