For a few years now, I’ve been digging into stats from previous seasons to try and predict Super Bowl favorites. I look at passing offense, rushing offense, and overall yardage. In addition to that, I examine the same with defensive stats. Next, I add in the season rankings, point differentials, and other historical markers–like if a team was too one-dimensional on offense, or if they simply relied too much on their offense. We will count down the teams in this year’s field until we get to our true contenders–finishing up with the year’s favorite. Without further ado, let’s do it.
Tier 5: No Chance in Hell
14. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers are at the bottom of the barrel this year. It’s kind of a miracle they even made it into the field. Compared to previous Super Bowl champions, their rushing offense and defense are both lacking. In terms of where they ranked this year, the Steelers finished troublingly low in rush offense (29th), total offense (23rd), rush defense (32nd), and total defense (24th). Not only that, but they didn’t finish top-10 in total offense or total defense–an ominous historical marker. We can finish it up by saying the Steelers didn’t finish top-8 in any offensive or defensive yardage stat. With that being said, I am officially moving on.
13. Las Vegas Raiders
I probably should have put the Steelers in their own special worst-team tier. These next two teams are much more believable as contenders. That being said, I would say either team winning would still be close to a miracle. What’s wrong with the Raiders? They have a bad rushing attack. Their yardage would put them in the bottom 10% compared to previous Super Bowl champions. In addition to that, the Raiders only finished top-10 in one yardage stat (offense or defense) and they weren’t top-10 in either total yardage OR total yardage allowed. There is also some reason to worry about their below-average rushing defense. Overall, the Raiders are a weak team waiting to be beaten. Their stay in the playoffs this year should be a short one.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
To be honest, the Eagles don’t have too much in terms of red flags. They have a strong defense (9th in rush defense, 10th in pass defense, 3rd overall) and the league’s best rushing attack. Their biggest weakness, though, is a big one: they are 25th in pass offense. When push comes to shove, it’s hard to imagine the Eagles keeping up in a shootout. That’s going to spell trouble considering the field: Green Bay, Tampa Bay, and Dallas to name a few. I don’t believe in Jalen Hurts, and I don’t believe in this team. Oh, and there’s this: No team with a top-2 rushing attack has won the Super Bowl since at least 2000. I’m knocking the Eagles out early for being too one-dimensional. And with that, we move to the next tier.
Tier 4: Not crazy, but…
11. Cincinnati Bengals
I know, the Bengals are everyone’s darling right now. I’m not buying into the hype though. Why not? First, the Bengals have a bad passing defense. They ranked 26th this season. The passing yards they gave up would put them in the bottom 10% of all previous Super Bowl champs. The Bengals also have a subpar rushing attack. It’s not a red flag, but it is a worry. On top of that, they didn’t finish top-10 in either total offense or defense this season. Only 2 of the last 22 champions won the Super Bowl given this stat. Finally, we look at quarterback Joe Burrow. While he has had an excellent season, first-time postseason quarterbacks win just 35.4% of the time since 2002. Maybe this team wins a game or two, but I can’t see them winning it all. It’s just too much to ask.
10. Tennessee Titans
I just knocked out the red-hot Bengals, and now I’m gunning for the AFC’s number one seed. So what do I have against the Titans? Easy. First, the Titans once again have a bad pass defense–ranking 25th in the league. Second, they are also unimpressive in terms of passing offense and total offense. I wouldn’t call either of these red flags, but they are concerning. Then there’s the fact that the Titans aren’t top-10 in either total offense or total defense. Derrick Henry returns, so that should help things. The Titans also have a bye, so they have an easier road. I don’t see Ryan Tannehill as a Super Bowl champ, though, and I still think the offense is too one-dimensional. I mentioned before how teams relying too much on rushing tend to fall short.
9. Arizona Cardinals
If the Cardinals were at full strength, they would be a fun contender pick. They don’t have any red flags, and they have a top-10 offense. On top of this, they have a strong pass defense as well. The weakness here is injury-related. Since DeAndre Hopkins has been out of the lineup, this offense just hasn’t looked the same. Kyler Murray has played well, but this offense hasn’t been itself without its top weapon. We can add in the struggles of first-time postseason quarterbacks, and that’s enough for me to bury the Cardinals. I won’t blame anyone for placing a bet here though; it wasn’t long ago that Arizona was 8-1 and looking like a favorite.
