13. Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (2020)
There was no reason to believe that the Bengals would win this game. They came into it on an 11-game losing streak. Meanwhile, the wounded Steelers lost their previous two games. However, they started 2020 with an 11-game winning streak. Most fans believed they had too much for their divisional rivals. Cincinnati was without star rookie QB Joe Burrow because of injury.
Ryan Finley started the game and the Bengals jumped into a 17-0 lead. They allowed the Steelers back into the game but held out for a famous victory. As upsets go, this one was huge. The final score was 27-17 and the Bengals were good value for their win. Cincinnati won the turnover battle for just the fourth time all season. In the end, this was crucial for their chances of victory (via The Enquirer).
The Niners welcomed Chicago to Levi Park for their home debut. Fans expected them to kickstart their new era with a bang. But the Bears stormed Santa Clara with a shock victory. Jay Cutler played like an elite quarterback and had Bears’ fans salivating. He found Brandon Marshall on three key occasions to drive the score up. Meanwhile, Kyle Fuller had an excellent game with two interceptions on his rookie debut.
Chicago’s defense was the subject of criticism before the game. San Francisco took full advantage and stormed into a 17-point lead. It looked like the game was over for the Bears. But they stood firm in the face of adversity. This wasn’t the most enjoyable spectacle because of the number of penalties. There were 17 in the first half with an overall total of 26. This was one of the strangest games of the last decade (via Chicago Tribune).
This remains one of the biggest upsets of the last decade because of the statistical improbability. The Dolphins played the Patriots in 2018 and rocked the entire NFL. New England was an 8.5-point favorite and led for most of the game. However, they never put Miami away and paid the price. “The Miracle in Miami” instantly became an iconic moment as Kenyan Drake scored the game-winning touchdown.
The multi-lateral touchdown was breathtaking but eminently avoidable. If the Patriots put the game to bed, it wouldn’t have happened. But Miami believed in themselves. Ryan Tannehill started the move and it ended with Drake’s 52-yard winning run. The final score was 33-32 (via Action Network). Miami was a +319 underdog at this point in the game. Nobody gave them a chance.
10. New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks (2015)
The Seahawks should have sealed the deal in Super Bowl XLIX. They were one play away from winning the coveted prize for the second straight year. There were 20 seconds left on the clock and Russell Wilson had a choice to make at the one-yard line. Most people thought that he would offload to Marshawn Lynch. However, he attempted a pass to Ricardo Lockette instead. Then Pats’ rookie Malcolm Butler pulled off one of the most important interceptions ever.
Chaos ensued and finally, New England took a knee to win the game. Many fans and analysts called Wilson’s pass one of the worst play calls ever. However, a more balanced analysis proved that it was superb defense from the Patriots. Lynch had a poor record from that position and the Patriots line blocked his path (via CBS Sports). They left Wilson with no choice but to find Lockette.
Buffalo wasn’t great through much of the last decade. But they pulled off an overtime upset over the Bears in 2014. Fred Jackson was the oldest running back in the NFL but nobody would have guessed it. That’s because his 38-yard run helped to set up Dan Carpenter’s winning field goal. The Bears were favorites on opening day but Buffalo didn’t pander to expectations. They were relentless against a technically better team.
The final score at Soldier Field was 23-20. But this one stung the Bears because they should have had the game wrapped up. Buffalo led the game before Chicago fought back. They won the coin toss to start overtime. However, the Bills forced turnovers and played with a never-say-die attitude. They were sizable underdogs but proved that anybody in the NFL can win (via Democrat & Chronicle).
The Giants traveled to Lumen Field without starting quarterback Daniel Jones. Colt McCoy stepped up as a replacement. They produced one of the most dramatic upsets of the last decade, never mind the season. Seattle led the NFC West and expected to beat New York comfortably. However, that’s not what happened as Big Blue ran out 17-14 winners in Oregon (via USA Today).
This was a great defensive effort from the Giants. Meanwhile, their depleted attack did enough to win the game. They bullied one of the best teams in the NFL on their turf. Pete Carroll had no way to explain what happened because it was such a poor display from his team. But credit belonged to the Giants because this was an outstanding performance. Their long-suffering fans deserved it.
7. Minnesota Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints (2020)
Minnesota achieved one of the biggest playoff shocks of the last decade in 2020. They defeated the Saints in overtime and left them shellshocked. Kirk Cousins played a crucial role in masterminding this victory. He previously received criticism because he didn’t show up in big games. But he pulled off two important passes to help his team win.
