The number of favored teams and underdogs covering the point spread in Super Bowl history are fairly equal – always a sign Las Vegas has played a big part long before hosting the game for the first time in 2024.
Make no mistake, when the sportsbooks fumble the point spread in a big way, the news doesn’t stay in Vegas, it leads to the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.
There have been five occasions when a double-digit underdog has triumphed over a shocked favorite. In fact, take part in the Super Bowl enough times (like the GOAT Tom Brady has) and you’ll likely be on both the winning and losing ends of the greatest upsets in the game’s history.
Here are underdogs who hoisted the Lombardi Trophy through the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history:
1. 18 Points – Super Bowl III: Jets 16, Colts 7 (Jan. 12, 1969 at Miami)
Let’s just say this is the Super Bowl that got all of the underdogs thinking big, and it remains the biggest upset by point spread in the game’s history. It was the first victory for an AFL team (now the AFC) after the Green Bay Packers from the NFL (now NFC) comfortably won the first two Super Bowls.
The Baltimore Colts were 15-1 heading into the game and the New York Jets 12-3, but Joe Namath saw the upset coming – in fact, the game is remembered most for the Jets quarterback guaranteeing a victory in the leadup to Super Sunday.
“Broadway” Joe was named the game’s MVP, going 17 of 28 for 206 yards, although he didn’t account for a touchdown as the Jets’ scoring came on Jim Turner’s three field goals and a Matt Snell 4-yard run.
The Jets defense forced five turnovers, including three interceptions of starter Earl Morrall and one off Johnny Unitas, and the Colts didn’t score against coach Weeb Ewbank’s surprising champions until the final four minutes.
2. 14 Points – Super Bowl XXXVI: Patriots 20, Rams 17 (Feb. 3, 2002 at New Orleans)
The first of the New England Patriots’ record-tying six Super Bowl wins under coach Bill Belichick started with a shocker. They were up against “The Greatest Show on Turf” as the St. Louis Rams, who featured quarterback Kurt Warner, running back Marshall Faulk, and wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, appeared destined to claim a second NFL championship in three seasons.
But Ty Law scored on a 47-yard Pick-6 of Warner and the Patriots built a 17-3 lead through three quarters before the Rams rallied in the fourth, tying the game with 1:30 remaining.
That’s when Tom Brady’s legend was basically born as the young, emerging quarterback drove the Patriots (who were out of timeouts) downfield to set up Adam Vinatieri for a 48-yard, game-winning field goal as time expired. It was the first of Tom Terrific’s seven Super Bowl wins and 10 appearances – both individual records.
3. 12.5 Points – Super Bowl XLII: Giants 17, Patriots 14 (Feb. 3, 2008 in Glendale, Arizona)
Some may consider this game the biggest Super Bowl upset regardless of the point spread.
The Patriots, winners of three of the previous six Super Bowls, entered 18-0 for the most wins in an NFL season, and won by an average of 18.6 points per game. Meanwhile, the New York Giants were a mere 10-6 in the regular season and a wild-card qualifier under coach Tom Coughlin. They had to win three playoff games on the road to advance to the Super Bowl.
Still, there was foreshadowing in the final weekend of the regular season, when the Patriots had to escape Giants Stadium with a 38-35 win to complete their perfect regular season.
The Patriots led by only 7-3 after three quarters, but the lead changed hands three times in the fourth. After Brady connected on a 6-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss to make it 14-10 with 2:42 left, Giants quarterback Eli Manning directed a 12-play, 83-yard drive for the game-winning score.
Wide receiver David Tyree made an iconic, 32-yard catch by pinning the ball between his right hand and the crown of his helmet before Manning capped the drive with a 13-yard TD pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left.
4. 12 Points – Super Bowl IV: Chiefs 23, Vikings 7 (Jan. 11, 1970 at New Orleans)
Like the Jets’ win in the Super Bowl a year earlier, the Kansas City Chiefs jumped to a 16-0 lead and forced five turnovers en route to their upset of the Minnesota Vikings and the famed “Purple People Eaters” defense, which had allowed only 10 points on average through their first 16 games.
Jan Stenerud’s three field goals and Mike Garrett’s 4-yard touchdown run basically put the win away for coach Hank Stram’s Chiefs by halftime. Super Bowl MVP Len Dawson connected on a 46-yard TD pass to Otis Taylor late in the third quarter to help his overall passing numbers (12 of 17, 142 yards, one interception).
The Vikings’ loss marked the first of four under coach Bud Grant through the first 11 Super Bowls.
5. 11.5 Points – Super Bowl XXXII: Broncos 31, Packers 24 (Jan. 25, 1998 at San Diego)
Green Bay was the reigning Super Bowl champion and 3-0 in football’s biggest game, while Denver had an 0-4 history, but the Broncos reversed course with the first of back-to-back titles under coach Mike Shanahan.
Terrell Davis earned Super Bowl MVP with 157 yards on 30 carries and a record three rushing touchdowns, which wasn’t matched for 25 years. Late in the game, his 17-yard carry to the Packers 1 produced his 11th first down – the most for a non-quarterback in the game’s history – and he scored on the next play to break a 24-24 tie with 1:47 remaining.
Packers QB Brett Favre (25 of 42, 256 yards, three TDs, one interception) outperformed the Broncos’ John Elway (12 of 22, 123 yards, one interception), but Elway returned the following season to claim MVP and go out as a two-time Super Bowl champion, announcing his retirement just over three months later.
(Want more thrills? Here are the biggest comebacks wins in NFL history.)