In each new NFL season, there are roughly 10 or so teams with a realistic shot at hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at year's end. Here is a simple way to single out legit contenders while parsing pretenders for your Super Bowl futures bet.
There are many different factors to consider when weighing an NFL futures bet. Using average margin of victory from prior seasons is a substantial building block from which to start. The statistic gives a good indication of the strength of particular teams headed into a new year; typically, the higher the number, the better. To win a Super Bowl, a team must total significant gains via this metric over the course of a couple of season. Here’s why.
Change comes slowly in the NFL. For example, compare the win-total market from one season to the next in any given year. Nearly every team will fall within two victories of its last season’s offering. From 2013 to 2014, for example, only four (Bears, 49ers, Bills and Vikings) existed outside this range. This market is quite efficient, too. The real number of wins above or below the number averages right around two games per year.
There are always a few exceptions. Last year, the Falcons flew to the Super Bowl with 11 regular-season wins despite a preseason over/under of 7 victories. Two years ago, the Cowboys came up well short of the market’s 9.5 mark with four wins following then-quarterback Tony Romo’s persistent injuries. Generally, though, it takes a couple of seasons to make significant gains or losses in the NFL, and using prior points differentials is a great tool for basic forecasting.
Let us look at the Super Bowl market. Since 2001, only two teams have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy after posting a negative scoring differential the previous season: the Patriots in 2002 (with the emergence of Tom Brady under center), and the Giants in 2008. In fact, only six teams have made it to the championship game following a season with a negative margin during this span, including the 2016 Falcons (-0.38 in 2015). If you combine point differentials over the course of two seasons, believing it takes even greater time to craft a champion, the Patriots and Giants are the only two victors to total less than a 3.5-point margin. This is a significant number, roughly equaling the average margin of victory in an NFL contest.
Using the following logic, in any given year, there are typically 10 or so teams with a legitimate shot to win the Super Bowl. Practical advice: stay away from long shots. Most teams are +2000 odds or higher for a reason. Headed into 2017, half the league totals a negative scoring differential over the last two seasons combined. These include the Eagles (-1.1), Giants (-1.3), Raiders (-1.4), Ravens (-3.2), Texans (-3.2), Saints (-3.3), Colts (-3.5), Jets (-3.8), Lions (-4.5), Buccaneers (-5.7), Chargers (-5.7), Dolphins (-7.0), Titans (-7.6), Jaguars (-9.6), Bears (-11.4), Rams (-13.8), 49ers (-20) and the Browns (-21.4).
Don’t fall victim to the preseason hype surrounding one of the abovementioned teams winning the Super Bowl. Some may be on the up-and-up (Raiders anyone?), but a realistic shot at a title is still at least a year out. In fact, only 24 percent of teams in this category even make it to the postseason with just three reaching the Super Bowl and losing (Carolina 2003, Cardinals 2008, Falcons 2016).
The teams with a combined average margin of victory above the all-important 3.5-point threshold over the last two seasons include: the Patriots (20.9), Chiefs (12.3), Cardinals (11.7), Seahawks (11.4), Panthers (9.5), Steelers (9.3), Bengals (8.7), Falcons (8.4), Broncos (6.6), Packers (5.7), and Vikings (4.9). The Bills (2.6), Cowboys (0.4), and Redskins (0.3) are the only other teams with a positive number.