Top 15 Biggest Divisional Round Upsets in NFL History

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IJanuary 11, 2011

Top 15 Biggest Divisional Round Upsets in NFL History

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    SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 08:  Leon Washington #33 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates the Seahawks 41-36 victory against the New Orleans Saints during the 2011 NFC wild-card playoff game at Qwest Field on January 8, 2011 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jon
    Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    The Oilers were giant underdogs in this game and it was understandable, they were a walking MASH unit. Due to injuries the Oilers were forced to play this game without their QB Dan Pastorini, Wide Receiver Ken Burrough, and Running Back Earl Campbell.

    Minus three offensive stars the Oilers used a superb performance by the defense and special teams to win this one. They also used some creative coaching. The Oilers coaches later admitted that they figured out the signs the Chargers coaches were using to call in the offensive plays. 

No. 15: 2006 Patriots Upset Chargers, 24-21

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    SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 14:  Linebacker Tedy Bruschi #54 of the New England Patriots looks to tackle wide receiver Vincent Jackson #83 of the San Diego Chargers during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game held on January 14, 2007 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego,
    Harry How/Getty Images

    at 14-2, the 2006 Chargers expected to make the playoffs. The Patriots had a different idea. The Chargers were playing at home, where they had an 8-0 record in the regular season.

    League MVP, LaDanian Tomlinson was ready to convert his record breaking regular season into postseason success.

    It was not to be. Turnovers caused by the Patriots aggressive play doomed the Chargers. Still, the Chargers had a fourth quarter lead, only to watch Tom Brady erase it and end the Chargers season.

No. 14: 2007 Chargers Upset Colts 28-24

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 23:   Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts in action against the San Diego Chargers during their NFL Game at Qualcomm Stadium on November 23, 2008 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Peyton Manning and the 13-3 defending Super Bowl Champion Colts were poised to make another run through the playoffs. This run, however, was over almost as soon as it started.

    The Chargers finished the regular season 11-5 and they still had the memory of their own upset loss the previous year fresh in their minds.

    The Chargers were forced to hang on for dear life in this one as they turned away Manning and the Colts with two fourth quarter drives that ended in fourth down failure. The Chargers were able to win this one despite having to finish the game without the services of Philip Rivers or LaDanian Tomlinson.

No. 13: 1970 Cowboys Defeat Lions 5-0

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    The outcome of this game was not the upset. The upset was the crime committed against NFL scoring.

    The Lions and Cowboys forgot they were playing football and instead went for a baseball style game. This game was over early as the Cowboys put an first quarter field goal and opened an insurmountable 3-0. They went on to add an insurance safety in the fourth quarter.

No. 12: 1979 Rams Upset Cowboys 21-19

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    ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 6:  Quarterback Vince Ferragamo #15 of the Los Angeles Rams looks to pass during the game against the Chicago Bears at Anaheim Stadium on November 6, 1983 in Anaheim, California.  The Rams won 21-14.  (Photo by George Rose/Getty Ima
    George Rose/Getty Images

    The 11-5 Cowboys had already defeated the 9-7 Rams 30-6 during the '79 regular season. They had also blanked the Rams  28-0 in the previous year's championship game.

    Everyone expected this divisional round matchup to be much of the same.They expected wrong.

    Rams QB, Vince Ferragamo recovered from a first quarter safety to throw for three touchdowns. The last of which was a comeback drive that ended with just over two minutes on the clock.

No. 11: 2008 Eagles Upset Giants, 23-11

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 7:  Quarterback Donovan McNabb #5 of the Philadelphia Eagles scrambles as he looks to pass the ball against Justin Tuck #91 of the New York Giants at Giants Stadium on December 7, 2008 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    The 12-4 New York Giants set out to defend their 2007 Championship as the NFC's number one seed. The 9-6-and-yes-you-can-tie-Donovan Eagles were not impressed.

    The Eales defense dominated the Giants and they forced three turnovers. David Akers also feels this is a good time to point out that he made three field goals and extended his record to 18-consecutive postseason field goals made.

No. 10: 1984 Steelers Upset Broncos

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    1984:  Quarterback Mark Malone #16 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates during a 1984 NFL game.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    John Elway went into his first NFL game with his 13-3 Broncos favored to beat the 9-7 Steelers. This was not the same clutch Elway that later turned himself into a legend.

    With under three minutes left and the score tied, Elway was intercepted by Eric Williams. Williams returned the ball to the Denver 2-yard line and the Steelers punched it in for a touchdown.

No. 9: 2009 Jets Upset Chargers, 17-14

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    SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 17:  Running back Shonn Greene #23 of the New York Jets runs for a 53-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers in the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Qualcomm Stadium on January 17, 2010 in San Diego, Californ
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    The 13-3 Chargers entered this game as heavy favorites over the young, upstart Jets. The Jets squeaked into the playoffs with a strong finish and a 9-7 record and they weren't expected to do much in the playoffs.

