5 major underdogs in NFL history the Arizona Cardinals can look up to in 2023

Kurt Warner #13
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Paul Hofer, Joe Montana
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3 - 1980 Oakland Raiders

While the 1979 Oakland Raiders weren’t a bad football team, an impending move to Los Angeles (which eventually happened two seasons later) took centerstage as the Silver and Black tried to best their 9-7 record, and they did all of this without former franchise quarterback Ken Stabler. 

Prospective starter Dan Pastorini did nothing, and Jim Plunkett ultimately took over, leading the Raiders to a 9-2 record following their meager 2-3 start. They crushed the Houston Oilers on Wildcard Weekend, before beating the Cleveland Browns and San Diego Chargers in a pair of thrillers, before they ultimately upended the Philadelphia Eagles. 

4 - 1981 San Francisco 49ers

Just a year after the Raiders won in 1980, the 1981 San Francisco 49ers finally made a playoff appearance for the first time since 1972. Following their 6-10 finish in 1980, the Niners shocked the NFL universe with a 13-3 record and Joe Montana leading the way in his first season as the starter. 

The 49ers then marched through the playoffs, defeating the New York Giants before sneaking by the Dallas Cowboys following what is today still one of the best catches in NFL history. The 49ers faced and defeated the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI and kicked off what became one of the NFL’s most feared dynasties.