Top Ten Best NFL Championship Upsets Ever


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Joe Namath and the Jets
There was a lot of banter and cocktail talk around Super Bowl XLII and its ranking among the list of all-time upsets.
The “Miracle on Ice,” Team USA’s stunning 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid is generally considered the greatest upset in sports history, at least in American sports.
In college football, some pundits look to tiny Centre College’s 6-0 victory over Harvard in 1921 as the tops. The New York Times called the win by the Praying Colonels “arguably the upset of the century in college football.” Another huge surprise was Appalachian State’s 34-32 win over Michigan in Ann Arbor in the opening game of the 2007 season. Later that same season, Stanford, a 41-point dog, shocked USC 24-23.
The Miracle Mets of 1969 rank high on the upset meter, mainly because a team that had finished last five times in its first seven years rose up, won the pennant and then smacked down the powerful Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. Bill Mazeroski’s ninth-inning home run helped the Pirates knock off the Yankees in 1960, despite losing three games by scores of 10-0, 12-0, and 16-3. Some might consider the Red Sox win over the Yankees in 2004 after being down 3-0, but that’s probably more of a great comeback than a great upset.
Chaminade’s stunner over Ralph Sampson and Virginia in Hawaii, Villanova’s win over Patrick Ewing and Georgetown and North Carolina State’s win over Houston’s Phil Slamma Jam unit are among the major wowsers in college basketball.
Buster Douglas was a 42-1 underdog when he pummeled Mike Tyson and eventually knocked him out in the 10th round of their heavyweight championship bout in Tokyo in 1990.
In a race that introduced the word “upset” to the sports vernacular, Upset, a 100-1 longshot by some accounts, handed the legendary Man o’ War his only defeat in 21 races in the Sanford Memorial at Saratoga in 1919.
As far as professional football upsets and the most important game of the year are concerned, here are the top 10 upsets in championship football history

1. Jets 16, Colts 7, Super Bowl III, 1969
The Jets are 17-point underdogs coming in but Joe Namath guarantees victory. The AFL gains instant credibility with a convincing win over the once-beaten Colts.

2. Giants 17, Patriots 14, Super Bowl XLII, 2008
The 10-6 Giants, a number five seed and 12-point underdog, rally in the final minute to upend previously unbeaten (18-0) New England and alter the course of NFL history.

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Michael Strahan and the Giants

3. Giants 30, Bears 13, NFL Championship, 1934
Chicago marches into Manhattan 13-0 with a record-setting offense, but the 8-5 Giants rally in the second half for an improbable victory in the “Sneakers Game.”.

4. Patriots 20, Rams 17, Super Bowl XXXVI, 2001
St. Louis, the proclaimed “Greatest Show on Turf,” comes in a 14-point favorite, but New England prevails on Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal as time expires.

5. Redskins 14, Bears 6, NFL Championship, 1942
The Bears came in undefeated, winners of the previous two NFL titles, including a stunning 73-0 win over Washington in 1940. None of that pedigree mattered in this shocker.

6. Broncos 31, Packers 24, Super Bowl XXXII, 1998
Denver enters the game a 12-point underdog to Brett Favre and defending champion Green Bay, yet pulls off the victory to give John Elway his first Super Bowl ring.

7. Browns 27, Colts 0, NFL Championship, 1964
Sports Illustrated is so sure the Colts will win that the cover featuring Don Shula and Johnny Unitas is already in the can. But Gary Collins catches three TD passes as Cleveland wins.

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Gary Collins and the Browns

8. Chiefs 23, Vikings 7, Super Bowl IV, 1970
Despite the Jets win the year before, the AFL comes into the game a 10-point underdog. But Hank Stram’s Kansas City team handles Minnesota with relative ease.

9. Rams 24, Browns 17, NFL Championship, 1951
Once-beaten Cleveland comes in having won five consecutive championships (four in the old AAFC), but (8-4) Los Angeles brakes the run in the first televised title tilt.

10. Texans 20, Oilers 17, 2OT, AFL Championship, 1962.
Houston had already won the first two titles in the fledgling AFL. Despite a mix-up in the coin toss for overtime, Dallas prevails in one of the longest games in NFL history.

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Dallas Texans

Honorable Mention

Bears 73, Redskins 0, NFL Championship, 1940
Washington defeated Chicago 7-3 three weeks earlier, and after the game Redskins owner George Preston Marshall called the Bears “crybabies.” Payback has never been sweeter.

Dolphins 14, Redskins 7, Super Bowl VII, 1973
Miami comes in with a perfect 16-0 record yet wearing the tag of a two-point underdog, The Dolphins finish off Washington, finish undefeated, and record the only perfect mark in NFL history.

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