Last year, both number one seed teams — the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos — met in the Super Bowl. In this weekend’s divisional round, the top two seeds from each conference are favored to win their respective matchups. This comes as no surprise.
However, there have been more than a handful of games that buck that trend. Here are five unforgettable ones:
Seattle Seahawks vs. Miami Dolphins
December 31st, 1983
Then-AFC West Seattle Seahawks — a team that finished the season with a 9-7 record — stunned the defending AFC Champion Miami Dolphins (12-4) in a 1983 divisional playoff game victory. The game went as expected in the first half — Miami clearly looked like the better team withDolphins quarterback Dan Marino tossing a pair of touchdown passes. In the second half, however, things got a little interesting. Seattle took advantage of three Miami turnovers and secured the 27-20 win.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Denver Broncos
December 30th, 1984
The 9-7 Pittsburgh Steelers appeared to be outmatched when they arrived at Mile High Stadium to face off against the 13-3 Denver Broncos. The game was tied 17 when Steelers safety Eric Williams intercepted a pass from Broncos quarterback John Elway and returned it to the Denver 2-yard line with just under three minutes remaining, . Steelers running back Frank Pollard scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and the upset was complete, 24-17.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Carolina Panthers
January 10th, 2009
At 12-4, the number two seed Carolina Panthers looked like a sure victor against the 9-7 Arizona Cardinals in an NFC divisional playoff at home. Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner out-shined his counterpart and threw two touchdown passes. Carolina committed a costly six turnovers (including five interceptions from quarterback Jake Delhomme). The Cardinals won 33-13. Arizona went on to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles 32-25 in the NFC Championship Game, but lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. That Cardinals team was just the second to reach a Super Bowl with a 9-7 record.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Indianapolis Colts
January 15th, 2006
Number six seed Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) defeated the heavily-favorited Indianapolis Colts (14-2) in the AFC divisional round — and it all came down to the final minutes. Colts defensive back Nick Harper, who was rushing for a touchdown after a fumble recovery, was tackled by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Instead of getting the touchdown, the Colts were forced to settle for a 48-yard field goal — but Indianapolis kicker Mike Vanderjagt missed. That Steelers team became the first number six seed since the expansion to defeat a number one seed, and the first number six seed to reach the conference championship game. This Pittsburgh Steelers team went on to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
San Diego Chargers vs. New England Patriots
The New England Patriots aren’t usually underdogs, but they were when they faced off against the NFL-best San Diego Chargers (14-2) in the AFC divisional playoffs. The Chargers were also undefeated at home. The game was tied late in the fourth quarter when a 49-yard pass from New England quarterback Tom Brady to wide receiver Reche Caldwell set up a Patriots field goal and 24-21 win.
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