We’ve seen some amazing underdog stories in sports over the years and team sports are no different. One such moment was Leicester City the 2016 Premier league, they had started the 201§5/16 season as massive outsiders at 5000/1 favourites. In the previous season they just made it through Premier League relegation and posed no threat whatsoever to the big boys. They had never won the title in their 132 year history but that was all about to unexpectedly change. 64 year old Italian coach Claudio Ranieri somehow transformed his team into champions while spending a fraction of what the big clubs were spending. In what is one of the greatest modern sports underdog stories, Leicester City they won the Premier League title in 2006!
The NFL has seen it’s fair share of great underdog stories, and we’re talking about wildcard teams that went all the way and won the NFL.
Wildcards and the Playoffs
On March 29, 1978, the NFL adopted a new 16-game schedule preceded by a four-game preseason. An additional wild card team in each conference was added to the playoffs with the two wild cards squaring off during the first weekend of the post-season. In 1990, two more wild card teams were added to the mix. With a total of three wild cards included in both the AFC and NFC, twelve of the league’s 28 teams qualified for the playoffs.
Then, in 2002, when the league expanded to 32 teams, the NFL realigned into eight four-team divisions. The playoff format now includes four division winners and two wild-card teams from each conference. The Wild Card games that kick off the post-season play feature two division winners hosting wild-card teams.
Wildcard teams that made it to the Super Bowl
Since the Wild Card System began in 1970, only ten wild card teams have made it all the way to the Super Bowl. Six of those team have actually won Super Bowl.
The Dallas Cowboys made it to the Super Bowl in 1975 but lost 17-21 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 1985 The New England Patriots made to to the grand Finale but fell heavily to the Chicago Bears 46-10. 1992 saw the Buffalo Bills battle it out with The Cowboys at the Super Bowl, but they suffered a heavy defeat, getting trashed 52-17. Wildcard team, the Tennessee Titans went all the at the 1999 Super Bowl XXXIV but were beaten by the St Louis Rams 23-16.
Wild Card Super Bowl winners
First up were the Oakland Raiders in 1980, they betting odds were not in their favour but they beat the Houston Oilers 27-7 in the Wildcard Playoffs. They went on to beat the Cleveland Browns and San Diego Chargers, setting up for a finale with the Philadelphia Eagles at Super Bowl XV. The Raiders were victorious 27-10 becoming the first ever Wild Card team to win the Super Bowl.
1997 saw the Denver Broncos go through as a wildcard team with a 12-4-0 win / loss ratio. They beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, The Chiefs and the Steelers to make the Super Bowl XXXII. They won it beating the Green Bay Packers 31-24.
200o saw the Baltimore Ravens very luckily come through to the playoffs with a 12-4-0 record. The beat, the Broncos, The Titans and Raiders to set up a Super Bowl XXXV clash with the New York Giants. The Ravens won it 34-7, becoming the 4th Wildcard team to win the Super Bowl.
In 2005 the Pittsburgh Steelers got a Wildcard with a pretty poor 11-5-0 win / loss record. The beat the Bengals, Colts and Broncos to make the Super Bowl XL against the Seattle Seahawks.
2007 saw the New York Giants get a wildcard with a 10-6-0 season. They beat the Buccaneers, Cowboys and the Packers to set up a Super Bowl XLII against the most successful NFL team of all time – The New England Patriots. The Giants won 17-14
The last Wildcard team to win the Super Bowl was the Packers in 2010. They came through with a 10-6-0 season and beat the Eagles, Falcon and Chicago Bears. They would face the Steelers at Super Bowl XLV and win it 31-25.