Cynical National Football League fans and observers may find it hard to believe that there is no evidence game outcomes are rigged and fixed after watching peculiar and questionable events occur on a Sunday afternoon or during a prime time affair. After all, it sometimes feels as if referees are either going against or actively working for a particular side, and there have also been numerous questionable decisions made by coaches over the years that leads one to wonder if that staff isn’t being influenced by outside forces. We may not be able to name the specific individuals responsible for scripting the final scores of such games, but skeptics who consider themselves sports conspiracy theorists would swear at least some championship and nationally televised contests have been fixed.
The Super Bowl is the top North American sports event of every year and a game watched by millions upon millions of people who otherwise don’t pay much attention to the NFL. Because of the popularity of the sport and the drawing power of that game, it isn’t all that surprising that some have wondered if multiple Super Bowls haven’t been fixed since the birth of the big game. In recent memory, the outcomes of several Super Bowl contests have left some believing at least some NFL games must be rigged, as those games featured some mind-boggling and shocking events that made it hard to believe everything was, in fact, on the level. The question has to be asked: How difficult would it be to fix any NFL game in the first place?
15 Chiefs-Raiders Thursday Night Football 2017
We start with an example from a game that occurred during the 2017 regular season. The Kansas City Chiefs twice defeated rivals the Oakland Raiders during a Thursday Night Football contest, but the visitors on that evening had what those watching at home thought were game-winning plays nullified by penalties.
The Raiders ultimately took advantage of a third opportunity and earned a victory, one that kept young quarterback Derek Carr and his offense alive and well in the playoff hunt. Would the NFL go out of the way to help a potential face of a franchise allegedly eyeing a move to Las Vegas pursue a championship during a game played in front of a national audience? It’s not the craziest suggestion put out there by skeptics.
14 Super Bowl XXXVI
Unless you aren’t all that familiar with NFL history and accidentally found this piece while navigating the Internet, you probably know at least some details about the “Spygate” scandal associated with Super Bowl XXXVI. Whether or not you think the New England Patriots had an unfair advantage versus the St. Louis Rams on that evening because New England coaches allegedly taped a walkthrough practice conducted by their opponents is a matter of opinion, but those of us watching the contest couldn’t help but notice it sure looked like the Patriots knew quite a bit about the St. Louis offense during that encounter.
The NFL allowing a new “golden boy,” quarterback Tom Brady, to win a title and emerge as a Superstar makes all kinds of sense if you think about it for any reasonable amount of time.
13 Super Bowl 50
Carolina Panthers quarterback and NFL Most Valuable Player for that season Cam Newton led an offense that appeared unstoppable into the Super Bowl 50 showdown versus the Denver Broncos and veteran QB Peyton Manning who seemed to be a shell of his former self.
Almost magically, the Denver defense dominated the majority of the contest, and Manning was able to hold his head high and ride off into the sunset as a champion before retiring the subsequent March. While Newton gained popularity during what was, to date, his best, season, Manning was arguably the most beloved star of his generation and an all-time great. The NFL going out of the way to bolster his Hall of Fame resume before he retired isn’t all that wild a notion.
12 Super Bowl XLVII
The Baltimore Ravens held a 28-6 lead over the San Francisco 49ers during Super Bowl XLVII when, all of a sudden, the lights went out due to a power outage. This alleged power failure that stopped play for over a half hour allowed the Niners to regroup and turn what had been a one-sided affair into a competitive game that came down to the final minutes.
Those who have questioned the events of that evening, including former Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, have suggested somebody somewhere had something to do with the electrical problems in order to keep fans at home tuned in to what otherwise could have been a blowout. Do you believe Roger Goodell pulled the figurative plug to make the game closer on that fateful evening?
11 Super Bowl XXV
The Buffalo Bills were favorites to defeat the New York Giants heading into Super Bowl XXV largely because the Buffalo offense, one that featured multiple future Hall of Fame talents, looked downright unbeatable throughout the season. Big Blue did well to neutralize that unit, in part by the New York offense keeping possession of the football for the majority of the third quarter.
Super Bowl XXV is mostly remembered for Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood pushing what would’ve been a game-winning field goal wide right in the final minute of play, a miss that propelled a team that plays in the largest sports market in the United States to a championship. The Bills, meanwhile, still haven’t won a Super Bowl title a single time in franchise history.
10 2001 NFC Championship
Here is another instance of the New York (Football) Giants being involved in a game that may have left some scratching their heads and wondering what occurred on the field. The Giants, a solid team heading into the 2001 NFC Championship, thoroughly dominated the Minnesota Vikings en route to a 41-0 scoreline and earning a berth in the Super Bowl.
One reason some out there may believe the outcome of this game was fixed is that the Giants suffered a blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV. Did the Vikings merely have a bad day at the worst time, were they that much worse than the Ravens, or was the 2001 NFC Championship contest played under suspicious circumstances that favored the big-market club?
9 Raiders-Texans Monday Night Football 2016
As Michael McCarthy of the Sporting News wrote after the fact, the Oakland Raiders were the beneficiaries of several questionable officiating decisions during a win over the Houston Texans in a Monday Night Football game played in Mexico City in 2016. Why would the outcome of this game be fixed?
