|The NFL Colts' 1968 season had been spectacular, by any measure, even though their legendary quarterback, John Unitas, had missed the entire regular season due to injury. Their 13-1 record was the best in football, they had scored 402 points and yielded only 144, and they had avenged their only loss, to Cleveland, by destroying the self-same Browns in the NFL championship game, 34-0. Some analysts called the Colts "the best team ever." Meanwhile, the AFL Jets paled in comparison, having been fortunate to become the champion of their league. Their only hope against the Colts seemed to be their loud-mouthed quarterback, Joe Namath, whose passing ability gave them at least some chance to score against the Colt defense. Nonetheless, the Jets were 18-point underdogs at game time.|
|The Colts, meanwhile,
had to play both their arch-rival Rams (10-3-1) and a tough 49er team
(7-6-1) twice, as both were in their division. The Colts won all four
games, and nine others (including a hard-fought win over defending Super
Bowl champ Green Bay), losing only to the Cleveland Browns (10-4), whom
they whipped 34-0 in the NFL championship game. The three other teams
in Baltimore's division had a combined record of 19-21-2 -- fairly typical
-- and a much better record than the teams in the Jets' division.
Two other AFL teams, the Chiefs and Raiders, had better regular season records than New York and were statistically superior. Additionally, the Jets were fortunate to win their championship game against Oakland, recovering a lateral at game's end which their opponents ignored -- apparently believing it to be an incomplete forward pass.
While the two Super Bowl III teams appear statistically similar (without factoring in the Jets' easier schedule and the generally-accepted overall inferiority of the AFL itself), the Colt defensive unit was clearly superior where it counted -- keeping opponents' points off the scoreboard.