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Super Bowl 51 Odds: Top 6 Teams Or The Field?

Fun article over at SB Nation on national championship odds in college football for this season. The question the folks were trying to answer was what is the smallest number of teams you could group together to give you a 50/50 (or better) shot of containing the eventual champion?  As it turns out, most people thought “taking the top five or six teams presents close to a fair wagering opportunity.”

What about in the NFL? Well, despite the presence of nearly 100 fewer teams, the answer is about the same.  The Patriots, Packers, Panthers, Steelers, Seahawks, and Cardinals form the upper crust of the NFL, at least according to Vegas odds.  Together, that group has about a 50% chance of containing the Super Bowl 51 champion.

Take a look at the odds from Football Locks, which is pretty similar to the odds at other places.  Here’s how to read the table below: The Patriots have 15/2 odds, which translates to 1 out of 8.5, or 11.8%. That includes a vig, tho, and if we remove the vig from each team, that drops the Patriots odds to 9.9%, which is a better approximation of New England’s real odds. I then sorted the teams in the NFL by that number, and calculated the cumulative Super Bowl percentage — after six teams, it’s pretty close to a 50/50 proposition.

TeamOddsImplied %W/o VigCumulative
New England Patriots15/211.8%9.9%9.9%
Green Bay Packers17/210.5%8.8%18.7%
Carolina Panthers10/19.1%7.6%26.3%
Pittsburgh Steelers10/19.1%7.6%33.9%
Seattle Seahawks10/19.1%7.6%41.5%
Arizona Cardinals11/18.3%7%48.5%
Denver Broncos15/16.3%5.2%53.8%
Minnesota Vikings18/15.3%4.4%58.2%
Cincinnati Bengals20/14.8%4%62.2%
Dallas Cowboys20/14.8%4%66.2%
Kansas City Chiefs23/14.2%3.5%69.7%
Indianapolis Colts25/13.8%3.2%72.9%
New York Giants30/13.2%2.7%75.6%
Oakland Raiders30/13.2%2.7%78.3%
Baltimore Ravens35/12.8%2.3%80.6%
Houston Texans55/11.8%1.5%82.1%
Chicago Bears60/11.6%1.4%83.5%
Jacksonville Jaguars60/11.6%1.4%84.9%
Miami Dolphins60/11.6%1.4%86.2%
New York Jets60/11.6%1.4%87.6%
Los Angeles Rams65/11.5%1.3%88.9%
New Orleans Saints65/11.5%1.3%90.2%
Washington Redskins65/11.5%1.3%91.4%
Atlanta Falcons70/11.4%1.2%92.6%
Buffalo Bills70/11.4%1.2%93.8%
Detroit Lions80/11.2%1%94.8%
Philadelphia Eagles80/11.2%1%95.9%
San Diego Chargers80/11.2%1%96.9%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers80/11.2%1%97.9%
San Francisco 49ers100/11%0.8%98.8%
Tennessee Titans100/11%0.8%99.6%
Cleveland Browns200/10.5%0.4%100.0%

So, what do you think? Would you take the top 6 teams or the field?

The last 3 years, a heavy Super Bowl favorite has won it all. In 2013, the Seahawks had the 3rd best odds at 17/2; the next year, the Patriots were at 8/1, tied with San Francisco for the 3rd best odds. And last year, the Broncos were 7th at 12 to 1, but that still put them in tier 1 (the next team was at 25/1). But back in 2012, the Ravens were at 18/1 to win the Super Bowl from Bovada in early August; that made them one of 4 teams tied for having the 9th best odds. The year before, the Giants were 25/1 in early August, good enough for 12th place.

  • bubqr

    Am I crazy for thinking that I would easily take the top 6 teams? It’s a really interesting way of looking at it, because if you had not shown the numbers, I would have thought the cumulative odds were around 60/70% for those first 6 teams.

  • Quinton

    I’d take the field. Although what I am about to say is theoretically accounted for in the odds, I think there is a consistent bias, potentially among bettors as well (since betting the field is costly and not fun). I remember when last season Chase posted 32(?) basically prop bets. My take away from that was “the field” is consistently underestimated. It is easy for people to picture one of those six teams winning but harder to imagine any one low odds team winning. This is because rationally you say, the Colts will almost certainly not win, but even though their odds are really only slightly higher, you can easily imagine the Packers or Seahawks winning

  • Roger Kirk

    I recommend this PFR article from 2006, whose author simulated 10,000 seasons with the strength of the 32 teams somewhat randomly derived but based on empirical observation of past seasons. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=57 I would like to be able to express that better. Unfortunately the link to a more detailed explanation at the beginning of the article no longer works (though the links to various followups at the end still do). Maybe Chase can use his connections to get PFR to dig up the earlier article explaining the methodology.

    The gist of it was that we had a godlike knowledge of the “real” ability of the teams regardless of their performance. The three best teams accounted for almost 49% of Super Bowl wins, a lot more than one would expect from studying the Vegas odds. The 31st and 32nd best teams each won one Super Bowl in 10,000 years so don’t rush to Vegas to bet on the Browns at 200-1.

    So the answer to the question seems to be to take the top six teams because the oddsmakers flatten out the real odds.

  • Bryce

    Will Cleveland really be that bad this year…or is it just because of their history?

  • Bump.