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Trends Say One of Chiefs, Ravens, 49ers, or Saints Will Be in Super Bowl 55, One Will Miss Playoffs

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Following trends over the last five seasons, we can narrow down one of the Super Bowl 55 contenders to one of four teams.
  • Using the early opening lines for each week of the 2020 NFL season, we’ve calculated each team’s ATS +/- for the season, offering our post-offseason power rankings
  • In comparing this year’s ATS +/- results to the previous five years, we can draw some very specific conclusions for the 2020 NFL season based on the trends
  • See the odds for Kansas City, Baltimore, San Francisco, and New Orleans to reach the Super Bowl as well as the odds for each to miss the playoffs

When sportsbooks opened lines for every week of the 2020 NFL season, we rounded them all up and calculated each team’s ATS +/-, offering our post-offseason NFL power rankings.

In doing this each of the last five years, we have noticed two trends for the top four teams in our ATS +/- calculation: (1) at least one of them makes the Super Bowl, and (2) at least one of them misses the playoffs.

Who are this year’s top four teams? In order from best to worst, we have: the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, and New Orleans Saints. You can see the full results by clicking the link above.

We’ll discuss the odds for these four teams to reach Super Bowl 55 (also known as NFL conference championship odds), their odds to make and miss the 2020-21 NFL playoffs, as well as which is the best bet for each.

Odds to Reach Super Bowl 55

Team Odds
Kansas City Chiefs +280
Baltimore Ravens +333
San Francisco 49ers +475
New Orleans Saints +650

Odds taken May 22

No team has better odds to reach Super Bowl 55 than the Chiefs, and they also possess the best odds to win the Super Bowl. Kansas City is not only the defending champion, but they also reside in an AFC that already lacked quantity in the upper tier before Tom Brady left New England.

The Chiefs are returning 20 of 22 starters from last season, and Patrick Mahomes – the best quarterback in the NFL – will be fully healthy again.

In my opinion, there are only three teams in the AFC that can hang with KC: Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New England. (I’m not ready to write off Bill Belichick and believe Jarrett Stidham is going to surprise everyone.)

After the way Lamar Jackson and the Ravens crumbled in the playoffs last year, I think they still have some growing to do. Pittsburgh has the defense to slow the Chiefs, but there is too much uncertainty around their offense. And New England is a real wild card in their first season without Tom Brady at the helm since 2001.

The +280 odds for the Chiefs to reach Super Bowl 55 converts to a 26.3% implied probability. I see the Chiefs’ true odds of heading back to the Super Bowl being around 35%. They’re your safest and best bet among the top four teams in our ATS +/- to keep this trend going.

The NFC is just too tough to side with either New Orleans or San Francisco. The former has looked like a Super Bowl team each of the last three seasons, and we know how tough it is to sustain greatness in the NFL. The latter is built the exact way I believe a football team should be – dominant in the trenches – but will have their hands full in the NFC West this year.

Odds to Make and Miss the 2020-21 NFL Playoffs

Team Odds to Make Playoffs Odds to Miss Playoffs
Kansas City Chiefs -1115 +675
Baltimore Ravens -715 +490
San Francisco 49ers -305 +238
New Orleans Saints -335 +260

Odds taken May 22

It is absolutely crazy to think one of these teams could miss the playoffs this year. But that’s the way you would have felt looking at the top four in ATS +/- each of the last five years, as well.

As I mentioned earlier, I feel the AFC lacks teams in the upper tier. So I think Kansas City and Baltimore are safe, especially when you also factor in the seventh playoff spot being available this year, and their strength of schedule being eighth-easiest and sixth-easiest, respectively.

The 49ers and Saints have the best odds among NFC teams to make the playoffs. But there are also eight teams in the NFC whose odds to make the playoffs are better than their odds to miss. The Rams, Falcons, and Cardinals, who also have the potential to be good teams this year, are not among those eight.

I’m leaning the 49ers missing instead of the Saints. The Seahawks will be very good as long as Russell Wilson is healthy, and the Cardinals got a lot better this offseason, not to mention they played the Niners very tough last year anyways.

As strong as San Francisco is in the trenches, I don’t really trust Jimmy Garoppolo yet. Wilson and Kyler Murray are two quarterbacks every defense will struggle against. Their ability to negate a strong pass-rush puts a lot of pressure on a secondary. Those are four games Jimmy G will have to win for his team, and I could see them going the other way.

A third-place finish in the NFC West isn’t unimaginable for San Francisco. And with each division in the NFC having at least two teams possessing a playoff-caliber roster, there might not be any division that sends three teams.

I wouldn’t advise blindly following this trend and betting both the Saints and 49ers, knowing you’d make money off just one of them missing. This trend occurred in a six-team per conference playoff format. The extra spot could see this trend come to an end in 2020.

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