The phrase “any given Sunday” is often bandied about when discussing the NFL. On the surface, it means that any team can win any given game, but it goes much deeper than that. It means that anything can happen between the hashmarks. A tight end can throw a game-winning lateral. A coach can trip an opposing running back. Or, in the case of Odell Beckham Jr., a player can pretend to pee in the end zone like a feral dog. You simply never know what will happen, and that’s what makes every game (yes, even Indianapolis vs. Seattle) worth watching.
We’ve rounded up seven of the craziest and most surprising NFL facts we could find, and have included odds and props for each. You’ll learn about kickers who can throw, quarterbacks who can’t, and teams who merged to save the league.
1. Johnny Hekker’s arm is nearly as accurate as his leg
Rams punter Johnny Hekker has thrown at least one pass every year he’s been in the league and has a career passer rating of 121. That’s better than every qualifying quarterback in the history of the NFL. Sure, he’s only thrown 13 passes in his career, but still! Not surprisingly, Hekker was a quarterback during his formative years at Bothell High School in Washington State, where he led the Cougars to a state championship during his senior year.
Over/under on Johnny Hekker’s career passer rating: 111.5
2. 19 of the 20 most watched broadcasts in U.S. history have been Super Bowls
We all know that the Super Bowl is must-see TV, but it may surprise you to learn that it accounts for 95-percent of the most watched broadcasts in U.S. history. The most popular of all was Super Bowl XLIX in 2015 between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. The game was watched by 120.7 million viewers and was seen in 49.7-percent of all U.S. households.
Incidentally, the only non-NFL broadcast to squeeze into the top 20 was the series finale of M*A*S*H in 1983, which was viewed by 105.9 million people.
Odds Super Bowl LII will become one of the top-20 most-watched broadcasts in U.S. history: 2/3
3. Blake Bortles has a 1-10 record when he throws for 300-plus yards
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone raised eyebrows around the league during the preseason when he boldly proclaimed that he wanted to run the ball every play. It’s an odd strategy in today’s NFL, but it makes more sense when you look at the spotty resume of starting quarterback Blake Bortles. The Central Florida product has gone 1-10 in games in which he’s thrown for 300-plus yards. His lone win came last season against the Titans when he went 26-38 for 325 yards and one touchdown. By contrast, Bortles “led” the Jags to a Week 1 victory against the Texans despite throwing for just 125 yards and one touchdown. Sounds like Marrone knows his team – and his quarterback – quite well.
The reason behind this stat isn’t actually surprising at all. The Jaguars have frequently found themselves in huge holes late in games during the Bortles era. He’s been able to pile up yards in garbage times and defenses switch to prevent mode, because it doesn’t really matter if you win by 28 or 21.
Over/under on how many 300-yard passing games Blake Bortles will have in 2017: 2.5
4. There are only two left-handed quarterbacks in the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Being lefthanded is generally a positive in sports, although you wouldn’t know it from looking at the players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In the past 54 years, Canton has opened its doors to just two left-handed quarterbacks: former 49ers standout Steve Young was a first-ballot inductee in 2005 and Ken Stabler snaked his way in posthumously in 2016 as a senior nominee. Don’t expect the list to grow anytime soon; Boomer Esiason, Michael Vick, and Mark Brunell are the next best options for lefties.
Odds Michael Vick will get into the Hall of Fame: 24/1
5. Roger Goodell began his NFL career as an intern
Roger Goodell may be the big boss now, but he began his career at the very bottom as a 23-year-old administrative intern in the office of NFL Commissioner Peter Rozelle. The cover letter he wrote to land the job can even be found online, although one has to wonder if he’s still an “avid football fan” after all of the controversies he’s endured. Goodell diligently worked his way up the NFL food chain over the next two decades, first as a public relations flack, and later as Executive Vice President of Business, Properties and Club Services. He finally ascended to his current role in 2006, and will soon receive a lucrative extension assuming Jerry Jones doesn’t sabotage his efforts.
Odds Roger Goodell will keep his job until his new contract runs out in 2024: 1/1
6. Antonio Gates never played a down of college football
For most players, college football is a gateway to the NFL. Not so for Antonio Gates. The eight-time Pro Bowler enrolled at Michigan State University with the intention of playing football and basketball, but left abruptly when head coach Nick Saban pressured him to choose between the two. He bounced around at Eastern Michigan and the College of the Sequoias before finding a better fit at Kent State. Gates hooped it up with the Golden Flashes for the next two seasons and was an Honorable Mention All-American during his senior year after averaging 20.6 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game.
Unfortunately, the NBA wasn’t exactly beating down the bushes looking for 6’4” power forwards at the time, and Gates decided to switch gears and try out for the NFL instead. The Chargers were intrigued by his size and athleticism and signed him despite the fact he hadn’t played competitive football in nearly five years. The rest, as they say, is history. Gates has played 15 seasons in the NFL and recently became the career leader for touchdown receptions among tight ends.
Over/under touchdown catches for Antonio Gates in 2017: 5.5
7. The Steelers merged with the Eagles during the 1943 season
Imagine if your two favorite football franchises merged together into a Voltron-like super team. It may sound too good to be true, but it actually happened during the 1943 season when the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles became the Steagles. The impetus for the amalgamation was a simple matter of supply and demand. Demand for professional football was at an all-time high among Americans, but a supply of quality talent was unusually low due to the thousands of able-bodied young men who had been drafted to fight in Europe.
Rather than risk a lost season – or worse, the dissolution of the league – the owners of the Steelers and Eagles decided to pool their resources and compete as a single team. The team’s holdovers weren’t thrilled with the idea of playing alongside their inner-state rivals at first, but they eventually put their differences aside and finished with a respectable 5-4-1 record.
Philadelphia returned to operating a team of its own the following year thanks to an influx of new talent to the City of Brotherly Love. The Steelers, meanwhile, merged with the Chicago Cardinals. Their new partnership resulted in a dismal 0-10 season and the experiment came to a merciful end in 1945 with the conclusion of World War II.
Odds the Steelers will finish with more wins than the Eagles: 2/3