When it comes to the Super Bowl, longshots have had their fair fighting chance. Parity is something the NFL excels in, with a fairly new crop of playoff teams making up the field each and every year. This season, Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals are on the precipice of tying for the longest preseason odds ever to win a Super Bowl.
Before the 2021 season, the Bengals were as long as 150-1 to win Super Bowl 56. Will their name eventually land on this list?
t-5. 1980 Oakland Raiders: +3500
All of the expectations in 1980 were on back-to-back champion Pittsburgh (+240). The Oakland Raiders ran through Houston (+700), Cleveland (+4000), San Diego (+700), and Philadelphia (+800) en route to their second Super Bowl. Jim Plunkett led the team, becoming the starter after two games and ran his way to a Super Bowl MVP. Plunkett remains the only quarterback with two rings to not be in the Hall of Fame.
After Plunkett took over, the Raiders went 13-2 including the postseason. While they didn’t finish significantly in any team statistical category, Oakland was a fine example of catching fire at the right time. A testament to the parity in the NFL is that this team– unlikely as their title was– just barely cracks our list.
t-5. 1982 Washington Redskins: +3500
Chalk up an asterisks next to this accomplishment? Some might think so. A massive players strike shortened the 1982 NFL season to nine regular season games, where the Redskins went 8-1. Two teams that season (ironically the Browns and Lions) made the playoff field with losing records. Either way, Washington upended Miami 27-17 in Super Bowl XVII.
Legendary head coach Joe Gibbs led Washington to a league-best 14.2 points allowed per game. Joe Theismann– three years before his infamous injury– made the Pro Bowl and finished second in the league in completion percentage. The Redskins overcame division-rival Dallas (preseason favorite at +400) in the NFC Championship Game.
4. 2017 Philadelphia Eagles: +4000
The most recent of the group is also one of the most memorable. Carson Wentz, who was having an MVP-caliber season, went down to injury and was replaced by folk hero Nick Foles. The season culminated in the highest-scoring Super Bowl of all time (74 combined points). Doug Pederson led the Eagles over the Patriots, who were the preseason favorites (+275).
Despite the Super Bowl being very high scoring, both the Eagles and Patriots boasted terrific defenses. The game itself was decided by a strip sack of Tom Brady and was highlighted by an end around pass to Nick Foles dubbed “the Philly Special.” Philadelphia exceeded their projected point total of 8.5 by 4.5 games (13-3).
3. 1981 San Francisco 49ers: +5000
A commonality on this list is championship-level defenses. The 1981 49ers allowed 15.6 points per game (second) but had to rely on an inexperienced quarterback who had started just eight games prior. That quarterback, Joe Montana, would go on to lead the Niners to more championships and solidify himself as one of the best of all time.
Part of what makes memorable Super Bowl champions is their championship moment. In this case, the 1981 49ers’ championship moment was one of the most famous in NFL history– Dwight Clark’s “The Catch.” It kickstarted the Niners’ dynasty and Montana’s legacy. San Fransisco would be top-two on preseason Super Bowl odds boards 15 times between 1981 and 1999. They wouldn’t be considered a longshot again until 2000.
Related: Super Bowl LVI odds
2. 2001 New England Patriots: +6000
Similarly to the previous entry, the 2001 Patriots had to rely on an unknown and inexperienced quarterback for their Super Bowl run. Established veteran Drew Bledsoe went down after just two games. In steps Tom Brady, who had thrown just three NFL passes. He led New England to an 11-5 final record (11-3 as a starter) and the second seed in the AFC. Their +6000 preseason odds were the seventh longest odds in the NFL that season.
The Patriots allowed just 15.7 points per game in the playoffs and toppled the preseason favorite “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl. It was the first of six rings won by Brady and head coach Bill Belichick in New England and the first of seven so far by Brady. Super Bowl XXXVI kickstarted the Patriots dynasty.
1. 1999 St. Louis Rams: +15000
The longshot of all Super Bowl longshots from the modern era. Yes, you read that correctly and no, it’s not a typo. The 1999 “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams began the season as incredible +15000 longshots. Here’s a short list of teams who’ve had better than +15000 preseason odds to win their Super Bowl: the 2008 Lions (went 0-16) and the 2017 Browns (went 0-16). Instead of ending up at the bottom of the league, Kurt Warner led the NFL in every statistical passing category.
The Rams put up a ridiculous 32.9 points per game (second, Washington at 27.7) and picked up 6.5 yards per play (first). The offense was led by Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, and Isaac Bruce– all Hall of Famers– as well as Tory Holt (who is currently in the conversation). While most remember the electric offense, many forget this Rams team was expected to win just 5.5 games.
Super Bowl winners preseason odds
|Year||Winner||Preseason Odds||Preseason Win Total|
|2020||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+1000||9.5|
|2019||Kansas City Chiefs||+600||10.5|
|2018||New England Patriots*||+600||11|
|2016||New England Patriots*||+600||10.5|
|2014||New England Patriots||+650||10.5|
|2011||New York Giants||+2200||9.5|
|2010||Green Bay Packers||+1100||9.5|
|2009||New Orleans Saints||+2000||9|
|2007||New York Giants||+3000||8|
|2004||New England Patriots||+600||10.5|
|2003||New England Patriots||+1500||8.5|
|2002||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+1200||9|
|2001||New England Patriots||+6000||6.5|
|1999||St. Louis Rams||+15000||5.5|
|1996||Green Bay Packers||+800||10|
|1994||San Francisco 49ers*||+200||12|
|1990||New York Giants||+800||10|
|1989||San Francisco 49ers*||+600||10.5|
|1988||San Francisco 49ers*||+300||N/A|
|1986||New York Giants||+1200||N/A|
|1984||San Francisco 49ers||+700||N/A|
|1983||Los Angeles Raiders||+1200||N/A|
|1981||San Francisco 49ers||+5000||N/A|
*Indicates preseason favorite