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 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.