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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:52 AM

Hot & Not Report - SB55 Outlook

Super Bowl 55 Futures Hot and Not

In recent weeks I've put out pieces in an attempt to potentially build out the puzzle that is the futures market for this season's Super Bowl participants, talking about things such as the “Thanksgiving Curse”, and where eventual Super Bowl participants stood in the standings – relative to how many defeats they had – after Thanksgiving week.

There was even this piece back after Week 1 that talked about how frequent it is for Super Bowl participants to start the year 1-0 SU, and how 23 of the past 29 Super Bowl winners had made the playoffs the season before. Now that we are nearing the midpoint of December, if you start to put all of that information together like individual pieces to a puzzle, isolating teams in this year's future market becomes a little easier.

But with all the moving around of games this year thanks to COVID, with Monday Night Football double headers and Tuesday/Wednesday games all of a sudden feeling rather normal, I've been on the hunt for other common denominators past Super Bowl participants could have with this year's possibilities, and I landed on the idea of non-conference schedules and with non-conference division past Super Bowl participants went up against in previous years.

The idea came from the notion that certain games can get previewed with the label of “potential Super Bowl preview” that I absolutely hate but fall victim to using myself from time to time. Because it's one thing for these major networks to hype up games like that to drum up viewing interest, but how much of it is actually based in fact?

Week 15 gives NFL bettors a Kansas City/New Orleans game which will undoubtedly get the “potential Super Bowl preview” label leading into it, and I'm here to tell you today to put very little stock in those words when they inevitably hit your news feeds.

All of this information dates back to realignment in 2002 when the divisions were constructed as they currently are, and the cycle of playing each non-conference division once every four years was put into place. But let's start with that “potential Super Bowl preview” idea first.

Since realignment, only 2 of 18 Super Bowl matchups have been a rematch from a regular season game

I can't tell you how many times over the years I've heard the phrase “potential Super Bowl preview” uttered, but it's definitely been more than the 11% of the time it's happened. The “lucky” two times it's happened?

Well, those were both Patriots/Giants Super Bowls that saw Eli Manning get his two Super Bowl rings.

With 89% of the Super Bowl matchups in that span NOT being rematches, how much stalk you want to put into the idea of it being Kansas City/New Orleans, or Kansas City/Tampa Bay – two of the more popular opinions for sure – is up to you, but history has shown us that 89% of the time that just isn't how it works out.

Other potential matchups that fall into this slim chance category are:

Green Bay/Minnesota vs any AFC South team (Indianapolis, Tennessee), the NFC East winner vs Pittsburgh/Cleveland/Baltimore (if the NFC East winner defies all odds and gets there), or any NFC West team (Seattle, Arizona, LAR) squaring off with the Bills/Dolphins/Patriots from the AFC East.

It still makes it tough to hone in on the potential matchup, but you've got to eliminate possible matchups to begin with, and any two non-conference teams that have already played this year is a good place to start with your chopping block.

But let's see if we can look at some more positive potential outcomes to consider...

Since realignment, 7 of the 18 Super Bowl matchups have been between two teams who played the same “direction” of non-conference foes during the regular season

What that means is 39% of the time in this span we've had the two Super Bowl teams come off a year where they each played, say the “East” division in their non-conference games.

The AFC representative would have played the NFC East, while the NFC representative would have played the AFC East in their non-conference schedule in this specific example.

I'll get to the individual breakdowns of North, South, West and East in a minute, as potential matchups between certain non-conference divisions have had a higher success rate.

Oddly enough, in these seven occurrences, the AFC team is 5-2 SU in those respective Super Bowls, with the two NFC winners coming from the New York Giants again in their two wins over New England.

Last year we had Kansas City (played NFC North) up against San Francisco (played AFC North) as the most recent occurrence, with others happening after the 2016 season (West/West), 2012 season (East/East), 2011 (East/East), 2008 (East/East), 2007 (East/East), and 2006 (East/East).

What does that mean for this season?

Well, looking at the divisional breakdowns I mentioned earlier to avoid in the rematch angle, it would suggest that any Super Bowl appearance made by Pittsburgh/Cleveland/Baltimore (who are playing the NFC East) would see them go up against a NFC West team like Seattle/LAR/Arizona who has been matched up with AFC East teams all year.

Other possible combinations include:

Any AFC East team (Buffalo/Miami/New England – matched against NFC West this year) against any NFC South team (New Orleans/Tampa – matched against AFC West this year).

Any AFC South team (Tennessee/Indianapolis – matched against NFC North this year) against the NFC East winner – matched up against AFC North this year)

Any AFC West team (Kansas City/Las Vegas – matched up against the NFC South this year) against any NFC North team (Green Bay/Minnesota) who have played AFC South foes in their non-conference schedule.

Was I a year too early on that “State Farm” Super Bowl prediction?

AFC Super Bowl representatives that played NFC North non-conference games that year are a perfect 5-0 SU in the Super Bowl.

