The biggest NFL underdogs in wild card history: Steelers have long chances to defeat Chiefs

Ben Roethlisberger did not speak with much confidence about his side’s chances of beating the Chiefs on Sunday. Bettors agree the Steelers are a feature film.

FanDuel Sportsbook currently has Kansas City as the 12.5 point favorite to beat Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh fans can’t really look to the final meeting between the two teams to be filled with confidence. In Week 16, the Chiefs strangled the Steelers 36-10 as the game got out of hand early in the second half and Patrick Mahomes rested for most of the fourth quarter. Even Roethlisberger was offside for Pittsburgh’s last practice.

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That’s a historic margin, and a Pittsburgh victory would be nothing less than that: historic. Sporting News details the history of the teams with the worst odds to win in the wild-card round:

Biggest favorites in the NFL wildcard round

There is no precedent for a team as heavily favored as the Chiefs losing in the first round of the playoffs.

According to Stathead, the widest gap in the wildcard era (since 1978) is 11 points, which has happened three times: Bears vs. Saints (-11) in 2021, Dolphins vs. Steelers (-11) in 2017 and Vikings vs. Packers in 2013 (-11). The three favorites not only won, they all covered the gap.

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Even overcoming being a touchdown underdog is a daunting task. Here’s a look at the history of the teams that faced at least +6.5 chances to win in the first round of the playoffs.

Made with flourish

The team with the worst odds of winning that actually rocked the boat was the Seahawks in 2011, when they beat the 10-point-favorite Saints, 41-36. In last season’s playoffs, Washington was the only other team to cover a double-digit margin against a favorite when the Buccaneers (-10) claimed a 31-23 victory.

Teams that are at least touchdown favorites in the wild-card round have averaged 25 points against 18 for the underdogs in the previous 50 meetings of the teams that occupied that position. The all-time favorites are 35-15 when punters set the lead at -6.5.

The all-time NFL playoff underdogs

While an underdog as big as the Steelers has never won in the wild card round, there is a precedent for them to win in a playoff game.

According to Stathead, the biggest underdog to win an NFL playoff game came in 1969, when the Jets overcame a +18 line to beat the Baltimore Colts 16-7.

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All told, there were 26 teams in the playoffs that lost at least 12.5 points in the playoffs, by Stathead, and they’re 4-22. These teams were, on average, dominated 32-15.

The last time a team was at least a 12.5-point underdog and won was when the Giants beat the Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl 42.

The Steelers have only faced such a long playoff odds once, when in 1996 they were 13.5-point underdogs to beat the Cowboys in Super Bowl 30. While ‘they covered the gap, they lost the game 27-17.

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