Picking a Super Bowl winner based on preseason NFL odds before the season begins can be like finding a needle in a haystack. You never know who will suffer a season-ending injury, and as is the case in recent years, teams are going to suffer COVID outbreaks in their locker room and be shorthanded for multiple games.
That task gets a little easier once Super Bowl futures are updated after the playoff teams and pairings are announced. Even with the expanded playoff fields starting in the 2021-22 season, the #7 seeds in both conferences (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia) are ‘only’ 66:1 to win Super Bowl 56 when teams were 200:1 or higher during the regular season.
This begs the question, before the playoffs get started, is it better to take the lower-paying – but a better chance of happening – favorites to win the Super Bowl, or do heavy underdogs actually have a chance of taking home the Lombardi Trophy?
The 2022 Postseason
It’s the Green Bay Packers that are 4:1 favorites to win the Super Bowl on the eve of the 2022 playoffs getting underway and not Kansas City (5:1), who is looking for a third straight trip to the big game. There are worse QBs to back than Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes, but the path for either former MVP is far from easy.
Tom Brady and his Buccaneers are +850, which would seem to have a great return on investment considering he’s been to a jaw-dropping 10 Super Bowls while winning seven of them. There hasn’t been a repeat Super Bowl winner since 2004-05, but that was Brady’s Patriots.
The Buffalo Bills (+750) could make some noise as they are ready for that next step after losing the AFC Championship last season. Tennessee (+750) is dangerous with a bye, home-field advantage, and the possibility of getting star RB Derrick Henry back for the playoffs.
One of the great things about the 2022 NFL postseason is there is no real clear-cut favorite to be Super Bowl Champion. Rodgers and Green Bay have probably the easiest path, but Brady and the Bucs or a star-studded Rams team could be obstacles standing in the Packers’ way.
Kansas City has posted their fourth straight 12-win season, which normally would have given them a 1st round bye. With the expanded playoff format, the Chiefs have to play in the first round and win three games to reach the big game instead of their usual two.
Is History Kind to Futures Favorites?
Preseason favorites have only won the Super Bowl three times since 2000, the 2006 Colts, 2016 Patriots, and New England in 2019. That doesn’t bode well for the Chiefs, who topped the list after the preseason with 5:1 odds. Of course, when odds are around 6:1 every year, three wins by favorites over two decades is just about the break-even point.
One thing to note is that preseason favorites usually don’t have a complete meltdown during the season, and in fact, have actually made the Super Bowl in 10 of the last 20 years. This means the favorite can get to the game but can’t complete the deal.
This is what we saw with Kansas City in 2020, making the Super Bowl and going into the game as -3 point favorites but losing outright to Tampa Bay 31-9.
The Chiefs did cover the -1 the year before in a 31-20 win over the 49ers, and Brady did the same in 2019, beating the Rams 13-3 as -2.5 favorites. Before that, underdogs were 8-2 in the previous 11 Super Bowls (Seahawks/Patriots in 2015 was a Pick Em).
Bigger Futures Underdogs to Win a Super Bowl
While the favorites have the better chance to make the Super Bowl, that’s obviously not always the case. Tampa Bay was a 10/1 shot at winning last year’s title heading into the season opener.
The Eagles were 40/1 in the preseason in 2017 and were even +1500 prior to the wild card round before going on to win Super Bowl LII. The Giants were +2200 heading into the wild card games during the 2011 season.
While we will likely see some combination of Mahomes, Brady, or Rodgers in the 2022 Super Bowl, it’s not a foregone conclusion. Joe Burrow and Mac Jones have college national championships under their belts the past couple of years, Josh Allen looks ready to make the leap in Buffalo, and Dak Prescott could finally have Cowboys fans retiring their Aikman jerseys if he can lead Dallas to a Super Bowl.
Matthew Stafford would also put all those years of torment in Detroit behind him by taking the Rams to a championship (10/1) – and it would be on his home field.
It will be an exciting playoff season, so buckle in.