In 1968, the Big Mac was invented. 60 Minutes premiered on CBS, and "Hey Jude" was released by the Beatles, and "2001: A Space Odyssey" was released. The next year, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair was flooded with approximately 400,000 visitors, Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy drove his car off a bridge at Chappaquiddick, and Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin landed on the moon.
At the same time, there was no bigger star than Joe "Willie" Namath. Broadway Joe had captured the attention of the nation with his long hair, fur coats, and unabashed nature. Namath was a pop culture icon, and a damn good quarterback. Namath had been a star at the University of Alabama, and had one of the quickest releases in football history. Before knee injuries would take their toll, Namath was an excellent running quarterback as well. When Namath signed with the Jets, his four-year rookie contract was worth $427,000 (just over $3,000,000 today, accounting for inflation), including a $200,000 signing bonus and a salary of $25,000 per season. In addition, his three brothers and brother-in-law were given scouting jobs with the team, and Namath was given a Lincoln Continental. This record-breaking contract signified his status as a premiere signal caller. Namath would end his career as a 4x AFL All-Star, Pro Bowler, 2x AFL MVP, Comeback Player of the Year (1974), Super Bowl MVP, and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But on the 1968-1969 Jets, Namath was not the only great player on the roster, even if he was the most famous. Coached by Weeb Ewbank (the longest tenured coach in team history and a member of the Hall of Fame), the team also had RB Matt Snell (3x AFL All-Star), RB Emerson Boozer (2x Pro Bowler, All-Pro (1967)), WR George Sauer (4x AFL All-Star), WR Don Maynard (4x AFL All-Star, and a member of the Hall of Fame), DE Gerry Philbin (2x First Team All-AFL), and OT Winston Hill (4x AFL All-Star, 4x Pro Bowler).
The year before, in 1967, Namath threw for 4,000 yards, the first quarterback to do so. That record would not be broken until 1979, twelve years later, by Dan Fouts, who had an extra two games in the season (in 1978, the National Football League expanded the season from fourteen games to sixteen). That year, the Jets went 8-5-1, finished second in the American Football League ("AFL") East Division, and missed out on the playoffs, which consisted of a single Conference Championship between the Oakland Raiders and the Houston Oilers. The Raiders would eventually be stomped by the repeat champion Green Bay Packers 33-14 in Super Bowl II.
Before the AFL and the NFL merged in 1970, the AFL was considered clearly inferior to the superior NFL. All the best talent went to the NFL, and the AFL had to offer massive contracts (see Namath, above), to lure players to their upstart league. In Super Bowl I, the Packers dominated the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10, and then the Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl II.
In 1967, the NFL Packers were favored by fourteen points over the AFL Chiefs. In 1968, they were favored by thirteen point five points over the Raiders. For comparison, the last time a team has been favored in the Super Bowl by that much was in 2008 between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots (NE -13.5). In fact, only twice since 2000 has a team been favored by more than ten points.
In 1968, there were twelve teams in the AFL, split into two divisions. The East was composed of the Jets (11-3), the Oilers (7-7), the Miami Dolphins (5-8), the Boston Patriots (4-10), and the Buffalo Bills (1-12). The West was composed of the Raiders (12-2), Chiefs (12-2), San Diego Chargers (9-5), Denver Broncos (5-9), and the Cincinnati Bengals (3-11).
Colts were favored by 18 points. Only time a team was favored by more was in 1995, when the 49ers were favored by 18.5 over the San Diego Chargers.