    The Jets offense was non-existent in the first half and they went into the locker room trailing 7-0. The second half was a different story. The Jets put up 17 unanswered points and then held on for the 17-14 victory.

No. 8: 2008 Cardinals Upset Panthers, 33-13

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 10: Dante Rosario #88 of the Carolina Panthers is tackled by Antrel Rolle #21 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game on January 10, 2009 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by K
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    This was not your father's Arizona Cardinals---or anyone else's. We had not realized it yet. This is why the Cardinals, who finished the regular season 9-7, were heavy favorites to the 12-4 Carolina Panthers.

    This game was never close. The Cardinals scored 27 points in the first half, while the Panthers mustered seven. At the end of the game, Panthers QB, Jake Dehlome had thrown five interceptions and the Panthers were heading home.

No. 7: The Lack Of Upsets

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    SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 08:  Jordan Babineaux #27 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates the Seahawks 41-36 victory against the New Orleans Saints during the 2011 NFC wild-card playoff game at Qwest Field on January 8, 2011 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Ot
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    It is an upset that there haven't been more upsets. It brings to light why the NFL has set out on this mission to parity. As the NFL entered the new millennium the upsets increased. As it is now, it was even hard to find 15 upsets. 

    I suspect in ten years, it will be hard to narrow it to 15.

No. 6: 1995 Colts Upset Chiefs, 10-7

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Before Jim Harbaugh was the hottest coaching candidate in the land, he was Captain Comeback leading the upstart 1995 Colts to an improbable playoff run.

    The Colts went into Kansas City to take on the number one seeded Chiefs as heavy underdogs. The Chiefs finished the season with the best record, but they finished the playoffs 0-1.

    The Colts kicked a field goal in the third quarter for a 10-7 lead and that is the way the game ended.

No. 5: 1987 Vikings Upset 49ers, 36-24

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    SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 30:  Wide receiver Anthony Carter #81 of the Minnesota Vikings runs away from Ronnie Lott #42 of the San Francisco 49ers during a game at Candlestick Park on October 30, 1988 in San Francisco, California.  The 49er won 24-21.  (Pho
    George Rose/Getty Images

    The 1980's 49ers were a juggernaut. 1987 appeared to be another super version. The Niners earned the number one seed in the NFC and they were huge favorites in their first playoff game against the Vikings.

    The 49ers were undone by their inability to stop the Vikings Anthony Carter. Carter ended the game with 10 receptions and he set a playoff record with 227 yards.

    Things got so bad for the 49ers, they benched Joe Montana and let Steve Young finish the game.

No. 4: 1996 Jaguars Upset Broncos, 30-27

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    4 Jan 1997:  Quarterback Mark Brunell of the Jacksonville Jaguars moves the ball during a playoff game against the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado.  The Jaguars won the game, 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule  /Allsport
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    The 1996 Broncos flashed the kind of play you expect from back-to-back winners. The Broncos had to wait a season before they'd get their Super Bowl victory.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars continued their upset season by upending the Broncos. The Jags trailed at the end of the first quarter 12-0, but they ended scoring on six consecutive possessions, in this highly entertaining game, en route to the upset.

No. 3: 1983 Seahawks Upset Dolphins,

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    LOS ANGELES - DECEMBER 18:  Running back Curt Warner #28 of the Seattle Seahawks runs the football against the Los Angeles Raiders at the Los Angeles Coliseum on December 18, 1988 in Los Angeles, California. The Seahawks defeated the Raiders 43-37.  (Phot
    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    The upstart Seahawks were supposed to be little more than a speed bump to the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins and Dan Marino featured the best passing attack the league had ever seen.

    The Seahawks won this game the old fashioned way--they ran the ball and won the turnover battle. The Seahawks got 13 points off of three second half turnovers and Curt Warner rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns.

No. 2: 2005 Steelers Upset Colts, 21-18

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    INDIANAPOLIS - JANUARY 15:  Nick Harper #25 of the Inidanapolis Colts tackles Jerome Bettis #36 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Divisional Playoffs January 15, 2006 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Steelers won 21-18. Harper was cut
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Before this game, a number six seed in the NFL had yet to beat a number one seed. That all changed when the Steelers upset the high scoring Peyton Manning led Colts.

    The Steelers jumped out to a 14-point first quarter lead and let their defense take over from their. The Colts used a 15-point fourth quarter to make things interesting, but they ended up trailing the entire game and leaving upset. 

No. 1: Oilers Upset Chargers, 17-14

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    The Oilers were a walking MASH unit heading into this game and consequently had been written off by any sane NFL fan. Due to injury they were forced to play without the services of their QB, leading WR and all-world Running Back, Earl Campbell.

    No worries, the Oilers still won. They compensated for the missing offensive players with big plays on defense and outstanding special teams play.

    They were facilitated in this endeavor when their coaches deciphered the Chargers offensive hand signals. This allowed the Oilers to align in the right defense time after time.  

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