Back in February, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles battled it out for Super Bowl glory inside Glendale’s 63,000 capacity State Farm Stadium. The matchup was a big one for plenty of reasons, however, one which may have flown under the radar is the fact that it was the first time in five years in which the top seeds from both the AFC and NFC went face-to-face for the Lombardi. As we all remember, it was the Chiefs who eventually prevailed, with sensational quarterback Patrick Mahomes performing magnificently to overturn a ten-point halftime deficit to lead his team to glory.
It looked as though an era of dominance was about to return in the American sporting landscapes, with the heavyweights of each sport asserting their dominance over their competitors. However, we couldn’t have been more wrong. Following the Big Game, both the NBA and the NHL have seen fairytale stories in which underdogs have risen to the fore.
The Year of the Underdog
In the world of basketball, the Miami Heat weren’t given any hope in the recent NBA playoffs. They had to play two play-in games just to secure a spot in the postseason and once they did qualify, they did so as the Eastern Conference’s eighth seeds. As such, they would have to face a murderer’s row of opponents if they wished to make it to the Finals.
But not only did they battle the sport’s heavyweights, they somehow managed to beat them. In the opening round, they stunned the Milwaukee Bucks in one of the biggest upsets of all time. They then knocked off the New York Knicks in the Conference semifinals. It looked as though they would be on their way after they squandered a 3-0 series lead in the Conference Finals against the heavily favored Boston Celtics. However, in the seventh-game decider, Jimmy Butler came to the fore and delivered a masterclass en route to a 103-84 victory at the TD Garden.
That victory catapulted them into the NBA Finals, becoming just the second eighth-seed in history to do so. And their Floridian compatriots would follow suit in the NHL. The Florida Panthers also headed into the postseason as wildcards and rank outsiders however, they would go on to knock off the top-seeded Boston Celtics, the Toronto Maple Leaf’s, and the Carolina Hurricanes to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for just the second time in franchise history.
Unfortunately for both the Heat and the Panthers, however, both their trips to the pinnacle of their respective sports would end in defeat. in the NFL though, we have seen wildcards make it all the way to the Super Bowl, and then, come out on top. Here are three such instances when that happened.
New York Giants – Super Bowl XLII:
The Giants started the 2007 season 0-2, with many expecting them to finish the year with a poor record. The New York Patriots meanwhile were just starting out on a perfect season, a season they would eventually finish 15-0, becoming the first team since the Miami Dolphins 35 years prior to achieve the feat.
However, behind Eli Manning, the Giants rallied to win ten of their final fourteen regular-season games. They then knocked off the Bucs, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Packers to set up a date with Tom Brady and Co. at Super Bowl XLII. Despite their fairytale run, the Giants were huge +475 underdogs, providing those who use NFL odds to their advantage to cash in big should the miracle happen.
And that is exactly what transpired, with the Giants going on to shock the football world as they knocked off the undefeated Patriots 17-14. The younger Manning brother managed to find Plaxico Burress in the end zone with just 35 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and the Pats were unable to respond, completing the greatest upset in Super Bowl history.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Super Bowl LV:
The Buccaneers were 7-5 at one point during the 2020 season and were categorized as underdogs by the media. However, Tom Brady inspired a remarkable surge of form, with the Bucs winning eight consecutive games, to take them all the way to the AFC Championship game. There, they went on to defeat the top-seed 13-3 Green Bay Packers at a raucous Lambeau Field to set up a meeting with the Chiefs at Super Bowl LV.
The Big Game was contested at Raymond James Stadium, marking the first time that a team had ever played in a Super Bowl hosted at their own ground. And Brady and Co. wouldn’t disappoint them. They would comfortably knock off Mahomes’ men with a resounding 31-9 victory.
Green Bay Packers – Super Bowl XLV:
The Green Bay Packers were beasts on the road in the 2010 season. After finishing second in the NFC North with a record of 10-6, they knew that they would have to do it the hard way if they wanted to reach the Super Bowl. But that is exactly what they did, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles, top-seed Atlanta Falcons, and the Chicago Bears to qualify for the big game as NFC Champions. In the Super Bowl itself, they went on to beat the AFC’s third-seed Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25. Aaron Rodgers was the MVP and the star of the show, throwing for 304 yards including three touchdowns and no interceptions.