Cousins went 19 for 31 with 242 completed yards (via Sporting News). One pass went to Adam Thielen as he ran to the goal-line. Another went to Kyle Rudolph for a walk-off touchdown. First, the Vikings rocked the Saints by taking the lead. However, Sean Peyton’s men forced overtime and it looked like they regained the momentum. None of the Saints’ quarterbacks took to the field in overtime as the Vikings pulled off a smash-and-grab.
In 2020, the Rams were Super Bowl contenders. Sure, they lacked a genuine franchise quarterback, but they still had a strong roster. They entered Week 13 with a 9-4 record. So it was natural that they were massive favorites against the 0-13 Jets. There were even questions over the Jets’ will to win because they wanted the first overall draft pick. A Trevor Lawrence-sized prize was waiting for the worst team in the NFL.
But the Green Gang stunned the Rams with one of the upsets of the last decade. They won the game 23-20 and proved that sometimes football makes no sense. All of the analysis and pre-game predictions meant nothing because the Jets mugged their opponents (via NBC Sports). This shows just how difficult it is to have a winning season in one of the toughest sports in the world.
Bob McAdoo’s Giants entered this game off the back of five straight defeats. Not many of their fans held out much hope of beating the Broncos. However, they pulled off one of the upsets of the last decade with a complete display. It’s bizarre how a terrible team can suddenly snap into gear. Usually, this isn’t sustainable but it’s always entertaining when it happens.
McAdoo handed play-calling duties over to Mike Sullivan for this game. Everything the offensive coordinator attempted came off perfectly. Eli Manning found Evan Engram an impressive five times. Meanwhile, the Giants’ pass rush ran rampant against the Broncos’ ragged defense (via Sports Illustrated). It was one of those games that give an entire group of supporters false hope. The Giants couldn’t keep it up.
There were questions about Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa before this game. Jacoby Brissett played a previous two games because of the Hawaiian’s injury woes. Furthermore, Tagovailoa had consistency issues. However, he came in and helped Miami stun the Ravens. The Dolphins put severe pressure on Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and sacked him four times (via CNN).
According to Las Vegas, this was one of the upsets of the decade. But the Dolphins outplayed the Ravens on the day and ran out 22-10. Jackson struggled to find his targets and couldn’t build any rhythm. Tagovailoa sealed his return with a touchdown that killed the game off as a contest. This ignited Miami’s season and proved that they were making progress. Tagovailoa kept his team in the playoff hunt.
3. Washington Football Team vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2021)
Tampa was reigning Super Bowl champions in 2021. They expected to make it back to the postseason with relative ease. Needless to say, the Bucs didn’t expect much resistance from Washington. The Football Team came into this game on a four-game skid. Their season was fading away before their eyes. It started badly after Ryan Fitzpatrick’s injury. This put backup QB Taylor Heinicke in the firing line (via USA Today Sports).
But he contrived to help Washington pull off one of the shocks of the decade. Tom Brady threw interceptions on back-to-back drives in the first quarter as Washington came out hot. They never allowed the Bucs to settle and duly won the contest. Unfortunately, they lost their defensive star Chase Young to injury. But at least they earned a rare win against a genuinely elite contender.
There was no reason to believe that the Jaguars stood a chance against the Bills in this game. Urban Meyer’s short tenure in charge of Jacksonville was a turgid mess. He took a college football approach to the pro game and it was a disaster. Meanwhile, the Bills were bonafide AFC contenders. However, the Jaguars defied a 14.5 spread to upset the odds (via Tipico Sportsbook).
This game was a living nightmare for Bills QB Josh Allen. The Jaguars intercepted twice, sacked him four times, and forced a key fumble. Meanwhile, Jags outside linebacker Josh Allen had an amazing game. No, that isn’t a typo. The pair had the same name but vastly different fortunes. In the end, the Jaguars won 9-6 in one of the biggest upsets of the last decade. It was the sixth-biggest since 1990.
1. New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons (2016)
The Patriots came into Super Bowl LI as favorites but still managed to achieve one of the upsets of the last decade. Atlanta dominated the first three-quarters of the game and took a 28-3 lead. It appeared as though New England blew their hopes of winning. Las Vegas oddsmakers gave the Falcons a 99.8% chance of victory at the end of the third quarter. But major drama ensued.
Dan Quinn’s shellshocked squad imploded and conceded 25 unanswered points. This sent the game to overtime and of course, the Patriots won. It was sensational for neutral fans to watch because of the intensity and the drama. Meanwhile, Tom Brady was stellar as he earned the MVP award (via Bleacher Report). Many quarterbacks win this prize but he deserved it for his efforts. Atlanta went into a downward spiral after this harrowing loss.