Super Bowl Upset? Bucs Fans Can Look To The Broncos For Underdog Hope

Written By Ian St. Clair on 02/02/2021 - Last Updated on February 3, 2021

Now that’s it officially Super Bowl Week, it’s a good time to reminisce.

Since the Denver Broncos aren’t any good and their bitter rival is in its second-straight Super Bowl, it serves as a great distraction.

Although the Colorado sports betting market wasn’t open for those special Denver seasons and teams, it’s fun to look back.

For fans and bettors, it’s fun to think about the wagers you would have put down.

That is especially true for the two Super Bowls in which Denver was the underdog.

So while most in Broncos Country don’t care either way, Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans can look to the Broncos for hope of pulling a Super Bowl LV upset.

In fact, John Elway and Peyton Manning could also serve as more inspiration to Tom Brady and the Buccaneers on how to do it. Brady hasn’t been an underdog in the Super Bowl since 2002 when he and the New England Patriots were a 14-point ‘dog to the St. Louis Rams. So he could use the reminder.

Super Bowl XXXII

Let’s start with Super Bowl XXXII in San Diego.

The Broncos were an 11.5-point underdog to the defending champion Green Bay Packers.

While the team was confident, the fanbase was uneasy and on edge.

Denver had been to four previous Super Bowls and been blown out in all of them.

For some, while a win was the hope, just having a close game would suffice.

But as the game wore on, it became clear this Super Bowl Sunday was different.

  • Elway pulled one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history — The Helicopter.
  • Steve Atwater knocked out himself, Packers receiver Robert Brooks, and teammate Randy Hilliard.

And then a dream became reality.

In the legendary words of Broncos radio play-by-play guy Dave Logan:

“Fourth-and-six from the 31. Blitz is on. Favre, hit as he throws, pass is going to be … incomplete. Denver holds. Denver’s going to win it. Oh, finally, they’re going to win this thing. Are you kidding me?”

The 31-24 Denver win remains one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.

As Johnny Avello, DraftKings sportsbook director of operations, told PlayColorado about that Super Bowl:

“Yeah, we probably had the wrong line on that game. When you think about it, that team was pretty darn good. But, you know, what I think happened in the game was that the Packers were a team that caught the public’s eye. Just a team that people thought could not lose. And we’ve just seen that through the years where we’re kind of wrong on evaluating a team. That was probably one of those years. But I would say that team is really good.”

Super Bowl 50

Most fresh in Broncos Country’s mind is Super Bowl 50.

That was just five years ago, but it feels like so much longer than that.

It doesn’t help that Denver hasn’t done squat since that 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers.

Still, that Broncos defense led by Von Miller was one of the best in NFL history.

And the chance to see another iconic quarterback end his career with a Lombardi Trophy … it doesn’t get much better than that.

But the sportsbooks didn’t think so.

And neither did most of the betting public.

Denver opened as a 4.5-point underdog and it moved to -5.5 by kickoff.

For Broncos fans, there was never a doubt.

Unlike Super Bowl XXXII, Peyton Manning, DeMarcus Ware, and Miller would do whatever it took.

According to Avello:

“The 2016 team, that team was really good defensively but Peyton Manning really wasn’t any good at that time. If you remember that game, he didn’t do much. The defense was brilliant. So that was the difference in that game. I think they were a +4.5 in that game, it wasn’t much more than that. But the public sensed that Peyton Manning was going to get that Super Bowl win. People were talking and I remember the chatter in the book, people were saying how Peyton Manning was going to tie his brother to have as many Super Bowls. So I think there was a good feeling about him winning that game. But there wasn’t a good feeling about how well he was playing at that time.”

Bookmaker and Broncos fan

Jay Kornegay has the unique perspective of being a bookmaker and a Broncos fan.

Kornegay is the executive vice president of operations at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas.

So when Manning and the Broncos went to two Super Bowls in three years, it was a little weird for him.

How is Kornegay able to separate his fandom and the needs of his employer?

As he said to PlayColorado when the SuperBook launched in Colorado:

“Well, I wear a couple of hats. One is my work hat, and one is my fan hat. And when I’m at work, I definitely have that work hat on and I do whatever is best for our operation. But once it kicks off, I can put my fan hat on. Now, I shouldn’t tell my bosses that. ‘What do you mean you’re rooting against the book?’ I’m just rooting for my team.
“Sometimes it’s very frustrating, to tell you the truth. Like the Seattle (Seahawks) Super Bowl, everybody was betting the Broncos. And I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh. If the Broncos win, we’re just going to get destroyed.’ Not that I was rooting for Seattle. I was definitely rooting for the Broncos in that game. And it was over quickly, right? Pretty much the first snap.”

Kornegay then talked about a much better memory for him and Broncos fans (and the book, too).

“And in another case, you’ve got Super Bowl 50 where everybody was betting the Panthers. Cam (Newton) was on a roll. The Panthers were destroying everybody. They just rolled, I think it was, the (Arizona) Cardinals. And it was a lot of fun then because I got the opportunity to root for my team and the book really needed the Broncos to win. So it was a double winner for me.

“In the other scenario it’s either, well, my favorite team is going to win. If they win, we’re going to lose a lot. The other way is my favorite team loses but at least the book can win a lot of money. But you do have to separate the two. And sometimes that is challenging, but I’ve been doing it for so long, that I kind of have got used to it over time. But there is no doubt that I will put my fan hat on, especially my Broncos and (Colorado) Rockies fan hat on, when the game starts.”

As the first Super Bowl in the Colorado sports betting market closes in, at least for now there’s a trip down memory lane to serve as a distraction.

For those betting on the Broncos, here’s hoping the franchise returns to the big game sooner rather than later.

Photo by AP / Elise Amendola
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Ian St. Clair

Ian is an award-winning sports journalist and a University of Northern Colorado graduate. He’s a Colorado native and has over a decade of experience covering college and professional athletics. He broke into the gambling industry right as Colorado launched legal sports betting in 2020. Ian now manages the sites for some of the biggest gambling markets in North America and is an analyst for PlayColorado.

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