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The 3 most unlikely Super Bowl teams in NFL history

Jeff Haynes / REUTERS

The Super Bowl often matches the league's two best teams against each other for a chance to win the NFL championship.

That's not always the case, though, and some teams make us wonder how they ever got to the big game. 

Without further ado, we present the three most unlikely teams in Super Bowl history.

1994 San Diego Chargers, Super Bowl XXIX

San Diego won the AFC West with an 11-5 mark, improving on an 8-8 record from the previous season. Running back Natrone Means rushed for 1,350 yards and 12 touchdowns, making up for an average passing game. 

Linebacker Junior Seau recorded a career-high 154 tackles, but San Diego posted just the 16th-best defensive DVOA rating, according to Football Outsiders.

In the AFC Championship Game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seau had arguably his best game ever, racking up 16 tackles while dealing with a pinched nerve in his neck as San Diego recorded a 17-13 victory.

The Chargers' Cinderella story came to a crashing halt in the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers. Steve Young exploited the team's lack of depth in the secondary, throwing for a Super Bowl-record six touchdowns.

2003 Carolina Panthers, Super Bowl XXXVIII

In an all-time classic, the Panthers pushed the New England Patriots to the brink of elimination before Adam Vinatieri kicked a game-winning field goal with four seconds remaining to clinch the Patriots' second title in three years. 

The Panthers had won just one game two seasons prior and rallied around rookie defensive end Julius Peppers, wide receivers Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Smith, and quarterback Jake Delhomme, who supplanted Rodney Peete as the starter.

Carolina's playoff hopes appeared to be in doubt at 8-5, but the team rattled off three consecutive victories to cruise to the NFC South title. 

In the NFC Championship Game, Ricky Manning Jr. intercepted Donovan McNabb three times in a 14-3 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles

Despite a few standout performances, it was a miracle the team even made the Super Bowl with an erratic quarterback and an overall lack of depth.

2007 New York Giants, Super Bowl XLII

The Giants lost their first two games before rallying to win six consecutive contests. New York lost 38-35 to New England in the season finale, making the Patriots the second team to emerge from the regular season unbeaten. 

With a 10-6 record, the Giants finished second in the NFC East behind the Dallas Cowboys, entering the NFC playoffs as the fifth seed.

In a classic NFC Championship Game, the Giants advanced to the Super Bowl after Lawrence Tynes kicked a 47-yard field goal in overtime to defeat the favored Green Bay Packers.

New England entered Super Bowl XLII as a 12-point favorite, aspiring to become the second undefeated team in NFL history. In a classic finish, David Tyree came down with The Helmet Catch, and four plays later, Eli Manning found Plaxico Burress for the game-winning touchdown to cap off one of the most improbable runs of the Super Bowl era. 

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