NFL Picks: Statistical Probabilities of Reaching the Super Bowl

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, January 7, 2015 7:02 PM GMT

All pro sports teams now embrace analytics in one form or another in evaluating free agents, scouting, etc. So should those betting on games at sportsbooks -- the information is out there and you don't need a mathematics degree to understand it. 

Here are the statistical probabilities of each of the remaining eight NFL teams of winning this weekend's divisional-round game, winning the conference championship and then the Super Bowl. For the sake of comparison, I am using numbers from two sites: Football Outsiders (FO) and Prediction Machine (PM). Each site runs 50,000 game simulations for each playoff scenario. Interestingly, there is a bit of a difference on the AFC side. At 5Dimes NFL odds, New England is the -106 favorite and Denver a +192 favorite. If both win at home this weekend they face off at Foxboro next Sunday and certainly the Patriots would be favored -- one site has Denver more likely to reach and win the Super Bowl than New England.

 

No. 1 Seattle Seahawks
Chance of winning Super Bowl (FO): 24.4%
Chance of winning Super Bowl (PM):  29.3%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (FO): 44.3%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (PM): 48.9%
Chance of reaching conference title game (FO): 73.9%
Chance of reaching conference title game (PM): 76.8%

The Seahawks potentially wouldn't have to play in an unfamiliar stadium the rest of this season. They won't leave CenturyLink Field, where they have lost just twice under Russell Wilson, for the NFC playoffs. And Seattle plays at Arizona every season. Of course the Super Bowl is being held at the Cardinals' University of Phoenix Stadium. Football Outsiders lists the NFC has having a 55.1 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl.

 

No. 2 New England Patriots
Chance of winning Super Bowl (FO):  19.9%
Chance of winning Super Bowl (PM): 13.8%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (FO): 38.7%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (PM): 31.9%
Chance of reaching conference title game (FO): 62.3%
Chance of reaching conference title game (PM): 61.6%

Why does one site have New England has having less of a chance to win the AFC title game even though it would be in Foxboro? Clearly that's because both sites give more chance of Baltimore pulling an upset in New England in the divisional round than Indianapolis doing so in Denver. Both the Ravens and Colts are 7-point dogs at BetOnline's NFL odds.

 

No. 3 Denver Broncos
Chance of winning Super Bowl (FO): 17.4%
Chance of winning Super Bowl (PM): 20.4%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (FO): 35.7%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (PM): 40.6%
Chance of reaching conference title game (FO): 74.2%
Chance of reaching conference title game (PM): 69.6%

Prediction Machine lists the most likely Super Bowl matchup as a Seattle-Denver rematch in 19.9 percent of the simulations. The site even gives an average score for the game: Seattle 23, Denver 22. Football Outsiders has the rematch pegged at 15.9 percent. A Broncos-Patriots AFC title game is given a 42.9 percent chance at Prediction Machine. That seems really low.

 

No. 4 Green Bay Packers
Chance of winning Super Bowl (FO): 16.8%
Chance of winning Super Bowl (PM): 20.0%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (FO): 32.6%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (PM): 35.1%
Chance of reaching conference title game (FO): 66.4%
Chance of reaching conference title game (PM): 70.9%

Obviously these simulations can't take into account that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is dealing with a calf injury and is unlikely to be 100 percent on Sunday against Dallas. Thus Rodgers might have little to no mobility, and one of his calling cards is throwing accurately on the run to avoid the pass rush. The Packers are Seahawks are 54.4 percent likely by Prediction Machine to face off in the NFC title game.

Don't forget to check out a complete game-by-game playoffs coverage with SBR's free NFL picks page.

 

No. 5 Baltimore Ravens
Chance of winning Super Bowl (FO): 7.9%
Chance of winning Super Bowl (PM): 5.3%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (FO): 16.3%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (PM): 13.8%
Chance of reaching conference title game (FO): 37.7%
Chance of reaching conference title game (PM): 38.4%

I'm also fairly certain these sites don't take into affect that Baltimore has nearly 20 players remaining from its Super Bowl run in the 2012 season. Or that Joe Flacco has thrown 13 touchdowns and no interceptions for a 116.6 passer rating in his past five playoff games, all wins. Or that the Ravens won in New England and Denver in the 2012 postseason. Football Outsiders has a "Harbaugh Family Revenge Bowl" of Seahawks-Ravens at 7.3 percent. Of course the Seahawks beat up on Jim Harbaugh's former 49ers twice this season and beat them in last season's NFC title game. Baltimore is coached by Jim's brother John. But you knew that.

 

No. 6 Dallas Cowboys
Chance of winning Super Bowl (FO): 6.8%
Chance of winning Super Bowl (PM): 3.3%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (FO): 14.7%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (PM): 8.8%
Chance of reaching conference title game (FO): 33.6%
Chance of reaching conference title game (PM): 29.1%

These Super Bowl numbers also seem a bit low. The Cowboys have the NFL's highest-rated passer in Tony Romo, the leading rusher in DeMarco Murray and the guy who caught the most touchdown passes in Dez Bryant. True, it would be quite a feat winning in Green Bay and then likely Seattle just to reach the Super Bowl, but the Cowboys are 8-0 on the road this season. A "DeMarcus Ware Reunion Special" Super Bowl vs. Denver is at 5.2 percent on Football Outsiders.

 

No. 7 Carolina Panthers
Chance of winning Super Bowl (FO):  3.5%
Chance of winning Super Bowl (PM): 2.5%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (FO): 8.4%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (PM): 7.2%
Chance of reaching conference title game (FO): 26.1%
Chance of reaching conference title game (PM): 23.2%

Would the NFL love it if a team with a losing regular-season record reached the Super Bowl? Or would it infuriate all the other league owners if a below .500 team did so when it shouldn't even have been in the playoffs (or at least awarded a wild-card home game)? With the league likely to expand the playoff field next year, this won't be the last time an under .500 team makes it. A "Steve Smith Reunion Special" Super Bowl of Carolina-Baltimore is just 1.4 percent at Football Outsiders.

 

No. 8 Indianapolis Colts
Chance of winning Super Bowl (FO): 3.3%
Chance of winning Super Bowl (PM): 5.4%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (FO): 9.3%
Chance of reaching Super Bowl (PM): 13.7%
Chance of reaching conference title game (FO): 25.8%
Chance of reaching conference title game (PM): 30.4%

The Colts' Andrew Luck is clearly the best young quarterback in the NFL and already a superstar, but Seattle's Russell Wilson has what his 2012 draftmate doesn't: A Super Bowl ring. A "2012 Draft Showdown" Super Bowl of Colts and Seahawks is 4.0 percent at Football Outsiders. Meanwhile, the least likely Super Bowl matchup at Prediction Machine is Colts-Panthers. That came up in only 494 scenarios out of 50,000.