The Best and Worst Bets to Win Super Bowl LIII Based on 2017's Metrics
Nick Foles' performance on Sunday was fitting. In a season where quarterbacks seemingly dropped with an injury each week, backup quarterbacks had to step up across the league.
Some did. Some didn't. And some -- well, one -- won Super Bowl MVP.
Next season will look a lot different. Aaron Rodgers will be back. Jimmy Garoppolo will have a full offseason and season with the 49ers. And hopefully Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, and even Ryan Tannehill (remember him?) will be healthy to start the year.
That makes for some really interesting Super Bowl LIII odds. But which teams should you be betting on?
Because overall records don't really tell us exactly how a team performed, we can look at our nERD metric for help. nERD, if you're new to the site, tells us how many points we'd expect a team to win by against an average one on a neutral field. Meaning, a team with a 0.00 nERD is completely average, whereas one with a -2.96 nERD would be expected to lose by nearly a field goal per game.
Now, a lot can and will change from now up until the start of the 2018 NFL season. But it's not a bad idea to look at this year's nERD ratings and see if there are any overvalued or undervalued teams when analyzing next year's Super Bowl odds.
The numbers above show nERD versus Super Bowl odds, courtesy of 5Dimes. You can see that things generally line up as you'd expect -- as in, teams that were good from a nERD perspective have higher odds to win next year's Super Bowl -- but there are some funky lines out there. Some of those have to do with quarterback changes (Indianapolis, Houston), but some don't. And those are the teams we should be highlighting.
We actually did this last offseason. And while the Eagles didn't make the "best bets" list, nERD spotted the Saints as one of the most undervalued teams. (To be fair, the Eagles were still a bargain when you look at their nERD from 2016 versus their odds for 2017.) And on the flip side, nERD hated the Giants.
Here's a look at this year's best and worst bets.
Los Angeles Chargers: Here we are again. The Chargers have been far better than their record indicated for two straight years. In 2016, they actually finished fourth-best in the NFL in average point margin at the start of each drive, but they ended the year with only five wins. This past year saw Los Angeles lose four games by a combined 10 points. They couldn't squeak into the playoffs, but, per nERD, the Chargers were the third-best team in the NFL this year. It's a talented squad with a lot of potential.
Jacksonville Jaguars: After making it to the AFC Championship and nearly winning it, the Jaguars are tied with two other squads for the 10th-best odds to win next year's Super Bowl. According to nERD, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The Eagles -- who, by the way, won Super Bowl LIII -- are the only team that ranked ahead of Jacksonville in nERD this year, and the Jags finished the season with the third-best point differential in the league. It's true that the Jags don't have the most reliable passer in the world, and perhaps some regression will hit for the historic defense, but at +2000, they're not a bad bet.
Chicago Bears: If you're looking for next year's Rams -- a team that comes out of nowhere and is ultra-competitive -- the Bears may be it. When looking at the five teams with the worst odds to win next year's big game, Chicago stands out, as their -2.05 nERD from 2017 ranked 18th-best in the league. The Bears finished the 2017 season with numberFire's ninth-best defensive unit when adjusted for strength of schedule, which may surprise folks. They've got a new coaching staff entering 2018, and there's a chance for a breakout for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky if the team's able to surround him with better weapons. The parallels between the Bears and the 2017 Rams are strong, and while we shouldn't expect a massive turnaround like we saw in LA, Chicago's a very interesting dart throw.
Oakland Raiders: With Jon Gruden in Oakland, their Super Bowl odds were bound to be inflated. Seeing them listed next to talented teams like Atlanta and Jacksonville is a bit much, especially when you consider their nERD rating ranked seventh-worst in the league this year. Derek Carr took a step back as a passer in 2017, ranking as an average passer according to our Net Expected Points metric. There are still plenty of holes on the defensive side of the ball for Oakland (they finished with the third-worst defense, according to our schedule-adjusted metrics), and while fading a team with a new head coach is always risky, the payoff with the Raiders just isn't there given their high odds to win Super Bowl LIII.
Dallas Cowboys: As usual, the Cowboys have too high of odds to win next year's Super Bowl, as sportsbooks continue to play into the team's large fanbase. In 2017, Dallas finished as a below-average team, and quarterback Dak Prescott finished the year with worse Passing Net Expected Points per drop back numbers than Tyrod Taylor, Derek Carr, Carson Palmer, and Josh McCown. Like Oakland, Dallas has plenty of things to fix on the defensive side of the ball, as they ended the year with the league's ninth-worst D, per our numbers. You're better off betting Atlanta or Jacksonville with the same odds.