8. New England Patriots
I’m probably making a mistake underestimating Bill Belichick and the Patriots. They have proven never to be an easy out. Well, Tom Brady is gone and this team does have some flaws. First, they have a poor rush defense. They rank 22nd overall, and the yardage numbers back up the struggling. New England also only has an average offense: they rank fourteenth in passing and fifteenth overall. It’s probably fair to call this offense one-dimensional. Finally, the Patriots have a true rookie at quarterback. Mac Jones has played well this year, but beating the Bills in Buffalo in cold weather is a huge ask. I see the Patriots as a one-and-done.
Tier 3: Flawed Contenders
7. Dallas Cowboys
The game this weekend between number seven and six should prove to be an excellent showdown. We’ll start with the Cowboys. They have an excellent offense, ranking second, ninth, and first in terms of passing, rushing, and overall yardage. The defense struggled to stop anyone, but they aren’t terrible. Dallas ranks 20th, 16th, and 19th in the respective defensive yardage stats. So why doubt them? Dallas’ offense has been a bit inconsistent. There’s also another bugaboo to deal with: the curse of super-offenses. Only one team to either lead the league in offense or average 400+ yards of offense since 2000 has gone on to win the Super Bowl. That’s out of 39 total teams to accomplish the feat. While the league is growing more and more offense-friendly, it’s still hard to ride offense alone to a championship. For that reason, I have Dak Prescott and the Cowboys as one-and-done. If they get hot, though, watch out. Their opportunistic defense combined with a hot passing attack could give plenty of teams trouble.
6. San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco is one of only two teams that has no red or yellow statistical flags. They boast the seventh-best offense, the third-best defense, and they are hot going into the playoffs. They are 4-1 in their last five games and 7-2 in their last nine, including wins over the Rams, Bengals, and Vikings. This is a team that no one should want to play right now. They are truly frightening. On top of that, the 49ers are balanced; they are top-12 in every yard stat. This is a truly frightening team. So why doubt the Niners? There are a couple of worries. The Niners are the six seed, and likely playing every game on the road. That’s no easy feat. Second, they are going to be traveling a lot. If they beat Dallas, they return home before likely traveling to Green Bay. If they win that one, Tampa Bay probably awaits. That schedule is not an easy ask. Finally, Jimmy Garoppolo is still the quarterback. I can’t shake images of him missing a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders in the Niners’ last Super Bowl.
5. Los Angeles Rams
The last of our also-rans is the Los Angeles Rams–leaving us with two AFC teams and two NFC teams. The Rams are all-in on the season, so the motivation will clearly be there. They aren’t exactly the super team the lack of draft picks would make you think. They finished 25th in rushing offense and 22nd in passing defense. Overall, the Rams are beatable on defense and they don’t exactly have an elite offense. If things go right, Aaron Donald and the defensive front will cause opponents fits. Matthew Stafford will also need to look sharp in his first ever playoff game. Finally, opposing defenses will have to forget that this offense heavily leans on one man: Cooper Kupp. That worked fine during the regular season, but I’m guessing Kupp slows down once teams are placed in a do-or-die situation against him. Time and time again, top offensive weapons (QB, RB, WR) find their kryptonite in January or February. I don’t see this Rams team getting to the Super Bowl this year with at least two more-complete NFC teams standing in the way.
