There was a time in the 1980’s when I thought picking the Super Bowl winner was as easy as knowing what teams lost their conference championship games the season before. It worked so well for so many years beginning with the San Francisco 49ers in 1984, who had lost the NFC Championship Game to the Washington Redskins the previous year.
The 49ers beat the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game before winning Super Bowl XIX. The Bears beat the New York Giants in the 1985 NFC Championship Game before winning Super Bowl XX, and the Giants followed up the Bears Super Bowl win with their own against the Denver Broncos to complete the 1986 season.
Who lost to the Giants in the 1986 NFC Championship Game?
The Washington Redskins.
Who won the Super Bowl in 1987?
The Washington Redskins.
It still follows somewhat the same pattern today, and to pick a team to win it all that wasn’t in the playoffs last season seems a less than stellar choice. It is worth noting though, that the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers were not playoff participants two years ago, and the 49ers won their first of five Super Bowls in 1981 after compiling a losing 6-10 record the previous year.
If we are looking for that team, the team that put together the building blocks that logically would lead to a Super Bowl win this year, it is the Buffalo Bills.
They have all the ingredients for a championship from the front office to the coaching staff to the personnel on the field. This is a first class run organization. Two years ago they cracked the playoff field as a Wild Card, and endured a stinging road loss after building up a big lead against the Houston Texans.
Last year, Buffalo won the AFC East and a pair of playoff games against the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens. Their season ended at Arrowhead Stadium with a loss to the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.
Championship game loser … Super Bowl winner.
A simple formula that has scored often during the past three decades and points directly to the Buffalo Bills.
Now, do they win Super Bowl LVI at Southern California’s SoFi Stadium?
Their opponent next February wasn’t even in the playoffs last year.
But, like a lot of things, results are not dictated by the norm, but by the unique factors that spur a team to the next level. A striving for excellence that requires more focus and dedication than most athletes are willing to give. When a team is raised by the chemistry of the people working to achieve a shared goal it is exhilarating for the team and fans alike. When operating at this high level, staff and players are not burdened by the rigors required, but rather inspired to a level that even exceeds their highest expectations.
You can see chemistry when it happens a lot easier than predicting when it will. But, in San Francisco, the fundamentals are in place. We also know why the defending NFC Champs missed the playoffs last year; they had more injuries in 2020 than the television series M*A*S*H accumulated over its multi-year run.
Four years ago, team owner Jed York signed Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch to six year deals. It was a bold move, criticized by some as risky given Shanahan had never been a head coach and Lynch had never been a general manager. It was not only bold, but it has turned out to be brilliant.
Last year’s six win season raised the talented 49ers draft position with teams the likes of the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and New York Giants. With the third pick in the draft, with a choice acquired from the Houston Texans, the 49ers chose quarterback Trey Lance.
Shanahan has experimented with a platoon quarterback system during the preseason, but is more likely to have Jimmy Garoppolo run the bulk of the games as long as he is healthy and effective. Lance is more likely to be used in spot situations or get work after the 49ers have built an insurmountable lead.
In some cases, this could be the foundation for a quarterback controversy. But the 49ers are far from a controversy. Shanahan has a pair of men poised to contribute to the 49ers success that are all in on their partnership. You can see it at their practices, and pick up the signs of something special in their public comments.
Two teams with great Super Bowl stories headed to Los Angeles for a meeting in Super Bowl LVI. The Buffalo Bills, looking for their first Super Bowl win while still being the only team in NFL history to play in four straight Super Bowls.
The 49ers own five Vince Lombardi Trophies. Four were led by Joe Montana, another added in 1994 by his fellow Hall of Fame member, Steve Young. The 49ers have been back to the game twice since winning their first five trips. Those games resulted in losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas CIty Chiefs. It might come as a surprise to some that the 49ers have not won a Super Bowl in 27 years.
The Buffalo Bills would like it to be thirty or so years since they won a Super Bowl, but that would have required them winning at least one during their run from 1990 to 1993. The Buffalo Bills have taken the steps to get to the Super Bowl, and on paper today have as good of a chance to win it as the 49ers.
But, from an intangible perspective, San Francisco gains a motivational edge from missing the playoffs last year and having something to prove this season. All the factors considered push the pendulum of advantage to the San Francisco 49ers winning Super Bowl LVI.
Qoxhi Picks: San Francisco to win Super Bowl LVI (10 to 1)