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NFL: Three Upstart Teams That Took the Playoffs By Storm in Recent Years

As we gear up for another Super Bowl, it’s worth looking back at some of the upstart teams that made a big splash in the playoffs in recent years. This year, it’s the turn of the Detroit Lions. Heading into the current campaign, the Michigan outfit was without a postseason victory in over 30 years and to make matters worse, they had only qualified for the playoffs three times since the turn of the millennium.

However, victory over their rival Green Bay Packers on the final day of the 2022 season, curtailing the Cheeseheads’ own playoff aspirations, left the Lions faithful confident of a promising 2023 season. Those hopes were reinvigorated on the opening day of this term when they stunned the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead. But nobody could have expected the journey that they were about to embark upon.

For the first time in their history, Detroit topped and won the NFC North. They then knocked off the Los Angeles Rams in the wildcard round of the playoffs for their first postseason victory in 32 years and finally defeated the Tampa Bay Buccanneers to secure progression to the conference championships for just the second time in franchise history. Despite that, football betting odds have listed them as +700 outsiders for a first-ever Lombardi this term, instead favoring their NFC rival San Francisco 49ers as well as the AFC’s two remaining contenders, the reigning champion Chiefs and the top seed Baltimore Ravens.

But with the underdog Lions taking the playoffs by storm this term, we decided to take a look through the recent history books and find three other upstart teams that upset the proverbial postseason applecart.

2021-22 Cincinnati Bengals

Led by their young quarterback, former Heisman trophy winner and 2020 draft number one overall pick Joe Burrow, the Bengals went from being the worst team in the league to the Super Bowl in just two years. They went 10-7 in the regular season, good enough for top spot in the AFC North and a first divisional triumph in six years.

Jackpot Joey played with poise beyond his years, throwing for a mighty 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns in just his second year in the league. Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was also a key factor in the team’s success, finishing with 1,455 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.

Just like Detroit this season, Cincy made history when they picked up their first postseason victory in 30 years with a 26-19 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders in the wildcard round. They then stunned the top-seed Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round – at Nissan Stadium no less – before humbling the Chiefs with a shocking overtime victory at Arrowhead to secure their first Super Bowl appearance in 33 years.

2020-21 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady’s arrival in Tampa Bay raised plenty of eyebrows, but few predicted just how quickly the Buccaneers would turn things around. They had not made the playoffs since 2007 and were not a favorite to win it all in 2020. But their superstar quarterback along with a talented supporting cast of players like tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Mike Evans, led the team to an 11-5 record in the regular season, good enough for a spot in the postseason as the NFC’s fifth seed.

They then proceeded to go on a magical playoff run. They won three road games in a row, knocking off the Washington Football Team, New Orleans Saints, and the top-seed Green Bay Packers to earn a trip to the Super Bowl. Brady proved that he had plenty left in the tank throughout the postseason by racking up over 1,000 throwing yards and ten touchdowns. He proceeded to help his team decimate Patrick Mahomes and the heavily favored Chiefs 31-9 to lift the Lombardi and become the first team to win the championship in their home stadium in the process.

2020-21 Buffalo Bills

The Bills had a solid 2019 season, finishing with 10 wins and a wild-card berth, but they took things to another level in 2020. The Bills had not won a playoff game since 1995, but that all changed thanks to the brilliance of quarterback Josh Allen. The former University of Wyoming handout had a breakout campaign, throwing for over 4,500 yards and 37 touchdowns throughout the course of the regular season, helping his team to a 13-3 record and divisional honors for the first time in a quarter of a century.

They then took down the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens in their first two playoff games, including a dominant victory over the latter in the divisional round. Despite losing in the AFC Championship game to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bills announced to their rivals that they were back as a legitimate contender. Allen had a career year, while receiver Stefon Diggs led the league in receiving yards with 1,535. However, that maiden Lombardi still remains elusive, and the Chiefs still remain their kryptonite, as demonstrated once again this term with an underdog victory at Highmark Stadium. 

John Milton
John Milton
Having worked in the marketing department at two online sports betting sites, John brings his love of sports to serve BigOnSports as chief writer. He will be researching and writing about the sports betting community to improve your experience as a sports bettor.

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