NFL’s five greatest upsets

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Every year is full of surprises for NFL fans. Fans and players get to experience the highs and lows of the game. Unexpected wins transpire, and this often leaves the NFL world in an uproar with everyone talking about the upset for weeks. Actually, throughout the history of NFL, there have been multiple upsets that have rocked the league. This is the beauty of the game: an unforeseen twist that very few saw coming.

The upsets

Traditionally, an unexpected turn of events leads to a major reshuffling in the league. Betting sites for NFL usually explode with activity after a major upset as fans desperately try to predict the next outcome. Nevertheless, they still seem to occur unexpectedly because people tend to focus less on the underdog. Here we recount five of the greatest NFL upsets, selected because they are a few of the most interesting ones.


New York Jets (+17.5) versus L.A. Rams (Week 15, 2020)

Let’s start with the most recent upset which is still fresh in everyone’s mind. It happened just last season. The Jets reached week 15 without a single win and were officially the underdog in the game against the L.A. Rams, who then led the NFC West. The expected outcome was a win for the Rams. However, the game took an unexpected twist when the Jets took a big lead early in the game and managed to hold their own until they won 23-20. They earned their first long sought-after victory. The Jets win had been unthinkable before the game.


Buffalo Bills (+16.5) versus Minnesota Vikings (Week 3, 2018)

This was one of the biggest NFL upsets of all time. The Buffalo Bills won 27-6 in a game against the Minnesota Vikings although they were the 16.5 underdog, which was quite impressive. The Vikings were favored to win. Despite the dejection of the Viking fans, all other NFL enthusiasts, including the Bills fans, enjoyed the very entertaining game.


New York Giants (+14) versus Denver Broncos (Week 6, 2017)

This one is hard to forget! At the time of this game, every wide receiver on the Giants had just been injured, and New York had a 0-5 start. That was not an issue though because Eli Manning’s 128 passing yards were boosted by the much-needed 100+ yards on the ground by Orleans Darkwa and Janoris Jenkins, a pick six. This resulted in the New York Giants’ victory over the Denver Broncos, who were viewed as the obvious winners according to the predictions.

Oakland Raiders (+14.5) versus Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 13, 2009)

In 2009, the Raiders were not a particularly strong team, but they also were not mediocre. Their surprise win over the seemingly more competent Pittsburgh Steelers had many in an uproar. They managed to finish the season at 5-11 which was not impressive, but their win over the Pittsburgh Steelers made history as one of the greatest upsets. All other predictors had pointed to a clear victory for Pittsburgh Steelers.


Washington Redskins (+17.5) versus Dallas Cowboys (Week 14, 1995)

Back in 1995, the Cowboys were 10-2 and hosting the Redskins who were only 3-9. This was supposed to be a walk in the park for the Dallas Cowboys, but it turned out to be the complete opposite. The Washington Redskins made a major comeback and won 24-17. Although unexpected, it was not a major upset for the Cowboys, who went on to win the Super Bowl that season. This proves that one match gone awry is not the end after all. Still, the Redskin’s victory over the Cowboys made history.


Why upsets happen

The usual question from fans of losing teams is why didn’t their team win. Didn’t they try hard enough? Of course, the players gave it their best effort, but, in the NFL, upsets are part of the culture for quite a number of reasons. Every game is usually unique. Every team plays differently against another which is why you get to see epic wins. However, there are cases where not every upset is major, especially when both teams are competent and a win can go either way if certain factors come into play. An upset is still a frustration, whether minor or major, because the teams are always playing to win.


In fact, the only thing predictable about upsets is that they will occur, rather than how or when. It is unusual to have a season without unforeseen losses and wins. This is just how the NFL rolls. It is also what makes following the games so exciting!