Predicting the Super Bowl champions at the start of a season isn’t always an easy task. And, if we crunch the numbers, we can also see that sportsbooks can have just a tough a time as fans when setting out their projections for a season. In short, things can look very different in August than they do in January.
Consider this: If we look at the preseason betting markets from 2001 to 2019, we see that on only three occasions the preseason favourite went on to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy – the Colts (2006), Patriots (2016, 2018). Moreover, on four occasions the betting favourites actually missed the Playoffs altogether – the Rams (2002), Buccaneers (2003), Eagles (2005), Patriots (2008).
For clarity, we should add that preseason odds-setting sometimes throws up multiple favourites, and bookmakers don’t always agree on each candidate. However, there is still enough evidence there to give pause to anyone blindly backing the favourite at the start of each season. You should also note that a handful of times over the last 20 years, big price winners, such as the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017 (approx. 60/1), have gone on to win the Super Bowl.
Favourites tend to make the Playoffs
So, does this mean you should ignore the odds at the start of each season? Absolutely not. Since the Patriots missed the Playoffs in the 2008 season, the preseason favourites have all made it to the Playoffs. That includes years when we have co-favourites like the Broncos and 49ers in 2013, and the Packers and Seahawks in 2014. The point is that bookmakers aren’t usually far off the mark when they set out the odds for a new NFL campaign.
In light of all that, let’s take a look at the latest betting for the 2020 season. Looking at MansionBet’s NFL odds online, we can see that the Kansas City Chiefs received the nod as 13/2 favourites to go on to victory in Tampa next February. It’s often the case that the previous winners get the nod directly after a victorious Super Bowl, and that can feel a little short-sighted, but it’s difficult to argue with the Chiefs’ candidacy this time around. While repeat champions are rare in the modern era – the Patriots (2003, 2004) and Broncos (1997,1998) are the only teams to have done so in the last 25 years – one shouldn’t rule out Andy Reid’s team doing the business again next February.
Ravens have lofty ambitions
Hot on the heels of the Chiefs comes three teams that will have plenty of backers – the Ravens (7/1), 49ers (9/1) and Saints (13/1). Anything less than reaching the Playoffs would be seen as an abject failure by fans of those teams. A lot of money will go to back the Ravens, in particular, a team that seems to have the momentum to build on last year’s progress.
The next group of teams is where it gets a bit more interesting, and a lot more difficult to confidently predict. The Buccaneers, for example, have hit the headlines after capturing Tom Brady and his former Patriots colleague, Rob Gronkowski. 14/1 is the price cited by MansionBet, but we would argue that the Bucs placement among the top tier of teams is more of a leap of faith than a data-driven one. Yes, Brady and Gronkowski were two of the best and most successful players of the 21st century, but that success is not guaranteed at Tampa.
Brady’s former employers find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being outside the main group of favourites, with a current price of 22/1. It wouldn’t be the biggest shock in NFL history if Bill Belichick was able to muster another Super Bowl-winning campaign, but it certainly feels less likely than at any time in the last decade. Brady’s shoes are big ones to fill.
The above is just a small slice of the betting buzz long before teams start their campaigns in September. As mentioned, you should always treat the bookmakers’ odds with some scepticism. After all, if the bookies were right all the time, the NFL wouldn’t be much fun.
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