Do Big Underdogs Cover Spreads In Conference Championships, Bengals Bettors Wonder

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The Cincinnati Bengals have won two games this postseason after a wait of 31 years since their last playoff victory. What is their reward? The task of facing the Chiefs in Kansas City as big underdogs in the AFC title game.

The Chiefs are playing in (and hosting) their fourth consecutive AFC Conference Championship Game, with a chance to return to the Super Bowl for a third straight year. Kansas City is trying to become the fourth team to make three consecutive Super Bowls.

With the Chiefs holding the edge in homefield and experience, and boasting the dynamic, no-look-passing Patrick Mahomes, they are 7-point favorites on most oddsboards for Sunday’s conference title game at Arrowhead Stadium. The Bengals are +270 underdogs on the moneyline and +800 longshots to win the Super Bowl.

How have big underdogs fared in the Super Bowl era in conference title games?

Biggest Underdogs in AFC/NFC Conference Title Game History

The NFL started playing conference championship games as we know them in the 1970-71 season, when the great merger happened (NFL + AFL).

Here is a list of conference title games with a closing point spread of 7 or more since the merger. Winning team listed in bold.

YEARCONFUNDERDOGSPREADFAVORITEOVER/UNDERATS & TOTALS
1991NFCLions+14Redskins43Favorite/Under
1999NFCBuccaneers+14Rams46Underdog/Under
2007AFCChargers+14Patriots48Underdog/Under
1996NFCPanthers+12Packers39Favorite/Over
1991AFCBroncos+11.5Bills46Underdog/Under
1977NFCVikings+11Cowboys36.5Favorite/Under
1995AFCColts+11Steelers43Underdog/Under
1998NFCFalcons+11Vikings55.5Underdog/Over
2001NFCEagles+11Rams49Underdog/Over
1985NFCRams+10.5Bears34Favorite/Under
1983NFC49ers+10Redskins51Underdog/Under
1984AFCSteelers+10Dolphins44Favorite/Over
1984NFCBears+1049ers40Favorite/Under
2001AFCPatriots+10Steelers35.5Underdog/Over
1979AFCOilers+9.5Steelers39.5Favorite/Over
1994AFCChargers+9Steelers35Underdog/Under
1995NFCPackers+9Cowboys50.5Favorite/Over
1998AFCJets+9Broncos51Favorite/Under
2002AFCTitans+9Raiders46Favorite/Over
2009AFCJets+8.5Colts40.5Favorite/Over
2014NFCPackers+8.5Seahawks45Underdog/Over
1990NFCGiants+849ers37Underdog/Under
2019NFCPackers+849ers46.5Favorite/Over
1994NFCCowboys+7.549ers48Favorite/Over
1996AFCJaguars+7.5Patriots44Favorite/Under
2007NFCGiants+7.5Packers41.5Underdog/Over
2012AFCRavens+7.5Patriots51.5Underdog/Under
2017AFCJaguars+7.5Patriots46Underdog/Under
2019AFCTitans+7.5Chiefs51Favorite/Over
1973AFCRaiders+7DolphinsFavorite
1978AFCOilers+7Steelers36Favorite/Over
1983AFCSeahawks+7Raiders50Favorite/Under
1986NFCRedskins+7Giants38Favorite/Under
1989NFCRams+749ers46Favorite/Under
1990AFCRaiders+7Bills37Favorite/Over
1999AFCTitans+7Jaguars39.5Underdog/Over
2011AFCRavens+7Patriots50Underdog/Under
2014AFCColts+7Patriots52.5Favorite/Under
  • There have been 38 conference championship games since the 1970-71 season where the underdog was spotted 7 points or more …
  • The favorite has won 31 of the 38 games.
  • The underdog has covered the spread in only 16 of the 38 games (42.1%)
  • The dog is 2-7 ATS when they’ve been spotted exactly 7 points.
  • The totals have gone OVER in 19 of the 37 conference championship games with a point spread of 7 points or more. No total was posted for Raiders-Dolphins in ’73.
  • Only three teams this century (2001 Patriots, 2007 Giants, 2012 Ravens) have won conference championship games where they were at least 7-point dogs. All three of those underdogs went on to win the Super Bowl.

Source: SportsOddsHistory.com

Longshot Bengals Can Make Super Bowl History

The Bengals will make history if they beat the Chiefs and go on to win Super Bowl LVI. If they do, they will tie the 1999 Rams as the longest preseason longshot to win the Super Bowl in NFL history. The Rams were 150-to-1 to win it all that year, but win they did, and Dick Vermeil never cried for a better reason. The Bengals’ futures odds spiked to 150-to-1 last summer.

Just because the Chiefs are at home and playing in a fourth straight conference title game, doesn’t mean the Bengals are doomed. In the Divisional Round last weekend, the road underdog won three of the four games, and in that fourth game, the Chiefs escaped by the skin of their teeth in overtime.

Both times Cincy made the Super Bowl (in the 1980s), it was unexpected. Joe Burrow can lead the Bengals to the Big Game, but he’ll need to play near-perfect against the Chiefs.

See our Bengals vs. Chiefs odds and sportsbook offers >

About the Author

Dan Holmes

Writer and Contributor
Dan Holmes has written three books about sports. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He enjoys writing, running, and lemon bars. He lives near Lake Michigan with his daughters and usually has an orange cream soda nearby.

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