January 23, 2018

Who will win Super Bowl 2018? We’ve crunched the numbers to make a prediction

By Luke Christou

The Philadelphia Eagles bulldozed their way past the Minnesota Vikings last weekend, securing the final spot in Super Bowl LII.

Despite their impressive run, the Eagles will have a tough time overcoming fellow finalists The New England Patriots.

The Patriots hope to join the rare list of teams to have lifted consecutive Vince Lombardi Trophies. However, the riches up for grabs should motivate the Eagles enough to take the game to the current champions.

Who will win Super Bowl 2018? Nobody can say for sure, but these facts and figures might provide some idea of how the showpiece 4 February game could play out.

Past meetings

According to ESPN’s political and sports analysis publication FiveThirtyEight, New England Patriots go into Super Bowl LII as slight favourites to win the prestigious match. They have been given a 58 percent chance compared to Philadelphia Eagles’ 42 percent.

These statistics are said to be calculated based on 100,000 simulations of the season ran after each game.

However, historically the Philadelphia Eagles have the odds on their side.

These two teams have met 13 times in the past according to The Football Database, dating back to their inaugural meeting during the 1973 regular season.

The Eagles won by 24-23 on that occasion and have claimed six more in the years that followed.

As things stand, Philadelphia Eagles lead the series by 7-6.

However, while the Eagles dominated the series in the 1980s, the Patriots have fared far better in recent years. Of the last five meetings between these two sides, which takes us back to 2003, New England have won four times.

The Eagles currently hold the bragging rights though. They claimed a 35-28 victory last time these two teams met in 2015.

Super Bowl appearances

Recent history suggests that it would be unwise to look past the New England Patriots. The dominant NFL side has won the Super Bowl in two of the last three years, in 2015 and 2017.

Not including this year’s run, Bill Belichick’s Patriots have topped their regional conference seven times since 2001 and went on to win the Super Bowl on five occasions.

This would suggest that there is a 71 percent chance that the Patriots will make it six Super Bowl wins from eight going by their recent history.

On the other hand, this will be Philadelphia Eagles’ third time making an appearance at the Super Bowl. The Pennsylvanian side previously qualified in 1981 and 2005. However, they have yet to win a Super Bowl title.

Coincidentally, the Eagles’ last Super Bowl appearance pitted them against the Patriots in 2005. Despite just three points separating the two sides, the latter secured their third Super Bowl title in Florida.

Current season performance

Given New England Patriots’ recent Super Bowl dominance, Philadelphia Eagles will have a tough time trying to take anything from this game.

However, just making it this far is an achievement in itself for Doug Pederson’s side.

According to FiveThirtyEight, the Eagles had just a two percent chance of winning the Super Bowl during the preseason. Their data suggested that there were 15 other teams above them more likely to go all the way this season.

In comparison, New England was given an 18 percent chance of Super Bowl victory before the season had even kicked off.

However, a strong regular season has pushed the Eagles close to level with their opposition.

Of the 17 regular season matches that the Eagles featured in this season, the simulations suggested that they would end 2017 with a record of 8-8-0. This would have left them around 10th in the National Football Conference and out of the playoff spots.

The Eagles far exceeded expectations, claiming 13 victories to top the National Football Conference table. That puts them level with the Patriots, who claimed the same 13-3-0 record in the American Football Conference.

Likewise, of the five games that the Eagles were tipped to lose in FiveThirtyEight’s simulated seasons, the Philadelphia side won four of them. On the other hand, all three of the Patriots’ defeats came in games that they were expected to win.

Does the favourite always win?

Despite the Philadelphia Eagles’ hearty performances this season, the New England Patriots are still favourites to claim a third Super Bowl in four seasons.

However, the favourite tag doesn’t guarantee victory. There are plenty of factors that could alter the outcome of the game and swing it in the Eagles’ favour, but what are the chances of that actually happening?

Using FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ranking system, which calculates the average rating of every NFL team based on their results, we looked at how often the underdog has been victorious at the Super Bowl over the last decade:

New England Patriots (favourite) vs Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers (favourite) vs Denver Broncos

New England Patriots vs Seattle Seahawks (favourite)

Seattle Seahawks (favourite) vs Denver Broncos

Baltimore Ravens (favourite) vs San Francisco 49ers

New York Giants vs New England Patriots (favourite)

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Green Bay Packers (favourite)

New Orleans Saints (favourite) vs Indianapolis Colts

Pittsburgh Steelers (favourite) vs Arizona Cardinals

New York Giants vs New England Patriots (favourite)

*Winners are in bold

If these results are anything to go by, the Philadelphia Eagles still have a 40 percent chance of toppling the New England Patriots next month, despite their underdog status.

What this tells us is what we already knew.

The Super Bowl is unpredictable and could go either way. Whichever team performs better on the evening will come away with the trophy… But the New England Patriots are probably your best bet.

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