NY Jets: The road to a super upset
Jan 29, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; General view of Super Bowl III championship ring to commemorate the New York Jets 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts on Jan 12, 1969 on display at the NFL Experience at the Phoenix Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sport
The NY Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III 16-7, and it’s considered a monumental upset. When one looks at through the prism of AFL vs NFL and the 18-point spread, it absolutely is.
In what we perceive to be David vs Goliath, the lasting image we have is Joe Namath running to the tunnel with the number one finger raised in victory. After careful examination of the entire season as a whole, it isn’t as big of an upset as we perceive it to be. It’s more like a David vs. a weakened Goliath.
Let’s look at each team’s road to Super Bowl III.
Next: Easy road for Jets
Jan 31, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; New York Jets former quarterback Joe Namath on the red carpet prior to the NFL Honors award ceremony at Symphony Hall. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Easy road for Jets
The Jets finished 1968 with an 11-3 record. Their only losses came to the Buffalo Bills at War Memorial Stadium, at home to the Denver Broncos and against the Oakland Raiders.
They finished the season in first place in a bad division. The Jets were the only team in the AFL’s Eastern Division to finish with a record above .500.
Not only wasn’t it a tough road to win the division, but in the games against their division opponents, they outscored their opponents 267-148
So, the road to the AFL Championship Game was paved for the Jets to walk right to it. On the other hand, the Raiders did have a slightly steeper hill to climb.
The Raiders did play in a slightly stronger division than the Jets. The AFL’s Western Division had three teams finish above .500. Even so, the Raiders finished the regular season with a 12-2 record.
Normally, the AFL Championship Game would’ve been on December 22, the week after the final regular season game. However, the aforementioned 12-2 record by the Raiders had them in the first place tie with the Kansas City Chiefs, with whom they split their two match-ups.
The AFL didn’t have an elaborate tie-breaking system the NFL currently employs. Since they split the season series and finished tied, they played a game to decide the division champion, while the Jets essentially had a bye week. The Raiders would win the game, but would not be able to beat the Jets at Shea Stadium, losing 27-23, and it was on to Super Bowl III for the Jets.
Now let’s look at the Colts road to Super Bowl III.
Next: Smooth Sailing for Colts
Dec 6, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; An Indianapolis Colts helmet sits on the field before the Pittsburgh Steelers host the Colts at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 45-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Smooth Sailing for Colts
The Baltimore Colts ran rough shot over the NFL in 1968. Their 13-1 record was the best in the league, and were one of only five teams to finish above .500.
They won the Coastal Division of the Western Conference by 2.5 games over the Los Angeles Rams. Their average scoring margin was 18 points, and that’s with a 10-point loss to the Cleveland Browns (average margin of victory: 21).
The NFL had a four-team playoff structure where the Coastal Division Champion would play the Central Division Champion to determine the Western Conference champion, and the Capitol Division Champion would play the Century Division Champion for the championship of the Eastern Conference.
The Colts defeated the Minnesota Vikings 24-14 to advance to the NFL Championship Game. They would then avenge their only loss in the regular season to the Browns by handily defeating them 34-0.
Even with the week off between the AFL and NFL Championship Games and the Super Bowl, the Colts still played 16 consecutive weeks of football. That had to take a physical tole.
Next: Final thoughts
Jan 30, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Studio photograph of a game ticket from Super Bowl III between the New York Jets of the AFL and the Baltimore Colts of the NFL played on January 12, 1969 at the Orange Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Garrett Reid-USA TODAY Sports
The Colts entered the game only having lost once that season with an average margin of victory of 22. So it makes sense that the team from the league that was considered far superior, and with that in mind, would be an 18-point favorite over the Jets.
Namath guaranteed a win and the rest is NFL history. He outsmarted the Colts’ defense. They were cocky thinking they could just play the way they had played all season and beat the Jets.
More jets: Could Jimmy Graham be missing piece on Jets' offense?
That coupled with the extra week of rest the Jets had and the Colts didn’t could’ve played a huge role in the outcome. The Jets were an underdog, but when we look back at history, we tend to look at it with blurred vision. When we look at the whole picture, it becomes much more clearer.
The perception of a huge upset isn’t necessarily true. When you’re watching Super Bowl 50 this year remember one thing…expect the unexpected.