How To Predict The Super Bowl

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Who will win this year's Super Bowl? In this article we take a close look at the competing teams and through applying statistical analysis, show you how to predict who will win the Super Bowl.

In 2016 we see the Carolina Panthers taking on the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. Two years ago we showed why Seattle probably should have been the Super Bowl favorite over Denver in advance of the Seahawks’ dominating victory. Last season, we almost nailed the exact final score in New England’s nailbiter victory over the Seahawks.

How To Predict The Super Bowl

5 Keys To Making Your Super Bowl Prediction

Here are the five key bullet points we first discussed a couple of season's ago. They seem just as relevant heading into Super Bowl 50:

  1.  Multi-Dimensional Teams Are Better Equipped for Diverse Challenges
  2.  Strength of Schedule From the Regular Season Matters
  3. Defense Still Wins Championships
  4.  Move the Chains, Avoid Turnovers!
  5. Game Conditions Loom Large Generally speaking, those key factors did lead Carolina and Denver down their conference championship pathways.

The only obvious “misses” were that Carolina actually played a very soft regular season schedule. Jeff Sagarin of USA Today had it ranked dead last in toughness in the 32-team league. The Panthers sure were impressive in dispatching legitimate powers Seattle and Arizona the past two weeks. Punters will have to determine how much of that was true team greatness, and how much may have been from a home “turf” advantage aided by familiarity with a sloppy field known for poor footing. Plus, Denver’s offense struggled to move the chains on offense as their defense carried them to the AFC crown (though it did avoid turnovers, committing just one in 120 playoff minutes).

Let’s run through those categories in more depth and see how we can find an edge betting on Super Bowl odds:

#1 - Multi-Dimensionality

Clear edge to Carolina here, as arguably the most multi-dimensional team in the playoffs. They had a great defense…they had a great running game…and Cam Newton has turned into quite a weapon as a passer. There are no weaknesses here! Denver, on the other hand…matches Carolina with a fantastic defense, but is much less scary on offense. Quarterback Peyton Manning has lost his zip in the air…and never had much zip with his legs. The defenses basically cancel out in terms of yards-per-play allowed and high impact plays (sacks and takeaways)

2015 Yards-per-Play Allowed, Takeaways, Sacks in Regular Season

Denver: 4.4 yards-per-play allowed, 27 takeaways, 52 sacks

Carolina: 4.9 yards-per-play allowed, 39 takeaways, 44 sacks

Both teams led their respective conferences in dominant fashion in this defensive “composite.” Then, Denver held Pittsburgh and New England to 16 and 18 points in the AFC brackets, while Carolina nailed 17 additional “impact” plays (takeaways and sacks) vs. Seattle and Arizona.

Two great defenses…only one great offense. Big edge to Carolina.

#2 – Regular Season Strength Of Schedule

As discussed, big edge to Denver…who went 12-4 against a schedule that ranked in the top dozen by most accounts.

#3 – Defence Wins Championships

Two great defenses just won their conference championships. Whoever turns out to be the Super Bowl 50 winner can point to defense as a key factor. But, in terms of handicapping the game, it’s a wash. No edge.

#4 – Move the chains, Avoid Turnovers

Big edge to Carolina. In fact, “big,” may understate their edge. Denver’s offense with Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler was turnover prone all season. They are still playing in spite of their offense rather than because of it. In terms of these two categories…

2015 Offensive Third Down Conversions and Giveaways in Regular Season

Denver: 35% on third down offense, 31 giveaways

Carolina: 42% on third down offense, 19 giveaways

You can squeeze those closer together if you wish because of strength of schedule issues. Though…Denver’s going to be much more mistake-prone however you slice it. Look at what happened in the playoffs in terms of moving the chains…

Third Down Conversions and Giveaways in Playoffs

Denver: 9 of 32 for 28% on third down offense, 1 giveaway

Carolina: 16 of 29 for 55% on third down offense, 1 giveaway

Carolina got better at moving the chains while stepping up in class. Denver obviously got worse. Substantial edge to Carolina here.

How To Predict The Super Bowl

#5 – Game Conditions Loom Large

This is a bit dicey to predict in advance because we have an outdoor game in Northern California…at a stadium that’s been notorious for poor turf in its short history. Maybe that problem will be solved by Super Bowl 50. Maybe not.

Who’s favored by “ideal” conditions? Well…our indicator categories are suggesting Carolina has the edge in ideal conditions because the defenses cancel out and the Panthers have the much superior offense.

Who’s favored by “sloppy” conditions (poor turf and/or rain in an El Nino year)? Often conditions like that are an equalizer. But, Carolina just played two huge games on horrible turf! They may be much more likely to maintain their footing because of that experience. Denver’s offense was having trouble at home sustaining consistency vs. Pittsburgh and New England.

How bad is Peyton Manning’s offense going to look vs. a great defense in poor scoring conditions?! Manning suffered bad luck having to face Seattle’s great defense in chilly New Jersey two Super Bowls ago. Another possible challenge here.

All told…Carolina is virtually jumping off the page given these indicators. It could turn out that other indicators will ultimately matter more. Maybe Cam Newton fizzles under pressure. Maybe Manning’s teammates rally to make him go out a winner in what might be his final career game. But, these indicators deserve respect because they’ve proven the test of time. Let’s see what the Super Bowl 50 odds currently are as we publish this preview.

Super Bowl Odds: The Spread

What is the Super Bowl line? At this stage the Super Bowl point spread is Carolina -4 (though it may be up to -4.5 or more by the time you read this). This is the seventh straight season where the Super Bowl betting line has been under a touchdown.

Super Bowl Odds: Over/Under Points Total

Currently the Super Bowl Over Under Total points scored: is 45.5 (up from an opener of 45).

Odds to Win Super Bowl 50: Head To Head

Who is the Super Bowl favourite?

At this stage it's Carolina at odds of 1.50, with Denver as the underdogs at 2.70. For more Super Bowl 50 betting information, read our Super Bowl Betting Guide.

Super Bowl Prediction

Who will be the Super Bowl 50 winner? Based on our analysis, our Super Bowl prediction is Carolina 27, Denver 19, understanding that the potential victory margin is much higher than that if Manning has a bad turnover game while trying to force the issue against an opportunistic defense (a replay of the ugly loss in Super Bowl 48 to Seattle). Denver’s best hope is that awkward turf conditions help slow down Carolina’s ability to attack on both sides of the ball. The turnover “wheel of fortune” spins off an axis of Carolina by 8 because of their edges in our indicators. That’s obviously a pick on Carolina at the current Super Bowl line of -4.5.

Super Bowl MVP Prediction

Best Guess: Cam Newton

Longshot: Luke Kuechly

Cam Newton is at the heart of Carolina’s edge in versatility (because the defenses cancel out), so he’s the obvious choice (current Super Bowl MVP favourite) if you’re looking to pick Carolina. Frankly, he could win even if the Panthers lose a thriller because Denver’s potential for impact plays is so spread out amongst its roster. Manning might get a voter nod for a nostalgic pick in a win…but he’s not exactly compiling MVP stats in the playoffs.

Because Newton is so obvious, there’s not much value in making him our Super Bowl MVP prediction! Luke Kuechly’s knack for showing up around the ball on defense, and returning interceptions for touchdowns, makes him a nice darkhorse consideration if defense does win this championship, or if sloppy turf inhibits both offenses in a way that shines the light on defenders.


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