The 10 Most Improbable Super Bowl Teams Of All-Time [POLL]

After another wild weekend in the NFL, the final seeds are set for this year’s playoffs. Twelve teams will enter the postseason with Super Bowl aspirations, all of which believe they have a realistic shot at making the Big Game. As most teams gear up for this “new” season, they believe all bets are off. Regular season records no longer matter. It’s what you do in this next 3-4 games that counts. So, if you’re a Chiefs or Seahawks fan and you think there’s not a shot in hell your team’s holding the Lombardi Trophy come February, you might want to take a look at this list of Super Bowl improbables.

10. 1986 Denver Broncos

Regular Season Record: 11-5 (1st AFC West)
Playoff Results: Divisional Round: vs. New England Patriots, W, 22-17; AFC Championship Game: @ Cleveland Browns, W, 23-20 (OT); Super Bowl XXI: vs. New York Giants, L, 39-20

The 1986 Broncos started the regular season 8-1 before fading down the stretch and finishing 11-5.  After edging the Patriots in the Divisional Round they traveled to take on the Cleveland Browns in the first of three AFC Championship Game matchups over the next four seasons.  But this one may have been most memorable, as Denver quarterback John Elway engineered what has become known simply as “The Drive.”  Elway took the Broncos 98 yards late in the fourth quarter to tie the game, and then kicker Rich Karlis would kick the game-winning field goal in overtime.  A record-setting performance by Giants’ quarterback Phil Simms, as he completed 22 of his 25 passes, would bring a loss for the Broncos in Super Bowl XXI.

9. 2003 Carolina Panthers

Regular Season Record: 11-5 (1st NFC South)
Playoff Results: Wild Card Round: vs. Dallas Cowboys, W, 29-10; Divisional Round: @ St. Louis Rams, W, 29-23 (2 OT); NFC Championship: @ Philadelphia Eagles, W, 14-3; Super Bowl XXXVIII: vs. New England Patriots, L, 32-29

The Panthers made the playoffs for the second time in their nine-year history in 2003, as they won the NFC South and earned the #3 seed in the NFC playoffs.  They would dominate the Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card Round before winning back-to-back road games to advance to the Super Bowl.  In the NFC Championship Game, Panthers’ cornerback Ricky Manning, Jr. intercepted Eagles’ quarterback Donovan McNabb three times in a 14-3 victory.  Carolina would give the New England Patriots a challenge in the Super Bowl before losing the game on a game-winning field goal by kicker Adam Vinatieri

8. 1999 Tennessee Titans

Regular Season Record: 13-3 (2nd AFC Central)
Playoff Results: Wild Card Round: vs. Buffalo Bills, W, 22-16; Divisional Round: @ Indianapolis Colts, W, 19-16; AFC Championship: @ Jacksonville Jaguars, W, 33-14; Super Bowl XXXIV: vs. St. Louis Rams, L, 23-16

Despite having a 13-3 regular season record, the Titans were a Wild Card team heading into the post season. In the first round of the playoffs, it looked like the Buffalo Bills had them on the ropes, down 16-15 with less than 2o seconds to go in the game.  What ensued has become known as “The Music City Miracle” as Titans’ tight end Frank Wycheck threw a lateral all the way across the field to wide receiver Kevin Dyson, who would run 75 yards for the game-winning score. The Titans would win their next two playoff games on the road before losing  a close finish to the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, as Dyson was tackled just shy of the goal line on the game’s final play.

7. 2001 New England Patriots

Regular Season Record: 11-5 (1st AFC East)
Playoff Results: Divisional Round: vs. Oakland Raiders, W, 16-13 (OT); AFC Championship: @ Pittsburgh Steelers, W, 24-17; Super Bowl XXXVI: vs. St. Louis Rams, W, 20-17

Early in head coach Bill Belichick’s second season, the Patriots lost long-time starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe to a severe chest injury. His backup, a sixth-round draft pick in 2000 out of the University of Michigan named Tom Brady, would take over the starting job and still has not let it go to this day.  In the Divisional Round of the playoffs, a snow storm hit Foxboro in what would come to be known as the “Tuck Rule Game” after Brady was hit by Raiders’ cornerback Charles Woodson and appeared to have clearly fumbled as the ball was recovered by the Raiders. The play led to the game-tying field goal by Patriots’ kicker Adam Vinatieri to force overtime where New England ultimately prevailed.  Bledsoe led the Patriots to victory in relief of an injured Brady in the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  New England would then upset the heavily favored St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl, in what can be considered the launching point for their current stretch of success.

6. 1998 Atlanta Falcons

Regular Season Record: 14-2 (1st NFC West)
Playoff Results: Divisional Round: vs. San Francisco 49ers, W, 20-18; NFC Championship: @ Minnesota Vikings, W, 30-27 (OT); Super Bowl XXXIII vs. Denver Broncos, L, 34-19

It’s hard for a team with a 14-2 regular season record to be an improbable Super Bowl participant, but considering the powerhouse Vikings were in the same conference led many to believe the Falcons would be the odd team out.  After edging the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round, they traveled to take on the 15-1 Minnesota Vikings and their record-setting offense.  Many things would go the Falcons’ way in the game, most notably Vikings’ kicker Gary Anderson missing his only field goal of the entire season late in the fourth quarter.  Atlanta would fall behind the Denver Broncos early and never quite recover in Super Bowl XXXIII, but fans of the “Dirty Birds” certainly have good memories of 1998.

