As the regular season winds down, fans and members of the media are beginning to plant their flag and pick a team to win the Super Bowl. But how trustworthy are their opinions?
In his book, Skin in the Game, Nassim Taleb argues that to truly understand the world, we must face consequences for our opinions. This leads to his despisal of banks, who receive government bailouts whenever making costly mistakes and politicians who create policies for which they are not held accountable.
This is why I never listen to what ESPN has to say, nor to my friends who think a team will win but refuse to accept any risk for it. In the words of Nassim Taleb, “Don’t tell me what you ‘think’ just tell me what’s in your portfolio.”
So who do we trust? There is no better place to look than the sports betting market, where oddsmakers and bettors actually face risks for their opinions.
To get an accurate view of the NFL landscape and each team’s chances of lifting the Lombardi Trophy, let’s look at the Super Bowl betting odds as per Mytopsportsbooks.com.
Baltimore Ravens +225
The Ravens sit in a tier all on their own for a multitude of reasons. The Ravens play in a weaker conference than their foes in the NFC, giving them an easier path to the Super Bowl and thus a greater chance of winning it. The Ravens post the highest Expected Points Added/Play for both dropbacks and rush attempts, letting defenses pick their poison. While clearly having the league’s best offense, the Ravens still boast a top 5 defense in EPA/Play, allowing them to win games in every which way.
Per: @benbaldwin on Twitter
The most interesting part of this tier is that the two teams atop the NFC (the Seahawks and Packers) sit at the bottom of tier 2, behind teams within the same conference who, as of right now, will not receive a first round bye (the 49ers and Saints). This may confuse fans, but the Seahawks and Packers win/loss records present a stark contrast from what we’d expect their records to be.
The Seahawks are 10-1 in one score games this year and possess the worst point differential of any 11-3 team in NFL history. Their +26 point differential is tied with the Los Angeles Rams and worse than that of teams such as the Titans and Cowboys.
Fans may actually point to this as a positive, claiming that they “find a way to win close games,” a critical skill in the postseason. But Pete Carroll was 33-34 in one score games coming into this season. The Seahawks ability to pull out close games this season appears to be more of an outlier due to small sample size than a skill that will carry them to the Super Bowl.
The Packers have a similar story to the Seahawks, sitting just one spot above Seattle in terms of point differential. There is a reason each of these teams sits at the bottom of Tier 2 despite sitting atop their conference.
To me, this tier represents all the underrated teams who still have some hope of lifting the Lombardi Trophy. Kirk Cousins and Dak Prescott are quietly putting together fantastic seasons thus far. Going into Week 14, PFF graded Deshaun Watson, Kirk Cousins and Dak Prescott as the fourth, fifth, and sixth best quarterbacks this season, respectively. Do not be surprised if the Seahawks or Packers have a first round exit if forced to travel to Dallas.