Tier 2: The Runners Up
4. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs were my favorite last year. What happened? Well, this version of the Chiefs has some big flaws. They are 27th against the pass, 21st against the run, and 27th overall. Any one of these three numbers alone would be worrisome. Looking at the actual yardage stats, the numbers are just as bad. The Chiefs also don’t have much of a rushing attack to lean on; they simply pass. Luckily, that’s still an elite skill. Kansas City finished fourth in passing yards, and they have an MVP/ Super Bowl champion at the helm. With that, they are at least a contender. The Chiefs are averaging more than 35 points per game in their last five outings, and they have plenty of experience in the playoffs. They have an easy warm-up game against the Steelers before things get serious. The Chiefs will go as far as Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce can carry them. The last time they tried, they went to the Super Bowl. This year, I’m guessing they fall short.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
And now we have last year’s champ. Tampa Bay has been a strong team all year, finishing first in passing yards and first in overall offense. They also boast an excellent rushing defense as well. Opponents are forced to score, and they need a strong passing attack of their own to have a chance. Still, this team does have a few weaknesses. First, they struggle to run the ball. The Buccaneers finished 26th in rushing yards this season. Second, they have a weak passing defense as well at 21st overall. Then, there is the injury concern. Tampa Bay will be without Chris Godwin (ACL), Antonio Brown (released), and possibly Leonard Fournette (game-time decision). Even Mike Evans is just getting back to full strength. This offense is unlikely to be playing anywhere near full strength. I imagine the Buccaneers will need to hold opponents down while scoring just enough to come away with wins. They can do it though. They have the ultimate field general in Tom Brady. A team with Tom Brady can never be counted out. So, I placed the Bucs third overall–despite some flaws. Oh, and one last note: like the Cowboys, the Bucs suffer from the curse of 400 yards per game. They are yet another super offense trying to prove history wrong. I could easily see Tampa Bay winning it all if things break right.
2. Green Bay Packers
And that brings us to our runner-up. The Green Bay Packers. The Packers, like last year, are again an all-around good team. They are top-10 in overall offense and defense, and their only hint of weakness is their rushing attack–which is ranked 18th. For those wondering, that’s really not that much of a weakness at all. The Packers rank 8th in passing, 18th in rushing, and 10th in total offense. As for defense, they are 10th against the pass, 11th against the run, and 9th overall. Add in home-field advantage, and Green Bay is going to be a tough out. Did I mention Aaron Rodgers is still the quarterback and he is in line for his fourth MVP award? It’s hard not to pick this team as the overall favorite. Well, I’m not. Why not? First, the Packers do have a small weakness: they lack a trump card. They don’t rank top-7 in any one-yardage stat–offense or defense. Teams tend to struggle to win it all without a top-5 stat to fall back on. What else? I still find the Packers passing attack to be a one-trick pony. Davante Adams is amazing, but he is still only one man. If a team slows him down, the Packers will struggle. There is also the MVP curse. The last MVP to win the Super Bowl was Kurt Warner in 1999. Tom Brady (3x), Peyton Manning (5x), and Aaron Rodgers (3x) have combined to fail eleven of those times. For whatever reason, MVPs struggle to finish the job in the playoffs. Finally, the Packers seemed like a favorite last season as well. Nonetheless, they choked at the end and fell short. Green Bay has a bad tendency to fall short in the end for one reason or another. I bet on them last year, and I can’t do it again in 2022. Still, I wouldn’t blame anyone, and it’s going to take an amazing effort to knock this team off. That leaves us with our champ, who is capable of an amazing effort.
Tier 1: The Pick
1. Buffalo Bills
How amazing will the celebrations be in Buffalo if the Bills finally break through? They could put to rest the shame of 4 straight Super Bowls without winning one in the 90s. I personally would love to see Buffalo win it all this year. Let’s start with the numbers: the Bills rank ninth in passing, sixth in rushing, and fifth in overall offense. They are a strong offense, but not overly reliant on that one strength. As for defense, they are first against the pass, 13th against the run, and the top overall defense. Let’s say the Bills have a bad offensive game. The defense is more than capable of picking up the slack for a week. Likewise, the offense can score with anyone when it’s hot if the defense falters. Buffalo has a wealth of strengths and knows how to use them. On top of all this, they have a seasoned pro at quarterback in Josh Allen. He is strong enough to beat any team, and I imagine he has his eyes set on the Chiefs–and revenge. If the Bills can beat the Patriots at home, they will likely face the Chiefs. A win there would leave just one more team from this weak AFC field before the big game. I doubted Josh Allen during the draft, and I doubted him during his first two seasons. I won’t make that mistake again. I am picking the Buffalo Bills to win the Super Bowl over the Green Bay Packers. If that’s the matchup, it should be one heck of a game.