Updated Super Bowl Odds: Seattle Still the Favorites
Among the eight teams remaining in the NFL playoffs, only the Carolina Panthers ranked outside of the top nine in nERD this season, a metric we use at numberFire to help determine what we'd expect a team to win or lose by on a neutral field against a league-average opponent. In other words, the squads left are right where they should be.
Now that we know who everyone's playing, what do the current Super Bowl odds for each remaining teams look like? Are the Seahawks still favorites (probably yes, considering the title of this article)? Does Carolina have a chance? Is Peyton Manning in a tough spot?
8. Carolina Panthers (Super Bowl Odds: 4.4%)
As it stands, the Panthers understandably have the lowest odds to win the Super Bowl. That'll happen when you go 7-8-1 in the regular season and are traveling to Seattle in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, where only two road teams have won over the last three years.
If Carolina moves on this weekend, it'll be because they put together a flawless game. While Cam Newton and company were able to close things out against Arizona on Saturday, he wasn't at his best, totaling -7.15 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP).
The Panthers defense, analytically, has played better than any other unit in the NFL since Week 13 ended. They've also faced two up-and-down offenses in New Orleans and Atlanta, two struggling ones in Cleveland and Tampa Bay, and, of course, Ryan Lindley. We'll see how they respond to our number-six ranked offense this weekend.
7. Indianapolis Colts (Super Bowl Odds: 7.4%)
According to our numbers, Andrew Luck was one of the best quarterbacks during the Wild Card Round of the playoffs. According to anyone with a pair of eyes, Andrew Luck was one of the best quarterbacks during the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.
If Luck plays the way he did against Cincinnati, the AFC better watch out. We know what his ceiling is, and it's scary. The problem, however, is that Luck's been inconsistent this season -- whether it's game to game or play to play -- which makes it difficult to make them any sort of favorite moving forward.
Denver's been moving the ball more on the ground of late, which is a weakness, in comparison to their pass defense, for Indianapolis. A key for them against Denver will be stopping CJ Anderson.
6. Dallas Cowboys (Super Bowl Odds: 7.9%)
Dallas' controversial win yesterday was an obvious relief for the franchise, but they'll face a tough test against our number-two power-ranked team this weekend in Green Bay.
The Packers' offense is one of the best our analytics have ever seen, while Dallas' defense has dropped dramatically since getting off to a hot start early on in the season. A big matchup for the Cowboys at Lambeau will be DeMarco Murray against the Packers' 22nd-ranked rush defense. Not only is it a plus matchup for the Cowboys, but success from the run game will keep Aaron Rodgers' incredibly efficient offense off the field.
If the Cowboys somehow manage to get through, they'll more than likely face the Seahawks in Seattle, where they won earlier in the year. The current Seahawks team, however, looks a lot stronger than it did back in Week 6.
5. Baltimore Ravens (Super Bowl Odds: 8.8%)
The Ravens' upset in Pittsburgh wasn't a huge shock to our algorithms, who have placed Baltimore in the top five, as a team, for most of the season. Their odds are higher than Dallas' not only because they're analytically a better squad, but because the top teams in the AFC are weaker than the ones in the NFC.
The league has to take this Ravens' team seriously. We saw them win the Super Bowl just two years ago, and that team, according to our metrics, was far worse than the one that's been on the field this season. Under Gary Kubiak's direction, Joe Flacco has had the best season of his career, and while the secondary has been limping since the season-ending injury to Jimmy Smith, it may be just good enough to get through New England. That piece -- stopping Tom Brady -- will decide this weekend's game.
4. Denver Broncos (Super Bowl Odds: 16.5%)
The top four teams in the NFL are very obvious, whether you look at records or advanced analytics. Denver's lack of home-field advantage in a potential AFC Championship against New England hurts their odds a bit, but clearly the Broncos are capable of beating any team in the NFL.
The biggest question for them, of course, is how Peyton Manning will play after finishing the season -- over his final seven games, according to our numbers -- as a fringe top-10 passer. A shift in offensive philosophy played a role with his lack of effectiveness, but he'll need to play great for them to make a legitimate run.
3. Green Bay Packers (Super Bowl Odds: 16.6%)
As I mentioned earlier, the Packers have one of the best offenses our database has ever seen. Aaron Rodgers is the clear MVP -- at least to me -- in the NFL, and his per drop back numbers from 2014 were the eighth best we've seen since the 2000 season. He's been that good.
The offense isn't an issue for Green Bay. The defense, however, is. The rush defense, as I said, ranks 22nd in the NFL in effectiveness when adjusted for strength of opponent. The pass defense is a bit better, but can still be beat, ranking 15th. The defensive unit for Green Bay tends to play much better at home, but what happens if Seattle beats Carolina this weekend?
2. New England Patriots (Super Bowl Odds: 17.1%)
As usual, Belichick and Brady are the best in the AFC. Who could blame our algorithms though? The only aspect of the New England team that grades out poorly in terms of NEP is the rush defense, which has improved dramatically as the season's gone on. Every other part of the team is power ranked in the top six.
Given the way New England played down the stretch, it's difficult to see a scenario where they're not representing the AFC in the Super Bowl. It's an any given Sunday league, but our metrics see them as the team representing the AFC this season.
1. Seattle Seahawks (Super Bowl Odds: 21.4%)
A game against the league's worst remaining team will naturally help Seattle's odds, but the Seahawks have the best nERD in the NFL, so it's no surprise that they have the best chance to win the Super Bowl.
Because of Russell Wilson's amazing season on the ground, the Seahawks put together the best rushing season our numbers have ever seen. If they end up playing Green Bay in the NFC Championship, their effectiveness running the ball could be huge for their chances.
But don't forget about this defense. No, the unit isn't as good -- from a cumulative perspective, at least -- as it was last season. But since Week 12, the defense has been in lights-out form, allowing more than seven points just once.