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Longest streaks as an underdog

Yesterday, I looked at the longest streaks as a favorite. The ’99 to ’02 Rams were the record holder, as the team was favored in an astounding 57 consecutive games. Unfortunately for the franchise, things weren’t so great in the post-Kurt Warner era. In fact, five years after that streak ended, the Rams started a new record-setting streak. Starting in week 14 of the 2007 season, St. Louis was an underdog in 43 consecutive games. The streak finally ended when the 2010 Rams hosted the 1-6 Carolina Panthers. Incredibly, 100 games of Rams history can be broken down into two really long streaks of greatness and futility.

The 43-game streak spanned six quarterbacks: Brock Berlin, Marc Bulger, Trent Green, Kyle Boller, Keith Null, and Sam Bradford. The table below shows the 20 longest streaks for all teams since 1978.

TeamStreakYear StartYear EndRecordStreak Ender
STL43200720106-37-0 vs. CAR
CLE411999200110-31-0 vs. CIN
DAL36198819908-28-0 vs. PHO
NOR33198019828-25-0 vs. TAM
ARI31200220048-23-0 vs. NYG
CIN26199219944-22-0 vs. HOU
SFO25200420066-19-0 vs. OAK
HOU24198219842-22-0 vs. IND
PHO24199119924-20-0 vs. NYG
BAL24198119834-19-1 vs. NWE
ATL23198719885-18-0 vs. GNB
CIN22200220035-17-0 vs. ARI
DET21200820091-20-0 vs. STL
NWE20199019914-16-0 vs. IND
PHI20199820006-14-0 vs. NYG
OAK19200720085-14-0 vs. KAN
HOU19200220036-13-0 vs. ATL
IND18198619873-15-0 vs. BUF
SEA18199219933-15-0 vs. CIN
NYG18198019815-13-0 vs. NOR

The old record belonged to the miserable expansion Browns, who were underdogs in each of their first 43 games. That streak only ended when the team faced the Jon Kitna/Scott Mitchell/Akili Smith Bengals (yes, all three of them played in that game).

Troy Aikman was an underdog in his first 24 NFL starts. Jimmy Johnson was an underdog in his first 29 games. But things eventually turned around nicely for those two. It wasn’t until the Cowboys won three straight games late in the season in ’90 that they were finally favored. The Cowboys responded by winning 41-10 behind four Emmitt Smith touchdown runs, made the playoffs the next season, and then won their first Super Bowl in the following year.

I was a bit surprised that the early ’80s Baltimore Colts didn’t have a longer streak — the ’81 team is one of the worst in history and perhaps fielded the worst defense of all time: Baltimore ranked last in points allowed, yards allowed, turnovers forced, first downs allowed, passing touchdowns allowed, NY/A allowed, and rushing touchdowns allowed. In 1982, the team didn’t win a game. But the Colts’ streak was only snapped by virtue of them being a pick’em against the Patriots in week six. They weren’t a favorite until the last game of the season, which was the team’s final game in Baltimore. Prior to that game, the team had gone 34 straight games without being a favorite.

As for the current longest streak, that belongs to the Jaguars. After being 3.5-point dogs in each of the first two weeks, Jacksonville has now been an underdog in 14 straight games. There’s no chance the Jaguars will be favored in any of their next six games (@SEA, IND, @STL, @DEN, SD, SF) unless Philip Rivers and the Chargers just implode over the next month. So the streak should get to 20 games, although there are some games in the back half of the schedule that Jacksonville could be favored to win.

The second longest streak is pretty shocking: it belongs to the Minnesota Vikings, who have been underdogs in their last 11 games, including the playoffs. The Vikings opened up the season with two road games against NFC North rivals, so perhaps it’s not surprising that Minnesota wasn’t favored in either of those games. But how does a team that made the playoffs and had Adrian Peterson get projected as an underdog in their final eight games? The back half of last year’s schedule included road games in Seattle, Houston, Green Bay, and Chicago, and Minnesota was understandably a heavy dog in each of those games. The Vikings were one-point underdogs in St. Louis and at home against Chicago, three point underdogs at home against Green Bay, and three-point underdogs at home against the Lions, too. But that streak is about to end, as the Cleveland Browns come to Minnesota in week three. That game also marks the return of Josh Gordon for Cleveland, so we’ll see if he can be a difference maker for a Browns team that has scored just sixteen points in two games.

  • Richie

    The Rams at the top of both lists? That’s wild!

  • Somehow I am not surprised that my man Marion Campbell figured into this list. He coached Atlanta’s streak.

    The most interesting of all to me is the Lions streak where they not only were underdogs in 21 straight games but indeed lost 20 of them. It’s bad enough to be an underdog every week, but they tried their best to live down to the reputation!

    • Chase Stuart

      I think the more impressive part is that for an 0-16 team, they were underdogs for all that long. Cleveland won 10 out of 43 games and still wasn’t favored in any of them.

  • Chase Stuart

    The Jaguars are underdogs in Indianapolis in week 3 of the 2014 season; that will be the team’s 31st straight game as an underdog.

  • Anon

    Would have also been interesting to see record vs the spread for those teams