Back in early November, we laid out the playoff picture according to the position of each team at that moment. Two months later, it’s time to look forward to the Super Bowl and look back to see how we did.
The current picture
At present, four teams remain eligible to become the next Super Bowl champions. They are listed below, along with their current odds of winning the Super Bowl. The odds are according to SportsLine and are sourced from the Westgate Superbook.
- Kansas City Chiefs (13/5)
- New England Patriots (7/2)
- New Orleans Saints (7/4)
- Los Angeles Rams (7/2)
So, oddsmakers are definitively predicting that the Chiefs and Saints will meet in the Super Bowl. According to the listed odds, the Saints seem most likely to prevail as Super Bowl champions.
But, if the outcome of the games was certain, it would be unnecessary to play them. Stranger things have certainly happened in sports than a #2 seed from either conference coming out on top.
Results from the second half of the season
A slightly more interesting topic is how the playoff picture changed and evolved as the second half of the season rolled on. In the first week of November 2018, here were the playoff standings:
- Kansas City Chiefs (9/2)
- New England Patriots (6/1)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (8/1)
- Houston Texans (25/1)
- Los Angeles Chargers (14/1)
- Cincinnati Bengals (60/1)
- Los Angeles Rams (5/2)
- New Orleans Saints (7/2)
- Chicago Bears (50/1)
- Washington Redskins (80/1)
- Carolina Panthers (25/1)
- Minnesota Vikings (16/1)
By contrast, the final playoff picture ended up looking like this:
- Kansas City Chiefs
- New England Patriots
- Houston Texans
- Baltimore Ravens
- Los Angeles Chargers
- Indianapolis Colts
- New Orleans Saints
- Los Angeles Rams
- Chicago Bears
- Dallas Cowboys
- Seattle Seahawks
- Philadelphia Eagles
So, as it turns out, nearly half the teams in the playoff hunt in November missed the playoffs altogether. The Steelers, Bengals, Redskins, Panthers, and Vikings all saw their seasons end in Week 17.
Instead, the Ravens, Colts, Cowboys, Seahawks, and Eagles all punched their tickets through second half surges. The Texans moved into the 3rd seed in the AFC, and the Saints and Rams switched places in the NFC.
Cinderella had time for one dance before midnight
However, one of the most striking parts of the final list is that both lowest seeds (and newcomers to the playoff picture) advanced in their first game. The Colts beat the Texans in a game that wasn’t as close as its 21-7 margin, and the Eagles sneaked out of Chicago with a one-point victory that introduced the phrase “double doink” to the American lexicon.
Nevertheless, any chances for Cinderella stories crashed into the vanguard of teams at the top of each conference. The NFC top seeds (Saints and Rams) struggled but overcame the upstarts in their conference semifinals, and the AFC juggernauts (Chiefs and Patriots) smashed their conference foes convincingly.
So, although the second half of the season brought some surprise and intrigue, things ultimately played out as predicted. The two best teams in each conference in November remain the two best teams in each conference in January. Two more games will determine the best of the best.
As we mentioned in November, this season is a special one due to the introduction of sports betting in the US. Since the previous article, Pennsylvania has also joined the fraternity of sports betting states.
The result is that this year’s Super Bowl is likely to bring a river of cash into our nation’s sportsbooks – the likes of which has yet to be seen. The only wrinkle remaining is the identity of the teams that will meet.