As the regular NFL season ends, the Kansas City Chiefs (+350), Buffalo Bills (+400), San Francisco 49ers (+500), Philadelphia Eagles (+550) and Cincinnati Bengals (+850) are the top picks at DraftKings to win the Super Bowl, despite we saw last year, the favorites don’t always make it through the post-season. Green Bay and Kansas City had the shortest odds to win the Super Bowl at the start of last season’s playoffs, but neither of them made it to the Super Bowl. The top-seeded Packers didn’t even win a game.
There are many tests to distinguish Super Bowl contenders from impostors, but one of the more reliable methods is focus on teams that perform better than others in specific situations. The easiest way to measure this is through expected points added (EPA), which calculates how many points a team scores against an average team when playing a match under the same circumstances. The higher the EPA, the more likely that team is to succeed.
Going into the playoffs of last season – and back in 2002, when the NFL expanded to 32 franchises – the higher-ranked team in terms of projected points added per game at the end of the regular season won 61% of the playoff games, with the biggest advantage occurring in the split (.671). Teams that ranked in the top 10 for both offensive and defensive points added during the regular season have won 76% in the playoff games and won 6-2 in the Super Bowl. Teams that ranked in the top 5 in terms of added offensive or defensive projections scored 74% in their post-season games, even though they had a 3-5 record in-game. compete for the championship. Those who qualified in both of those categories were 18-64, win the Super Bowl four times, and going 0-4.
However, there are exceptional seasons. Last year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys ranked in the EPA top 10 both offensively and defensively in the playoffs, but neither team made it to the grand finals. Seeded second in the NFC, The Bucs, beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round before losing to the Los Angeles Rams in the second round. The Bills, 3rd in the AFC, beat the New England Patriots in the first round but lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the second round. And the Cowboys, the NFC’s No. 3 seed, lost to the 49ers at home in the first round. Neither of the participants that entered the Super Bowl last year – the Rams and the Bengals – ranked in the EPA’s top 10 either offensively or defensively. Los Angeles ranked fifth and 11th; Cincinnati ranked 13th and 10th.
So the metric, although valuable, is not infallible. However, using the EPA, here are the top contenders to win this year’s Super Bowl, grouped from most likely to least likely.
See more: Super Bowl LVII
Top 10 in Offensive and Defensive EP
NFC No. 1 seed: Philadelphia Eagles
Fourth in offensive EPA, sixth in defensive EPA
Two of the Eagles’ three losses were without full-back Jalen Hurts, but he returned to the playoffs. Defensively, Philadelphia became the first team since the Minnesota Vikings in 1989 to score at least 70 pitches and the first team to have four players with at least 10.
NFC No. 2 seed: San Francisco 49ers
Fifth in offensive EPA, first in defensive EPA
The last player selected in the 2022 draft, Rookie Brock Purdy became the first quarterback since at least 1950 to win his first five games. San Francisco’s defense leads the NFL in points allowed per drive (1.48).
AFC No. 2 seed: Buffalo Bills
Second in offensive EPA, 10th in defensive EPA
The Bills are second behind the Chiefs in points per drive (2.66) and Buffalo’s defense is fourth with 1.68 points allowed per drive. Buffalo won seven games in a row to close out the season, but only one of those wins was against a playoff team (and that was against the Miami Dolphins, who barely made it to the post-season). .
AFC No. 3 seed: Cincinnati Bengals
Sixth in offensive EPA, ninth in defensive EPA
Team Bengal started 4-4 but haven’t lost since Halloween. Cincinnati started the season with an almost completely revamped attack, and Joe Burrow was sacked 29 times in his first eight games. The second half of the season is a different story – Burrow has only been sacked 12 times in his last nine games – but La’el Collins is the main force to catch La’el Collins’s own end-of-season injury last month and starting Alex Cappa will likely miss the opener play-off after injuring his ankle on Sunday.
NFC No. 5 seed: Dallas Cowboys
Seventh in offensive EPA, third in defensive EPA
The Cowboys won six of their eight games to close out the season and place fifth in both points scored and allowed per drive, but their last four wins have been against two lousy teams (Colts and Texans) and two teams lacking starting midfielders (Eagles and Titans). However, Dallas became the first team since Pittsburgh’s “Iron Curtain” team in the 1970s to lead the NFL in terms of performance in back-to-back seasons.
Top five in offensive or defensive EPA
AFC No. 1 seed: Kansas City Chiefs
First in offensive EPA, 18th in defensive EPA
Patrick Mahomes (Quarterbackhas) had 5,614 attacking yards (apassing, rushing and receiving combined), breaking Drew Brees’ 2011 record (5,562 in a game less) and his 5,250 passing yards were the fourth most in the game history. Kansas City won 6-2 against the teams that made the playoffs, and the losses totaled seven points.
Top 10 in offensive or defensive EPA
AFC No. 4 seed: Jacksonville Jaguars
10th in offensive EPA, 13th in defensive EPA
The Jaguars recovered from a 3-7 start to reach the playoffs, but they need Josh Allen’s fourth-quarter return to face the Tennessee Titans on Saturday to secure a berth. Jacksonville has one of the worst passing defenses in the league, ranking 30th in DVOA for passes.
AFC No. 7 seed: Miami Dolphins
Ninth in offensive EPA, 23rd in defensive EPA
Miami’s chances probably hinge on whether midfielder Tua Tagovailoa will be able to play after suffering a second diagnosed concussion of the season at Christmas. Defensiveness was also an issue: The Dolphins got 2.25 points per drive, the worst of any playoff team.
NFC No. 4 seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
22nd in offensive EPA, eighth in defensive EPA
The Bucs have shown signs of resurgence in the long run, beating the Cardinals and Panthers to secure the NFC South title and a home playoff. But pass defense is terrible (the opposing quarterbacks have thrown 20 touchdown passes with just four interceptions against Tampa Bay since Week 6) and the running game is non-existent (the Bucs rank last in the NFL in rushing EPA per play).
The rest of the field
History suggests the odds are stacked against these squads.
AFC No. 5 seed: Los Angeles Chargers
14th in offensive EPA, 26th in defensive EPA
AFC No. 6 seed: Baltimore Ravens
19th in offensive EPA, 14th in defensive EPA
NFC No. 3 seed: Minnesota Vikings
13th in offensive EPA, 21st in defensive EPA
NFC No. 6 seed: New York Giants
11th in offensive EPA, 28th in defensive EPA
NFC No. 7 seed: Seattle Seahawks
15th in offensive EPA, 25th in defensive EPA