As much as the NFL’s brass may disdain sports betting, on occasion the aficionados of The Shield must turn to Las Vegas for some type of objectivity.  

Who can really say what the biggest Super Bowl upsets of all time are? We can say what we think, or what we feel were the biggest surprises in the biggest game. But even win-probability software can only compute what humans tell them to.  

Meanwhile, pretty much everything is factored into an NFL point spread. It has to be, or sportsbooks would quickly run out of money. Going by the pregame point spreads of 50-plus games since 1967, we can create a list of the 5 biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.  

#5 – Super Bowl IV  

In some ways the Kansas City Chiefs’ surprise 23-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings was as important as the watershed Super Bowl the previous year. The Chiefs belonged to the upstart American Football League and were (+10) underdogs headed into the battle in New Orleans. Kansas City skipper Hank Stram nervously talked to himself in what would become timeless footage shot on the sidelines. But Stram’s team was poised on the gridiron as the AFL representatives put the league’s stigmas to bed for good.  

#4 – Super Bowl XXXII 

The Denver Broncos were not only a 12-point underdog headed into a match-up with Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers, but legendary Bronco QB John Elway was destined to have a bad game in San Diego, passing for less than 150 yards and no touchdowns. It didn’t matter. Despite a much more prolific outing from the favored Favre, the Broncos prevailed, Terrell Owens rushing for 157 yards and 3 TDs in a 31-24 win.  

#3 – Super Bowl XXXVI  

New England has been involved in a pair of the most gigantic Super Bowl upsets, once as winner and once as foil. In 2002, the then-St. Louis Rams won the NFC title with a combination of lightning-speed and short passing. The Patriots scrapped through the AFC playoffs with a young unproven QB named Tom Brady. St. Louis was a (-14) favorite to win the Super Bowl. But the Pats’ defense punished the Rams’ finesse players for 4 quarters, allowing Brady to steer a field goal drive to salt away a shocking 20-17 win.  

#2 – Super Bowl XLII 

Several years later it was Brady’s turn to be hexed.  

Eli Manning and the New York Giants were a (+14) underdog against a Patriot buzz-saw that had lit up the NFL in autumn. New England was a perfect 18-0 following an AFC Championship Game triumph, and looked to complete an historic unblemished season. But the New York defense played bravely for 60 minutes, allowing Manning and WR David Tyree to lead one of the most spectacular game-winning drives ever.  

#1 – Super Bowl III 

NFL hard-liners were holding firmly to their version of things as the 60s came to an end. Originally scripted as an exhibition between rival leagues, the first pair of Super Bowls featured blow-out wins by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. Joe Namath and the AFL’s New York Jets were 17-point underdogs to the Baltimore Colts the following winter.  

But Namath out-foxed the Baltimore front-7, and the New York secondary made the Colts look slow and old on offense. After 60 stunning minutes in Miami it was official – a new era of American football had dawned. Jets 16, Colts 7.  

Image from 123RF.

Published by Kurt Boyer

Kurt has penned over 1000+ online sports stories and is known as a 55%+ American football handicapper. He has been published on, Yardbarker and Bleacher Report. You can reach Kurt at

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