Is a Team’s Recent Performance Predictive of Super Bowl Success?

Is a Team’s Recent Performance Predictive of Super Bowl Success? article feature image

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots opened as consensus 6-point favorites in Super Bowl 52. As of Thursday morning, 59% of spread tickets are on the Philadelphia Eagles shifting the line to Pats -5 at eight of the 11 sportsbooks we track. There is even a -4.5 among the mix.

What is causing the line movement? No bet signals have been triggered at Sports Insights, indicating public money, not sharp bettors, are driving the action. For recreational bettors, the conference championship games are fresh in their minds. Philly looked like world beaters in the NFC title game trouncing the Minnesota Vikings 38-7. Nick Foles (352 yards, 3 TDs) played so well he almost made Eagles fans forget he isn’t Carson Wentz. While Foles & Co. flew by the Vikes, the Patriots needed the 54th comeback of Tom Brady’s career to eke out a 24-20 victory over Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Recency bias isn’t the only factor, but it is clearly playing a role in early betting. Is a team’s performance in the conference championship predictive of Super Bowl success?

To answer that question, I pulled the results from every AFC and NFC title game. Then I used the correlation coefficient to determine if there was a relationship between a team’s margin of victory in the conference championship and their ability to win and cover the spread in the Super Bowl. A correlation coefficient of 1 indicates perfect correlation, -1 means there is perfect negative correlation and 0 indicates no correlation.

The correlation coefficient between a team’s margin of victory in the conference title game and whether it ended up winning the Super Bowl is -0.072. This tells us there is little relationship.

This holds for predicting if a team will cover in the big game as well. The correlation coefficient between the conference championship margin and covering the spread is -0.067.

One might think a team’s performance in the conference title game would have some impact on the outcome of the Super Bowl but that is just not the case. In the most lopsided title game, the Buffalo Bills beat the Los Angeles Raiders 51-3 for the 1990-91 AFC championship. After the 48 point win, the Bills lost and failed to cover against the Giants in Super Bowl 25. The closest championship game on record was a 1-point victory by the San Francisco 49ers over the Dallas Cowboys in the 1981-82 NFC title game. After squeaking by the ‘Boys, the Niners won and covered against the Bengals in Super 16.

Teams that advanced to the Super Bowl after winning a conference championship by seven or fewer points have gone 16-16 straight-up and 17-14-1 against the spread in the Super Bowl. The teams that rolled into Super Sunday after a victory of 20 or more points went 7-11 straight-up and against the spread in the big game.

A team’s recent performance is not predictive of Super Bowl success. Bettors banking on the Eagles having another strong performance in the title game against the Patriots because they handily beat the Vikings could be disappointed.

Want more Super Bowl analysis? We’ve covered all of the Super Bowl 52 betting and props action.

Photo via Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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