When the Green Bay Packers met the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II to complete the 1967 season we had very little history to work with in picking a winner. Still, it was easy, it was the Packers. It was all based on talent, and the still active American Football League lost the first Super Bowl decisively to Vince Lombardi’s Packers and there was little reason to think the same team wouldn’t win again.
The Packers did, covering a double-digit point spread with a 33-14 triumph over the Raiders.
So, what patterns did Green Bay establish for Super Bowls after just two games?
The better team wins. The better team covers the point spread. A defending champion wins again.
All three of those scenarios have come under fire in the 52 Super Bowls played since. First, the better team doesn’t always win. That was proven in Super Bowl III when the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts, and again the following year when the Kansas City Chiefs outscored the Minnesota Vikings. The better team didn’t win the first time Tom Brady won a Super Bowl either, that was when the two-touchdown favored St. Louis Rams were upset by the upstart New England Patriots.
The better team didn’t win in two other obvious situations when Eli Manning outdueled Brady twice. First ending the Patriots unbeaten string to complete the 2007 season, and again in 2011 when the New York Giants became the first and only team ever to win a Super Bowl while being outscored in the regular season.
But how about a returning champion, do they repeat like the Packers did?
Since Green Bay returned to the Super Bowl in 1967 as a defending champion, 12 other teams looked to win a second straight Super Bowl. Seven of the dozen accomplished the goal, but those same twelve teams compiled a point spread record of 5 wins and 7 losses. The Kansas City Chiefs are the 14th team with an opportunity to win a second straight Super Bowl when they battle the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
The better team is most often reflected in the point spread, given until this season all 54 completed Super Bowls were played on a neutral field. The favorites have won more than they lost by a 34 to 20 margin, but against the point spread, those same 54 results compute to 27-26-1.
What can we deduce from these numbers?
Better teams most often win, but don’t cover the point spread enough to earn a profit while paying vig on the wager.
Teams looking to repeat as champions get that done straight-up by an 8 to 5 margin, but have a losing record against the point spread, 6-7.
So, take the points? no advantage there.
Take the Favorite? No significant edge.
Ahh, maybe this is the key.
While Brady is 2 and 5 against the spread as a favorite, in both his underdog roles, in Super Bowl XXXVI against the Rams and six years ago against the Seahawks, he won the games straight-up.
Seems like it is a bad idea to tug on Superman’s cape.
Brady is an underdog this year at home with his new Buccaneer teammates.
Whew, finally something we can lean on, until you consider this.
Patrick Mahomes has never lost a Super Bowl, and he won his first last year while favored on the point spread.