5. 1999 St. Louis Rams

Regular Season Record: 13-3 (1st NFC West)
Playoff Results: Divisional Round: vs. Minnesota Vikings, W, 49-37; NFC Championship: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, W, 11-6; Super Bowl XXXIV vs. Tennessee Titans, W, 23-16

A preseason knee injury to starting quarterback Trent Green had expectations on the decline in St. Louis heading into the 1999 regular season.  Head coach Dick Vermeil proclaimed the team would rally around back up quarterback Kurt Warner (who?) and would be ok.   Warner would take the league by storm, passing for 4,353 yards and 41 touchdowns during the regular season directing the Rams’ offense that was proclaimed “The Greatest Show on Turf.”  Super Bowl XXXIV against the Tennessee Titans provided one of the most thrilling finishes in Super Bowl history, as Rams linebacker Mike Jones tackled Titans’ wide receiver Kevin Dyson just shy of the goal line as time expired.

4. 1979 Los Angeles Rams

Regular Season Record: 9-7 (1st NFC West)
Playoff Results: Divisional Round: @ Dallas Cowboys, W, 21-19; NFC Championship: @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, W, 9-0; Super Bowl XIV vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, L, 31-19

The Rams became the first team with a 9-7 regular season record to reach the Super Bowl. Things looked bleak when starting quarterback Pat Hayden was lost for the season with a broken index finger on his throwing hand, but Vince Ferragamo replaced him capably and running back Wendell Tyler had over 1,400 total yards (1,109 rushing yards) and scored 10 total touchdowns (nine rushing) during the regular season. Ferragamo would have a solid playoff run, including three touchdown passes in the Divisional Round against Dallas, before the Rams ran into the last Super Bowl team of the Steelers’ dynasty of the 1970’s.

3. 1994 San Diego Chargers

Regular Season Record: 11-5 (1st AFC West)
Playoff Results: Divisional Round: vs. Miami Dolphins, W, 22-21; AFC Championship: @ Pittsburgh Steelers, W, 17-13; Super Bowl XXIX: vs. San Francisco 49ers, L, 49-26

The Chargers finished 8-8 in 1993, and were looking to improve in head coach Bobby Ross’ third season. Led by quarterback Stan Humphries, they would ride a 6-0 regular season start to an AFC West title and upset victories over the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs.  They would run into an offensive juggernaut in the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX, as 49ers’ quarterback Steve Young had a Super-Bowl single-game record six touchdown passes as the Chargers were overmatched and lost 49-26.  This is the only time the Chargers’ franchise has reached the Super Bowl to date, despite the abundance of talent they have had in recent seasons.

2. 2007 New York Giants

Regular Season Record: 10-6
Playoff Results: Wild Card Round: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, W, 24-14; Divisional Round: vs. Dallas Cowboys, W, 21-17; NFC Championship, vs. Green Bay Packers, W, 23-20; Super Bowl vs. New England Patriots, W, 17-14

The Giants finished second in the NFC East behind the favorite Dallas Cowboys with a 10-6 record and entered the playoffs as a Wild Card with a #5 seed. They traveled to Tampa and used timely turnovers along with a balanced offensive attack to defeat the struggling Bucs. From there, they went to Dallas where absolutely no one outside of Giants fans thought a victory was possible. After stunning the heavily favored ‘Boys, they managed to go toe-to-toe with the Packers in one of the coldest games ever played. With kicker Lawrence Tynes finally hitting the game winner (after missing two previous), the Road Warriors became the 9th wild card team in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl and the 5th wild card team to win the Super Bowl when they ruined the New England Patriots perfect season thanks to one of the greatest catches in Super Bowl history courtesy of David Tyree’s helmet. They were also the third team in history to win three road playoff games en route to the Super Bowl and set a league record for most consecutive road wins in a single season.

1.  2008 Arizona Cardinals

Regular Season Record: 9-7 (1st NFC West)
Playoff Results: Wild Card Round: vs. Atlanta Falcons, W, 30-24; Divisional Round: @ Carolina Panthers, W, 33-13; NFC Championship, vs. Philadelphia Eagles, W, 32-25; Super Bowl XLIII vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, L, 27-23

The Cardinals won a perenially weak NFC West and headed into the postseason having lost four of their last six games (allowing at least 35 points in all four losses).   Despite hosting the Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card round they had to be considered underdogs. Of course, they moved on to face the Carolina Panthers in the Divisional Round, and they took advantage of 5 interceptions by quarterback Jake Delhomme to blow out the Panthers.  Arizona hosted the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game and got three takeways to move their postseason turnover differential to plus-9 and move onto Super Bowl XLIII against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Arizona became the second team with a 9-7 regular season record to advance to the Super Bowl.  They would actually finish 10-6 in 2009, but lost the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional Round.

So, which “improbable” playoff team from this year’s crop has the best chance of going to the Super Bowl?

Vote in our poll below and tell us why in the comments section:


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