This is good news for any Titans and Colts fans out there as it's their division that's matched up against the NFC North division for their non-conference games this season, should Tennessee or Indy make a run all the way to the Super Bowl. Of any particular matchup in this space, there is no better record than this perfect 5-0 SU mark in the Super Bowl for any division.

Not only that, but four of the last six Super Bowl representatives from the AFC came off a season where they faced the NFC North during the regular season (2019 KC, 2018 New England, 2015 Denver, 2014 New England), and with the Tennessee Titans fitting all the other positive scenarios I've outlined in the past – made the playoffs last year, started the year 1-0 SU, and had three or fewer losses after Thanksgiving – Tennessee is looking awfully attractive to win both the AFC (+1400) and the Super Bowl (+2800).

The full breakdown and record in the Super Bowl for AFC Super Bowl representatives looks like this:

AFC Super Bowl representative vs NFC North foes in regular season: 5-0 SU in Super Bowl
AFC Super Bowl representatives vs NFC South foes in regular season: 0-2 SU in Super Bowl
AFC Super Bowl representatives vs NFC East foes in regular season: 4-3 SU in Super Bowl
AFC Super Bowl representatives vs NFC West foes in regular season: 3-1 SU in Super Bowl

Now there are a couple more important things to note there:

The first is that it's rare for any AFC team to even make the Super Bowl if they were matched up against NFC South opponents that year – they only made it twice (11%) and didn't win either time. That means Kansas City's attempt at repeating might be in serious jeopardy this season as they've dealt with NFC South foes in their non-conference slate this season. Same bad news goes for the Las Vegas Raiders who would love to be the first professional sports team to bring a title to the sports betting capital of the country.

Secondly, all the other past AFC Super Bowl representatives have a winning record in the big game (12-4 SU combined), so the prop that exists out there in what conference will win the Super Bowl, AFC or NFC, may want to see the AFC conference be the one to be sided with. That's even a way to support the Chiefs as well if you are looking to buck this history too.

NFC Super Bowl representatives that played AFC North, AFC South or AFC West non-conference games that year are a combined 2-9 SU in the Super Bowl

Couldn't only cast doubt on a KC repeat as one of the top contenders in the league, as this is a negative scenario for the NFC East winner (who cares), any NFC North team (Green Bay/Minnesota) and also any NFC South team that's got their eyes set on a Super Bowl run.

So one more title for the aging Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, the older Drew Brees in New Orleans, and the even older Tom Brady in Tampa Bay has a steep incline up the historical mountain to overcome.

That's not to say any of these teams won't GET TO the big game this year (11 out of 18 times they have), but I'd be limiting my futures considerations on them to “win the conference” only for the most part.

The full breakdown and record in the Super Bowl for NFC Super Bowl representatives looks like this:

NFC Super Bowl representative vs AFC North foes in regular season: 0-3 SU in Super Bowl
NFC Super Bowl representatives vs AFC South foes in regular season: 1-3 SU in Super Bowl
NFC Super Bowl representatives vs AFC East foes in regular season: 4-3 SU in Super Bowl
NFC Super Bowl representatives vs AFC West foes in regular season: 1-3 SU in Super Bowl

That leaves good news for the NFC West teams in this scenario (Seattle, L.A. Rams, Arizona) as they are matched up against the AFC East teams this year, and if one of them could get to the big game it would be the third straight season that the NFC representative in the Super Bowl came from the NFC West.

The previous two – L.A. Rams in 2018, and San Francisco last year – came up short in their quests for a title, but they also didn't have the benefit of playing the AFC East teams that season like they do this year.

Furthermore, tying this back into an earlier note, with NFC West teams battling the AFC East this year, and the AFC North battling the NFC East this season (“same direction theory”), maybe a Pittsburgh/Cleveland/Baltimore versus a NFC West foe isn't all that hard to get behind.

Baltimore and Seattle were the only two teams from those respective divisions to make the playoffs a season ago, but had the playoff format been expanded like it is this season, Pittsburgh and the Rams would have been there as well.

Back in 2008, we had the Pittsburgh/Arizona Super Bowl that was so memorable for how each half concluded – with wild Pittsburgh TD's both times – and who knows, maybe we get a rematch of that game 12 years later.

The Cleveland Browns were the only one of those six contenders not to start the year 1-0 SU which is a plus for everyone else, but Cleveland, along with Pittsburgh, Seattle, and the Rams were the only four in that group to have four or fewer losses after Thanksgiving as well.

So if Tennessee is looking rather attractive as an addition to any futures portfolio with the positive history on their side discussed earlier, it looks as though the Seattle Seahawks have just as many things lining up for them as well.

Recent weeks have shown to me that Seattle has “morphed” out of being the “One Man Army” team I labelled them as earlier, with their defense becoming a much bigger strength for them.

If the Seahawks keep up that kind of play on that side of the ball, then a third Super Bowl appearance for the Pete Carroll/Russell Wilson duo may be in the works as well. The Seahawks are currently around +500 to win the NFC, and +1200 to win it all.

Super Bowl 55 Futures Market

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