During the past seven NFL seasons a top or number two seed has won every Super Bowl. Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs were the second seed in the American Football Conference and after the Tennessee Titans had vanished the top seed Baltimore Ravens, the Chiefs won the AFC and played the National Football Conference top seed, the San Francisco 49ers. The second seed Chiefs were favored in that game and won, 31-20.
Two years ago, the second seed New England Patriots won it all with Tom Brady at quarterback. They beat the Los Angeles Rams in the lowest scoring Super Bowl in history, 13-3. The Rams were the second seed in the NFC. Five straight number one seeds had won Super Bowls after the fourth seed Baltimore Ravens topped the second seed 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
What’s the point?
This year, the top seed Kansas City Chiefs are playing the fifth seed Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You like the fifth seed chances?
Turns out only one fifth seed has ever won a Super Bowl, and that was to complete the 2007 season when the New York Giants ended Tom Brady’s perfect campaign with the New England Patriots. Two sixth seeded teams have won it all, the 2010 Green Bay Packers, who were favored over the second seed Pittsburgh Steelers, and the 2005 Steelers who won as a favorite over the top seed Seattle Seahawks.
Here is what I find interesting about these numbers. When a lower seed has won they were commonly favored in the game, only the Giants win over the Patriots interrupts this pattern. Seems when a lower seed is in a spot to take out a higher seed it is reflected in the point spread.
The Chiefs are favored to win next Sunday.
While Brady is making his record tenth Super Bowl appearance, something that is simply amazing when you consider he has played in 18% of all Super Bowls and didn’t play in his first until the thirty-sixth game in the series. But, while his six wins are impressive, his Super Bowl performances have not truly matched his brilliance in getting his teams to the big game.
In fact, until he guided New England to the epic comeback against the Atlanta Falcons to complete the 2016 season, Brady had never covered the spread as a favorite in a Super Bowl. He did it again two years ago, when the Patriots defense didn’t allow the Rams to crack the endzone. His six wins included point spread losses to the Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles, and victories as an underdog against the St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks. His straight up losses all came when he was favored in the game, twice against the New York Giants and in his second Super Bowl matchup against the Eagles.
For you math majors, that means against the point spread in nine previous title games, Brady is 4 and 5 versus the line.
Why tell you this?
Because if Brady is the reason one might side with the Buccaneers this week, there is legitimate cause to pause while picking a quarterback that ended three consecutive second half drives with interceptions in the NFC Championship Game.
How the Buccaneers beat the Packers with that fact really boils down to two plays. Allowing Brady to complete a fourth down late second quarter touchdown from midfield and have Packers Head Coach Matt LaFleur kick a field goal when he had needed a touchdown from the eight-yard-line with time running out.
There is a lot to like about Brady, and the Buccaneers defense has been a step better than the Chiefs this season. But take an underdog fifth seed against the defending champions who come into the game as the top seed out of the AFC?
Not so sure about that.