The Raiders are a historic franchise that plays in California and that features a promising young quarterback, and the NFL theoretically wants to spread the popularity of the league to countries outside of the United States. One way to achieve the latter could be to bolster the status of a famous franchise that plays in a huge market. Even Shannon Sharpe, a three-time Super Bowl champion and Hall of Famer, was left asking questions on FS1 program Undisputed following the events of this game.
8 Saints Return After Hurricane Katrina
Everybody loves a good comeback story, and the NFL had quite the tale on its hands back in 2006 when the New Orleans Saints hosted the Atlanta Falcons in the first game played at the Superdome following the events of Hurricane Katrina.
The Saints jumped out to an early lead after a blocked punt resulted in a touchdown, and the rout was on from there. New Orleans defeated Atlanta 23-3 in a game that seemed to feature only one team actually playing hard on that night. The truth of that matter is that plenty of viewers and fans out there probably wouldn’t have cared all that much about this game being fixed, if it was, because New Orleans fans deserved to have a night filled with joy.
7 Super Bowl III
You wouldn’t have to look far and for long to find conspiracy theories about the Super Bowl III contest between the Baltimore Colts and New York Jets supposedly being fixed. The Colts, the better team on paper and heavy favorites ahead of the contest, failed to obtain any momentum during the game, and the Jets, let by Superstar Joe Namath, notched an upset victory in one of the most famous showdowns in NFL history.
Those who would claim the game was fixed will point to the fact the Jets winning helped establish credibility of the AFL/NFL merger, and it put a New York team over on the sport’s biggest stage. It remains one of the most well-known games in pro football history, and it cemented the legacy of “Broadway Joe.”
6 2007 AFC Championship
The New England Patriots seemed well on their way to rolling over the Indianapolis Colts after jumping out to a 21-3 lead in the first half of the 2007 AFC Championship. Then, shockingly, the Patriots fell apart in nearly every aspect of the game, and the Colts eventually won the contest 38-34.
This outcome allowed Peyton Manning to earn a victory over rival Tom Brady in a playoff contest, and it propelled Manning and the Colts into a Super Bowl game that they ultimately lost to the New Orleans Saints. There’s something about individuals involved with the Patriots that lead pockets of fans out there to believe the NFL is fixed, and this isn’t the last time you’ll see the club mentioned in this piece.
5 Packers-Seahawks “Fail Mary”
It is maybe the most famous finish to a Monday Night Football game in history. The Seattle Seahawks earned a controversial win over the Green Bay Packers when wide receiver Golden Tate was awarded a touchdown by replacement referees, serving in place of refs involved in a labor dispute, even though Tate shoved a defensive back before battling with safety M. D. Jennings for possession of the ball.
Most curious and questionable about the moment was that one referee signaled the play was a touchdown while the other motioned it was a touchback following what he deemed to be a Green Bay interception. Why that game would be fixed to benefit the Seahawks is anybody’s guess, but football fans around the country are glad replacement referees haven’t seen meaningful NFL action since that fateful and weird night.
4 Super Bowl XLIX
For as long as football exists, fans and observers will be left wondering why the Seattle Seahawks didn’t feed running back Marshawn Lynch in the final minute of the Super Bowl XLIX contest versus the New England Patriots.
The theory here is that some, particularly NFL officials, did not want Lynch to score the game-winning touchdown and be named game MVP, as he had a history of being uncooperative during league press events. For whatever reasons, the Seahawks elected to throw the football from the one-yard line on the game’s biggest play, and that decision resulted in an interception that guaranteed Tom Brady and the Patriots a championship victory. Who knows what could’ve been had Lynch answered questions during a standard Media Day session earlier that week.
3 Super Bowl LI
Merely Google “Super Bowl LI fixed,” and you’ll find enough results to keep you busy for several hours. The Atlanta Falcons jumped out to a 28-3 lead over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, but the NFC Champions couldn’t prevent the Patriots from mounting a historic comeback before forcing overtime and winning the title.
The Falcons completely fell apart during the final period of play, so much so that some watching the game couldn’t help but suggest at least portions of the contest were fixed to allow the Patriots to decrease the deficit and make for a more interesting game that would keep viewers watching. Those who didn’t change the channel watched one of the most exciting Super Bowls ever played even if that game made us question the legitimacy of the action.
2 Super Bowl XLII
The New England Patriots were literally unbeatable and sitting on an 18-0 record heading into the Super Bowl XLII contest versus the New York Giants, and many respected football observers out there expected the Patriots to roll over of the Giants. That, of course, didn’t happen, as a historically good New England offense was held to only 14 points, and the Giants scored a late touchdown to secure a 17-14 upset victory.
Those looking to connect the dots and figure out why this game was fixed need only remember the previously mentioned “Spygate” scandal. Maybe, just maybe, some working for the NFL wanted to hand the Patriots an unofficial punishment on a night when the club could’ve won a championship. How else can you explain such a great team folding under the bright lights?
1 Super Bowl XL
Referee Bill Leavy admitted, after the fact, that he and his crew impacted the Super Bowl XL contest between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks by blowing multiple calls. While it’s admirable to see somebody in authority admit mistakes were made, some still believe the outcome of this game was fixed to favor the Steelers.
The Steelers, not the Seahawks, have one of the most passionate fan bases spread throughout the country, and it’s one that travels well. If somebody was going to work to fix this game, logic suggests the Steelers would probably benefit from the situation. It’s a safe bet handfuls of Seattle fans will forever remain convinced Super Bowl XL was fixed against the Seahawks, and there is plenty of evidence to support those claims.