Super Bowl 2020: Chiefs favored by one, here's what happened in other Super Bowls with a spread that close
What happens when there's a small point spread in the Super Bowl? Glad you asked.
Although the line has fluctuated over the past few days with the Chiefs being favored by as many as 1.5 points, the point spread hasn't made the jump to two points yet and it hasn't come anywhere close to hitting three points, which is actually a pretty rare thing when it comes to the NFL's biggest game.
Since the first Super Bowl was played back in 1966, there have only been seven games (out of 53) that have had a point spread below three points. The good news for all of us is that a close point spread almost always means we're going to get a highly entertaining Super Bowl. Of the seven games where the spread has been below three points, six of them have been decided by 10 points or less and five of them have been decided by one score.
Basically, when the oddsmakers give us a tight point spread, it usually means we're going to get a tight game.
Here's a look at the seven other Super Bowls that had a point spread below three points (games with a point spread of exactly three were not included here):
Super Bowl V
Colts, -2.5 points
From an entertainment standpoint, the Super Bowl started off as a dud. Although Joe Namath's guarantee in Super Bowl III is one of the most iconic moments in Super Bowl history, the fact of the matter is that the first four Super Bowls just weren't that exciting with the four games being decided by an average of 17.25 points, a total that includes Namath's Jets beating the Baltimore Colts 16-7. In Super Bowl V, the Colts returned to the Super Bowl, and this time they were going up against Tom Landry's Cowboys, who were making their first trip to the game in franchise history.
In this game, which was played at the Orange Bowl in Miami, the 14-2-1 Colts were a 2.5-point favorite over the 12-5 Cowboys. This game definitely lived up to the hype as it was tied at 13 for more than half of the fourth quarter. The game wasn't decided until the final seconds when Colts kicker Jim O'Brien nailed a 32-yard field goal to win it. To this day, Super Bowl V still marks the only time in NFL history that a player from the losing team was named MVP (Chuck Howley).
Result: Colts win 16-13.
Super Bowl VII
This Super Bowl capped off the Dolphins undefeated season in 1972, and surprisingly, they were just a one-point favorite over the Redskins, who had gone 13-3 up to that point, including the playoffs. Although the scoreboard says this Super Bowl was close, this game was completely dominated by a Dolphins defense that held the Redskins to just 228 total yards. The Dolphins took a 14-0 lead into the half and probably would have won the game 14-0 if not for the most infamous pass play in Super Bowl history.
With just under three minutes left to play, the Dolphins lined up for a 42-yard field goal attempt, and that's when this happened.
That's Dolphins kicker Garo Yepremian throwing a very ill-advised pass after the Redskins blocked his field goal attempt. The reason this game qualifies as somewhat exciting is that the Redskins actually got the ball back with 1:14 left to play with a chance to tie the game, but they promptly went four-and-out as the Dolphins defense managed to save the team's perfect season.
Result: Dolphins win 14-7.
Super Bowl XVI
Cincinnati Bengals vs. San Francisco 49ers
If there was one Super Bowl in the game's first 20 years that no one saw coming, it was definitely Super Bowl XVI. Both these teams went 6-10 in 1980, so they didn't exactly have high expectations going into the 1981 season. Although this game featured Joe Montana, it was the 49ers defense that came through in the clutch. On what is still considered one of the best goal-line stands in NFL history, the 49ers kept the Bengals out of the end zone on three straight plays from the one-yard line in the third quarter (The Bengals had a first down play from the three-yard line and gained two yards, and after that, the Bengals got three plays from the one-yard line because they went for it on fourth down). One of the most notable plays from the goal line stand came on third down when Dan Bunz made a perfect open-field tackle on Cincinnati's Charles Alexander.
The score was 20-7 at the time of the goal-line stand, so if the Bengals would have scored, it would have been 20-14 heading into the fourth quarter. Although the Bengals did eventually cut the lead to 20-14, that didn't happen until midway through the fourth quarter and it was too little too late.
Result: 49ers win 26-21.
Super Bowl XLVI
Patriots, -2.5 points
The oddsmakers definitely learned their lesson after watching the Giants upset the 16-0 Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, because they only made the Patriots a 2.5 point favorite in this game, even though New England had finished the 2011 season at 13-3 while the Giants went just 9-7.
In this game, the Patriots held a 17-9 lead with 10 minutes to play in the third quarter, but they were unable to score for the rest of the game. On the other hand, the Giants were able to move the ball up and down the field. Not only did they get two field goals from Lawrence Tynes to cut the lead to 17-12, but Ahmad Bradshaw would end up rushing for the game-winning touchdown with just under a minute left to play.
Result: Giants win 21-17.
Super Bowl XLVIII
Broncos, -2 points
Of the seven games with a close point spread, this is the only one that was truly a blowout from start to finish. The Broncos got safetied on their first offensive play of the game, and then things only got worse after that. Not only did Denver give up a safety, but Peyton Manning also threw a pick-six and their special teams gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown to Percy Harvin.
The Broncos got beat in every phase of the game by a superior Seahawks team and it showed on the scoreboard.
Result: Seahawks win 43-8.
Super Bowl XLIX
New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks
In a game where the Seahawks were a 1-point favorite, it's almost fitting that they came up one yard short of beating the Patriots. In one of the wildest Super Bowls ever played, the Seahawks looked like they were going to pull off a magical fourth-quarter comeback, but then this happened at the one-yard line with under 30 seconds to play:
The only upside to the interception is that it has given football fans five straight years of being able to make jokes about how the Seahawks should have given the ball to Marshawn Lynch.
Result: Patriots win 28-24.
Super Bowl LIII
New England Patriots vs. Los Angeles Rams
Patriots, -2.5 points
If you like good punting, then this will definitely go down as one of the best Super Bowls ever played. Although this game didn't have a lot of offensive excitement, it was must-see TV for most viewers because the game was so close. After a field goal by Greg Zuerlein tied the game at three in the third quarter, neither team would score again until midway through the fourth quarter. The win wasn't sealed for the Patriots until Stephen Gostkowski hit a 41-yards field goal with just 1:16 left to play. As for those punters, Johnny Hekker and Ryan Allen combined for 14 punts in the game, which means we saw an average of more than three per quarter.
Result: Patriots win 13-3.
Super Bowl stats: In these seven games, the under (point total) went 5-2 and the favored team went 4-3 against the spread. It's also worth noting that six of the seven games were within one-score heading into the fourth quarter, which means we should be in for an exciting game on Feb. 2.
Historical spreads via Oddshark
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